Continuing our look at how the MotoGP riders stack up so far, we already reviewed the top eight in the championship, from Marc Marquez to Andrea Iannone, and now we pick up where we left off, reviewing the bottom half of the championship standings.
We start with Stefan Bradl who is ninth the MotoGP Championship, and work our way down to Mike Di Meglio, who has yet to score a point in the premier class this year.
|9||Stefan Bradl||Honda RC213V||56||6/10|
Since winning the Moto2 championship in 2011, hopes have been high for Stefan Bradl. The German started well, but never quite lived up to his promise in his first year in MotoGP.
He showed improvement in 2013, scoring his first pole and podium, but again fell short, never returning to the podium after his second place at Laguna Seca. 2014 has been much of the same: flashes of real potential, but never really following through with results.
Bradl’s best chance of success came at his home Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Starting from the front row, Bradl’s team gambled on staying on the grid and changing his bike from a wet to a dry set up. A dropped spacer meant they ran out of time to change fork springs, and Bradl’s chances of a strong result at home collapsed along with his soggy front suspension.
Bradl’s seat at LCR Honda is under severe threat, if it hasn’t already been allocated to someone else. Team owner Lucio Cecchinello is still keen to keep him, but HRC’s patience is wearing perilously thin. Bradl will need to be close to, or preferably on, the podium for the rest of the season if he is be riding an RC213V next season.
|10||Alvaro Bautista||Honda RC213V||50||6/10|
Alvaro Bautista’s time at Gresini Honda has not been easy. Drafted in to take the place of the immensely popular Marco Simoncelli after the Italian’s tragic death, Bautista’s results have been erratic throughout his time with the team.
The first half of 2014 has been no exception. Bautista started the year with a heartbreaking run of DNFs, not all of which were his own fault. He broke that streak with a solid sixth place at Jerez, then followed it up with a podium at Le Mans.
Since then, he has wavered around eighth place, with an electrical DNF at Barcelona adding to his misery. He is hampered by Gresini being the only team using Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, and therefore lacking the mountains of data the Öhlins/Brembo crowd have at their disposal. A new rear shock has been a big improvement, but too often, the set up of the bike is just a little bit off.
Bautista’s days at Gresini appear to be numbered, but his experience may yet stand him in good stead. If Aprilia do make an early return to MotoGP, as rumored, then Bautista could be the man to take the lead in developing the new bike.
|11||Bradley Smith||Yamaha YZR-M1||48||5/10|
2014 is turning out to be a very complicated season for Bradley Smith. It is the year in which he has to prove he has the pace to deserve a ride on a satellite bike, and get the results to secure one for next year. He has only half succeeded in that mission so far, and his outlook is not good.
Smith has the pace, though you have to look hard to see it. At Assen, he was the third-fastest rider on track. At Barcelona, he was fastest during FP2. Several times during free practice, Smith has been very close to the front runners.
His problem is that none of that really counts. Where Smith is falling down is on race day, he is simply not scoring the results that are expected. There have been too many crashes, too many things going wrong, though not always of his own making.
Making things worse, he is being shown up by his rookie teammate Pol Espargaro, the man he was used to battling in 125s and Moto2. He expects to be battling with Pol, instead he is nowhere near him. Even more than Stefan Bradl, Bradley Smith needs results in the second half of the year.
|12||Scott Redding||Honda RCV1000R||33||8/10|
The tallest and heaviest rider in the paddock finds himself riding one of the most underpowered machines available. Scott Redding proved his mettle in Moto2, but found himself out of luck when the satellite rides were being handed out for 2014. Instead, he secured a ride on Honda’s RCV1000R production racer, with the promise of a switch to the RC213V for 2015, if he lives up to expectations.
Redding has surely managed that. The rookie is the best of the Honda production racers, and has been battling Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama – two former world champions, though no longer in their prime – right from the beginning of the season. Redding’s biggest handicap is the lack of acceleration of the RCV1000R, his weight, and height working against him.
Despite that, and despite the difficulty he shares with Alvaro Bautista, of using Showa suspension and Nissin brakes as part of his contract, Redding has performed well. He will need to keep that up if he is to be at the front of the queue for the engine updates Honda is rumored to have waiting for the best RCV1000R rider at Motegi.
|13||Nicky Hayden||Honda RCV1000R||29||7/10|
This has been one of the toughest seasons Nicky Hayden has ever had. First he finds that Honda appear to have forgotten to put the necessary ponies into the RCV1000R production racer he had signed up to ride. Then, an old wrist injury sustained crashing the Ducati Desmosedici, in an accident which wasn’t even his fault, starts playing up for no reason.
Hayden has spent much of this season gritting his teeth, either to handle the pain in his badly inflamed wrist, or trying to wring the last ounce of performance from the production racer.
He has twice opted for surgery to help with the wrist, finally going for a radical procedure to remove the damaged scaphoid from his wrist, along with a couple of other bones. He will hope to have a little more strength in his right wrist when he returns.
A stronger wrist should allow Hayden to concentrate on learning to ride again. He has spent the first half of the season unlearning the bad habits from five years of riding the Ducati. He can work on braking much further and much deeper into the corners, and getting on the gas earlier, something he had almost forgotten how to do. But first, he needs his wrist to heal.
|14||Cal Crutchlow||Ducati Desmosedici GP14||28||7/10|
When Cal Crutchlow signed for Ducati, he was warned that he was in for a tough year. He countered that he already knew how tough things could be, as his first year in MotoGP was pretty rough. Crutchlow nearly got fired that season, 2011, despite only being in the first year of a two-year deal.
Judging by the look of resignation on Crutchlow’s face when he speaks to the media, this year is even tougher than he could have imagined.
This time last year, we were wondering when he would win his first race. This year, we are wondering if he will ever see the podium again. And from the look on his face, so does he.
Crutchlow’s vale of tears is not solely of his own making, however. A large portion of the blame can be placed on Ducati, Crutchlow suffering a bizarre string of technical problems in the early races in the season.
An ECU problem at Qatar, a destroyed tire at Austin, overheating brakes at Jerez, the list was seemingly endless. Most of those problems appear to have been solved, but they have left Crutchlow’s confidence at rock bottom.
He badly needs all the confidence he can get. Bradley Smith has commented that it is scary just following Crutchlow round, as the Englishman is saving the Desmosedici on his knee in just about every corner.
Whether he can build confidence in the second half of the season on a bike which is virtually unchanged remains to be seen. He needs to keep his nerve for 2015, when Gigi Dall’Igna brings a radically different Desmosedici to the track. He will need the mental resolve he showed in 2011 if he is to better the results he scored in 2013.
|15||Hiroshi Aoyama||Honda RCV1000R||28||6/10|
After a couple of years of aimless wandering, the last ever 250cc world champion is finally back on a Honda in MotoGP. Hiroshi Aoyama is riding the second Honda production racer alongside Nicky Hayden in the Drive M7 Aspar team, and the Japanese rider has shown occasional bursts of his old form.
Aoyama is just a single point behind his teammate, and has been involved in the three-way battle for best RCV1000R rider with Hayden and Scott Redding, sometimes coming out on top, but losing out on balance.
Aoyama will have to reverse the outcomes of those battles in the second half of the season. At the moment, his position is helped both by being a favorite son of Honda, and an asset in selling TV coverage for Dorna in Japan. But if he is to be more than a placeholder, Aoyama needs to up his game.
On his pit board, Aoyama has a sticker saying “Two strokes forever!” As much as I agree with that sentiment, it won’t help Aoyama go any faster. Whatever he feels about it, he’s racing four strokes now.
|16||Yonny Hernandez||Ducati Desmosedici GP13||27||7/10|
While much of the limelight is on his Pramac teammate Andrea Iannone, Yonny Hernandez is being quietly impressive. Unlike Iannone, Hernandez is on a GP13 – a bike which is much worse than the GP14 the other Ducati riders are using – and running as a proper Open class entry using the standard Open software. The Colombian earned a reputation as a crasher last year, but so far this season, has managed to finish every race.
On occasion, Hernandez has even managed to take the fight to the factory option bikes, mixing it with the other Ducatis and the satellite Hondas and Yamahas. It has been a step in the right direction for the Pramac rider, and makes you wonder what he could do on a GP14. He is unlikely to get one before the end of the year, but looks like a safe bet to get a shot again in 2015.
|17||Karel Abraham||Honda RCV1000R||18||6/10|
At the end of last season, Karel Abraham’s career looked to be seriously under threat. A niggling shoulder injury had hampered him throughout 2013, and cast doubt over his continued future in MotoGP.
Things have picked up considerably in 2014, yet Abraham is still the slowest of the production Hondas. The difference is not large, but still enough to be significant. He will be wanting more than a twelfth place finish before the season is up.
|18||Colin Edwards||Forward Yamaha||8||4/10|
Be careful what you wish for. Colin Edwards was looking forward to getting back on a Yamaha at the start of the 2014 season, but the M1 has been an unmitigated disaster for the Texan veteran. The bike will not turn, Edwards says, though the performance of his teammate Aleix Espargaro would seem to suggest otherwise.
Things have improved since Edwards finally received the Mark Taylor-designed chassis he had been asking for since the start of the season. Now, he can get the bike to turn, though his results have not improved markedly. Colin Edwards’ final season in MotoGP will not be one for the record books. But he will surely be missed once he is gone.
|19||Michele Pirro||Ducati Desmosedici GP14||7||5/10|
Michele Pirro continues his hard work as Ducati’s test rider, and has had a couple of wildcard appearances to lighten his labor. What those wildcard rides have exposed is that spending too much time as a test rider blunts your edge.
Pirro is still precise, and still has some speed, but is no match for the other Ducati men. His hopes of making a return to full time competition in MotoGP fade with every year.
For a rider drafted in as a last-minute measure to bump up TV ratings in his native Australia, Broc Parkes has performed exceptionally well. Parkes was brought in to the PBM team at the behest of Dorna, with little expectation of results.
Despite that, Parkes scored points in his first MotoGP appearance, and then had a very strong race in the wet at Assen to finish 11th. In the second-most under-resourced team in the paddock, Parkes has done well.
For the past couple of seasons, Danilo Petrucci has struggled with some decidedly second-rate machinery. He was looking forward to getting on to a more competitive machine, and when IODA announced they would be racing an Aprilia ART, his hopes were high.
As competitive as the ART was last year, it has been a totally different story this season. The Open class has raised the general standard of machinery in the paddock, not close enough to challenge the factory bikes, but just enough to put them out of reach of the former CRT machines.
Adding insult to injury – or rather, injury to injury – Petrucci crashed in Argentina and broke his wrist. He only really returned to fitness at Assen, scoring a point both there and at the Sachsenring. He needs an injury-free second half of the season to show what he is capable of.
If Aprilia believe that adding pneumatic valves will make their ART machine more competitive, they would do well to look at the Avintia team. That team has replaced the steel spring valves on their Kawasaki ZX-10R engine with pneumatic items, but continues to languish firmly at the back of the grid. The team’s hopes are on obtaining Ducatis for next season.
No doubt Hector Barbera will be a part of that, but whether he will have the seat on merit or on his ability to bring money to a ride remains to be seen. Barbera continues to be his usual erratic self, mired in obscurity at the back of the pack. There is no reason to expect the second half of the season to be any different.
Where his PBM teammate has already managed to score points this season, Michael Laverty keeps just finishing outside of the top fifteen. Despite that misfortune, Laverty has ridden hard, and ridden bravely, on a bike that has had little development, and in the smallest team on the grid. His main battle is with his teammate, who he consistently manages to stay ahead of. Points will come, but it may take until the end of the season.
|24||Mike Di Meglio||Avintia||0||3/10|
Handicapped by being on the Avintia, basically a heavily modified Kawasaki ZX-10R, and in one of the three weakest teams on the grid, taking a ride in the Avintia team was always going to be a serious challenge. It is not one which Mike Di Meglio has been up to, the Frenchman yet to score a single point.
That he is under a lot of pressure was visible at Le Mans, Di Meglio’s home race, where he crashed during practice. Since winning the 125cc title in 2008, Di Meglio’s form has been on a steady slide. The Avintia squad in MotoGP is not the place to put a halt to that slide.
Photos: © 2014 Scott Jones / Photo.GP – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.