With Cal Crutchlow’s signing out of the way, a few more pieces of MotoGP’s 2014 puzzle are starting to fall into place. The next domino to fall was Stefan Bradl, the German having his contract at LCR Honda extended for the 2014 season as expected. Bradl wil now stay with the team for another season as a factory-supported rider, with direct backing from HRC.
With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders.
In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.
For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from six to five engines per season. Each rider now has five engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out.
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.
So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather – except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came – means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up.
With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.
A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here.
He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.
More important than Marquez’s speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1’34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.
Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you from the Grand Prix of the Americas this week, and things are already off to an interesting start. With a fire breaking out in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage during the night, the gear for the satellite Yamaha squad was flooded by the Circuit of the America’s fire suppression system, which also affected the garages for Yamaha Racing, LCR Honda, and Cardion AB.
Yamaha Racing Boss Lin Jarvis explained that while the small fire was quickly put out by COTA’s sprinklers, the team lost one of two servers and several computers to the blaze before it was extinguished. It is not anticipated that the fire will have any affect on Sunday’s race, though it could pose a problem for the teams, since they have a quick turnaround for the Jerez round.
Currently, the cause of the fire is presumed to be the lithium battery to Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s electric starter for the GP motorcycles, making this incident another eyebrow raising episode in the handling of high-tech battery packs, which have different tolerances and operating procedures than conventional battery pack types.
While certainly a setback to the start of the race weekend, the teams involved dodged a serious bullet by having the fire occur while MotoGP is at COTA, since the Texan track has a sophisticated fire prevention system in place.
For the amount of media that LCR Honda generates, you would think that Lucio Cecchinello’s small satellite Honda MotoGP team is much larger than it is in actuality.
This is because Cecchinello and his crew take a different tack from the rest of the MotoGP paddock when it comes to marketing strategies — the most notable of which is the team’s revolving door livery, which lines up specific brands for races in specific markets.
A team of passionate enthusiasts, LCR Honda also has a knack for producing engaging media pieces, which can be as lurid as the Playboy sponsorship debut of LCR Honda in 2009 (NSFW), or as simple as the video shown after the jump.
For all the superlatives about MotoGP being the “premier class” of motorcycle racing, it is rare that the artwork that is performed on the track is of the same caliber as to what the teams show in their communications. This however is not the case with LCR Honda.
UPDATE: Dani Pedrosa’s and Marc Marquez’s on-board laps have been added to this post.
Ask and yee shall receive, here is some more movie magic from HRC’s private test at the Circuit of the Americas. For this go-around, we feature LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, as he takes the factory-spec Honda RC213V for a quick lap around the new Texan GP circuit.
Honestly, I was all set to drop some mega-hyperbole on the whole situation, and maybe even get a few digs in about MotoGP’s media policies along the way, but I am too depressed at the moment to make that happen.
You see, having just ridden COTA only a couple weeks ago, I was fairly pleased with my lap times, especially after having only spent an hour on the circuit. Now, I wasn’t the fastest guy out there by any stretch, but my times were dropping with each lap and session, and I certainly wasn’t the slowest at the end of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R bike launch, so I call that a win for a Thursday afternoon.
But no, Mr. Bradl had to go and show me up. Close to 15 seconds quicker on his out-lap than my best hot-lap, I guess we see why he races motorcycles for a living, while I blog from my mother’s basement, wearing nothing but a bathrobe and bunny-shaped slippers. Le sigh.