A popular figure in the MotoGP paddock, Simoncelli tragically lost his life in 2011, during the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The paradox of the motorcycle racer is that every race is a big race, yet no race is more important than any other. The pressure on the MotoGP elite is so great that they have to perform at their maximum at every circuit, every weekend.
Every race is like a championship decider, not just the race which decides the championship. There may be extra pressure at a home race, or on a special occasion, or when a title is at stake, but the riders cannot let it get to them. There is too much at stake to be overawed by the occasion.
Still, Mugello 2014 is a very big race indeed. It is Valentino Rossi’s 300th Grand Prix, and a chance for him to return to the podium on merit again, and not just because the crowds were calling his name.
It is the best hope of a Jorge Lorenzo revival, the Yamaha man having won the last three races in a row at the spectacular Tuscan track. It is the best hope for Ducati, the Italian factory having run well here in the past.
And it is the first realistic chance for Marc Marquez to fail, the Spaniard has never found the track an easy one, though it did not stop him winning there.
Colin Edwards is to finally get the new chassis he has been waiting for. NGM Forward boss Giovanni Cuzari told MotoGP.com that the team will have a new frame at Mugello, along with a new front fairing. A new seat unit and subframe would also be available. The new parts will only make their appearance on race day, Cuzari said.
More parts would appear after Barcelona, Cuzari said, which would bring their bike to approximately 75% of the machine planned for next year, which will be a complete rolling chassis with Yamaha engines. The parts would initially only be given to Colin Edwards, who has struggled to get to grips with the Yamaha chassis.
He has been unable to get the bike to turn, leaving him well off the pace of teammate Aleix Espargaro. Espargaro has been very happy with the chassis supplied by Yamaha, when supply problems left Forward with a frame. In 2015, Yamaha have committed to only supplying engines, with chassis no longer being available.
MotoGP riders are to get some help with braking. From Mugello onward, all riders will be able to choose once again between running 320mm and 340mm brake discs on the front wheel. Use of the 340mm discs had been made compulsory at Motegi for safety reasons, but now, they will be available at all circuits.
The 320mm brake discs had been made compulsory at the end of the 2011 season, in an effort to cut costs. At that point, teams were free to choose from multiple sizes and masses of brake disc, meaning they were forced to purchase and transport sizeable numbers of discs to each race, while only using one or two sizes. Limiting choice was meant to rationalize the process, and cut costs for the teams.
Unfortunately, the compulsory brake disc size was imposed at the same time as bike capacity and weight were increased. In 2012, the first year of the restrictions, capacity of MotoGP machines was increased to 1000cc, and weights were increased to 157kg, and a year later to 160kg. With more power and nearly 7% more weight, braking forces were growing very large once again.
While the World Superbike riders were busy at Imola, Ducati’s MotoGP team was making use of their freedom from testing restrictions to try out a few things ahead of the Italian round at Mugello. Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow were present for the factory Ducati team, as was official test rider Michele Pirro, while Andrea Iannone was circulating on the Pramac bike.
The two factory men had a new chassis to test, according to GPOne.com, though the frame was not radically different to the item they have raced so far. The new chassis did have a greater range of adjustment, something which the factory felt was needed as their riders had been operating at the limits of the current frame’s adjustment.
It is our unfortunate task today to report that Massimo Tamburini, 70-years-old, has died this weekend, succumbing to his battle with cancer. A maestro of design in the motorcycle industry, Tamburini gave motorcycling two of its greatest treasures: the Ducati 916 Superbike and the MV Agusta F4 – two of the most iconic sport bikes in modern time.
It almost doesn’t do the man justice to list all of his accomplishments and creations, as surely some would fall through our words, but Tamburini is best known for his contributions to Cagiva, Ducati, MV Agusta, and Bimota — with the last two letters in “Bimota” standing for the first two letters in “Tamburini”.
Towards the end of last year, I spent some time bumming around Italy, and one of my many stops was the Dainese headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. A company that is responsible for protecting many of the top motorcycle racers, as well as Yours Truly, Dainese is a company focused on safety, but this focus is really a bi-product of the Italian company’s thirst for competition.
Competition is of course about finding out who is the best, and at the pinnacle of that decision is finding out who is the Greatest of All Time, or G.O.A.T. And in motorcycle racing, when you think of the term “G.O.A.T.” two names come to mind: Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi.
Motorcycle racing fans can debate well into the night as to which of these Italian racers is truly the greatest. Regardless who you pick though, both men are legends, and both men have been supported throughout their careers by Dainese.
That brings us back to my trip to Vicenza, because the battle between these two great riders continues, just not in the way you would suspect.
Three points makes a trend, so refrain from the high-fives and ching-ching’s, but European bike sales are finally showing signs of life after seeing steady growth in January and February, compared to last year.
With motorcycle sales up 14.8%, and combined motorcycle and moped sales up 8.6%, two-wheelers in Europe seem to be headed in the right direction.
Undoubtedly fueled by Audi’s purchase of Ducati Motor Holding, rumors out of Italy now peg Fiat to acquire MV Agusta. While neither party will talk about the rumors, it is no secret that MV Agusta is in need of more cash, as the company had difficulty securing credit after the Castiglioni’s repurchased the company, now debt free, from Harley-Davidson.
This has lead to the Varese brand releasing a rapid succession of closely related motorcycles in an effort to bolster sales and penetrate new market segments: the MV Agusta F3, MV Agusta Brutale, MV Agusta Rivale, MV Agusta Turismo Veloce, and MV Agusta Dragster. The company’s financial position has also fueled CEO Giovanni Castiglioni to talk last year about a possible IPO by as early as 2016.
“Get them while they’re young” — it worked for the cigarette industry, and the maxim holds true for motorcycle racing as well. Creating an effective system to cultivate and train young riders is the single largest reason that today we see Spanish riders dominating Grand Prix racing.
A system built in large part by the Godfather of Roadracing, Kenny Roberts Sr. himself, Spanish riders have enjoyed a federation that supports young riders and paces them throughout their career. The process has been so effective that the Italians have recently set to copying it, with their star pupil being Moto3’s Romano Fenati.
For the 2014 season, Fenati will be aboard the SKY Racing Team by VR|46, so it should come as little surprise that the personal brand of Valentino Rossi is lending its weight further to finding the next G.O.A.T. As such, the VR|46 Riders Academy has been established by Rossi and a crew of top-level instructors.