It appears that both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa will attempt to ride at Jerez this weekend. Dani Pedrosa will get his first chance to ride a MotoGP bike after having radical surgery to cure a persistent arm pump problem, while Marc Marquez has just had surgery to plate a broken proximal phalanx in the little finger of his left hand. Speaking to the Italian website GPOne.com, HRC Team Principal Livio Suppo said that he expected both riders to be present at Jerez, and to test their fitness during practice on Friday.
Four rounds into the World Superbike season and the contours of the 2015 championship are starting to become clear. Some of the things we expected to happen have unfolded much as predicted, but there have also been a fair few surprises. Time to take a quick look at the state of World Superbikes so far.
New technical regulations have been put in place aimed at reducing cost and leveling the playing field somewhat. Their effect so far? Despite the protestations of the Kawasaki and Aprilia riders, all of whom have been complaining of a loss of horsepower, neither top speed nor overall lap times appear to have been affected much. Taking Tom Sykes as perhaps the best example, as he was on the Kawasaki ZX-10R both this year and last, his lap times were half a second slower at Phillip Island, half a second quicker at Assen, the only two tracks at which it is possible to compare. Chaz Davies on the Ducati Panigale was a second quicker at Assen, and eight tenths quicker in race one at Phillip Island, but in race two lapped just as fast in 2015 as he did in 2014. Overall, the Phillip Island track was a little slower in 2015, while conditions at Assen were definitely improved this year over last. The jury is still out on the new rules, but there are definite rumblings audible from the jury room.
Perhaps the biggest effect of the new rules is on the expectations of riders. The Kawasaki is among the most affected of the WSBK bikes by the new rules, with claims that the ZX-10R has between ten and twenty fewer horses than it had in 2014. That has had a bigger impact on Tom Sykes than on his new teammate, Jonathan Rea, Sykes struggling while Rea has come in and cleaned up. Sykes finds himself with a bike that is down on power to what he is used to, a development which is not good for a positive mindset. Rea has come off a bike which he knew to be incapable of winning a championship, and hopped onto one which has been proven capable of doing just that. It's easy to go fast when what you have is better than what you had, and you see opportunity looming.
Marc Marquez has broken a finger in his left hand in a dirt track training crash. The reigning world champion fell heavily, suffering a displaced fracture of the proximal phalange in the little finger of his left hand. This means that the bone between the hand and the first knuckle was broken, and the two parts of the bone moved.
Marquez was taken immediately to the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona, where Dr Xavier Mir, who performs surgery on many of the top MotoGP and WSBK riders, operated on the Spaniard. The bone was put together again and then fixed with a titanium plate. Marquez is due to start functional recovery within 24 hours.
The press release issued by Honda is strangely hesitant about Marquez' prospects of racing at Jerez. The press release says, in rather unconventional wording, that Marquez participation at Jerez "has not been ruled out." The aim for Marquez will be to ride, but the injury sustained is a particularly difficult one. Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics describes fractures of the proximal phalange as "potentially the most disabling fractures in the hand". Full recovery for normal patients is 4 to 6 weeks. In motorcycle racer terms, that's 2 to 3 weeks.
Can you ever have too much motorcycle racing? You can if the amount of racing over one weekend actually exceeds the number of hours in each day. That was pretty much the case last weekend, when we MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, World Superbikes – including World Supersport, FIM Superstock 1000, the European Superstock 600 Championship, and the European Junior Cup – at Assen, British Superbikes at Brands Hatch (the very short, very fast Indy circuit, not the longer GP layout), the second round of the inaugural MotoAmerica series at Road Atlanta, and the 24 hour race at Le Mans in France. Looking beyond motorcycle road racing, there was also the fourth round of the MXGP motocross world championship at Trentino in Italy, and a Formula One race at Bahrain.
Although the constraints of long seasons mean that there will always be clashes, this was a little ridiculous. Racing series are not completely free to set their calendars as they wish – they are tied down by a host of factors such as track availability, the weather, other events organized at the circuits, local government permission and many, many others – this weekend was one of the more spectacular scheduling SNAFUs. Let us hope this can be avoided next year.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Márquez vs Rossi: the best tight fight ever?
Valentino Rossi has been through them all. He’s the ancient prize fighter who has taken out Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and the rest. His premier-class duels go so far back into racing history – all the way back to 2000 – that they cross generations. The same time span of 16 years would’ve had John Surtees taking on Barry Sheene, Mike Hailwood comparing genius with Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts doing battle with his own son, Wayne Rainey having a go with Casey Stoner and Mick Doohan with Marc Márquez. Hard to believe, but do the maths; it’s true.
The first racer who caused Rossi a real problem was Stoner – finally here was someone who had the sheer talent to beat the old master. Now there’s Marc Márquez.
2015 Argentina MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: On Rossi Vs Marquez, And Why You Shouldn't Believe The Pundits
You should never believe professional pundits. We writers and reporters, forecasters and commentators like to opine on our specialist subject at every opportunity. The wealth of data at our fingertips, which we study avidly, fools us into thinking we know what we are talking about. So we – and I do mean all of us, not just the royal we – tell our audience all sorts of things. That Casey Stoner is about to return to racing with Ducati. That Valentino Rossi is set to join the Repsol Honda squad. That Casey Stoner is not about to retire, or that Dani Pedrosa will.
Your humble correspondent is no different. In 2013, during his first season back at Yamaha, I was quick to write Valentino Rossi off. At the age of 34, I pontificated, the keenest edge had gone from his reflexes, and he was at best the fourth best motorcycle racer in the world. He would never win another race again, unless he had a helping hand from conditions and circumstances, I confidently asserted. Rossi proved me wrong, along with the many others who wrote him off, at Misano last year. Now, after three races of the 2015 season, Rossi has two wins and a third, and leads the championship.
After the race at Argentina, the experts and pundits are all rubbing their hands with glee once again. Analyzing the coming together between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, ascribing intention to one rider or another, confidently claiming that they can see inside the minds of the men involved. We are certain that Márquez was trying to intimidate Rossi when the Yamaha man came past. We are convinced that Rossi saw Márquez beside him, and deliberately took out his wheel. Or that Márquez made a rookie mistake, or that Rossi is now inside Márquez' head, or any other theory you care to mention. We can be so sure our claims will go unchallenged and unchecked, because the only two men who are genuinely in a position to challenge them have much better things to do. Like race motorcycles for a living, and try to win a MotoGP title, for example.
So what did happen? What we know is that the two men collided on the penultimate lap of the race. The collision was the moment that the fans remember, but how they got to that point is a far more interesting story. One which starts at the beginning of the weekend, when the riders got to try the new tires Bridgestone had brought to the track. Having seen extreme wear from the highly abrasive track the first year MotoGP came to the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, Bridgestone changed their allocation. They built a new, extra hard tire to bring for the Hondas and Yamahas, with a harder compound on the left shoulder. The tire felt less comfortable in the early laps, but it had better durability over the course of the race.
Press releases from the teams, Bridgestone and the circuit designer after Sunday's thrilling MotoGP race in Argentina:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the races on Sunday:
Press releases from the teams after Sunday's thrilling World Superbike races at Assen:
2015 Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, And How Great Tracks Create Surprises
Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015. The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.
Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole. The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed. With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez' Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O'Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.
The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez' Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez. "Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap," Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina. They had done it at Jerez last year, and went for it in Argentina as well. He was amused that Espargaro had gone for the same trick. "We did it, and Aleix also, I saw that he had the same strategy as me. It was interesting."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at the Termas de Rio Honda circuit in Argentina:
Press releases from the World Superbike teams after qualifying at Assen:
2015 Argentina MotoGP Friday Round Up: Real-Deal Suzukis, Hard Tire Dilemmas, And Ducati's Fuel Issue Explained
Eight years. That's how long it has been since a Suzuki last led two consecutive sessions in the dry. It was 2007, at Shanghai, when John Hopkins topped both FP2 and FP3 on the Suzuki GSV-R. Suzuki had a great year in 2007, spending the previous year developing the GSV-R ready for the start of the 800cc class. John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen amassed one win (in the wet), seven podiums and a pole position that season, including a double podium at Misano. That Suzuki was a great bike, but sadly, it was the last time a Suzuki was truly competitive. It was pretty much all downhill from there.
Until today. Aleix Espargaro was fastest in the morning session at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, but we put that down to the conditions. The track was still very dusty in the morning, turning the standings upside down. Marc Márquez was tenth fastest, behind Mike Di Meglio and Jack Miller, while Valentino Rossi was fourteenth and Jorge Lorenzo twentieth. It was a fluke, we thought.
Then came the afternoon, and Espargaro was fastest once again on the ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-RR. No excuses about the track this time: the combined assault from the fat rubber adorning the MotoGP and Moto2 bikes had cleaned the track up considerably. Moto2 FP1 had already seen Jonas Folger lapping under the pole record set last year, and Danny Kent was just a few hundredths off the Moto3 lap record in FP2. Espargaro's time on the Suzuki was half a second under the race lap record, and half a second faster than the rest of the field. It was just a straight up fast lap.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina:
Press releases from Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit: