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.
The MotoGP Championship is in Sepang this week, for the first of its pre-season tests ahead of the 2014 season. Making an announcement at the site where Marco Simoncelli tragically lost his life during the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2011, MotoGP has come up with a fitting way to tribute the popular Italian rider.
Simoncelli will thus join Grand Prix racing’s hall of fame, and officially become a “MotoGP Legend” — the 21st rider to receive the sport’s high honor — with a ceremony that will be held at the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello.
Valentino Rossi has acknowledged he is one step closer to retirement. In an interview to be broadcast Italian TV channel Mediaset, the Italian said that the early tests and the first six races of 2014 would be crucial to the future of his career.
“In 2014 I need to be at the front, closer to the first three,” Rossi said, referring to the Spanish trio of Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, who dominated the 2013 MotoGP season.
He has not lost his appetite for racing, Rossi told Italian TV, but he was not content just to circulate. “I would like to continue for another couple of years, but only if I’m competitive.”
By now you have heard all about the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale, Bologna’s new “supermid” sport bike. You’ve heard about the Babigale’s 898cc Superquadro motor, which produces 148hp and 73 lbs•ft of torque.
You’ve heard about the Ducati 899’s monocoque “frameless” chassis design and 372.5 lbs dry weight. And of course, you have heard of the 899’s extensive electronics suite that includes ABS, traction control, engine braking control, and ride-by-wire.
But have you seen Ducati’s sport bike, and its double-sided swingarm? We have 117 high-resolution photos of it after the jump for, just in case you haven’t gotten a glimpse.
Remember, pricing starts at $14,995 for the red model, and $15,295 for the white model.
Though Ducati have told Nicky Hayden that there is no room for him in its factory MotoGP team, it is no secret that they would like to keep him within the Ducati family.
The American retains a huge following in his native country (according to Google Trends, he is the second most searched MotoGP rider, after Valentino Rossi, though Marc Marquez is hot on his heels), and is a favorite with sponsors thanks to his willingness to help the people who help pay his salary. Hayden has been a great ambassador for Ducati in the US during his four and a half year tenure at the Italian factory.
So Ducati are doing all they can to persuade Hayden to move to World Superbikes, and take on the challenge of racing the Ducati 1199 Panigale R. To that end, Hayden rode the World Superbike-spec version of the bike at Mugello last week, to assess what he was getting into before making a decision.
Nicky Hayden is in Mugello today, testing the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 with Ducati Corse’s World Superbike contingent. The purpose of the day’s track excursion is surely a bid by Ducati Corse to keep Hayden in the Bolognese family, and to give Hayden an idea of the Panigale’s WSBK racing package, as the Kentucky Kid is weighing his options for the 2014 racing season.
The test coincides with rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock that Carlos Checa is reportedly looking for a way out of his contract with Ducati Corse, as the Spaniard has struggled to find results with the Italian company’s latest superbike platform. Whether Hayden is auditioning for Checa’s seat is uncertain (Marco Melandri is rumored to be in the mix as well), though we imagine Ducati wouldn’t mind having both riders on its WSBK roster next year.