Half a second at Misano is a very, very long time. At a short track like this, gaps are measured in tenths, not seconds. The gap from 5th to 12th, for example, is 0.505. Yet the gap from Marc Marquez on pole to Jorge Lorenzo, the rider with the second fastest time, was 0.513 seconds. A huge difference.
Despite another one of his fast crashes in free practice, from which he keeps walking away almost unhurt, Marquez stayed calm, posted an impressive fast lap in his first run of Q2, and then followed it up by obliterating Casey Stoner’s 2011 Misano pole lap record by over two tenths of a second.
The lap was stunning – another trademark of Marquez since his switch to MotoGP – and beyond the capability of anyone to follow. The Repsol Honda man looked unstoppable during qualifying.
So Yamaha have brought their seamless gearbox to Misano. Being of a mind not just to blindly believe what Yamaha say they are doing, I naturally spent all of MotoGP FP1 on pit wall, watching the bikes come out of the 2nd gear final corner, and recording the sound of the gear changes to measure the gaps and estimate the length of time spent changing gears.
Without even looking at the numbers, you could tell the difference: the gear changes of both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were audibly quicker, taking place without the usual bang of exploding fuel as the quickshifter cuts ignition.
The difference was clear even when they were riding on their own, but when Bradley Smith and Cal Crutchlow went past shortly afterwards, the difference between the factory and the satellite machines was stunning. Where a large gap and small explosion could be heard when the Tech 3 bikes changed gear, the factory machines sounded smooth, revs dropping but continuing to drive, well, seamlessly.
You didn’t even need to hear the noise: just watching the bikes come out of the final corner gave you enough visual clues to see the bikes were using the seamless gearbox. The factory Yamahas were smoother, with less wheelie, and no movement of the rear when the gears were changed. This was clearly a seamless transmission Yamaha were using.
Will they or won’t they? The “they”, of course, were Yamaha, and the question was whether Yamaha would start to use their seamless gearbox at Misano, something which riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had been asking for a long time.
That the gearbox would be used at the test on Monday seemed obvious, but several publications – including both MCN and the Spanish website Motocuatro – predicted that Yamaha’s seamless transmission would be raced at Misano.
They were right. In the press conference on Thursday, Jorge Lorenzo was the first to break the news. “It will be here for the weekend,” he said, going on to clarify: “tomorrow.” Rossi was delighted, telling the press conference he was very happy that Yamaha had decided to start using the seamless transmission, as it could help them in their fight against Honda.
The cancelling of the Argentinian round of MotoGP has had a knock-on effect for the World Superbike series as well. The dropping of the race in Argentina caused MotoGP to push its season opener at Qatar back a week to April 7th, which then put it on the same weekend as the World Superbike round scheduled for Aragon on the same date.
To avoid a clash of the two series, the FIM has chosen to move the date of the Aragon WSBK round, moving it back a week in turn to April 14th, filling the gap between the MotoGP rounds at Qatar and Austin.
At Magny-Cours this weekend, World Superbike released its provisional calendar for the 2013 WSBK Championship. Subject to some change, maybe more so now that Dorna is in charge of things, the big changes to the 2013 calendar over this season is the addition of a round in India, as well as the American round moving from Miller Motorsports Park to Laguna Seca.
World Superbike returns to Russia again for 2013, helping the series branch out a bit from the Western Europe centrality. Along that same vein, both Misano and Brno are absent from the 2013 calendar, with the second race in June still to be announced.
We would expect Brno to get filled-in at this slot, since the Eastern Europe circuit has the right geography, solvency, and attendance support when compared to the Italian track. However, as always, time will tell. The 2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar for 2013 is after the jump.
World Superbike is expected to announce after the Magny-Cours round next week that the Ducati 1199 Panigale will not incur the same 6kg weight ballast penalty as the current Ducati 1098R Superbike. A part of WSBK’s fluidic formula for Superbike racing, World Superbike rules allow for the air intake to be restricted and weight ballast to be added to twin-cylinder motorcycles on an prescribed basis, to compensate for the 200cc displacement capacity advantage the twins have over the four-cylinder machines.
With Carlos Checa handily winning the 2011 Championship, the recipe was set for Ducati to continue to incur a 6kg disadvantage this season, which has sent the Spaniard to fourth in the World Superbike Championship standings this season. Mathematically out of the hunt for the Championship in 2012, Checa is expected to re-sign with Althea Ducati for the 2013 season, where he will campaign the Ducati 1199 Panigale, which will race without the 1098R’s restrictions.
After the chaos at the start of Sunday’s MotoGP race at Misano, it was inevitable that the hunt would be opened for someone to pin the blame on. With so much at stake, especially for Dani Pedrosa and the Repsol Honda team, the finger of blame was bound to get pointed at everyone. One person who appears to have come under attack from some quarters is Karel Abraham.
The Cardion AB rider was the original cause of the first start being called off, when his bike stalled on the grid after the starting lights had already been illuminated. This caused Race Direction to immediately step in and show flashing orange lights, in accordance with the FIM rules, but this happens so incredibly rarely that it caught everyone off guard. In the ensuing panic, Dani Pedrosa’s machine had problems with the front wheel, causing the Spaniard to be rolled off the grid, thereby forfeiting the pole position and being forced to start from the back of the grid.
In response to the accusations, Abraham’s team issued a press release today explaining the mechanical problem which caused Abraham to raise his hand, which in turn caused the start to be canceled. They state explicitly that Abraham acted exactly as demanded by the rules, to avoid danger to everyone on the grid.
Cardion AB also made it very clear that they cannot be held responsible for the problems which Pedrosa’s team suffered at the restart, saying explicitly in the statement: “Our team dealt with the situation in full compliance with MotoGP regulations. It is not our fault that the new situation resulted in chaos and the unintentional breach of the applicable regulations by HRC.” The full statement put out by the Cardion AB team is after the jump.
It is a tribute to the skill of MotoGP mechanics how easily we can forget that motorbike racing truly is a team sport. Though the rider is the most visible member of the team, the one who captures the hearts of fans and the one whose talents are most likely to inspire us, without top level support from a team, the rider is helpless. On the rare occasion that the team fails their rider, only then are we likely to recognize how good a job they do the rest of the time.
Dani Pedrosa’s nightmare in Misano was a painful example of this. On pole position, 13 points behind Jorge Lorenzo, having finished every race so far this season, and with his best chance ever finally to win a premiere class title, Pedrosa was forced to start from the back of the grid after his team couldn’t free the front tire warmer and had to move his bike from the grid to pit lane. From outside HRC, we don’t know exactly what happened.