Marc Marquez has ended the year on a win, beating the reigning AMA Flat Track champion Jared Mees in a thrilling final. The two men got caught up in traffic when Thomas Chareyre, who got the jump at the start, forced them wide.
That gave the lead to Kenny Noyes and Gerard Ribalta, but Marquez and Mees soon chased the two down, passing Bailo with ease, Noyes with difficulty. Marquez had gained enough of a cushion to keep Mees at bay, finally getting revenge for his loss to Brad Baker in January this year, at the inaugural event.
Noyes went on to score a respectable 3rd, ahead of Bailo and Ribalta. The 16-year-old British rider Oliver Brindley gave an outstanding account of himself, finishing in 6th, ahead of Bradley Smith, who got caught up in the first lap incident, and Chareyre, who caused it.
Saturday night is the last chance to see the stars of motorcycle racing turning a wheel in anger.
On 13th December, the cream of both the MotoGP and AMA flat track paddocks meet for the second running of the Superprestigio, an indoor invitation dirt track race, at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona.
The setting is a classic location: the Palau Sant Jordi is part of the former Olympic park, set atop Montjuic, scene of many legendary motorcycle races of the past.
For those who could not make it to Barcelona themselves, they need not despair. The event is to be broadcast in several countries around the globe, as well as streamed live online.
Many years ago, when American riders first burst onto the roadracing scene, and immediately dominated Grand Prix racing, dirt track racing was seen as a key part of their success.
Training on the hardpacked dirt, where pushrod twins have far more power than they can ever transfer directly into drive, translated very well into racing 500cc two strokes, which had the same excess of power over grip.
As tire technology advanced, and as the number of racers coming out of the US to race on the world stage declined, dirt track fell out of favor. Styles changed back towards keeping the wheels in line and carrying as much corner speed as possible, a skill learned in 125s and 250s, and taken up to 500s and MotoGP.
The advent of the 800cc bikes, which caused a quantum leap forward in electronic control, emphasized this even further.
The dirt track mindset had not disappeared completely: both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden cut their teeth racing on the dirt, and carried that style into MotoGP. Hayden suffered once the series switched to 800cc bikes, especially as Honda switched their development focus to corner speed, and the European 250cc style.
Stoner used his dirt track skills to control the fearsome Ducati Desmosedici, the bike which destroyed the careers of so many other riders. Stoner’s switch to Honda coincided with Shuhei Nakamoto’s changed approach at HRC, putting more emphasis on rider input, putting more control of the rear tire back in the hands of the rider.
The status of the Spanish championship has received yet another boost. After the Moto3 championship was run under the auspices of the FIM in 2014, from 2015, the category is to be renamed the “FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Championship.”
The CEV Moto3 championship will be run over eight rounds, six of which will take place in Spain, with the championship kicking off in Portugal at Portimao, and the CEV Moto3 class appearing as a support class at the French MotoGP round at Le Mans.
The two classes comprising the Spanish championship, Superbike and Moto2, will also get a status upgrade. For 2015, the CEV Superbike and CEV Moto2 championships will also be part of the European Championship. Superbike and Moto2 will have only seven events, however, the two classes not travelling to France to join the CEV Moto3 class.
The stated intention of the changed status is to help prepare young riders of all nationalities to make their mark and enter Grand Prix racing. That has increasingly been the role of the CEV Moto3 championship, with the champions in the Spanish series moving up into the Moto3 World Championship paddock.
The ballots are in, and Vito Ippolito will continue as the President of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), for the next four years. Ippolito was re-relected at the FIM General Assembly held in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. With 103 national motorcycle federations taking part in the voting, Ippolito defeated rival Jorge Viegas of Portugal with 62 votes to 41.
For those who don’t know the sixty-two-year-old Venezuelan-born Ippolito, he has an impressive career in motorcycling. He was the manager of Team Venemotos, during the period their rider Carlos Lavado won the 250GP World Championships in 1983 and 1986. He was also the President of the FMV (Venezuelan Federation) from 1992 to 2006, and has been involved with duties at the FIM since 1984.
“This year’s machine is not easy to ride,” HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said of the 2014 Honda RC213V. “More difficult than last year.” Given the utter dominance of Marc Marquez in the first half of 2014, that seems hard to believe. It certainly left the journalists gathered for the special press conference convened by Honda to review the season befuddled.
“But Honda bikes are always easy to ride!” declared one surprised reporter. “Our bike is very easy, I can ride it, but I don’t get under two minutes,” Nakamoto said. “But to find the last one tenth, two tenths is very difficult,” he remarked.
A look at the timesheets from the test, or a chat with Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa about the 2015 Honda, and you understand the problem. On the last day of testing at Valencia, Marquez and Pedrosa finished first and second, but the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were a little way off the pace.
Crutchlow was eight tenths slower than Marquez, while Redding was struggling 1.6 seconds behind Marquez. In the last race of the 2014 season, Stefan Bradl’s fastest lap was just under a second off the fastest race lap, and Alvaro Bautista a fraction slower. The Honda is obviously fast, but it is not easy to go fast on.
Too aggressive, too hard to master, a bike with a lot of potential, but extracting that potential takes insight, experience, and the willingness to push an aggressive bike to its limits. It really demands the kind of dirt track background of Casey Stoner or, well, Marc Marquez.
It is a good job the post-race test at Valencia is three days long. The weather in Valencia in November is usually very good, but it can turn, and you can lose track time to rain. That was certainly the case on Tuesday, rain starting early in the morning, and coming in waves all day.
It meant the track was wet throughout Tuesday, only the depth of water on the track varying. The heavy rain meant that most riders decided to sit out the day, only ten riders putting in any laps.
With the track the way it was, the finishing order was not really relevant. What was more important was gaining time on the track, and for several riders, getting to grips with Bridgestone’s wet tires. Eugene Laverty, Loris Baz, and Marco Melandri, all of whom have moved over from World Superbikes, needed to adjust their minds to the Bridgestones.
Despite being exhausted from a full weekend (make that a complete season) of testing, the entire MotoGP grid was once again out in force on Monday, turning the first laps of the 2015 preseason (full times here).
All except Nicky Hayden, that is, as Honda have brought only one RC213V-RS to Valencia, and there was no point for Hayden to spend more time on the RCV1000R, as that bike will be replaced by the new RS for next season. Hayden gets his turn on the bike tomorrow, weather permitting.
There was both old and new on display at the test, some things virtually unchanged, others radically different. New riders joined the grid, as well as two new factories, and a reshuffling of riders and crew between the garages.
The biggest change was at Suzuki, which saw Aleix Espargaro move from the Forward Yamaha team into the new Suzuki squad, where he was joined by Maverick Viñales, fresh from Moto2. Both riders were very impressed with the GSX-RR, praising its handling and the bike.