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.”
It’s the worst kept secret in the MotoGP paddock right now, and the flat refusals to talk about it, by those involved, hasn’t helped the matter either. What are we ranting about? Jorge Lorenzo moving to Ducati Corse next year, of course.
There’s been so much smoke around this fire for the past two weeks, and it was obvious in the pre-event press conference that the MotoGP press was hungry for some confirmation to the speculation that has been circulating recently. We were sadly disappointed.
But, that hasn’t stopped more intrepid scribes from peddling around strongly supported rumor as fact, as virtually every MotoGP journalist expects Ducati Corse and Jorge Lorenzo to unveil their marriage when MotoGP lands in Europe next week.
With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP’s schedule for 2016 slotted into place.
Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.
Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on April 4th, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into.
The upside to F1’s late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.
While having a quick look through some pictures from Jerez, I stumbled across this one from the pre-event press conference that made me chuckle. I thought it would make for a funny “Caption This” post for the readers of Asphalt & Rubber.
I’ll start us off with: M.M.: “I’m a little concerned Dovi. The instructions said the swelling should go down within 4 hours. That was 5 hours ago and it still looks like this.
Over to you guys.
With the dust settled on the Spanish Grand Prix, the serious business of testing got under way at the Jerez Circuit this past Monday morning.
With a live track for eight hours, this is invaluable time for riders and teams to assess new parts, fine-tune existing parts, and go in search of the elusive setup.
For a photographer, a test is an all together more relaxing experience than a race weekend. With so much time available you can linger at locations and take your time wandering around the track.
Additional locations become available as the advertising boards, which are usually too high to shoot over, have been removed. Pit lane is almost deserted, and provides opportunities that are harder to pick out on a race weekend.
With that considered, I will leave you with the gallery below from Monday’s test.
Ducati could have their concessions removed a year early. The manufacturers’ association, MSMA, are proposing to introduce the concession point system, which was due to start in 2016, to apply from this year.
That would mean that Ducati would be forced to race in 2016 against Honda and Yamaha under the same regulations, including frozen engines, seven engines a year instead of nine, and testing limited to official tests.
The success of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 has shown up a gap in the regulations. The system of concessions allowed to manufacturers without a recent win has universally been hailed as a success, allowing Ducati to catch up with Yamaha and Honda, and Suzuki to already close the gap.
However, as the rules are due to change in 2016, the system of concessions will also change. Under the system which applies this year, a factory which has not had a dry win in the last three years gets extra fuel, a soft year, 12 engines instead of 5, freedom from the engine freeze, and freedom to test with factory riders.
From 2016, all of the teams will have 22 liters of fuel and will be using the same tires, and so there will be fewer concessions. Factories will get 9 engines instead of 7, not be subject to an engine freeze, and be allowed to test with factory riders.
The system for calculating when a factory loses concessions will also change. A new system of concession points will be introduced for 2016, awarding 3 points to a win, 2 points for a second and 1 point for a third.
The day after a race is simultaneously the best and the worst time to go testing. The best time, because the track is in great condition, having already seen three days of action. Riders are all fully up to speed, with both the track and with their riding.
It is also the worst time, because riders and teams are exhausted after the intensity of a race weekend, having given their all to try to win at the track. Testing after a race weekend is probably the least worst solution.
The Monday test after Jerez saw this point very well illustrated. With temperatures very similar to race day, the MotoGP teams – all bar the factory Ducati men, who were headed to Mugello for a test there on the 11th and 12th May – found a track in almost identical condition to the race, in which they could test things they didn’t have time to over the weekend, to try to find where they want wrong.
One of the greatest privileges of my job is to stand at trackside and watch the riders up close. It is the ideal antidote to the malaise that can affect journalists like myself, who tend to spend too much time indoors, in the press room, in the back of garages, and in team trucks and hospitality units, endlessly talking to people in pursuit of information.
Walking out to Nieto, Peluqui, and Crivillé, Turns 9, 10 and 11 at Jerez, savoring the passion of the fans cheering as their favorite riders pass by, observing each rider closely as they pass, trying to see if I can see anything, learn anything, understand anything about the way the best motorcycle racers in the world handle their machines.
There is plenty to see, if you take the trouble to look. This morning, during warm up, I watched the riders brake and pitch their machines into Turn 9, give a touch of gas to Turn 10, before getting hard on the gas out of Turn 10 and onto the fast right-handers of 11 and 12.
In the transition from the left of Turn 8 to the right of Turn 9, you see the fast riders move slowly across the bike, while the slow riders move fast. You see them run on rails through Turns 9 and 10, before forcing the bike up onto the fatter part of the tire while still hanging off the side out of 10 and heading off to 11.
You see the extreme body position on the bike, almost at the limit of physics. It is hard to see how a rider can hang off the bike further, outside hands barely touching the handlebars, outside feet almost off the footpegs.
Photos and video barely start to do the riders justice. To experience it you need to see it from the track, and from the stands and hillsides that surround it.
Lorenzo lead from start to finish to claim his 34th MotoGP victory and put his title challenge back on track.
Marc Marquez was able to ignore the pain from his injured hand to claim a comfortable 2nd place.
Rossi grabbed another podium and extended his lead in the championship to 15 points over Dovizioso.