At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.
MotoGP’s 2013 Silly Season is one of the most complicated in many years. Though the retirement of Casey Stoner has opened up the market, the real complication lies with two factors, and the way those two interact. The issue can be summed up in a single question: what are we going to do with Marc Marquez?
It has been clear for some time that Marc Marquez is going to be one of the hottest properties in MotoGP in 2013, the Spaniard expected to graduate to the premier class at the end of this season. Under normal circumstances, this would not be an issue, but the situation that MotoGP finds itself currently in means that we are a very long way from normal circumstances.
The combination of the global financial crisis and the radically depleted field, a consequence of the cost hyperinflation the switch to 800cc caused back in 2007, has meant that the series finds itself in a period of transition, with the return to 1000cc machines just the first step in a major rules shakeup.
The scale of the proposed changes – a rev limit, a single ECU, one bike per rider, a cap on lease prices, and a limit to the number of bikes each factory can provide – means that discussions about the rules are ongoing, the situation changing at each Grand Prix as the haggling and horse-trading between the factories and Dorna continues.
Marquez was expected to fall victim to the Rookie Rule, the provision introduced when Ben Spies entered MotoGP in 2010, preventing a rider from going straight to a factory team in his first season in the class. Both HRC and Repsol, the Spanish oil giant who have backed Marquez throughout his career, have made no secret of their preference of putting Marquez directly into the factory Repsol Honda team.
The Rookie Rule prevents this happening, leaving Repsol and Monlau Competicion, who run Marquez’ Moto2 team (and the 125cc team he raced in before that) casting about for alternatives. Their preferred option, if Marquez cannot go straight to the factory team, is for Monlau to move up as an independent satellite team running Marquez as the sole rider. The team would be backed by Honda, and Marquez would have full factory-spec equipment at his disposal.
But that itself poses a problem. Under the current proposals, which look very close to being finalized, each manufacturer will only be allowed to supply a maximum of four riders with bikes in 2013, two riders in a factory team and two riders in satellite teams.
With the direct route into the factory team blocked, Marquez causes a dilemma, for Honda, and for the satellite teams involved: placing Marquez with either the San Carlo Gresini or the LCR satellite teams will cause problems with the teams’ existing sponsors, and if Marquez brings his own team of mechanics with him, then it would also mean satellite teams breaking long-standing relationships with mechanics already working for the teams.
Likewise for Honda, if HRC grants Repsol and Monlau’s wish of creating a separate team for Marquez, that could mean being forced to take away a bike from one of the two Honda satellite teams.
To hear the perspective of the satellite teams themselves, I spoke to Lucio Cecchinello at Barcelona, owner of the LCR Honda team currently fielding Stefan Bradl in MotoGP. Cecchinello and Gresini are the parties in the most difficult situation, and though Cecchinello pronounced himself a supporter of the Rookie Rule, he was clear that the current set of circumstances made the situation even more complicated than it would normally be.
Getting a chance to sit down with Michael Czysz, ahead of the 2012 SES TT Zero race, we asked the designer of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc and CEO of MotoCzysz a few questions about the Segway MotoCzysz Racing team’s latest machine, as well as his thoughts on the 2012 season and the state of electric motorcycle racing. With aerodynamics being the centerpiece for the team’s 2012 entry, there’s a lot of reading between the lines between Michael’s comments on the bike’s technical aspects, which become fairly apparent when closely examining the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc u-close. And yes, we of course even asked the form-driven motorcyclist his thoughts on the bike’s aesthetics.
Kidding aside, Michael provides a ton of insight not only into the Segway MotoCzysz team, but also the state and trajectory of electric motorcycle racing as a whole. Developing new systems for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the bar for electrics is constantly being pushed farther, and with several potent entries this year, the TT Zero competition has never been fiercer. Like John McGuinness said to me earlier in the week, in five year’s time or so, everyone will be racing these.
One of the most fascinating areas of MotoGP is the relationship between rider and crew chief. The way that those two individuals communcate and interact can be the difference between winning championships and riding around mid-pack. Riders need a massive amount of talent to go fast, but they also need to understand what the bike is doing underneath them and be able to communicate that to their chief engineer. Likewise, crew chiefs have to have a solid grounding in race bike physics and an understanding of how to make a machine that is capable of lapping very fast, but they also need to be able to listen to what their rider is really saying, and understand what he needs to allow him to go faster.
It is a subject that has fascinated me for a long time. At Estoril, I had the chance to interview Jorge Lorenzo together with his crew chief Ramon Forcada. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo came into MotoGP off the back of two 250cc World Championships in 2006 and 2007, and was joined by Forcada, a 20-year veteran of the Grand Prix paddock, in the factory Yamaha team. Both men were known for their ability, but they had to find a way to work together to get the best out of the relationship, and out of the Yamaha M1. Here is what they had to say about how that relationship works:
One of the great pleasures in watching Casey Stoner ride a MotoGP machine is the controlled way in which he manages to slide the bike through the corners. In an era when the spectacular slides once so beloved by fans have been tamed by electronic intervention, Stoner has managed to convince his engineers to limit the electronics sufficiently to give him enough control to slide the bike to help get it turned.
His ability has fascinated both fans and journalists around the world, and many have tried to get him to explain how he does it, but Stoner himself has always found it very hard to say exactly what he is doing. At Qatar, a group of journalists pressed the Repsol Honda rider again to explain exactly where and when he chooses to slide the rear, and what benefits it provides. Though he protested it was hard – “It’s really difficult to explain, so many people have asked me,” he said – he went on to talk at length about what he does and why.
Former GP racer Lucio Cecchinello is a Honda man through and through. Team owner and principal at LCR Honda (the ‘LCR’ standing for Lucio Cecchinello Racing), Cecchinello started his racing career on a Honda NS125R, and worked his way up to the GP ranks, where he spent most of his time on a Honda RS125 (he finished his career on an Aprilia though). In 1996, Cecchinello started LCR, making him both the team’s rider and its principal director, an absolute rarity in the paddock.
LCR Honda slowly grew from the 125 & 250 Championships into the premier class of the sport: MotoGP. Campaigning a number of top riders, LCR Honda has seen Casey Stoner, Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis, Nobby Ueda, Toni Elias & Carlos Checa all ride the team’s bikes at some point in their careers. This year LCR Honda has Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl in the saddle, and the team hopes the German rider will be just as impressive on the big bikes as he was with the 600’s.
Taking some time to talk to HRC’s PR machine, Cecchinello shares his unique perspective on having both a racing and managing career. As a satellite team owner, Cecchinello’s opinions about CRTs from a business perspective are especially intriguing, as he forecasts trouble for CRT teams trying to bring in big-name sponsors.
Perhaps most significant are his comments regarding Moto2 though, as Cecchinello believes that the middle class of GP racing should go to a 500cc two-cylinder format, which would allow manufacturers to race in all three class with the same cylinder and head designs. The interview is a pretty good read for any MotoGP fan, check it out after the jump.
Press interviews that are done internally by the teams themselves are usually very one-sided, glowing, and devoid of any controversial or tough questions, so you have to give a hat-tip to HRC for producing a pretty fair shake of an interview with Gresini Honda‘s Fausto Gresini. The former-racer turned MotoGP Team Manager is heralded as the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP, which is certainly open for debate, though Gresini undeniably has some very note-worthy notches on his belt.
Along with his successes Gresini and his squad unfortunately have also had their fair share of tragedy. Losing Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli at Sepang in 2011, the team has been at the center of two dark chapters of the MotoGP story. Running a black livery in 2012, instead of the team’s customary white color scheme, the absence of Simoncelli still percolates underneath the demure exterior of the team, though the Gresini Honda team is clearly looking forward instead of back.
Taking on the challenge of running a CRT entry for the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Gresini Honda will race with both a factory prototype and with a Ten Kate-prepped Honda CBR1000RR motor in an FTR chassis. At the helm of the CRT machine will be Michele Pirro, the same rider who gave Gresini a dramatic finish to the 2011 season, by winning the final Moto2 round at the Valencian GP. Also new to the team is Alvaro Bautista, who has been our dark horse favorite here at A&R. Fast, but underrated, Bautista’s true potential will be measured this year as he joins an all-star team, and rides “the bike” of the GP paddock: the 2012 Honda RC213V.
I’m not going to front, when it comes to jobs, I have a pretty good thing going here with Asphalt & Rubber. Of course, if you want to talk about guys who really have turned a passion into a dream, Jamie Robinson takes the cake. Traveling around the world on miscellaneous two-wheeled adventures, the moto-videographer gets to sit down with some of the most interesting personalities in motorcycling. This morning, Jamie sent us this video of an interview he did with probably one of the most mysterious persons in motorcycle racing: Max Biaggi.
The Roman Emperor as he has become called, Biaggi has an amazing life story, and has often been cast as the antagonist in pieces involving fellow Italians Loris Capirossi, Valentino Rossi, and more recently Marco Melandri. A four-time 250GP World Champion, Biaggi’s crowning achievement to-date was his 2010 World Superbike Championship victory on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory. Plagued with injuries during the 2011 season, Biaggi is back for 2012 and looking for his #1 plate again.
Despite what you probably already think of Max Biaggi, Jamie has really managed to show another side to the Italian rider in this video interview. Now a family man and in his 40’s, maybe what we are seeing is a new and improved Biaggi, or then again, maybe this is the same Max that the media just never wanted to portray. Good stuff, check it out after the jump.
One way you can gauge the life of a competitor is to talk to his rivals, and for Marco Simoncelli, there was no greater rival than Andrea Dovizioso. Racing against each other since the age of eight on pocket bikes, Dovi and Simoncelli have come through the GP ranks battling one another throughout every turn of their 125, 250, and MotoGP careers.With that on-track rivalry coming to a head this season, as both Italians were on factory-supported Honda RC212V race bikes, Marco and Andrea found themselves battling not only on the track, but off the track as well, as Both riders looked to secure the third and final factory bike from Honda for the 2012 season.
With Simoncelli winning the bid for a factory Honda seat, and such a fierce adversarial story brewing between the two racers, you would expect Dovizioso to have hated his counterpart, but nothing could be farther from the truth. As Dovi explained to A&R at Valencia this week, while the pair of Italians were rivals on the track, they were also colleagues who respected each others once the helmets, leathers, and gloves came off. Speaking solemnly to a small group of journalists, Dovizioso talked about a man who perhaps defined his own career more than the contrary, and while the Italian was clear to point out that he and Simoncelli were not friends, they both had a professional relationship of mutual respect forged out of two-wheeled combat.
With rumors swirling around where Colin Edwards will land next year, we grabbed a moment with the Texas Tornado to ask him about one rumor that keeps cropping up: him on a claiming rule team for the 2012 season. Of course, you don’t just ask Colin Edwards direct questions, and expect direct answers, as the Texan enjoys a good laugh.
Getting some MotoGP-rookie hazing, Edwards had some fun with A&R while talking about CRTs, but what the Texan did say (or in some cases, didn’t say) is pretty interesting. One thing is for certain, the two-time World Superbike champion was very keen on having a pepped-up production motor inside a prototype chassis for his bike next year.
With an official announcement likely to come at Misano, the question now is where Colin will end up for 2012. Welcome to Silly Season 2011 ladies and gentleman.