Colin Edwards will contest only three more MotoGP rounds in the 2014 season. The Texan is to race at Indianapolis, Silverstone and Valencia, before hanging up his helmet. From Brno, Alex De Angelis will take Edwards’ place, and Edwards will race as a third rider for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team in the UK and at the last race of the year.
Edwards’ final year in MotoGP has not gone according to plan. The Texas Tornado had hoped that the arrival of the Yamaha Open class bike at Forward, to replace the Kawasaki-powered CRT machine would spark a revival in his fortunes.
When Edwards finally got to ride the Open class Yamaha, however, he found to his dismay that he could not get on with the Yamaha chassis, and was unable to get the bike to turn. He had pinned his hopes on the arrival of a chassis from FTR, but financial problems for the British chassis manufacturer meant he was left to struggle with the Yamaha frame until Mugello.
When a new chassis did arrive, fresh from the drawing board of now ex-FTR designer Mark Taylor, it did not see Edwards drastically improve his pace.
As had been widely anticipated, Stefan Bradl has signed with the NGM Forward Racing team for the 2015 season. The German had been forced to look for a ride after losing his support from HRC, Honda providing a major part of the backing for Bradl at the LCR Honda team.
Although LCR were keen to retain the German, without financial support from HRC, that would have been a costly business. With HRC backing Cal Crutchlow, Bradl was left to look elsewhere.
This year’s silly season may have been a bit disappointing, at least when you consider that many of the top riders had contracts up for renewal this year.
Instead, we saw Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, and Dani Pedrosa all stay-put with their current manufacturers, and likely we will add Jorge Lorenzo to that list during the Indianapolis GP, as the Spaniard is said to be close to a one-year contract with Yamaha Racing.
One of the bigger question marks though has been Cal Crutchlow, as the Briton has made no secret about his displeasure with the Desmosedici GP14. Finding the paddock gossip about the Ducati to be true, Crutchlow currently faces a steep learning curve to bring his performance on the GP14 in-line with Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, both of whom already have a season on the Desmosedici under their belts.
With an option to leave Ducati Corse midway through his two-year contract, rumors about Crutchlow’s departure have been escalating, despite Ducati’s announcement at World Ducati Week 2014 that Crutchlow would remain with the team. Now, the Italian press tipping him to leave for a seat at LCR Honda.
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.
According to Italian Sky TV, the Jerez round of MotoGP could be the very last race for Colin Edwards, as the Texas Tornado could relinquish his place in MotoGP directly after the Spanish race, to make way for another rider.
NGM Forward team boss Giovanni Cuzari told Italian Sky TV that there would be a meeting on Monday with Edwards to discuss his future with the team. Forward’s sponsors are reportedly not happy with having Aleix Espargaro circulating at the front, while Edwards has been unable to match the pace of his teammate.
Edwards has been unhappy with the Yamaha chassis from the very beginning, and had hoped to receive a chassis from FTR, which Forward had originally intended to race for 2014.
However, Forward has allegedly not paid FTR for the chassis, and the British chassis builder has refused to supply the frames, which are rumored to be now sitting idly in the company’s headquarters in Buckingham.
If Edwards was to step down, then the most likely candidate to replace him is Danilo Petrucci. The young Italian could be moved out of the IODA Racing team to ride the Forward Yamaha.
That would make room for Leon Camier, who originally signed with IODA to contest the 2014 season aboard the ART machine, but that deal fell through when IODA lost sponsorship, and could not afford to run two riders. Moving Petrucci to Forward and slotting Camier into IODA would resolve that situation.
Simone Corsi has also been linked to the ride, as the Forward Moto2 rider is set to test the bike during the MotoGP test on Monday. That, however, is to evaluate a move to MotoGP in 2015, rather than to move him up immediately.
To check the veracity of the Italian TV reports though, we went to Giovanni Cuzari himself, to ask him what he had actually said. Cuzari claimed that Italian TV misinterpreted his words, and Edwards would be free to ride for the rest of his contract.
When asked what he had told Italian television, Cuzari said “I tell them that the next race, starting on Monday, I would like to speak to my rider Colin Edwards, who has a deal with me to the end of the season, and I will 100% respect my deal. But, if he’s uncomfortable to stay like this, he’s able to do what he wants, nothing else.”
Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed.
Marquez’s gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez’s dominance at Austin in sight?
But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez’s four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid.
Second place man Dani Pedrosa’s fastest lap was still slower than Marquez’s slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2’03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2’04s.
During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2’03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2’03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2’04.
Where the others took eight or nine tenths off their best time during qualifying, Marquez only improved on his previous best by a quarter of a second.
“It looks like Marc always rides at qualifying pace,” Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg quipped. Given the string of 2’03s Marquez hammered out on hard tires in race trim during FP4, that bodes ill for the rest of the riders.
A measure of just how confident and comfortable Marquez is at Austin – a local journalist finally got the Spaniard to admit that the circuit favors the Honda, a small triumph in itself – came during FP4, and then again during qualifying.
In Q2, Marquez lost the front in the tight left-hander, saved it, nearly lost it again, then got on the gas again as if nothing had happened. In FP4, while testing a change to the weight distribution, Marquez found himself running straight on at the end of the back straight three laps in a row.
On one lap, the rear came up as he hit one of the few bumps on the circuit, and instead of struggling to regain control, Marquez tried to control it and carry it on as far as possible. He grinned as he recounted the experience to the press conference. This young man is in his element, which bodes ill for the competition.
Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle.
Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP.
After rating the top ten finishers in the championship, it is time to turn our gaze to those outside the top ten worthy of note. Here is a view of Colin Edwards and Danilo Petrucci, two riders who both exceeded expectations in 2013.
Colin Edwards – Championship Position: 14th – Rating: 7/10
Colin Edwards was thirty-nine years of age when he lined up on the grid for the first race of 2013, and facing questions over his ability to keep competing.
His performance had been slipping since losing his spot in the factory Yamaha team, reaching a low point in his first year with the NGM Forward team on the Suter BMW. Was he perhaps too old? Did he really have the motivation to compete at this level?
The former question is still open, but the switch to the FTR Kawasaki gave Edwards the chance to show that he still cared enough to keep racing. Much better handling and above all, being freed from the shackles of the BMW’s electronics made the FTR Kawasaki a much easier package to ride.
Edwards looked much more at home on the bike, regularly making it into Q2 in the second half of the season. The Kawasaki CRT bike was still lacking too much power to take the fight to the factory prototypes, but Edwards was the only rider to challenge the outright dominance of Aleix Espargaro among the CRT riders.
It’s been a busy time for motorcycle racing in the south of Spain. With the winter test ban about to commence, and now in force for both MotoGP and World Superbikes, the teams are heading south to get some development work done while they still can.
For the World Superbike and MotoGP Open class teams, their destination is Jerez, while Moto2 and Moto3 are at Almeria, in Spain’s southeastern corner.
At Jerez, Suzuki has just wrapped up a test, and Yakhnich Motorsport are taking the MV Agusta F4RR out for its first spin. The Jerez test was Eugene Laverty’s first opportunity to ride the Suzuki GSX-R1000, after the Irishman had signed for the Crescent Suzuki team, who have swapped title sponsors from Fixi to Voltcom.