The World Superbike racing season is rapidly approaching with its season-opener at Phillip Island on February 23rd, and with a bevy of OEMs set to enter World Superbike, the FIM has made house calls to make sure that the OEMs have met their first production volume requirements for homologation.
With MV Agusta’s volumes of the F4 not at issue, the crux of the FIM’s work centered around Erik Buell Racing and Bimota. Confirming that Erik Buell Racing has met its 125 unit obligation, before the first WSBK race, the FIM however could not say the same about Bimota.
Bimota’s inability to produce the requisite 125 units of the Bimota BB3 is perhaps unsurprising, as the boutique Italian brand has only recently been acquired, and the new superbike model was just unveiled at the 2013 EICMA show. Despite the World Superbike’s announcement that the FIM would bend the rules regarding homologation, it would be seem that is not the case.
The first major change to the 2014 MotoGP schedule has been announced. Though the dates remain the same, the order of the Asian flyaway triple header has been reshuffled, with Sepang moving from first of the three to last.
The Grand Prix classes will now head to Japan first, for the Japanese GP at Motegi on 12th October, before heading south to Australia for the Phillip Island round a week later, on 19th October. The weekend after that the MotoGP paddock visits Malaysia, for the last of the three overseas races at Sepang on 26th October.
In part one of our interview with Mike Webb, the MotoGP Race Director talked about the penalty point system and how it had worked in 2013. In the second part, Webb talks about the tire debacle at Phillip Island.
Webb explains what the teams were told about the rules and the penalties they would incur, and he discusses the incident on the exit of pit lane between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. He explains how Race Direction felt the dry flag-to-flag race went, and whether the situation could be handled any differently.
He also explains why penalty points are only handed out at the front of the race, while the battle mid-pack can be much fiercer than anything happening for the lead. Finally, Mike Webb casts an eye on the future, and explains the next steps towards improving safety, and improving communication with the riders.
The 2013 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island – likely to be known henceforth as ‘The Debacle Down Under’ – taught us many things. It taught us that tire companies need to find ways to test at newly surfaced tracks (especially when a newly retired world champion and now Honda test rider lives in the same country), that pit stops in dry conditions are potentially dangerous when each stint is less than 10 laps, and that hurriedly changing rules and race lengths are far from ideal when trying to organize a MotoGP race. Those were the lessons that were immediately obvious to anyone watching.
There were more subtle lessons from Phillip Island as well. Marc Marquez’s disqualification was not just a failure of either strategy or his ability to read a pit board, it was also a sign of growing tensions inside the Repsol Honda box. The reactions of the various members of Marquez’s crew after he failed to enter the pits to swap bikes at the end of lap 10 (shown in an excellent free video on the MotoGP.com website) suggests a deep-seated failure of communication among the entire crew.
Most of his crew appeared to be surprised and shocked when Marquez didn’t come in to swap bikes, but Marquez’s inner circle, Emilio Alzamora and Santi Hernandez, appear unperturbed as he races by on the lap that would lead to his disqualification. Cristian Gabarrini, formerly Casey Stoner’s crew chief and now HRC engineer assisting Marquez’s team, is immediately certain of the consequences, the cutting motion across the throat showing he knows it’s over.
After the race, Marc Marquez told reporters that it had been deliberate strategy to ride for the extra lap. The strategy had been decided by a small group. “We made the plan together, with three or four guys, with Santi [Hernandez] and with Emilio [Alzamora],” Marquez said, but the plan had backfired.
“The biggest problem was that we thought that it was possible to make that lap,” Marquez said, expressing his surprise at being black flagged. He had thought the penalty was for speeding in the pit lane or crossing the white line too early.
Whatever your opinion about Sunday’s Australian GP (a farce of mismanagement and tire failure; the most exciting race for years, or; something in between), I’m guessing you were thinking at its conclusion something like “Never seen anything like that before!”
For my own part, I have never photographed anything like that race before, simply because there has never been a MotoGP race with a mandatory, scheduled pit stop before.
When the news first broke in the Media Center that the race would be divided into two sections by a mandatory pit stop, I started imaging in the fantastic images this would make possible.
But as I considered where I would set up in pit lane to photograph the mayhem of riders coming in to swap bikes, an announcement made its way through the media center that all but the official Dorna photographers would be banned from pit lane during the race.
After every race weekend, Bridgestone issues a press release containing a summary of how they think their weekend went. Normally, they are fairly bland affairs, only of interest to those interested in the minutiae of tire performance and setup. How different is the press release issued after the Australian Grand Prix.
After the debacle of tires not being able to complete an entire race, and compulsory pit stops introduced, Bridgestone’s press release was highly anticipated.
The press release itself is rather disappointing. While the technical details are fascinating on why the tires failed to hold up at Phillip Island, the question of why Bridgestone failed to test at the circuit is merely skimmed over in passing references. The full press release appears after the jump.
There is only one word which everyone would agree accurately describes the 2013 Tissot Australian Grand Prix, and that word is ‘eventful’. There are an awful lot of other words being used to describe it, some fit for publication, some less so, but nobody would argue with the fact that the entire weekend at Phillip Island was packed with action, controversy, surprises, and even the odd spot of excitement.
The tire issues suffered by both Dunlop and Bridgestone caused the Moto2 and MotoGP races to be shortened, and the MotoGP riders forced to make a compulsory pit stop. The pit stops certainly added an element of suspense, and even surprise, but they split opinion among fans, riders and paddock followers straight down the middle: half viewed the whole thing as a farce, the other half thought it made for a thrilling spectacle. The arguments between the two sides are likely to go on for a long time.