The hunt for Marquez continues as MotoGP heads to Texas
Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez will be the man in everyone’s sights as the MotoGP™ grid crosses the Atlantic to the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin for round two of the World Championship.
Following a spectacular race between Marquez and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi in the first race in Qatar, fans will be hoping for a repeat as the riders tackle the track’s unique layout. Marquez, despite breaking a leg only seven weeks ago, has looked in incredible shape – and will no doubt be tough to overhaul at the circuit where he took his first-ever MotoGP win last year.
For Rossi it will be crunch time as he sets out to prove that his pace in Qatar was not a one-off, while his teammate Jorge Lorenzo will look to make up for his first-lap crash in race one. Lorenzo’s uncharacteristic mistake will only spur him on more, as he takes to the track which last year looked to favour the rival Hondas. Repsol’s Dani Pedrosa will certainly be hoping that is the case, as he aims for the top step of the podium at the track he pushed teammate Marquez extremely close last year.
There will be a lot of interest in the field just behind the front-runners, as the likes of GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith showed podium potential last time out, despite all suffering falls. If they can keep their respective pace over race-distance the factory riders could seriously be under threat. The Ducati Team with Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow have also shown a vast improvement in race-pace, and will aim to jump further up the rankings in the US.
A big question mark still remains over the potential of NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro, who has showed that over one lap he can be one of the fastest. If he qualifies to his true potential in Austin, a podium does certainly not look out of the question. His younger brother Pol on the Monster Yamaha Tech3 satellite machine will be hoping for a better second GP, as he had to retire with mechanical issues last time out. Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, who continued to the finish line even after suffering a crash, could prove to be a surprise in Texas, after the Italian showed some serious speed in Qatar.
American fans will have two locals to cheers on in the form of NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden, with both showing promising signs in Qatar. Both are now on competitive machinery, though Edwards has cited that he still needs to adapt his riding style, with Hayden lacking a bit of top-end power. Of the “Open” bikes, another to watch will be GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Scott Redding, who had a fantastic debut in Qatar, despite suffering with a lack of fuel.
Completing the grid in Austin will be Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, Drive M7 Aspar’s Hiroshi Aoyama, Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez, Avintia Racing duo Hector Barbera and Mike di Meglio, Iodaracing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and the PBM pairing of Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes.
Tito Rabat began 2014 on the right note with a well-judged victory in last month’s Qatar Grand Prix. Off the back of a Marc VDS Racing Team one-two finish following Takaaki Nakagami’s disqualification, the likes of Nico Terol will want to respond…
It was Terol who convincingly won last year’s Moto2™ race at Circuit of the Americas on what was the World Championship’s first ever visit to the Texan race track. Proving that nothing should ever be taken for granted, Rabat’s then team-mate and championship leader Pol Espargaro crashed out due to an unforced error.
A year on, it is Rabat (who finished second in Austin last season) who returns to COTA as the championship leader. Marc VDS could not be happier, having scored the maximum possible 45 points between its two riders with Mika Kallio second, whereas Tom Luthi inherited a podium finish with Interwetten Paddock Moto2. This came after the Nakagami’s IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia entry was removed from second place due to running an illegal air filter.
Questions may have been answered in Qatar, but plenty of new ones were asked. Such as: can Luis Salom find his form to match Pons HP 40 colleague and former Moto3™ rival Maverick Viñales? The latter climbed by ten places to finish fourth in Qatar as well as becoming the first rider to post fastest lap on his debut in Moto2™ (excluding the first ever Moto2™ race in 2010). As for Salom, the Spaniard ended a troublesome weekend in 14th spot but this is not expected to become a trend.
There were battles through pain for the likes of aforementioned Kallio and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), with the German later being handed a penalty point for his part in the qualifying collision with Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2’s Jordi Torres (team-mate to Terol). Also receiving a penalty point was Federal Oil Gresini Moto2’s Xavier Simeon following an off-track misdemeanor with AirAsia Caterham’s Josh Herrin. Incidentally, both Herrin and team-mate Johann Zarco are aiming for much more after being involved in a four-rider incident on the very first lap of the season.
Sam Lowes was particularly impressive at Losail, as the British rookie finished sixth on his World Championship debut for Speed Up. He will be looking to use this as a motivator with 17 events still remaining in the 18-round campaign. Last year in Texas, pole position was clinched by almost seven tenths of a second; judging by the form so far in 2014, it may be decided more by hundredths or even thousandths…
World Championship Standings Moto2™
Tito Rabat SPA Kalex 25
Mika Kallio FIN Kalex 20
Thomas Luthi SWI Suter 16
Maverick Viñales SPA Kalex 13
Simone Corsi ITA Forward KLX 11
Moto3™ returns to Rins’ happy hunting ground
The second setting on the 2014 Moto3™ calendar will be the spectacular Circuit of the Americas on the outskirts of Austin. Last year, Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins claimed the first ever World Championship race victory on the anti-clockwise track
In April 2013, the MotoGP™ World Championship received a warm welcome to the Lone Star State as Texas became a brand-new venue on the schedule. Second time around, the race will be staged on the slightly earlier date of 13 April and in the aftermath of a highly dramatic curtain-opener to 2014 under floodlights in Qatar.
At Losail last month, it was Australia’s Jack Miller who became a brand-new race winner in his first event with Red Bull KTM Ajo. The popular Queensland rider claimed his first podium finish as well as a race win, with Alex Marquez having run wide to lose the lead on the final lap. This time, the Honda rider will be looking to have the last laugh but will be chased all the way by team-mate Alex Rins; last season, the eventual title contender claimed his very first win in Austin, as the race was split into two halves following a red flag for Jasper Iwema’s accident.
Mahindra will again be looking to mix it up, with the Indian manufacturer now confident about challenging for the rostrum at every Grand Prix. Not only will Mahindra Racing factory riders Miguel Oliveira and the returning Arthur Sissis (who sat out of Qatar due to a bout of tonsillitis) be attacking, but also the customer Mahindra riders such as Brad Binder with Ambrogio Racing.
It is highly possible that the Qatar top three of Miller, Marquez and Efren Vazquez (whose podium finish was his first since 2011) will not be repeated this weekend, with several riders having expected more from Round 1. Reigning World Champion outfit Calvo Team will be pushing for at least a podium, with Jakub Kornfeil plus Isaac Viñales and Eric Granado having assisted each other throughout the opening weekend by working on slipstreaming during practice sessions. The same can be said for SKY Racing Team by VR46 pilots Francesco Bagnaia and Romano Fenati. After topping all practice sessions, the latter was particularly disappointed to end the opening race 12th; in Texas he hopes not to be plagued by more chatter issues.
World Championship Standings Moto3™
Jack Miller AUS KTM 25
Alex Marquez SPA Honda 20
Efren Vazquez SPA Honda 16
Miguel Oliveira POR Mahindra 13
Alex Rins SPA Honda 11
Following the opening round of the season in the Qatar desert, the Ducati Team is set to arrive in the United States for the first of two rounds this year on US soil. The second event in the 2014 MotoGP championship season will be taking place this weekend at the ultra-modern Circuit of the Americas, the Austin (Texas) track that joined the MotoGP calendar twelve months ago.
The two Ducati Team riders began the MotoGP season at Losail with a fifth and a sixth place. Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow then took part in a two-day test last week at Jerez and, in spite of the bad weather, they were able to verify that the ‘full-factory’ electronics fitted to their Desmosedici GP14 after the Qatar round were working correctly.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – “We have to be happy and positive about the fact that we reduced the gap to the leaders by half in Qatar and confirmed the improvements we made in the tests. We know we’ve still got a long way to go however to be competitive and I think that some of the next few tracks will be difficult for us this year, starting with Austin, but that track is so nice and I am really looking forward to racing there again this weekend.”
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – “We are looking forward to the race at Austin, because it was a track I did well at last year. I’d never even tested there and we finished strong with a fourth place, so I’m really looking forward to riding the GP14 on this track. The guys worked 100% in Qatar after my crashes, I gave them a little bit of work to do! It was a disappointing race because of the electronics problem that we had, but it was good that we finished the race in sixth.”
The Circuit of The Americas – The circuit, designed by the famous German architect Hermann Tilke, is one of the most modern race structures in the world, and is situated near the city of Austin, the capital of the State of Texas. The track measures 5.513 km and can contain up to 120,000 spectators. The circuit, built in 2012, hosted its first MotoGP race last year in April. It contains a total of 20 curves (9 right and 11 left), goes in an anti-clockwise direction and its key features are a steep uphill section at the end of the main straight, followed by a tight left-hander.
Drive M7 Aspar Preview
After kicking off at Losail (5.380km) the MotoGP World Championship continues this weekend at another circuit measuring over five kilometres as the Circuit of the Americas (5.513km) in Texas hosts the second round of the season. With the longest straight on the calendar (1.2km) and a technical combination of fast and slow corners, COTA represents another major challenge for the teams and riders, although nothing presents a sterner test at the moment than stopping Marc Márquez, not only the defending World Champion and new championship leader following his victory in Qatar but also the winner of the inaugural race here last season.
The DRIVE M7 Aspar Team made a solid start to the campaign with solid points finishes for both riders. Nicky Hayden took eighth place after constantly improving his pace all weekend and he is now looking forward to building on that progress in the first of two races on American soil, with this round to be followed by the Indianapolis GP later in the year. His team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama finished eleventh in Qatar after overcoming a series of technical setbacks during practice but he is confident his crew have found the right way forward at just the right time.
Nicky Hayden: “A home Grand Prix is always something very special and I really look forward to getting there, seeing all the fans that support me so much and getting back on track. Austin is really a great track, it is a very state of the art facility – safe, long, and wide but honestly last year there I didn’t get on with it great and was never able to be fast, especially in the first half of the track. That’s got to change this year and even though I know the acceleration off those slow corners won’t be kind to us all the changes of direction should suit me and this bike well. So let’s hope we can get a result to make the home crowd proud!”
Hiroshi Aoyama: “The result at the first race of the season was pretty positive. Even though we had a few problems with the bike at the start of the weekend we found the right way forward. This is only the second time any of us have been to COTA so that should level things out a little amongst the riders. I think the final part of the track, with its flowing corners, should suit our bike and the chassis should allow us to feel comfortable through the tight turns. Sunday night in Qatar was a boost for us and the objective is to keep this going and to continue improving the bike. I think we can take another step forward in Austin. It is a demanding circuit from a physical perspective so I put some extra training in last week and even had a medical so I definitely feel ready.”
After a near-perfect double-podium start to the new MotoGP season under floodlights in the desert at Qatar, Honda’s factory riders lead the trail west to Texas for round two, only the second visit to the spectacular new Circuit of the Americas outside Austin.
For Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez, it is a return to the scene of his first MotoGP pole position followed by his first win. In each case he was the youngest in history. Five more wins swept him to victory in the World Championship, and the greatest “youngest-ever” record available.
Marquez, who was honoured in the break after the last race with the Laureus sports foundation’s “Breakthrough of the Year” award, returns in the lead on points, after a thrilling victory in the opening round at Losail. It was the perfect come-back following six weeks of not being able to ride at all, after breaking his leg in a training accident.
Second Repsol Honda RC213V rider Dani Pedrosa consolidated Honda’s performance in the opening round with a solid third place, to make a strong start to his own championship campaign in his ninth season riding the factory Honda.
The pair qualified and finished first and second at the inaugural Texas race last year, with Marquez taking a narrow victory at only his second attempt. One aspect in his favour was that nobody had prior experience at the new circuit, which offers a tremendous and varied technical challenge over its 5.513-km (3.426-mile) lap. His more seasoned rivals were, like him, starting from scratch in not only finding the best cornering lines, but also the right machine set up, gearing and suspension.
This year all have one previous GP to rely on, with a mass of technical data to analyse and interpret.
Marquez’s Qatar triumph came after another pole position – his tenth in 19 MotoGP-class races, and after a fierce battle in the closing laps with multiple World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). After missing two out of three pre-season tests due to a training injury, it was the perfect start to the year for the defending champion, who had previously won both 125cc and Moto2 titles before moving up to the premier class.
Pedrosa had to fight his way through a gaggle of fast riders to join the leading group. The former 125cc and double 250cc World Champion showed experience and race-craft to secure third place, while four of his erstwhile rivals crashed out trying to match his relentless pace.
One was satellite Honda rider Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V), after qualifying on the front row, and moving up to second as he set fastest lap. The Spanish former 125cc World Champion has a special role race-developing Japanese Showa suspension and Nissin brakes for companies with strong links with Honda, and took comfort from his speed and strength before he became another victim of the treacherous surface of the desert circuit.
Bautista qualified seventh and finished eighth at Austin last year, and is confident of a significant improvement on this visit.
Another to fall was German LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl, who took over the lead on the first lap, and was still in front when he slipped out of contention after eight of 22 laps. The former Moto2 World Champion learned important lessons from his spell up front, as he consolidates his potential in his third MotoGP season. He qualified and finished fifth at the Texan race last year.
New for 2014 “Open” category bikes will race for the first time at Austin. Unlike “Factory Option” machines like the Honda RC213V, these lower-cost machines must use control electronics supplied by the organisers. In compensation, they get 24 rather than 21 litres of fuel for each race, and access to a softer tyre option, among other technical allowances.
The new Honda RCV1000R MotoGP production-racer is prominent among the new generation – effectively prototypes for 2016 rules when all bikes will use control electronics – with four customer bikes on the grid.
The best of these laid on a stirring battle for seventh, with class rookie Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RCV1000R) defeating veteran Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) by 0.03 seconds. English rider Redding, the youngest-ever grand prix winner, has moved up to the premier class after finishing second overall in Moto2; Hayden was MotoGP World Champion in 2006, riding a Repsol Honda; he will be anxious to redress the balance when the pair meet again at Texas, the first of two home GPs for the American rider.
Hayden’s team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama was 11th; the Japanese rider won the final 250cc World Championship on a Honda in 2009, and has returned to the marque this year. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was 13th, meaning points for all Honda finishers. Czech racer Abraham, who crashed out in qualifying here last year, is still recovering from major shoulder surgery that cut short his 2013 campaign.
The Moto2 class guarantees close and reliable racing, with all entrants powered by identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines provided by the organisers. Qatar was no exception, with an ultra-close finish between winner Esteve “Tito” Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) and Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex).
A shock announcement after the race however disqualified Nakagami for a minor technical infringement, moving Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex – barely a second adrift) – to second, and promoting Swiss former 125cc World Champion Thomas Luthi to the final podium position.
It was a great race for class rookies. Reigning Moto3 World Champion Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex) followed veteran Luthi toward the front, and claimed a debut fourth, complete grand prix newcomer, Sam Lowes, made a sparkling debut in sixth.
Former 125cc World Champion Nico Terol (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) claimed his first Moto2 win at Austin last year, and returns with the same team hoping for a repeat. With the season just two races old, results are even harder to predict than usual in this volatile class.
The Moto3 class sees rival manufacturers field entries with strictly controlled 250cc four-stroke engines, and again the new Honda RS250FW made a brilliant debut at Qatar, claiming two out of three rostrum places with another Honda fifth, in a race so close that only a photo-finish could establish the final order.
Best of the Honda riders was Mark Marquez’s younger brother Alex, Estrella Galicia 0,0 team, now in his second full season, who finished second behind race winner Jack Miller (KTM). Saxoprint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez was third. Marquez’s team-mate Alex Rins – winner at Austin last year – was fifth. All three are new to Honda this year.
Two more Honda riders finished in the top 15 to open their championships: Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) was seventh; and John McPhee (Saxoprint-RTG Honda) eleventh.
Last year’s inaugural Moto3 race in Texas was red-flagged after an accident, and re-run as a hectic five-lap sprint. Rins was the winner of the first leg, and took victory by two tenths of a second in the restart. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (now on an Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) was seventh, and Masbou eighth.
The Circuit of the Americas is the first circuit in the US designed specifically for World Championship racing, and was completed in 2012. COTA was inaugurated as a World Championship venue by MotoGP last year. It offers a great variety of challenges over the lap, starting with a dramatic 134ft (40.2m) climb from the start to the first corner.
Top international race-track designer Hermann Tilke had help from former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz in devising the layout, which has sections reminiscent of a number of other circuits. Early in the lap a continuous series of sinuous swerves reminded riders of Britain’s Silverstone; while a long 1.2-km (0.746-mile) straight culminating in one of several slow corners puts a premium on braking and acceleration. There are 11 left-hand corners, and nine to the right.
After the race in Texas, MotoGP makes a long-delayed return visit to Argentina, to the new Termas del Rio Hondo circuit in the hinterland.
Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez says: “Since Qatar I’ve been focusing on getting my leg stronger and my body fitter in preparation for the Austin race this weekend. This track is one of my favourite tracks, I had a good race here last year where I have good memories of taking my first win in the MotoGP class. We’ll have to wait and see the situation with the new rules for this year, but anyway we will be focused on our work. Thankfully the majority of hard turns are left handers at this track which is easier on my leg as I’m still not 100 percent fit.”
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: “I’ve had a good training week at home and now I’m looking forward to getting to Austin, to see the team and ride at a track I like. We had a good race there last year and we’ll have to see how the bike works there this year. I hope to ride well and that we are greeted by the usual good atmosphere in America at this second visit to Austin for the Red Bull GP.”
GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista says: “Despite suffering a fall, the entire race weekend in Qatar was very positive, so we head to Texas with a great optimism. Unlike last year, when we raced there for the first time, this year we already have some data from 2013, although Austin still remains a complicated track in terms of finding a good set-up. We will have to work well if we want to find a good compromise between the first part, characterized by many quick changes of direction, and the slower part, where there are three or four very tight corners. Last season we struggled a lot, not being able to find a good compromise, but this year we can count on a very good package, so we are confident. The goal is to try to stay with the fastest from the first practice session, like we did at Losail, then we will give our best, as always, hoping for better fortune this time.”
GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Scott Redding says: “Riding a MotoGP bike at the Circuit of the Americas will be very interesting. I feel very comfortable on this track, in fact last year in Moto2 I was really fast, setting pole position with a 0.6s gap on everyone else. I also think that the track could suit our bike’s characteristics well, both in terms of handling and of stability under braking. We will also focus our work on the tyres, because this track is quite demanding from this point of view, so probably we will need to start to work more on the hard tyre for this race, rather than the softer option, which we used in Qatar.”
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl says: “I am really looking forward to the Austin race week end. It’s a fantastic race track and I like the atmosphere in the US. Last year it was a great week end for me, finishing fifth, and after our short but impressive performance at Qatar, the expectations are high, and also the will to be up in the front pack again. Three weeks break was too much for me… when you lead a race for almost nine laps and you suddenly crash, you just want to be back racing as soon as possible. We are strong as we demonstrated at Losail, so if we can better manage the tyres situation, we could go for another strong result.”
Drive M7 Aspar Honda rider Nicky Hayden says: “A home Grand Prix is always something very special and I really look forward to getting there, seeing all the fans that support me so much and getting back on track. Austin is really a great track, it is a very state-of-the-art facility – safe, long, and wide but honestly last year there I didn’t get on with it great and was never able to be fast, especially in the first half of the track. That’s got to change this year and even though I know the acceleration off those slow corners won’t be kind to us all the changes of direction should suit me and this bike well. So let’s hope we can get a result to make the home crowd proud!”
Drive M7 Aspar Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama says: “The result at the first race of the season was pretty positive. Even though we had a few problems with the bike at the start of the weekend we found the right way forward. This is only the second time any of us have been to COTA so that should level things out a little amongst the riders. I think the final part of the track, with its flowing corners, should suit our bike and the chassis should allow us to feel comfortable through the tight turns. Sunday night in Qatar was a boost for us and the objective is to keep this going and to continue improving the bike. I think we can take another step forward in Austin. It is a demanding circuit from a physical perspective so I put some extra training in last week and even had a medical so I definitely feel ready.”
Cardion AB Motoracing Honda Karel Abraham says: “My shoulder is recovering but still in Qatar I was having trouble with the slow left-hand corners, and Austin is a left-hand track, which makes it difficult. The new bike is good. We have to go faster, but the potential is there. Last year I broke my collarbone at Austin, and this year will be even harder with the shoulder injury – but I have been working really hard in the break to be in better condition for this race.”
Moto2 Rider quotes
Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve Rabat says: “It was good to start with a win in Qatar, but that was only the first race of what promises to be a very long season. Now we need to focus on Austin, then Argentina and then each race as it comes. We need to go into every weekend with the aim of winning. Even if it’s impossible to win every race, this is what we need to fight for. The Austin track is an interesting one in terms of finding a good set up, but I’m confident my crew will find exactly what we need from the bike this weekend. I improved in every session last year, eventually finishing second in the race, and I hope we can do the same again this time around, but maybe one place better.”
Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio says: “Qatar was a great way to start the season, but now we need to carry that momentum into the Austin weekend. We struggled a little with set up for the Circuit of the Americas last year, because you need to find a good compromise between stability for the four or five hard braking areas and the agility needed for fast changes in direction. We didn’t manage to find this compromise until the Saturday night last season, so we need to focus on this during the first free practice sessions on Friday. It would be great to repeat the result from Qatar, with the positions reversed of course, but I think the other riders may well have something to say about that!”
Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter rider Thomas Luthi says: “I don’t have good memories of Austin. Last year I was still trying to come back from injury and I had to pull out after practice. This year my conditions are a great deal different. I am physically fit, and straight from a strong third place at Losail. I’m looking forward to getting to know the track.”
Honda Moto3 Rider quotes
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Marquez says: “Last year we struggled a bit at this circuit. We weren’t happy with the set-up, and I did not feel very comfortable. This year I hope it will be better on the Honda, though I will have to be concentrated as much as possible and give my best in every practice session. The fact that we were second in Qatar further motivates us to work hard. It is a fast circuit, and also needs good acceleration. I think our new bike can adapt quite well, and be a favourable circuit for us.”
Saxoprint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez says: “Last year in Texas, we didn’t have a great experience, but my first Moto3 rostrum at the first round in Qatar has boosted my confidence. I have more experience with the new Honda, and the team knows how to make the bike work at its best … so, why not? I’ll be looking for another good result.”
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins says: “Austin is a circuit that treated us pretty well last year. Perhaps this season will cost us more, as we arrived with a brand-new bike, and have to find the set-up. Hopefully we can adapt quickly. I think at the Circuit of the Americas the Honda should go well; it has very good corner speed mid-curve, it turns quite well, and it has good acceleration – so we’ll see in Friday’s first sessions.”
After a two-week break, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP is on its way for the second round of the season: the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on the 13th of April.
The 2014 season may have only just started, but the GP riders have already displayed some intense racing at the Losail circuit in Qatar. The first race of the season was full of action and drama, a preview of what is to come at Circuit of the Americas (COTA).
The first Grand Prix of the year was an event of mixed emotions for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Valentino Rossi had a brilliant start to the season, starting from tenth on the grid, the Italian battled through the field to fight Marc Marquez for victory. In the end the Doctor settled for second, with only 0.259 seconds between them. Rossi aims to continue his form at COTA and improve on last year’s sixth place.
Jorge Lorenzo had a challenging start to his 2014 campaign. The Spaniard led the pack at Qatar after one of his iconic fast starts, but unfortunately crashed out of the race on the first lap. This weekend he sets out to put his name on the score board at the Texas Grand Prix, where he took third position last year.
The Circuit of the Americas was constructed in 2012. The 5,513m long track is run counter-clockwise and has a mixture of fast straights and tight hairpins. There are 20 corners in total, 11 left turns and 9 right turns, and the longest straight is 1,200m. COTA is not typically described as a ‘Yamaha-circuit’, but with the use of last year’s data to make amendments, the YZR-M1 should be competitive nonetheless.
Valentino Rossi – “I really want to go to Austin, especially after the first race in Qatar. The season started well but now we need confirmation. Last year I made one of the worst races of the season in Texas, and this year I want to see if we can be competitive everywhere. Getting a good result in Austin would mean a lot for me and for Yamaha. It would mean that the direction taken is the right one. We will try to do our best to be competitive also on the Austin circuit. I’d like to have fun like I did in Qatar.”
Jorge Lorenzo – “After a very disappointing race result in Qatar I look forward to racing at Austin to try to get a good result and forget as soon as possible all the things that happened in Losail. COTA track was not one of the best tracks for us last year. We had some difficulties to adapt our bike to the layout and lack of grip but finally we found out how to manage for the race. In the end we got a good result and we finished only three seconds behind the winner. I guess this year the pace could be even better because our bike has made one step ahead with the new seamless and the chassis is pretty good. Also, I feel almost perfect, physically at one hundred per cent and that is so important to try to fight for the victory elsewhere.”
Massimo Meregalli – Team Director – “For sure we are all very eager to get to Austin and begin practice on Friday. Last year it was one of the most challenging races for us because although we had tested there we had no previous race data to work with. We have made significant improvements with the M1 since then, especially in the area where we were suffering at the first Austin race with acceleration and braking. In the middle of the season we introduced the seamless gearbox that has helped us to improve the acceleration of the bike and in the winter we made improvements to braking, especially with Valentino, using electronics and set up. As with last year we expect there to be a real lack of grip on the first day but we will improve every session as the grip level increases. We are confident that Vale will continue his momentum after an excellent start to the year and, after a less than ideal beginning in Qatar, we know that Jorge will be a key protagonist, treating this weekend as his first race of the 2014 season!”
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft & Medium; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
After a successful debut event last year, MotoGP™ returns to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas with legions of American fans set to be thrilled after an intense season opener at Qatar.
The Circuit of the Americas packs every type of corner into its 5.515 kilometres making it one of the more technical venues on the calendar. Elevation changes, the longest straight in MotoGP™, and a combination of slow and fast corners makes the circuit a real challenge for the riders and tyres. The fast, sweeping corners require high levels of edge grip, while drive grip from the centre section of the tyre is also important as there are many hard acceleration zones at this track. The riders approach a top speed of almost 350 km/h down the 1200 metre-long back straight, so excellent front tyre stability is required for the hard braking zone into turn twelve.
Overall, the layout of the Circuit of The Americas places similar loads on both shoulders of the rear tyres, yet the presence of high speed right-hand corners at turns sixteen to eighteen and turn six, means the temperature of the right shoulder of the rear tyre reaches a higher level than the left side, even though there are more left-hand turns. Consequently, asymmetric rear slicks with slightly harder rubber on the right shoulders are offered for this circuit.
Open class and Ducati riders will be offered the soft and medium compound asymmetric rear slicks, while the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders can utilise the medium and hard compound rear. With front-end feel important through the faster sections of the track, the front slick options for this circuit – the soft and medium compounds – are selected for the best combination of grip and stability.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department – “Last year’s inaugural MotoGP round at Circuit of The Americas was a resounding success, both on and off the track so I am very happy to be returning to Austin. North America is one of our most important markets so being able to support MotoGP as Official Tyre Supplier at such a fantastic venue is of great value to Bridgestone. The season opener at Qatar was incredibly close in terms of the competitiveness amongst the riders, and I hope that this weekend’s action proves to be just as thrilling for the fans. This circuit has a real mix of corners and presents some good overtaking opportunities and now that all the teams have last year’s data to build upon, I expect to see the riders pushing hard from the first practice session.”
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Division – “This year will be our second visit to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas and the impressive layout of this track presents quite a challenge for tyre development. COTA is run in a counter-clockwise direction and the track is technical with a mix of tight, slower corners and faster, more open sections. These features combine to place a great importance on front-end feel, as maintaining good corner speed is important here. Therefore our front tyres need to provide good grip characteristics with plenty of stability. The rear tyres must also provide good drive out of the slower corners. The fast right-hand corners are quite severe on tyres, so at this circuit we provide asymmetric rear slicks with slightly harder rubber on the right shoulder.”
Mapfre Aspar Moto2 Preview
The MotoGP World Championship heads to the Hermann Tilke-designed Circuit of the Americas this weekend and that can only mean one thing: long straights, a wide track and a technical blend of tight and fast corners. Just like Sepang and Motorland, COTA measures over five kilometres in length and represents a huge challenge for the riders and engineers alike, as they discovered on their first visit to the impressive facility in 2013. After kicking off their season in the desert on the outskirts of Doha, Qatar, the Moto2 World Championship riders head west across the Atlantic with Tito Rabat on top of the points standings but with any number of contenders capable of toppling him as the season progresses.
After starting from the front row last season before going on to take victory and set the lap record, MAPFRE Aspar rider Nico Terol heads into the second edition of the GP of the Americas as a leading candidate for the win. Despite failing to finish the opening round of the season in Qatar due to a mechanical problem, Nico is relaxed and looking forward to making up for his disappointment at a circuit he loves. His team-mate Jordi Torres is hoping to join him in the chase for honours at the front, having salvaged eighth place from a difficult weekend at Losail. The Spanish rider is keen to put on a much stronger showing this weekend and knows he can use Nico’s success from last season to his own benefit.
Nico Terol: “Even though we had a tough weekend at Losail we found the feeling we were looking for in the race and I really enjoyed it. We made a change to the front fork that was really positive and we would have been fighting for a top ten finish if it wasn’t for a problem with the engine. I spent last week training hard at home and completed a fitness test that I was really happy with. I really like COTA and I am going there with my batteries fully charged and with plenty of motivation. The aim is to start strong from the first session and to be fighting for the win on Sunday, like I did last year. I am feeling relaxed because I know we have the set-up. It is a technical track with some twisty sections on some hard braking. That’s good for me because I am strong on the brakes. Everything went perfectly last year in Austin and I am sure we will have the same feeling this weekend.”
Jordi Torres: “Looking at last year’s results, COTA is a circuit where we simply have to do well. Nico had a brilliant race and found a great set-up. It’s a fun track, especially some of the corners, but the down side for us is the long back straight, where we lose out a lot compared to the lighter riders. The corner onto the straight is also very tight so you need good acceleration but I am confident we can be competitive there, unlike Qatar where we really struggled to find a set-up. We will use the data from last season and if it doesn’t work we will go with Nico’s because it was good enough for him to win the race last year in Austin”.
Marc VDS Moto2 Preview
The Marc VDS Racing Team’s Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio are keen to repeat the success of Qatar this weekend, as they head to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for round two of the 2014 Moto2 World Championship.
Rabat and Kallio were involved in an intense three-way battle in the Qatar race, which they finished first and second, and the competition between the two Marc VDS riders promises to be just as fierce this weekend in Austin where, just 12 months ago, they were involved in a frantic last lap battle for second place that eventually went the way of the 24-year-old Spaniard.
Livio Loi heads to Austin to learn another new track, as he wasn’t old enough to race at the Circuit of the Americas last season. Despite facing a steep learning curve this weekend, a points scoring finish remains the aim for the 16-year-old Belgian.
Tito Rabat: “It was good to start with a win in Qatar, but that was only the first race of what promises to be a very long season. Now we need to focus on Austin, then Argentina and then each race as it comes. We need to go into every weekend with the aim of winning. Even if it’s impossible to win every race, this is what we need to fight for. The Austin track is an interesting one in terms of finding a good set up, but I’m confident my crew will find exactly what we need from the bike this weekend. I improved in every session last year, eventually finishing second in the race, and I hope we can do the same again this time around, but maybe one place better.”
Mika Kallio: “Qatar was a great way to start the season, but now we need to carry that momentum into the Austin weekend. We struggled a little with set up for the Circuit of the Americas last year, because you need to find a good compromise between stability for the four or five hard braking areas and the agility needed for fast changes in direction. We didn’t manage to find this compromise until the Saturday night last season, so we need to focus on this during the first free practice sessions on Friday. It would be great to repeat the result from Qatar, with the positions reversed of course, but I think the other riders may well have something to say about that!”
Livio Loi: “Austin is a new track for me to learn, but then so was Qatar, so it’s not such a big issue. It’s important for me to improve my pace throughout each of the three free practice sessions this weekend, so that we’re ready for qualifying. In Qatar it was qualifying that let us down, leaving me well down the grid and unable to fight back into a points scoring position in the race. This is something we need to focus on this weekend. If I can qualify on the front four rows of the grid, then a top 15 finish is a realistic goal for me.”
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