It has been three years in the making. Ducati have been chasing Jorge Lorenzo for a very long time, almost since the moment Gigi Dall’Igna took over as head of Ducati Corse.
Dall’Igna came to Ducati with a master plan. “Ducati had a plan when we started with Gigi at the end of 2013, which was to develop a competitive bike and – once the bike was competitive – to attract one of the top riders,” Ducati MotoGP boss Paolo Ciabatti told a specially convened press conference on Thursday.
The candidates who qualified as “top riders” (for the linguists, this is the English phrase the Italians use where English speakers would use the term “alien”) are few and far between. Ciabatti made it perfectly clear what he meant.
“With all due to respect to all the other riders, including the two Andreas, there are a few riders who have been showing their potential. They are able to win championships. Obviously if you look at history in the last six years three times Lorenzo, twice Marquez and once Stoner. So obviously to be sure to be in a position to fight for a world title we needed to aim for one of the two riders which are Lorenzo and Marquez.”
The MotoGP circus came to Austin from April 8th to 10th for its only stop in the US. Attendance for the event was good, with a 10% rise over last year’s event.
Over 131,000 fans flocked to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the weekend with over 56,000 on race day. Austin was also the season-opener for the second season of MotoAmerica racing.
As usual, COTA put on a world class event. The facilities are top-notch, the racing was great, and compared to other tracks, the food was outstanding. COTA brings in a variety of goodies from many of Austin’s best food trucks, and it’s a big step up from the normal vendor faire.
Maverick Viñales is only 21-years-old, but has been racing motorcycles for 18 of those years (he started in minimotos at 3 years of age). Those 18 years of experience have brought him to where he is today; a rider in the premier class of motorcycle road racing – MotoGP.
Viñales’ record is impressive. He’s the owner of four 125cc titles at various levels, was the Rookie of the Year in Moto3 in 2011, Moto2 in 2014, and MotoGP in 2015, and most notably, was the World Champion in Moto3 in 2013.
Simply put, this man was made to race. Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Maverick at the last round of MotoGP in Austin and it was great opportunity to talk motorcycle racing with one of the top riders in the series.
In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons; but if you did miss that announcement, then the news that Yamaha Motor Racing boss Lin Jarvis will be at Thursday’s pre-event press conference at Jerez should finally convince you.
It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed.
We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.
After the MotoGP round in Austin, the Paddock Pass Podcast crew (including yours truly) stayed for Suzuki’s private test at COTA, and recorded the latest episode of the show. For bonus points, Episode 23 comes with the tonal sounds of the Suzuki GSX-RR’s crossplane inline-four engine, in the background.
A lengthy show, we discuss the tire debacle in Argentina, starting with the weekend’s constantly changing schedule, the inclusion of the “safety tire” to the program, and the aftermath of all that.
We then turn our attention to the on-track action in Texas, which saw a number of riders hitting the asphalt, as they continue to learn the new Michelins. We finish the talk with some silly season speculation, some of which has already come true, and a look at the Moto2 and Moto3 paddock.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
Details are light at this time, mostly because of Lorenzo’s ongoing contract with Yamaha Racing for the rest of the MotoGP season, but we do know that the Spaniard has inked a two-year with the Italian outfit.
Lorenzo’s move to Ducati will mean a cascade of changes in the MotoGP paddock, with the next phase of the silly season process likely to focus on who will replace him as Valentino Rossi’s teammate.
The MotoGP grid is set to expand to 24 riders once again in 2017. The current teams are expected to retain the 21 grid slots already allotted, while KTM’s factory team will take two more when the Austrian manufacturer enters MotoGP next year.
This will take the grand total up to 23 seats, leaving one more grid slot to be filled.
Who will fill that final grid slot has been the subject of much speculation. Rumors that the Sky VR46 team were to take the slot were immediately quashed by team manager Pablo Nieto, saying they were only interested in Moto3 and Moto2.
Sources indicate that there are two firm candidates, with three more having expressed an interest. The two candidates include one MotoGP team, and one Moto2 team.
The MotoGP team interested in expanding is LCR. The Monaco-based team ran two bikes in 2015, but sponsorship woes had forced them to cut back to just a single bike for the 2016 season.
When asked if he was interested the final grid slot, team boss Lucio Cecchinello acknowledged that he was, and that he was working towards securing sufficient budget to meet the submission deadline on 29th April.
On the Monday after the Austin round of MotoGP, the Suzuki team stayed on to do an extra private test, which we attended. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales had hoped to start relatively early, but heavy overnight rain left the track both wet and dirty, taking some time to dry out.
When they did start, the times were poor – around 2’08, rather than the 2’05s both riders had been posting in the race. But conditions improved as the day went on, and the session turned into a very productive test for both riders.
After two races on back-to-back weekends, there was little time to be testing new parts. Both men had some new electronics to try, aimed at helping the seamless gearbox be a little smoother. They also both tried the 2016 chassis again, after having spent the first three races on the 2015.
The large swatches of red, white, and blue paint at the Circuit of the Americas are a great visual addition to an already fairly scenic track.
Throw in a bit of elevation change, and the colors provide endless possibilities waiting to be explored.
With smooth armco and solid stripes serving as a background, a motion blur was easy to achieve. This came with a caveat, as this particular composition was also only possible with the fastest riders.
The reason for this is that the armco abruptly cuts off mid-corner, followed immediately by unsightly plastic crash barriers that required a substantially slower shutter speed to smooth out.
Slower riders didn’t get their bikes down at full lean until they were past the armco, which yielded very different results.
I tend to gravitate towards abstract compositions that intentionally obscure the location on the track. Any educated guesses as to Dani Pedrosa’s whereabouts?