Who can stop Marc Marquez? By the look of the FP2 timesheet, maybe Andrea Iannone can. The Pramac Ducati rider ended Friday just 0.007 behind Marquez, the closest anyone has been to him on a Friday since Qatar.
Looks are, of course, deceptive, and if you dig a little deeper you see that Iannone’s fastest lap, though impressive, was made using a tow from Dani Pedrosa, just as the Repsol Honda rider was setting his fastest lap of the session. Iannone also benefited from using the extra soft rear tire which Ducati is allowed to use, making it that little bit easier to post a quick lap.
Iannone should not be written off too quickly, however. Pedrosa slowed up to let Iannone past immediately after the pair had set their quick laps, and on the next clear lap, Iannone got into the 1’33s again, posting a time equal to Pedrosa’s best lap, but this time, all on his own.
Whether he can convert that to consistent pace in the race remains to be seen. The Italian appears to be circulating around the 1’34.3 mark. Fast, but not fast enough to match what Marquez appears to be capable of.
For real race pace, you have to look a little further down the timesheets. Jorge Lorenzo appears to have refound his mojo, and is starting to grind out the laps. The Movistar Yamaha rider put in 16 full laps during FP2, 5 of which were 1’34.1s, plus a single lap of 1’34.054. This is the Lorenzo of old, working on consistent pace and slowly ratcheting up the pace.
Lorenzo’s pace is still no match for Marquez – the Repsol Honda man seems capable of banging in 1’33.8s at will – but it is clearly the best of the rest. It has taken four races for the real Jorge Lorenzo to make an appearance, but at least he is finally here.
After the initial disappointment at the death of the 250cc two strokes, the advent of the Moto2 class raised hopes that Grand Prix racing would enter a new era of chassis innovation, as the teams spent the money saved on engine development on exploring novel solutions to the problem of hustling a motorcycle around a circuit is the shortest time possible.
The first set of designs unveiled did little to feed that hope, with most bikes being of the aluminium twin beam variety which is standard in most sports and racing machinery, with a couple of tubular trellis frames thrown in for good measure.
Even that variety did not last. The trellis frames were the first to go – mostly as a result of the extra weight the design created – and the number of chassis manufacturers dropped from 13 in the first year to 6 in 2013.
Even that figure gives an inflated picture of the variety in the paddock: 28 out of the 32 permanent entries form Moto2 this year use either the Kalex, Suter or Speed Up chassis. The bikes vary in stiffness, in aerodynamic detail and in aesthetics, but other than that, they are virtually identical.
So why is there no real innovation in the Moto2 paddock – or MotoGP or Moto3, for that matter? The answer is simple, and has been discussed here many times before. The attitude which characterizes the paddock in technical terms is not one of the fearless pursuit of knowledge and innovation.
It is not a hotbed of blue sky thinking and adventurous engineering. It is a place of conservative evolution, of cautious refinement, where proven concepts are polished to as near perfection as possible.
The Dutch TT at Assen looks like being a very busy few days for everyone looking for a ride next year. The end of June has been earmarked as a deadline for all sorts of negotiations, from rider contracts to bike projects. Decisions will be made and contracts – or at least letters of intent – will be signed. A lot of paperwork should get done by the time the trucks roll out of the paddock on Sunday, heading for Germany and the Sachsenring.
Though most of the prototype rides are already wrapped up, there are still a few seats open, and some interesting and major changes could be on the way. The focal point for the future, and the key to all of the moves for next year is Scott Redding. The young Briton has raised his game in 2013, elevating himself to both the favorite for the 2013 Moto2 title, and hot property for MotoGP next season.
In three weeks’ time, the 2013 season gets underway for all three Grand Prix classes, and motorcycle racing’s winter will finally be over. Before that, there is a week of testing at Jerez, where first the Moto2 and Moto3 classes get their final run out on the track from Monday through Thursday, before MotoGP takes to the track on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Testing at Jerez may be affordable for GP’s junior classes, but it does not come without risk. Moto2 and Moto3 tested at both Valencia and Jerez in February, and while conditions were sunny and dry, if a little cool at Valencia, the test at Jerez was very mixed indeed, with rain disrupting two of the three days of testing. This test looks just as likely to be disrupted by rain: while good weather is forecast for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Tuesday looks like being a total washout.
That will leave the riders with two full days of dry testing – for some arcane reason, IRTA has decided to spread the three days of Moto2 and Moto3 testing over four days, with the test starting on Monday afternoon, and concluding on Thursday lunchtime.
There is surely method to this madness, but unfortunately, IRTA does not have a press office, and so nobody to explain it. In the absence of an IRTA – the International Roadracing Teams Association, the official body representing the teams – press officer, the media are left to scratch their heads, speculate, and all too often, concoct explanations for themselves.
One of the more intriguing things about spending a few years in a racing paddock is watching people grow and mature. Young riders come in to the Grand Prix paddock as exuberant 15 and 16-year-olds, certainly with the anachronistic maturity of all dedicated sportsmen and women; but still clearly young teenagers, that explosive mixture of energy, hormones, and sheer joy driving them into paroxysms of hyperactivity. A few years later, those young boys (and now girls as well) turn into young men, and a fuller, more mature personality emerges.
Such is the case with Scott Redding. Three years ago, when he first moved to Moto2, he was still a teenager with an impish grin on his face, looking like he was either planning trouble, or just returning from it. At the launch of the Marc VDS Racing program last night, at the Belgian team’s workshop a stone’s throw from Charleroi airport, a different Scott Redding was on display, calmer, more mature, more serious but without having lost his sense of fun. More focused, too.
Redding knows that this year, he is playing for keeps. The goal is to either win the Championship, or go down trying. This is his best chance, perhaps, with the introduction of a combined rider/bike minimum weight removing some of the advantage of the lighter riders, though the new limit of 215kg for both rider and bike still favors riders closer to 60 kg than to 70kg. His preparation has changed, spending the winter in Spain, riding, rather than in the dull English winter, where MX tracks are open on Saturdays and Sundays only, for a couple of hours each day.
Scott Redding is ready to become Moto2 champion. A conversation with the young Englishman follows after the jump.
At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.
The KTM Moto3 racer is a thing of beauty, and for bonus points, it comes in two varieties. One is the orange-trellis framed factory-built KTM, which will be campaigned by the three-rider factory team of Sandro Cortese, Danny Kent, and Arthur Sissis for 2012.
The other variety is the one engineered by Kalex Engineering, which features the same 250cc KTM motor as the factory version, but takes the German company’s prowess at chassis design, and uses a twin-spar aluminum frame instead of the factory team’s trellis variant. The venerable Team Aspar is one of the teams signed on to use the Kalex/KTM, and will have riders Alberto Moncayo & Hector Faubel aiming to beat the factory KTM squad at their own game.
With no Americans in Moto3, the entry-level GP series won’t get too much attention here in the US, but the machinery certainly looks pretty good to our eyes. Still clad in carbon fiber for the testing season, the KTM and KTM/Kalex machines are like tiny pieces of motorcycling art.
Though some are lamenting the passing of the two-stroke era, and its unmistakable buzzing sound on the track, we think the newest four-stroke GP class will please motorcycling’s audiophiles. Listen to the KTM Moto3 race bike warm up after the jump, and enjoy some eyecandy.
KTM has finally given us a glimpse into its Moto3 class race bike, showing renders of the bike to journalists assembled at the company’s Hangar 7 press event. The Austrian company also officially showed its Moto3 race motor, and for those expecting to see a repurposed SX motor for the 250cc four-stroke Grand Prix racing series, abolish that thought. For the inaugural 2012 racing season for GP racing’s entry-level series, the Austrian company has started from scratch when approaching its Moto3 development.
KTM has announced it will be entering the Moto3 Championship, building a 250cc single-cylinder bike in what the company is describing as an 100% in-house operation. This statement is a bit confusing though, as KTM will also be partnering with Kalex Engineering on a second bike, where KTM will help the German company by supplying their race motors. No riders have been confirmed on either the KTM or KTM/Kalex machines.
KTM’s return to international road racing is certainly a welcomed sight, and it’s interesting that the Austrian company is both building its own bike, and supplying motors to other outfits. Both the KTM and KTM/Kalex machines will have to compete against the Honda NSF250R race bike, which Honda debuted at the Catalan GP just yesterday.
Moto2 testing was underway in Catalunya this week, but rain sidelined a substantial portion of that testing event. For the Moto2 teams, this meant a rare opporunity to get familiar with thier machinery was lost, but for the roving eye of Italian site GPone.com, it was an opportunity to take a gander at some very beautiful race motorcycles.
Despite all the teams having the same Honda-sourced, 600cc, four-cylinder, four-stroke motor, there is a large variety in body styling and chassis approach. Check the RSV, Moriwaki, BQR, Kalex, Tech3 Mistal, and Suter MMX bikes out after the jump.
Reports are coming in that Alex de Angelis will be headed to Scot Honda (thus ending any rumor that Toni Elias would be joining the satellite Honda team), and that Elias will be headed to Moto2 with the Sito Pons team. Kalex Engineering is expected to be providing Sito Pons with one of their Moto2 chassis solutions. You may remember Kalex from their gorgeous liter-bike track weapon we ran a couple months ago. While many are reporting these moves as fact, their appears to be some margin of uncertainty in the plan.