As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.
If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.
So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.
After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.
The first test of the 2013 MotoGP season is completed, and Dani Pedrosa has completed a clean sweep, topping the timesheets on all three days. The Repsol Honda man confirmed his role as title favorite by posting a fast lap under the existing pole record set by Jorge Lorenzo last year.
He also opened-up a serious gap to the trio who have been chasing him all test long, putting nearly a third of a second on Jorge Lorenzo, the Yamaha man falling just short of his own pole record. However, what may worry Lorenzo more is the fact that Pedrosa declared at the end of the day that his objective was not to be fastest, but test the bike.
Valentino Rossi closed the gap to his teammate, ending the test a tenth from the time set by Lorenzo, though still four tenths from Pedrosa’s best lap. Rossi also leapfrogged over Marc Marquez, finally finishing ahead of the Repsol Honda rookie after ending the first two days behind him. Marquez finished as 4th fastest, six tenths behind Pedrosa, and the young Spaniard also had his first crash of the season, losing the front end on the way into the final corner. Marquez walked away unhurt, his Repsol RC213V did not fare quite so well.
Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets once again on the second day of prototype testing at Sepang, the Repsol Honda man getting off to a flying start and cracking into the 2’00s early in the session. He was joined there by Jorge Lorenzo, the Factory Yamaha rider once again shadowing Pedrosa, ending the day just two hundredths behind the Repsol rider.
Marc Marquez confirmed his first day times were no fluke, the only other man to post a lap in the 2’00s, though the rookie was a quarter of a second slower than his teammate on Wednesday, losing a fraction of the ground.
Valentino Rossi once again took 4th spot, the Italian still just under half a second off the two title favorites. The Honda men continued to work on engine durability, while Yamaha riders Lorenzo and Rossi had new engines with more acceleration to test, and a new chassis aimed at curing the pumping from the rear wheel of the bike.
Dani Pedrosa has ended the first full-day of MotoGP factory prototype testing at Sepang at the top of the timesheets. The Repsol Honda man was fast throughout the day, finally setting a time that would not be beaten with an hour left of the test.
Though Pedrosa’s best time could not be bested, it was challenged, Jorge Lorenzo using the final minutes of the session to post his fastest lap of the day, falling just eight thousandths short of Pedrosa, but still right on the pace.
The most impressive performance of the day goes to Marc Marquez though, who was fast out of the box, led the session at one point and finished the day less than five hundredths of a second behind his teammate. Marquez had been expected to make a strong start, and be within a few tenths of Pedrosa and Lorenzo, but getting within a few hundredths can be classed as exceptional.
Another GP race weekend, and another weekend where the weather looms over the MotoGP paddock. Wasting Friday, and getting a reprieve on Saturday, the rain of Valencia was back for Sunday’s race, leaving a drying, but wet, course for the MotoGP riders to contend with on 200+ hp machines.
Casey Stoner’s last race, Dani Pedrosa’s last chance to have the most race wins, and Jorge Lorenzo’s final chapter to a flawless season, the script for the front-row starters was intriguing to say the least.
It all went out the window though, as we can confidently say that the following information contains no spoilers for those who have yet to see the race, since no human could possibly guess the outcome of the Valencian GP: a CRT bike lead the race for multiple laps, a Yamaha is on the podium, a world champion was lapped, and a satellite team finished both its bikes in the Top 5. Words can barely describe the race, but we will try after the jump.
Two championships could be settled at Phillip Island on Sunday. Marc Marquez looks certain to wrap up the 2012 Moto2 title in Australia, as the Catalunya Caixa rider needs just 2 points to put the title out of reach of Pol Espargaro. Marquez’ chances of wrapping up the Moto2 title with a win look slim, though. Pol Espargaro has been in a class of his own at Phillip Island, his love for the circuit showing through in the way he has been riding.
The only man to get near to Espargaro all weekend has been Scott Redding, as Phillip Island is one place where Redding’s size is less of a handicap. With few places where hard acceleration from low speed is required, Redding can rely on his natural speed to get around the track. Despite still being the youngest rider ever to win a Grand Prix – a title he is likely to hold in perpetuity, since the minimum age went up to 16 – Redding is still winless in Moto2. If he can follow the pace of Espargaro, Phillip Island could well provide him with a real shot at his first win.
The MotoGP title may not be settled in Australia, though. Jorge Lorenzo leads Dani Pedrosa by 23 points, and just needs to finish ahead of the Honda man to wrap up the championship at Phillip Island. The odds of that happening looked much better on Saturday, Lorenzo taking 2nd spot in both the morning’s free practice and qualifying in the afternoon, finishing ahead of Pedrosa in both sessions.
But Lorenzo may yet have to leave the box of championship t-shirts in the flight cases, as a closer look at the race pace between Lorenzo and Pedrosa gives the advantage to the Honda man. Lorenzo is lapping consistently in the high 1’30s and low 1’31s, but Pedrosa has been reeling off strings of high 1’30s in race trim.
One of the three “flyaway” races before the season finale in Valencia, the Japanese GP is race that is not only important to the two remaining Japanese manufacturers in the premier class, but it begins the dénouement of the MotoGP Championship.
Finding renewed vigor in his Championship hunt, Dani Pedrosa has only a handful of races left to catch Jorge Lorenzo, and win his first premier-class title. Truthfully needing Lorenzo to make a critical mistake or suffer a mechanical failure, Pedrosa also has to keep the pressure on his rival, and try to minimize the gap to his fellow Spaniard.
With each place separating the two riders likely to play a pivotal role at the end of the season, the drama unfolding in Motegi was palpable, though the action itself was a slow grind of a multi-campaign war.
MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista Renews with San Carlo Gresini Honda for 2013 – All Prototype Seats Now Accounted For
The mystery of the final MotoGP prototype seat has been solved: after months of negotiations, Alvaro Bautista has finally retained the Honda RC213V ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. The Spaniard will remain with the Italian team for another season.
The contract extension has come at a cost, however: Bautista has had to take a drastic cut in his salary to stay with the team. According to the Spanish website Motocuatro.com, Bautista’s wage has been slashed to five figures, with the amount of 90,000 euros being passed down the paddock grapevine.
Even before the lights could go out to start the San Marino GP, the pre-race drama for MotoGP fans was intense. Stalling on the starting grid after the riders’ sighting lap, Karel Abraham raised his arm to signal the dangerous race conditions. Virtually a moment away from the start of the race, the yellow flags of the marshals flew, and the start was aborted — though, the confusion didn’t stop some riders from rocketing off the line. Thankfully however, the situation was without incident.
With a number of bikes needing to be restarted because of the failed start, teams and mechanics again filled the grid, and the start of MotoGP’s visit to Misano was delayed. No one was more affected by the restart than pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa, whose Honda RC213V had its front wheel locked-up when the team attempted to take off the tire warmers for the race’s restart. With the one-minute horn sounding, the Repsol Honda mechanics had exceeded their amount of time to work on the bike, though the situation was resolved in time for Pedrosa was able to join the field for the sighting lap.
Noticeably shaken by the incidents that occurred just a moment from the lap, and running on essentially cold tires, Pedrosa was lapped by the pace car, and ultimately had to start the San Marino not on pole, but instead at the back of the grid. Yes, even before the race started, the San Marino GP proved to be one of the most dramatic rounds of the 2012 MotoGP Championship.