It is becoming customary for any MotoGP preview worth its salt to begin with a single question: can anyone beat Marc Marquez this weekend? That same question was put to the riders during the pre-event press conference, to which Valentino Rossi gave the most obvious answer. Of course it was possible, he said.
“It is nothing special. What you have to do is do your maximum and improve your level.” The only trouble is, every time Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, or Dani Pedrosa improve their level, so does Marc Marquez. But it is still possible, Rossi believes. “We are not very far. It is not easy, but nothing special.”
Barcelona, like Mugello, is one of the tracks where Marquez is perhaps more vulnerable. It is a circuit where the reigning champion has always struggled – though for Marquez, “struggling” means only managing podiums rather than wins – and where the Yamahas, especially, have been strong.
Valentino Rossi has won here nine times, and Jorge Lorenzo has been either first or second at the track for the past five years. The track flows, and has a little bit of everything.
A long, fast front straight, some elevation change climbing up into the two stadium sections, the two “horns” of the Catalunya bull which the Montmelo circuit most resembles, a couple of esses, and long, flowing combinations of corners. Those corners more than compensate for the front straight.
Jorge Lorenzo reckoned that the Yamaha had a top speed deficit of perhaps 4 or 5 km/h on the Honda, but that at Barcelona, this was less of an issue than at other tracks. After all, he pointed out, there are some 3.7 kilometers of corners in which to catch a Honda ahead of you.
With his wrist continuing to give him trouble, Nicky Hayden ultimately had to miss the Italian GP at Mugello, much to the dismay of MotoGP fans around the world. Never fear though, after a successful surgery in Italy, Hayden hopes to return to action this weekend, as his hand is feeling greatly improved after the operation.
Hayden is cautious to call this race weekend a comeback though, and the Kentucky Kid might still sit out the Catalan GP if it appears the sessions will further aggravate his still healing wrist. Still, the news of Hayden getting back on the bike so quickly after an operation shows the determination of the American rider. We hope to see him on the starting line come Sunday.
Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn’t rained off that is.
Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top.
The Factory Yamaha man had been working on setup, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.
On the other side of the garage, Valentino Rossi was once again pursuing weight distribution changes to improve his feel with the bike, especially to help him in braking. A more radical change was planned for the afternoon, but a fast crash at Turn 3 left the bike damaged, meaning that plan had to be abandoned.
Rossi returned to the track at the end of the day to test the new rear tire Bridgestone had brought, and was positive about the feel of the tire. The new construction hard rear tire was a clear improvement, Rossi said, and it was good for the hard rear to once again be an option.
So far this year, the only tire that has worked at most tracks has been the softer option, leaving the riders with a de facto rear allocation of just seven rears for a weekend.
Suzuki broke some hearts today by announcing that the company’s MotoGP team would not return to the premier class until 2015, instead of 2014 as was rumored.
Telling perspective riders last week about the decision (so they could make alternate plans for next season), Suzuki was still at the Circuit de Catalunya for MotoGP’s post-race test, joining Yamaha Racing (which elected not to go to the rain-sodden Motorland Aragon circuit), Ducati Corse, and a bevy of satellite and private teams.
Shaking down its inline-four GP race bike, codenamed the Suzuki XRH-1, Nobuatsu Aoki was first-up on the machine. But the day’s real work was done by Randy de Puniet, who put in an impressive 1’42.676 lap time near the end of the day — just over three quarters of a second off the top time set by Jorge Lorenzo.
However, despite the impressive debut for the XRH-1, Suzuki’s official reason for its delay back to GP racing is the pace of development on the project.
Part of that development process surely is for the electronics, as Suzuki is currently using an electronics package from Mitsubishi, though the company expects to switch over to the spec-ECU from Magneti Marelli later this year, in the autumn.
If that all whets your appetite, our favorite Hungarian Photographer/Journalist Niki Kovács (be sure to follow her on Facebook & Twitter) has sent us nine more photos of the Suzuki XRH-1, which are after the jump for your viewing pleasure.
Be sure to note the XRH-1’s staked gearbox (a very Yamaha design), which is mated to the “big bang” four-banger. The twin-spars of the aluminum chassis looks likes like an evolution of the GSX-R platform, which shouldn’t be too surprising — though when Satoru Terada talked to GPone, he said that Suzuki hasn’t begun work on a new WSBK machine.
Jorge Lorenzo has topped the timesheets at the end of the Barcelona MotoGP test, but the talking point of the test was Suzuki. On its first public run out, Randy de Puniet clocked a time of 1’42.676, just over three quarters of a second off the time set by Lorenzo, an impressive debut.
Nicky Hayden set the second fastest time, close behind Lorenzo and ahead of Stefan Bradl. Both Hayden and Dovizioso ran back-to-back tests with the existing Ducati GP13 and the lab bike, but neither man was convinced that the lab bike was a step forward.
Just hours before the development team’s public debut on the track (private debuts here & here), Suzuki has announced that it will return to the MotoGP Championship in 2015, not 2014. That gives the Japanese factory 21 months to develop its inline-four GP bike with test rider Randy de Puniet, and Davide Brivio at the helm as test team manager.
While the Suzuki has not given a reason behind its prolonged return, the fact that the team would have to foot the bill for its Bridgestone tires, as well as its travel/shipping costs, certainly didn’t help justify an early re-entry for Dorna’s prodigal factory, especially if the bike fails to impress on its first direct comparison to the machines of Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati.
Said to still be carrying a grudge for Suzuki (and Kawasaki’s) broken promises, and departure from the series, Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta has given Suzuki no favors in its return to Grand Prix racing. Dorna originally wanted Suzuki to re-enter the series through an existing team, rumored to be Team Aspar, but ultimately had to scrap that plan as no current MotoGP team was willing to take on the onerous task of managing the factory-backed squad.
Still, Suzuki’s return will mean another two bikes on the MotoGP grid, and Suzuki itself will manage and run the MotoGP team. What the will do to the 2013 silly season remains to be seen, but we can’t wait to see some more photos of the still unnamed Suzuki GP bike on the track. A press release from Suzuki Racing is after the jump.
Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race at Barcelona. Well, not quite perfect — he told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that he made just a single mistake. “Luckily nobody saw it, and you cannot see it on the data,” Lorenzo said.
After a difficult qualifying session, Lorenzo put the hammer down from the start, attacking Dani Pedrosa aggressively into Turn 1 once again, just like in Mugello, and then pushing hard all race long, despite a front tire that kept threatening to let go.
So how did he do it? How did he pull off a win when most people were convinced that Pedrosa had the win in the bag? Two factors: his own mental strength, and a radical and inspired set up change during warm-up, in preparation for a hot race with no grip.
Wilco Zeelenberg, Lorenzo’s team manager, explained to me exactly what they had done. “We created a lot less pressure on the front of the bike,” the Dutchman explained. “That’s not what you would normally do, but because you know you won’t be able to do 1:42’s all race, you know you don’t need the best set up.”
Cal Crutchlow called it right on Friday. “We know the Hondas take a little bit longer to set up, but when they come out Saturday morning, they normally take a second off.”
It was more like half a second on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 1.6 seconds off his best time on Friday, smashing the pole record which had stood since 2008.
That was a lap set on the supersoft qualifying tires still used at the time, which had Nicky Hayden happily reminiscing about the fun to be had on the sticky one-lap rubber.
It was an extraordinary lap by Pedrosa, though the Honda man himself was not overly impressed. When asked if it was his best lap ever, Pedrosa acknowledged that it was good, perhaps one of his best, but still not as good as his lap at Valencia at the end of last year.