One record down, one to go. By qualifying on pole in just his second MotoGP race, at the age of 20 years and 61 days, Marc Marquez becomes the youngest premier-class pole-sitter in history, deposing the legendary Freddie Spencer of the crown he has held for 31 years.
On Sunday, Marc Marquez will go after the next target: the record as the youngest winner of a premier class Grand Prix, also held by Spencer. If he fails to win on Sunday – a very distinct possibility – he still has until Indianapolis to take Spencer’s record, making it very far from safe.
Marquez’s pole was the crowning glory of an utterly impressive weekend so far. The Repsol Honda youngster has dominated most of practice, leading his teammate by a quarter of a second or more in every session but one. He was immediately fast, but his race rhythm is just as impressive.
In FP3, as grip on the track improved, Marquez cranked out 2’04s and 2’05s like they were going out of style. He was consistent, too. Not quite Jorge Lorenzo consistent, but he was running a pace that would have let him build up a lead, with only Dani Pedrosa able to stay close.
Marquez continues on the meteoric path blazed by the fastest riders in the world who went before. Casey Stoner always said about that truly exceptional riders are up to speed almost immediately, and this is exactly what Marquez has done. On the podium in his first race, on pole for his second, and a strong favorite for the win, this is the mark of a true “Alien”, to use a much-denigrated, but still useful phrase. His first MotoGP victory can’t be far away.
The first day of practice at the Circuit of The Americas was summed up with eloquent brevity by the headline of the press release issued by the RW Racing GP Moto3 team of Jasper Iwema and Jakub Kornfeil: “No grip in Texas.” Despite the awesome facility, a fascinating and difficult track, and clear blue Texan skies, the times set by all three Grand Prix classes in Austin were a very long way off what had been expected, as the riders struggled to find any grip anywhere.
Why was the grip so low? The heavy rains from the previous day didn’t help, washing any rubber that was on the track away. Not that there was much, on a track that has seen very little bike use in its short existence so far.
Then there was the cool temperatures, with thermostats showing just 13°C/55°F in the morning, and a strong wind blowing away any heat the sun managed to get into the tarmac. “Like riding on ice,” was the common consensus in the morning, with times some five and a half seconds off that set by Marc Marquez at the previous test back in mid March, at which conditions were far from ideal.
Three free practice sessions in the morning, a little less wind and a full day of sun worked wonders in the afternoon, with all three classes taking big chunks of time off their lap times from the morning. By the time the day had ended, all three classes were some three seconds or more faster than they started off. Tomorrow, most riders said, should be even better now there’s more rubber on the track. Warmer temperatures should help too, as will the wind dropping off.
“I thought Laguna Seca was a tough track to learn, and then I came here.” Bradley Smith’s verdict on the Circuit of the Americas at Austin, Texas, after six laps on the scooter around the track.
Smith’s words sum up the general feeling about the newest addition to the MotoGP calendar, mind-boggling sequence of decreasing and increasing radius turns, with blind entrances, complex combinations and a few hard-braking hairpins with tough entrance points.
Even the long back straight undulates, the huge, slightly bowed, 1200 meter length of tarmac rising and falling, leaving you wondering where you are along it.
The setting is beautiful, in the rolling low hills to the east of Austin, just beyond the airport, and the facilities are quite simply overwhelming: modern, well-equipped, brightly lit, attractively designed. Indeed, both the factory and Tech 3 Yamaha teams are delighted with the facility: after a battery fire at 1am, it was only the circuit’s outstanding sprinkler system and alert response by the fire service which prevented the fire spreading out of control, destroying maybe eight or twelve MotoGP machines, and causing upwards of $50 million of damage.
Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you from the Grand Prix of the Americas this week, and things are already off to an interesting start. With a fire breaking out in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage during the night, the gear for the satellite Yamaha squad was flooded by the Circuit of the America’s fire suppression system, which also affected the garages for Yamaha Racing, LCR Honda, and Cardion AB.
Yamaha Racing Boss Lin Jarvis explained that while the small fire was quickly put out by COTA’s sprinklers, the team lost one of two servers and several computers to the blaze before it was extinguished. It is not anticipated that the fire will have any affect on Sunday’s race, though it could pose a problem for the teams, since they have a quick turnaround for the Jerez round.
Currently, the cause of the fire is presumed to be the lithium battery to Monster Yamaha Tech 3′s electric starter for the GP motorcycles, making this incident another eyebrow raising episode in the handling of high-tech battery packs, which have different tolerances and operating procedures than conventional battery pack types.
While certainly a setback to the start of the race weekend, the teams involved dodged a serious bullet by having the fire occur while MotoGP is at COTA, since the Texan track has a sophisticated fire prevention system in place.
UPDATE: Dani Pedrosa’s and Marc Marquez’s on-board laps have been added to this post.
Ask and yee shall receive, here is some more movie magic from HRC’s private test at the Circuit of the Americas. For this go-around, we feature LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, as he takes the factory-spec Honda RC213V for a quick lap around the new Texan GP circuit.
Honestly, I was all set to drop some mega-hyperbole on the whole situation, and maybe even get a few digs in about MotoGP’s media policies along the way, but I am too depressed at the moment to make that happen.
You see, having just ridden COTA only a couple weeks ago, I was fairly pleased with my lap times, especially after having only spent an hour on the circuit. Now, I wasn’t the fastest guy out there by any stretch, but my times were dropping with each lap and session, and I certainly wasn’t the slowest at the end of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R bike launch, so I call that a win for a Thursday afternoon.
But no, Mr. Bradl had to go and show me up. Close to 15 seconds quicker on his out-lap than my best hot-lap, I guess we see why he races motorcycles for a living, while I blog from my mother’s basement, wearing nothing but a bathrobe and bunny-shaped slippers. Le sigh.
Marc Marquez entered MotoGP surrounded by hype and with high expectations. After a wet test at Valencia, where he showed he was fast, but not quite how fast, the Spaniard went to Sepang, where he posted very good times in a private test. At the full Sepang MotoGP tests, Marquez was genuinely impressive, never finishing outside the Top 4.
At Austin, Marquez stunned observers. The young Spaniard, still only a rookie in the MotoGP class, with only a few days on a MotoGP bike under his belt, dominated at the Austin test, topping the timesheets on all three days of the private test. It was not as if he didn’t have any competition at the circuit: both the factory Yamaha and Honda teams were at the Austin test, and Marquez beat Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi to set the fastest time.
So it was something of a surprise when Marquez failed to duplicate his impressive pace in Malaysia and Texas when MotoGP rolled up at Jerez for the final test of the season.
Though Marquez was 3rd fastest in the wet, once conditions improved – though they were never perfect – the Repsol Honda rookie got left behind a little, finishing the second day in 7th spot, nearly 1.2 seconds behind fastest man Valentino Rossi, and 5th spot on day three, 0.6 behind Cal Crutchlow.
Marquez left the three day test as 6th overall, six tenths behind the fastest man of the test Cal Crutchlow, and over a tenth behind Stefan Bradl, his main rival during the 2011 Moto2 season.
So what happened? Where did Marc Marquez’ speed suddenly disappear to? When asked by reporters on Sunday, the Spaniard had a few explanations. “Today was difficult,” Marquez acknowledged, “but I think it’s normal. It was the first time in dry conditions on this track.”
New for 2013, Ducati has added another model to its Superbike range, the long awaited Ducati 1199 Panigale R. Asphalt & Rubber was first to break the news on the “R” version of Borgo Panigale’s namesake, so it is fitting that we were one of the first publications to ride this homologation-special — taking part in Ducati’s international press launch at the new, and very technical, Circuit of the Americas race course outside Austin, Texas.
A purpose-built facility for the Formula 1 Championship, the Circuit of the Americas also has a ten-year contract with motorcycling’s premier class, the MotoGP Championship. This means three races will be held in the United States of America this year, which makes America MotoGP’s second-most visited countries in 2013. That distinction seems fitting, as the United States has also officially become Ducati’s number one market, not just for superbike sales, but in overall bikes sold.
Seeing a shift not only in the Italian company’s DNA, as it explores lines like the Hypermotard, Multistrada, and Diavel with great sales success, Ducati is also moving beyond being just a boutique Italian brand, into a truly global motorcycle company — being recently acquired by the Audi Group doesn’t hurt things either.
With so much change occurring at the foundation of the Ducati brand, bikes like the Panigale are extremely important to the Bologna Brand, as they anchor the company’s racing and performance heritage. Worry not loyal Ducatisti, the race-ready Ducati 1199 Panigale R lives up to the high-expectations, and is quite simply the finest machine to come from Ducati Motor Holding. We review it, after the jump.
I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.
As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.
Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.
That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.