Predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is hard. Scratch that, predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is downright impossible. We scour the sector and lap times, talk to as many riders as possible, try to make sense of what they tell us, and take our best guess based on all we have learned. And inevitably, we get it wrong. Because there was something we missed, or because some random factor intervened, or because we didn't pay enough attention to what the riders were telling us, or perhaps paid too much attention to it. Which is why you should probably take the following with a pinch of salt.
After qualifying and practice at Brno, we confidently predicted one of the best races of the year, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez setting almost identical pace during free practice. The chase lasted for five laps, before Lorenzo picked up his heels and disappeared, riding a perfect race to an unstoppable win, and killing any burgeoning excitement stone dead.
Silverstone looks like being very similar. There are two riders who are clearly a step ahead of the rest, and on the basis of practice times on Saturday, their pace is very similar indeed. Though you wouldn't say that just based on the headline numbers: in FP3, Jorge Lorenzo destroyed the rest of the field, beating Márquez by nearly half a second. In the afternoon, during FP4, Márquez returned the favor, laying down a withering pace to put over eight tenths on everyone else, and posting a string of ten laps, the slowest of which was faster than fastest lap set by any other rider on the field. The difference between Lorenzo's FP3 lap and Márquez' FP4 lap? Just 0.062 seconds, in Lorenzo's favor.
Press releases after qualifying at Silverstone:
Repsol Honda duo on first row with Marquez taking record breaking pole
Marc Marquez has racked up his sixth pole position of the season with teammate, Dani Pedrosa, clinching third.
It was a good day for the Repsol Honda team at Silverstone today, with both riders qualifying in the top three. Marc set the pace early in the qualifying session while Dani, who paced second fastest for much of the session, finished with the third fastest time.
The reigning MotoGP World Champion made his intentions clear from his first exit, taking the lead with a time of 2’00.564. During his second and final outing, Marc lowered his time to stop the clock at 2’00.234, a record breaking pole position time which he previously set in 2013 (2’00.691), which surpassed Jorge Lorenzo who qualified second by almost three tenths. This is Marc’s 28th pole in the MotoGP class, the only Spanish rider with more poles in the premier-class is Lorenzo with 31.
Dani joins his teammate on the front row in the third position, after being overtaken by Lorenzo in the closing stages of the session. The Respol Honda rider was less than two tenths off of the second position and less than half of a second off pole with his time of 2’00.716.
2015 Silverstone MotoGP Friday Notes: Bumps & Wind, Marquez' Changed Style, And Rossi's Recurring Issue
Silverstone was Silverstone on Friday. It pulled its many underhand tricks out of its sleeve, and threw everything it had at the riders, with the exception of rain. Cool in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon, with occasional cloud cover to drop the track temperature. High winds, gusting in a few corners where it was trying to lift the bikes and throw them off line. And bumps galore, short ones, long ones, moved around the circuit since the last time the MotoGP riders were here, forcing them to recalibrate their memories, and pick new lines through the corners they thought they knew.
The ever eloquent Bradley Smith explained: "I’m not too worried about bumps coming from my motocross background it is not something I worry about, it might be something some of the other guys are more scared about, but it doesn’t really effect me. It does seem to be quite bad going into the first corner Copse it is quite bad still and there is a nasty one into Stowe at the end of Hanger Straight. Still the braking point at Vale chicane is still like rollers into there. And for Abbey that one is really, really bad there is one in the middle of the corner which always makes the front tuck."
Press releases from the teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Silverstone:
2015 Silverstone MotoGP Preview: The Ryanair Round, Silverstone's Peculiar Challenges, And The Silly Season Latest
The Irish budget airline Ryanair gained something of a reputation for being, shall we say, creative with the names of the airports it flies to. Fancy a trip to Sweden? They will fly you to Stockholm Skavsta, a mere 100 km from the city of Stockholm. The same trick is played out time and time again: Paris Beauvais? Beauvais is a charming French city, and well worth a visit, but it is very long way from the French capital. Munich West (Memmingen)? 112 km west of the Bavarian capital.
So perhaps we should call this British GP the Ryanair MotoGP round. Officially, it is being run by the Circuit of Wales, located in Ebbw Vale, South Wales. Yet the race is to be run around the Silverstone circuit, nearly 200 km further East. Close, it is not. How did it end up at Silverstone? Thereby hangs a long and convoluted tail.
The Circuit of Wales won the contract to organize the British round of MotoGP back in 2014, after outbidding Silverstone, who had been pushing to have the sanctioning fee for MotoGP reduced, as crowds at the circuit were not living up to expectations. Awarding the contract to the Circuit of Wales was a gamble by Dorna. The track existed only as a CAD file on a designer's computer, and the Head of the Valleys Development Company, the company behind the circuit, did not even have permission to actually build on the land they planned to put the circuit on.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and more:
Yesterday, it was Bradley Smith, today it is Cal Crutchlow. On Wednesday, the LCR Honda team announced that Cal Crutchlow will be riding with the team for two more seasons. The deal will see Crutchlow staying with LCR for 2016, giving him an option to stay on for 2017 as well.
Crutchlow's deal has been a long time coming. Talks were started as early as Barcelona, with Crutchlow looking for a two-year extension with LCR. Honda were keen to keep Crutchlow within the ranks, as the Englishman has been able to provide valuable feedback to HRC for the RC213V. With Honda having taken a wrong path for this season, having an extra rider to provide development input has been important. Crutchlow's results have been solid this year, including a podium at Argentina, though he has also found himself in the gravel a number of times.
There had been a brief flirtation with Pramac Ducati, Crutchlow entering talks with the satellite Ducati team about racing for the Italian factory once again. This, however, appears to have been more of a bargaining chip to use with Honda, rather than a serious attempt to return to the fold at Bologna.
Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi head into Silverstone tied on points, with Lorenzo only leading because he has more wins to his name this season than his teammate. With the race that close, who does the season favor? Who will emerge victorious at the end? It is far too early to make any firm predictions, but perhaps we can guess from looking at last year.
There are seven races left in 2015, and the seven left this season are the exact same races in the exact same order as the last seven of 2014. That parallel invites comparisons, and the drawing of conclusions, though such conclusions are tenuous at best. However, there are tracks which favor Rossi, and tracks which favor Lorenzo, and their performance there may yet be indicative of the final outcome.
First, the numbers. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently have 211 points after the first 11 races. With seven races left, there are a grand total of 175 points still up for grabs. Though neither rider is likely to run the board – they are too evenly matched for that – a look back at their performances last year can be instructive.
In the last seven races of 2014, Rossi won two, at Misano and Phillip Island, and Lorenzo won two, at Aragon and Motegi. Lorenzo took three second places, while Rossi ended in second just twice. Rossi ended in third two times, Lorenzo just a single time, and both riders scored a blank due to poor weather. Rossi crashed at Aragon on a damp track, while Lorenzo retired after a tire change at Valencia in half-wet, half-dry conditions.
The Massive Silly Season Update: Redding vs Kent At Pramac, Honda's Musical Chairs, Moto2 And Much More
Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP. The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis. Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.
The weekend kicked off with the fairly sensational news that Danny Kent was talking to Pramac Ducati about a ride in MotoGP, going straight from Moto3 and skipping Moto2. The deal on the table would be a three-year deal with support from the factory, racing a GP15 alongside Danilo Petrucci. It was an offer Kent was giving very serious consideration, and expected to think about in the run up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Given that Octo is the title sponsor of the Silverstone round, and also the sponsor of the Pramac Ducati team, announcing a British rider at the British GP would be a sponsor's dream.
Signing Kent has not come out of the blue. The Moto3 championship leader has made it clear he will not be back in Moto3 next year, whatever happens. Kent has options in Moto2, most notably with his current Kiefer team, who run on the Leopard Racing banner. Kiefer are set to move up to Moto2 in 2016, and are keen to retain the services of Kent. But Kent sees 2016 would be an ideal moment to make the jump to MotoGP, given the technical changes which are coming next season. Michelin tires, as the biggest change, will mean a much more level playing field, as everyone in MotoGP, veteran and rookie, will have to work to figure out how to get the most out of them. The more rear-biased style, using the extra grip of the rear to carry more corner speed, may also help a rookie coming up from Moto3. Ducati certainly think the switch might work, Davide Tardozzi telling me at Brno "this is not something we thought up last night, we have been thinking about this for a while."
The post-race Michelin tests have been something of a frustration for journalists following MotoGP. With riders barred from speaking publicly about the tires, and no official timing for the tests, it has been hard to make sense of the events. Today's Brno test was even more frustrating. Rain all day, alternating between heavy downpours and a very light drizzle meant that the track was more or less wet all day. The riders stayed in their garages and race trucks, for the most part, with a handful of riders putting in a handful of laps.
Though the test was mostly a washout for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer did get some useful data from the test. Riders went out on three types of tire: slicks, wets, and intermediates, in varying conditions. The return of the intermediates is an interesting step, a tire which uses the hard rain compound with a minimal tread compound. MotoMatters.com ace shooter Scott Jones snapped photos of both the intermediate and wet rears for comparison, and posted them on Twitter:
The Michelin MotoGP rear intermediate, warmed up in by Petrucci. pic.twitter.com/GfRG6KYnri— Photo.GP (@PhotoGP) August 17, 2015
Press releases after the MotoGP race at Brno:
2015 Brno MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Foiled Expectations, A Sea Change In The Championship, And The Distractions Of Contracts
There were many things we expected to see on Sunday at Brno. Rain was one of them. Order restored in Moto3 was another. But most of all, we expected to see a scintillating MotoGP race going down to the wire. We saw none of those things, yet the Czech Grand Prix turned out to be one of the most intriguing races of the season. The momentum shifted in Moto3 and MotoGP, and swung even further in Moto2. And apart from a few drops shortly after Moto3 finished, the rain stayed away all day.
Free practice had promised a thrilling MotoGP race, with little to choose between the pace of the top three riders in the championship. Expectations were both raised and dispelled after qualifying, with Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi locking out the front row. Lorenzo on pole was no surprise, nor really was Márquez on the front row. Rossi, though, was an eye opener, and on paper, a mouth-watering prospect. Qualifying has been Rossi's weakness since the system switched to the new qualifying format of two separate Q sessions. Starting from the front row means he doesn't have to fight his way through to the front before he can attack. The last time Rossi had been on the front row was at Assen, and there, he had gone on to win an epic battle with Marc Márquez. Could he pull it off again?
The clues that he would not be able to were there for all to see in the long run data from free practice on Saturday. But the insurmountable obstacle to any hopes of a thrilling race was the man on pole. Jorge Lorenzo had laid down such a withering pace in qualifying to take pole that he looked pretty much untouchable. He destroyed Cal Crutchlow's pole record from 2013 by over half a second, becoming the first motorcycle racer to lap the Brno circuit in under 1'55. His race pace was the strongest of the trio, but the gap looked manageable.