The weather has not been kind to the World Superbikes who headed to Aragon for testing. The first day was lost to a wet track, and while the track dried on the second day, cold temperatures limited the usefulness of the test. 2013 world champion Tom Sykes did not bother going out at all, not wishing to risk injury on a cold track just for the sake of turning some laps.
Sykes' Kawasaki teammate Jonathan Rea did spend some time on track, though for him, too, conditions meant that lessons were limited. Rea spent time working on gearshift set ups, and clutch strategies for race starts. It was important for Rea to spend some more time on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, after having spent so many years on the Honda CBR1000RR with the Pata Honda team. It wasn't just bikes that Rea is switching, the Ulsterman showing off his Monster Energy colors for the first time, leaving Red Bull behind. That is a major change for Rea, who has been backed by Red Bull almost from when he first started racing motocross, before switching to circuit racing.
Preparations for the 2015 season are starting to get underway. While the MotoGP teams will have to wait until February, the World Superbike squads are assembling on the Iberian peninsula to resume their testing programs for 2015. Pata Honda were the first to kick off testing, spending two days at Portimao last week, where reigning World Superbike and World Supersport champions Sylvain Guintoli and Michael van der Mark got to grips with the Honda CBR1000RR. A dry first day meant that both men managed a good number of laps, while most of the second day was lost to rain. Van der Mark told Dutch site Racesport he had not spent too much time testing different settings, his main objective being to get used to riding a Superbike. Both he and Guintoli had tested the new engine, with standard conrods and pistons, while Guintoli had spent a lot of time working on different set ups, trying to get comfortable.
Casey Stoner is to remain as a Honda test rider for another year. Today, HRC officially announced that the former world champion will undertake two tests for the factory during 2015. The first test will be at Sepang from 29th to 31st of January, four days before the official MotoGP test at the circuit. No date has been set for the second test, HRC stating only that it will be towards the end of the year, when Stoner will presumably be providing feedback on the 2016 machine.
No doubt this agreement will once again revive speculation that Stoner could return to MotoGP, but there is zero chance of that actually happening. The Australian has stated both in public and to HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto that he does not want to race again, and has turned down an offer from HRC before. His speed and the quality of the feedback he provides means he remains an extremely valuable asset to Honda's test program.
The contents of the press release issued by Honda is shown below:
HRC renews relationship with Casey Stoner
Honda Racing Corporation have retained the services of two-time World Champion Casey Stoner through 2015.
The 2007 and 2011 MotoGP World Champion will test for two days in Sepang between the 29th and 31st January, prior to the first Official IRTA pre-season test.
Though tracks around the world have fallen silent over the winter break, testing is due to resume shortly. From mid-January, the World Superbike teams will resume their preparations for the 2015 season at circuits in Spain and Portugal. Testing starts at Portimao, where the Pata Honda team will be the first to hit the track on 14th January. The team then moves to the Motorland Aragon circuit near Alcañiz, where they will be joined by Kawasaki and Grillini, before the action moves back to Portimao for a test including Ducati, BMW Italian, Suzuki, MV Agusta, Althea Ducati and EBR.
After Portimao, the teams head east to Jerez, where from 26th January the circuit will see Ducati, Red Devils, MV Agusta, BMW Italia, Honda, Suzuki, Althea Ducati and EBR joined by the Kawasaki World Supersport team and Ducati's MotoGP test team. A day later, the Kawasaki World Superbike squad will take to the track. From then, they pack up ready to fly the teams and equipment to the Southern Hemisphere, ready for the start of the season at Phillip Island. Testing for the MotoGP class resumes on 4th February at Sepang.
Full private testing schedule for the World Superbike class, as announced so far:
After looking at the top three finishers in MotoGP, our review of 2014 turns to the riders who didn't make it onto the podium. After Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, we turn our attention to the men who finished behind them. Today, we review the seasons of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.
4th - 246 points - Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa is easily the best rider never to win a MotoGP title, and if anything, 2014 merely reinforced that reputation. By almost anyone's standards, ten podiums, including a victory, and a total of 246 points – his fourth best since joining the premier class – is an outstanding year. But for a rider with aspirations of becoming world champion, it is simply not good enough.
Looked at another way, this was the worst season Pedrosa has had in MotoGP. The Repsol Honda rider has always managed to score multiple victories each year, even during his debut in 2006. This year, he never really looked a threat, except at Brno. Throughout the year, Pedrosa was consistently behind the front runners, never capable of making a push to dominate.
What was Pedrosa's biggest problem in 2014? Quite simply, the team's approach to fixing the shortcomings of the preceding season. In 2013, Pedrosa had found himself coming up short in the second half of races, getting overhauled by either Marc Márquez or Jorge Lorenzo. Over the winter, his crew, under chief mechanic Mike Leitner, had worked on a strategy to counter this situation, adjusting the balance of the bike to make it faster during the second half of the race.
As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 approaches, it is time to take a look back at the 2014 season. Over the next few days, we'll be reviewing the performances of the top 10 riders in the 2014 MotoGP championship, commenting on notable riders outside the top 10, and discussing the cream of Moto2 and Moto3. First, the top 10 MotoGP men, starting with with the 2014 champion:
1st - 362 points - Marc Márquez
By the end of 2013, Marc Márquez had convinced just about everyone that he was the real deal. The doubters who remained held on to a single argument: first, let's see if he can repeat. Winning a championship may be incredibly hard, defending it is doubly so. In the past twenty years, only Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have done so.
Things started inauspiciously, Márquez breaking a leg while training at the dirt track oval in Rufea, near where he lives. With five weeks to recover before the first race at Qatar, and forced to miss testing at Sepang and Phillip Island, this was far from ideal preparation. It did not matter, though: Márquez held off a resurgent Valentino Rossi while others crashed out, and won an exciting first race of the season. As his injured leg recovered, so Márquez got better, winning by comfortable margins at Austin, Argentina, Jerez and Le Mans. The fans and media talked of records, by Doohan and Agostini, and the prospect of a perfect season – winning all eighteen races – started to be discussed.
The very first signs of weakness appeared at Mugello. After making it six poles from six races, Márquez fought a tough battle to hold off Jorge Lorenzo for the win. Another tough race followed at Barcelona, while Márquez took advantage of the conditions to win at Assen and the Sachsenring. But missing out on pole position at Barcelona and Assen started to stifle talk of a perfect season, despite Márquez still having a 100% win record.
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.
Andorra-gate will make Márquez faster
If any of Marc Márquez’s MotoGP rivals were gloating while he suffered the slings and arrows of Andorra-gate, they should wipe their schadenfreude smiles off their faces.
In case you aren’t up to speed with this Andorra business, Márquez’s decision to move to the tax haven on the French/Spanish border triggered a torrent of abuse from fans, almost 50,000 of whom signed a petition requesting his sponsors to withdraw their backing.
The reaction caught MotoGP’s golden boy by surprise, which he made public during a tearful (without doubt genuine, not crocodile) press conference before the recent Barcelona dirt track event.
After the interview with Nicky Hayden the Aspar team released a couple of days ago, it is now the turn of Eugene Laverty. Today, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release interview with the Irishman, in which Laverty speaks about the opportunity he has been given with Aspar, and his return to the MotoGP paddock after an absence of six seasons. The press release appears below:
“DRIVE M7 Aspar Team have given me the opportunity I have been waiting a long time for”
Eugene Laverty returns to the Grand Prix paddock in 2015 with a lot of water under the bridge since his last spell here during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. His career as a 250cc rider was short-lived but the Irishman reinvented himself in the World Superbike paddock and he returns to the MotoGP World Championship through the front door, ready to cause a surprise or two in the premier class. Behind those shy, Irish eyes lies the steely determination of a rider who accepts nothing less than success, a relentlessly hard worker who has established a reputation as one of the most adaptable riders around. After twice finishing as runner-up in World Supersport and once in World Superbikes, new DRIVE M7 Aspar Team signing Eugene Laverty is finally ready to make his mark in MotoGP.
First things first, what is the main difference between riding a Superbike and a MotoGP?
Mainly the tyres. Pirelli and Bridgestone are completely different. There are other things, such as the Honda is smaller and lighter, it's easy to move around on. Dragging your elbow on the ground is not a common thing in Superbikes.
What led you to sign for the DRIVE M7 Aspar Team?
To help fill the long void during the winter break, the Aspar team has been occasionally issuing press release interviews with its riders. Today's press release contains an interview with Nicky Hayden, now back at home working on building strength in his wrist and preparing for the 2015 MotoGP season. In the press release, Hayden briefly runs through subjects as diverse as his wrist recovery, the changes to his crew in 2015, and the potential of the Honda RC213V-RS, the replacement for the RCV1000R Hayden rode in 2014.
The interview appears below:
“My main objective for 2015 is to enjoy riding again”
Nicky Hayden is currently enjoying a hard-earned rest at home following a long and difficult season. The DRIVE M7 Aspar rider is one of the most experienced men in MotoGP and a throwback to the old-school hard men that inspired him. After what he has been through over the past twelve months, the 'Kentucky Kid' could be forgiven for turning his back on the sport for good but racing is in the Hayden family's blood and nothing can stop Nicky from enjoying his one true passion, which also happens to be his job. As he spends the Christmas period relaxing with his family and allowing his wrist more crucial time to recover, Nicky Hayden's mind remains very much on the job at hand in 2015.