The current status of MotoGP’s silly season? Two down, plenty still to go. Valentino Rossi may have joined Marc Marquez as the only other factory rider to have put pen to paper for 2015 and 2016, the rest of the grid is still in the middle of negotiating their riders for next year. Even Cal Crutchlow, who has a contract to race with Ducati in 2015, but more of that later.
Now, Valentino Rossi knows how Max Biaggi felt. “I did one mistake in 27 laps,” Rossi told the press conference after the MotoGP race at Le Mans. “But in the crucial moment of the race.” Rossi braked a little bit too deep into Turn 9, ran wide, and Marquez was through. The mistake was because Rossi knew Marquez was coming, and had to try to push to keep ahead.
“I try to push, to do 1’34.0, but I knew I was at the limit.” Rossi knew that if he did not keep pushing to the full, Marquez would be upon him and past him in no time. It was perhaps that effort that caused Rossi to make the mistake that let Marquez by.
It was indeed a strange role reversal for Rossi. Ten years ago, it was Rossi himself who was hunter, stalking riders like Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau, following them and simply waiting for a mistake. Now, the hunter had become prey, faltering when Marquez bore down upon him. At last, he got to ride a mile in Biaggi’s boots.
Yet all credit is due to the veteran Italian. He is currently the only rider in the world capable of putting up any kind of resistance to the unstoppable force that is Marc Marquez. Both Rossi and Marquez were surprised and disappointed at Rossi’s mistake, both relishing the chance to go toe to toe with one another.
“I don’t know if I can beat him,” Rossi said, “But I would like to fight. I think it would be fun.” Marquez concurred, telling the press conference he had expected to have “a nice battle” with Rossi as he came up behind him, but when he saw Rossi make the mistake, he did not hesitate.
Seventh fastest, half a second off the fastest factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi, and ahead of the two Tech 3 riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. By lunchtime on the second day, Aleix was closer still, just two tenths off the best Yamaha.
Naturally, all eyes turned to the Tech 3 garage, and the response of team boss Herve Poncharal. How would the otherwise charming Frenchman react to being beaten by a bike which Yamaha was supplying to a rival team for a third of the price he is paying to lease the Tech 3 Yamaha M1 machines, entered under the Factory Option rules in MotoGP?
A long line of journalists beat a path to his door, including us, to put those questions to him.
Poncharal spoke at length about the Open class, the issue of fuel consumption, and the performance of Aleix Espargaro. First of all, though, he emphasized the strength of his relationship with Yamaha.
A high pressure system wreaked havoc over France and Italy throughout this past weekend, and dumped nearly six inches of rain in some areas, which caused massive flooding and damaged buildings.
In Bormes-les-Mimosas, France, one of the buildings to suffer water damage was home to the Monster Yamaha MotoGP team of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, as well Moto2 riders Marcel Shrotter and Alex Mariñelarena.
According to a report released on MotoGP.com, a water-tight door failed at the facility, allowing flood waters into the building, leaving the floors covered in mud and damaging equipment. The resulting floods also caused damage to crates that were scheduled to be shipped to Malaysia.
After months of intrigue as to where the British rider would land for the 2014 MotoGP Championship, Cal Crutchlow has reportedly signed a two-year deal with Ducati Corse.
Taking the seat of the departing Nicky Hayden, Cal Crutchlow has finally bagged the factory position that he has been adamant about for the past season and a half. The official announcement is expected Friday of this week.
Just when it looked like the MotoGP silly season was getting ready to wrap up, a few new developments threw a spanner or two in the works. A week ago, most MotoGP pundits were convinced that Cal Crutchlow would be going to Ducati, Scott Redding would be moving up with his Marc VDS Racing team, and there was next to no interest in Yamaha’s leased engines.
At the Sachsenring, many things changed, in part at the instigation of Honda, and in part because of Yamaha.
Honda has made the biggest move in the market. At the Sachsenring, credible rumors emerged of Honda attempting to secure both Redding and Crutchlow, in two different moves. HRC’s approach to Crutchlow could cause the biggest upset. The Japanese factory is known to be very impressed by Crutchlow, but their dilemma is that all four Honda prototype seats are ostensibly taken for 2014.
While both Marquez and Pedrosa have contracts for next year, and Bautista is locked in at Gresini for 2014, Stefan Bradl’s seat at LCR Honda could possibly be available. While Bradl is locked in to a two-year deal with HRC, Honda hold the option to decide not to take the second year, potentially freeing up Bradl’s bike, and that seat could then be taken by Cal Crutchlow.
The troubled waters through which Cal Crutchlow has found himself sailing with Yamaha have been calmed a little. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider and his manager Bob Moore held their first face-to-face meeting with Yamaha bosses Lin Jarvis and Masahiko Nakajima on the Sunday night after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, to discuss the options for extending their relationship for next year.
Also present at the meeting was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncharal, who has been very vocal in his desire to retain the British rider. Crutchlow’s results have been a real boon for the French team, and his outspoken and impish personality have helped attract a large amount of media attention.
Poncharal has been mediating between Yamaha and Crutchlow, and is trying to secure an extension of Crutchlow’s contract with the team for 2014. He judged the meeting a positive step forward, with all parties involved getting a chance to express their views in person.
“It was good to clear the air,” Poncharal said of the meeting, something which was necessary after Crutchlow’s indignant and very public response to rumors that Yamaha were intending to put Pol Espargaro on Crutchlow’s seat in the Tech 3 garage.
Rumors of an imminent departure for the new factory Suzuki team continue to surround Crutchlow, despite Crutchlow’s continuing protestations that his first objective is to remain with Yamaha.
After the final corner incident between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo, the media spent the afternoon canvassing opinion from anyone they could find in the paddock, to ask how they felt about the incident.
Below is a selection of the responses, split between riders and team staff. Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Valentino Rossi represent rider opinion, while Herve Poncharal, Livio Suppo and Wilco Zeelenberg speak for the teams.
The 2013 MotoGP season has only just got underway, but as is seemingly customary in MotoGP now, thoughts are already turning to next year. With eight of the twelve men on factory prototypes on two-year contracts, the most attractive seats already appear to be taken.
There is no room for any movement at either the factory Yamaha or factory Honda teams, and only one seat potentially available at the factory Ducati team. Both satellite Honda seats are taken for 2014, as is Bradley Smith’s seat at the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team.
Despite this, there are some intriguing possibilities being played out. The most desirable seat still left is almost certainly the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat currently occupied by Cal Crutchlow. Despite the Englishman’s outstanding performance since last year, Crutchlow may not be able to hold on to his seat.
There have been credible reports since 2012 that Yamaha have a keen interest in Moto2 title favorite Pol Espargaro, and in the run up to the season opener at Qatar, rumors emerged that Espargaro is already in talks with Yamaha for 2014.
AMA Pro Racing Champion Josh Hayes will get a chance to swing a leg over some MotoGP machinery later this year, as the American rider will get to ride with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad at the post-season test in Valencia. Taking place immediately after the final 2011 MotoGP round in Valencia, Hayes will ride Colin Edwards’ 800cc Yamaha YZR-M1, as the Texan Tornado will presumably be released from his Tech 3 duties so that he can begin testing his CRT bike at the first 2012 season test. The ride is joint-promotion by both Monster and Yamaha USA, and it also sees Josh Hayes’ better half, Melissa Paris, riding Bradley Smith’s Tech 3 Tech 3 Mistral 610 Moto2 race bike at the Spanish test.