This is the first in a series of weekly round ups of motorcycle racing news from around the world. Every Wednesday, we will bring a brief summary of stories that did not warrant a full article of their own. So here are some stories you may have missed, for the week preceding February 11th, 2015.
The Vyrus 986 M2 Moto2 race bike is perhaps one of the most beautiful machines to grace the pages of Asphalt & Rubber, as it comes with ample portions of avant-garde design and outside-of-the-box chassis design inklings.
We also like the Vyrus 986 M2 because its true to the ethos of the Moto2 class, where chassis designers were free to build around a spec-motor and racing package.
But, instead of getting a buffet of wild designs, we saw a race to the middle. The differences between the chassis provided by companies like Suter, Kalex, FTR are so minute that the smallest of changes can shake up the standings on race day.
It’s something we have talked about before, here at A&R, but the short explanation is that race teams are conservative entities, and developing a radically new chassis is a massive undertaking full of risks.
Well, it look like Vyrus is up to the the task and that danger, as the company is going racing with its Vyrus 986 M2 design in the Spanish CEV Moto2 Championship.
In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso.
6th – 136 points – Pol Espargaro
Being a MotoGP rookie got a lot tougher after 2013. Marc Márquez raised the bar to an almost unattainable level by winning his second ever MotoGP race, the title in his debut season, and smash a metric cartload of records. Anyone entering the class after Márquez inevitably ends up standing in his shadow.
Which is a shame, as it means that Pol Espargaro’s rookie season has not received the acclaim it deserves. The 2013 Moto2 champion started off the season on the back foot, breaking his collarbone at the final test, just a couple of weeks before the first race at Qatar.
He crashed again during that opening race, but quickly found his feet. He came up just short of his first podium at Le Mans, nudged back to fourth place by Alvaro Bautista.
It would be his best result of the season, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was to be consistently found in and around the top six. Espargaro would go on to bag a couple of fifth places and six sixth spots.
Dunlop is set to continue as single tire supplier to the Moto2 and Moto3 classes. In a press release (shown below), Dorna announced that they have extended the current contract with Dunlop to remain as the spec-tire supplier to the support classes, for the 2015 season and beyond.
The press release does not make any mention of the duration of the contract, stating only that Dunlop will continue “from the start of 2015″.
Dunlop has been the spec tire supplier to both Moto2 and Moto3 since the introduction of the two classes, in 2010 and 2012 respectively. The announcement that they are to continue signals that both series will continue with a spec tire for the foreseeable future.
However, the intermediate classes had been a de facto spec series for a long time, with Dunlop supplying almost the entire field in the 250cc and 125cc classes which preceded Moto2 and Moto3.
Having just finished production on the 2015 MotoMatters Motorcycle Racing Calendar, the 2014 season has been on my mind quite a bit over the past several weeks. So I thought I’d take look back at the MotoGP images I contributed here at Asphalt & Rubber and add a bit of perspective to each one.
Honda have been officially confirmed as the single-engine supplier for the Moto2 class for another four years. In other words, Honda will make engines available to ExternPro, who manages the official Moto2 engines, until the end of the 2018 season.
The confirmation of Honda as official engine supplier means that Moto2 is to remain a single engine class until at least 2018. The chances of it changing after that are very slim, despite occasional expressions of interest from other manufacturers, such as KTM.
From the cool of Melbourne it was on to the heat and humidity of Malaysia, for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit.
Clare and I arrived into Malaysia on Tuesday evening. For our first two nights we had decided to stay in downtown Kuala Lumpur, and picked a hotel close to the Petronas Towers to give us easy access to the rest of the city.
We had treated ourselves to a room with a Twin Towers view and what a view it was. I think you would struggle to find a better view of the towers anywhere in the city.
After spending Wednesday exploring Kuala Lumpur, we met up with Stephen and Trev who arrived from Melbourne. Trev and Clare stayed in the city for a bit more sightseeing and Stephen and I headed to track to collect our credentials.
I’d not found the heat of downtown Kuala Lumpur to bad, it was hot but I was coping okay. The area of the track was a whole different ball game.
It was a fitting finale to one of the best season in years. The arrival of Marc Marquez in MotoGP has given the series in a boost in the arm. Not just in the premier class, the influence of Marquez reaches into Moto2 and Moto3 as well.
Tito Rabat’s move to the Marc VDS team completed his transformation from a fast rider to a champion, but the schooling and support he received from the Marquez brothers at their dirt track oval in Rufea made him even stronger. And Marc’s younger brother Alex brought both talent and Maturity to Moto3.
It made for great racing at Valencia. The Moto3 race featured the typical mayhem, but with extra edge because there was a title on the line. Tito Rabat tried to win the Moto2 race from the front, as he has done all year, but found himself up against an unrelenting Thomas Luthi.
And in MotoGP, Marc Marquez set a new record of thirteen race wins in a single season, despite being throw a curve ball by the weather.
Marquez was the first to downplay his taking the record of most wins in a season from Mick Doohan. “Doohan won more than me,” Marquez said. “He won twelve from fifteen races. Thirteen is a new record, but not so important.”
Though it is admirable that Marquez can put his own achievement into perspective when comparing it to Doohan’s, that is not the full context. Doohan actually twelve of the first thirteen races in 1997, making his win rate even bigger. Then again, Doohan had to beat Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki and Alex Criville, while Marquez has had to fend off Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.
Even Doohan’s win rate pales in comparison with those of John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini, who both had perfect seasons in 1959 and 1968 respectively. But the 1959 season had only seven races, and the 1968 ten races, a good deal less than the current total of eighteen.
What this really highlights is the futility of comparing records: different eras saw very different riders facing very different competitors on very different bikes. Trying to compare one with another requires the use of so many correcting factors as to render such comparison meaningless.
It has been four-and-a-half years, or 87 races between Valentino Rossi’s 49th pole position and his 50th. The last time Rossi started a race from the first spot on the grid was at Le Mans in 2010, where he just pipped his teammate Jorge Lorenzo into second by 0.054 seconds.
At Valencia on Saturday, he was two tenths faster than Lorenzo, but this time, he had Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa between him and his teammate.
There were plenty of parallels to the 2010 season visible at Valencia. Just as five seasons ago, Rossi is engaged in a struggle with Lorenzo for supremacy in the championship. Back in 2010, it was just the third race of the season, and a fierce battle was emerging as Jorge Lorenzo started to gain the upper hand in the team, and in the championship.
Now, the fight is over second in the championship, rather than first, but it has grown increasingly intense over the past few weeks. Signs of tension have been starting to emerge in the last couple of races, but they became a little more public after qualifying at Valencia.
The reason for the dispute is simple. On his second and final run in qualifying, Valentino Rossi made a slight mistake, and was forced to slow down to restart a final run at the pole. At that moment, Jorge Lorenzo flew past on his fast last lap, and Rossi slotted in just behind him, not so much benefiting from Lorenzo’s slipstream, but using Lorenzo as a target to aim for.
The last race of the season is always a little bit special. They are even more special when riders are still scrapping over the spoils, battling for titles, for positions, for honor.
There is much at stake at Valencia: a Moto3 title, second place in the MotoGP and Moto2 championships, and the team championship in MotoGP. Above all, though, there is victory, the glory of joining the elite band of Grand Prix winners. At the end of the day, that is what motivates motorcycle racers most on any given Sunday.
Top billing at Valencia is the race which is first, but with the most at stake. On Sunday, Jack Miller and Alex Marquez will slug it out for the 2014 Moto3 World Championship. The race at Sepang set up a fantastic season finale, with Miller riding an intimidating race to cut Marquez’s championship lead. Just 11 points separate the two men, putting Marquez easily within reach of the Australian.