27 October 2014

New Moto2 Champion Rabat: I am so, so happy!

Esteve Rabat clinched his maiden world championship triumph by finishing third in Sunday’s 19-lap Moto2 race before touchingly dedicating his triumph to his mother, who died two years ago.

Rabat is swarmed after clinching his first world title
Photo: Marc VDS Racing
Coming to Malaysia Rabat only needed a seventh place finish to secure the Moto2 crown due to his 41 point advantage over team-mate Mika Kallio. Claiming his tenth pole position on Saturday afternoon – the highest number achieved in just a single season in the Moto2 class – Rabat started the race as though he intended to clinch the world crown with a dominant win.

He set the fastest lap of the race on the second, third and fourth lap, playing Kallio at the Finn’s own fast-starting game and establishing an early lead of 0.8 seconds.

Yet Kallio and class rookie-extraordinaire Maverick Viñales set about reeling Rabat in and soon the championship leaders’ strategy would change so that he preserved a podium finish. He eventually finished third, eight seconds behind race winner Viñales.

‘Very tough’ sixth a fine return for heroic Espargaro

Pol Espargaro brought his Tech 3 Yamaha home in a heroic sixth place in the punishing Malaysian MotoGP race just a day after breaking the metatarsal in his left foot in a heavy free practice spill.

Hernandez ran Espargaro close in punishing Malaysian conditions
Photo: Monster Tech3 Yamaha
A small shard of glass, believed to be on track from a previous car race, lodged itself in Espargaro’s radiator during Saturday morning's FP3 session, causing oil to leak onto his rear tyre. As he tipped into turn one his rear tyre came around and spectacularly flicked him in to the air.

In a great deal of pain, Espargaro opted to sit the remainder of Saturday out, instead recovering his strength for a Sunday’s 20 lap event, held in the hottest track temperatures at any grand prix in three years.

"The race today was a really tough one for me, but I am very happy to walk away from here with a 6th place finish and some more valuable championship points, which was a much better result than what we anticipated after yesterday,” he said.

Espargaro started twelfth, courtesy of his tenth fastest time in the first three free practice sessions, which automatically qualified him for the 12-rider Q2 shootout. Although he benefited from DNFs for Pedrosa, Crutchlow, his brother Aleix and Alvaro Bautista, Espargaro overcame a resolute challenge from Yonny Hernandez to complete the top six, just twelve seconds behind team-mate Bradley Smith.

26 October 2014

Marquez back to winning ways as he notches up twelfth triumph in Sepang

A day after breaking Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner’s pole position record in the MotoGP class Marc Marquez cast aside the bad luck that has plagued his autumnal form to win his twelfth race of 2014 at Sepang.

Rossi kept the irrepressible Marquez honest throughout
Photo: Repsol Honda
Marquez made his superior pace on worn tyres count by overcoming strong challenges of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in the latter stages to equal Doohan’s impressive race winning haul from 1997. The win also confirmed Honda as the winner in the Constructor’s Championship, their 21st in the premier class.

There was more dismay for Dani Pedrosa, crashing out of second place on lap two, Aleix Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista, who both became entangled in a first lap collision. The high attrition rate cleared the way for strong finishes from Stefan Bradl in fourth, Bradley Smith a place behind, and a heroic Pol Espargaro – riding with a recently broken metatarsal – in sixth.

With temperatures hovering around the mid thirties (and track temperatures the hottest of any grand prix in three years) grip was seriously lacking. The conditions initially looked as though it would play into the hands of the factory Yamahas and Valentino Rossi in particular.

Moto3 and Moto2 round up, Sepang: Vazquez win helps title race stay alive, Vinales victorious as Rabat takes Moto2 crown.

The Malaysian MotoGP weekend's hot and sticky conditions continued to make racing hard work as Moto3 saw Efren Vazquez take his second win of the year, nudging ahead at the final corner.

The SaxoPrint-RTG rider, without a ride for next year, used a good line and strong cornering at the final bend to nudge fellow frontrunner Alex Rins wide as he slipped past Jack Miller for victory.

Miller, who raced hard and swapped paint with his rivals, including championship leader Alex Marquez as the pair battled it out for the title on track, had muscled his way to the front of a warring front group with the lead three pulling away slightly on the final lap.
Champion Rabat!                                    Photo:Marc VDS

The Red Bull KTM Rider missed out on a much needed race win but did enough to take the championship battle to the final round, trailing by 11 points.

Rins climbed up the order after starting from 14th after a poor qualifying to return to the podium in third for the Estrella Galicia team.

Fourth went to a gutsy performance by Danny Kent, beating an angry Marquez across the line on his Husqvarna, unappreciative of being beaten to the flag the Spanish title leader was forced to settle, unhappily, for fifth.

Ongetta-Rivacold rider Alexis Masbou took sixth ahead of Nico Antonelli in seventh, Jakub Kornfeil in eighth and Red Bull Karel Hankia ninth. Enea Bastianini completed the top ten best finishers.

Also scoring a points finish were Juanfran Guevara in 11th for Aspar, Marc VDS rider Jorge Navrarro in 12th, top home rider Hafiq Azmi in 13th for SIC-AJO, CIP's Alessandro Tonucci in 14th and Remy Gardner who has continued to improve over the course of this years replacement and wild-card rides, taking the final point available in 15th.

The race was littered with retirements and crashes including the Sky Racing VR46 bikes of Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia who both joined Niklas Ajo and Brad Binder in retiring with bike issues.

Among the more high profile crashers were Mahindra's Miguel Oliveira, third in last years race and British rider John McPhee who had been on the pace and running at the front all weekend before falling on the final lap.

Maverick Vinales again impressed in Moto2, winning back to back races after taking victory in Sepang as the championship crown went to Tito Rabat, his team-mate Mika Kallio unable to stop the charge of Vinales or put enough places between his team-mate.

25 October 2014

Marquez claims 50th career pole with scintillating lap record at sizzling Sepang

Marc Marquez took his 13th pole position of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship season today in Sepang, Malaysia, smashing the outright official lap record in the process and becoming the first rider to dip below the two minute barrier on a race weekend.
Can he return to the top step tomorrow?
Photo: Repsol Honda

Despite a relatively slow speed tip off earlier in the day, Marquez dusted himself off and blitzed the second qualifying session, posting his record breaking lap with just a minute left on the clock.

Team mate Dani Pedrosa was the only other rider able to break the two minute barrier. The fastest man from day one at Sepang will start tomorrow's Grand Prix from second on the grid ahead of Jorge Lorenzo rounding off an all Spanish front row.

LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl showed a glimpse of a possible return to form by out qualifying Ducati hero Andrea Dovizioso to spearhead the second row with race winner last time out in Phillip Island Valentino Rossi rounding out the top 6.

Aleix Espargaro, Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and a struggling Alvaro Bautista complete the top 10.

Moto2 and Moto3 qualifying round-up - Sepang: Rabat seals pole early while Miller leaves it late.

The rising temperature in Sepang played a big part in qualifying with Moto3 getting the coolest temperatures as the got qualifying under way for the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

On Track...Tito Rabat                             Photo: Marc VDS
Jack Miller's best lap of 2m 12.450 set a new lap and pole record of Sepang for the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider at the same time as title leader Alex Marquez fell from his Estrella Galicia Honda, leaving him in fifth.

British rider John McPhee had been on the pace all weekend, having been the first rider to set a new best lap of the track in FP3 and remained in contention having topped the session, taking second for the SaxoPrint-RTG team.

The final spot on the front row went to Jakub Kornfeil, a strong performance pushing the Calvo Team man to third.

Efren Vazquez took fourth on the second SaxoPrint machine, Marquez fifth, while Romano Fenati enjoyed his best qualifying for some time with sixth on the grid for Sky Racing Team VR46.

Danny Kent seemed spurred on by a late crash, going on to set his best lap at the flag for a gutsy seventh.

Joining him on row two are Team Calvo's Isaac Vinales in eighth and Mahindra's Miguel Oliveira in ninth, with Enea Bastianini completing the top ten for Junior Team Go& Fun.

Alex Rins continued to struggle and finds himself down in 19th.

Top home rider was wild-card Ramdan Rosli in 21st beating regular rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin by one place, in 22nd after a crash.

Moto2 was last and got the worst of the heat, with even the consistent, metronomic performance of eventual pole man Tito Rabat broken up by a break in his pit box.

21 October 2014

A disappointing end to a season of success for Weaving

Courtesy of StrawBales Media

The curtain came down on the 2014 Motul British Motostar season at Brands Hatch this weekend as Jordan Weaving received the Moto3 championship trophy to complete his most successful season to date.
Championship joy for Weaving in 2014
Photo: Freezeframe-Photography.co.uk

Consistency has been the target in the South African's first full campaign in the British Championship after previous seasons were interrupted by absence as the 17 year old contested the Red Bull Rookies Cup. After eleven rounds of point-scoring finishes, the final race was the one to forget as Weaving was collected by Dutchman Mike Brouwers going in to the left-hander at Stirlings on the opening lap after he'd made up 15 places from the start of the race.

Weaving had work to do on race day after technical gremlins put paid to the all-important second qualifying session on Saturday afternoon, which was held in dry conditions after a damp track hampered times in the morning qualifying session. Unfortunately, at the end of the morning session, Weaving had a low speed crash off the racing line on the run up to Druids, leaving the college student mystified as to the cause. With only cosmetic damage needing to be patched up, the team had the ever-reliable KTM ready for Q2 however unbeknownst to the team the clutch had failed and so losing the full session leaving him on the tenth row of the grid in 28th position.

Despite the trials and tribulations in Kent, the second #Fuelled By XpressCoffee champion of 2014 summed his weekend and the season, "It really has been a fantastic year, I've loved every minute of it. It's not been easy, the competition has been very strong and it could so easily have turned out differently, but it didn't. This weekend was the hardest of the year, without a doubt, not just the race itself but the off at the end of Q1 cost us dear. We know why it happened and it was just one of those things, to top it all off my dad missed the race as he was taken to hospital after crushing his finger whilst working on the bike after morning warm up. He's very sore but ok." 

He continued, "This year wouldn't have been possible without the unselfish support of my whole family along with Burkert Fluid Solutions with their continued support and technical knowledge, SMES, Chris Palmer with his boys Owen and Tristan and Sam Mitchell from XpressCoffee, Steve Patrickson, Gary Dawson and the team at Repli-cast, Shark Helmets, KTM, Dan at Go&Fun UK, our man in Scotland JD, Rory Milton, Richard Griffin, Glen Coombs at Freezeframe Photography, my manager Dave Neal and his daughter Emmy and finally to all the friends and fans, old and new, who've stopped by and wished me luck or just waved from trackside, thank you so much! See you all in 2015."

A still sore Colin Weaving added, "It seems we saved all our bad luck for the final round, we've had an incredible season so we can't complain at all, it's racing. We have never had the the level of support we've had this year, it's always been a small family team but this season we've grow in number and in stature, and everyone has played their part. To echo what Jordan said, thank you so much to all the people involved this season, we couldn't have done it without you all, Burkert as always but Chris and Dave too, who've been instrumental in helping us grow and introduced us to some great new friends like JD, Dave and Mark amongst many more." In closing, Colin said "As it's the end of the season I want to make a special thank you to Steve Patrickson who's helped us immeasurably since we started racing here and will always be indebted to him for his expertise, knowledge and friendship and also to Gary Dawson of Repli-cast for his help and advice over the last few years. Thank you. We don't know exactly where we'll end up next year yet, but we have some exciting plans in place. Chapter two, page one starts here..."

20 October 2014

Smith completes ‘dream’ weekend with debut podium

An exultant Bradley Smith was moved to tears moments after clinching his debut podium in the MotoGP class after a chaotic 27-lap race in Phillip Island.

Smith salutes the Australian fans from the podium - his first in the class
Photo: Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
Smith admitted that at first he hadn’t realised he finished third in a race which claimed the likes of Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow in the closing laps, to complete an all Yamaha podium – the first in the class since 2008.

"For sure it is a fantastic feeling to clinch my debut podium in the MotoGP class and I am so pleased to reach this milestone,” said an emotional Smith. “Honestly, I wasn’t too happy with how I was riding at the beginning of the race, I made several mistakes and lost a few positions.

Therefore I told myself to calm down, I improved and moved forward. It’s a bit unexpected to be on the podium in all honesty, but after having great pace all weekend, it is the dream way to complete all of the good work we have done recently. I passed the chequered flag and saw the team on the wall, so I thought that I was in 4th or 5th, but then I saw my name in 3rd on the board as I came around the corner, which was an amazing feeling.”

Crutchlow: We didn’t deserve that

Cal Crutchlow was left to ponder what could have been as he saw a debut podium finish with Ducati agonisingly slip through his grasp at the Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.

Crutchlow's eyes tell you everything
Photo: Ducati Corse
The 28-year old was a victim of the unpredictable Bridgestone front tyres, brought in especially to combat the circuit's abrasive surface, as he fell from second place on the last lap.

Bolstered by a season best second placed qualifying position, Crutchlow quickly recovered from an early moment with Andrea Iannone to climb four places to sit a comfortable fourth, behind Marc Marquez and the Movistar Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

Opting for Bridgestone’s new asymmetric front tyre moments before the race, Crutchlow quickly found himself in second after Marquez crashed out and Lorenzo began to fade with near-terminal front tyre wear.

19 October 2014

Buckled rear wheel rim forced Pedrosa to retire in Australia.

Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa had a tough weekend at Philip Island after being forced to withdraw from the race following a collision on the seventh lap.
Pedrosa was victim of a mid-pack fight Down Under
Photo: Repsol Honda

Making it the worst weekend for the Repsol Honda team since Portugal 2010, Pedrosa got a mixed start and was riding in sixth position.

By the second lap he had slipped down to ninth position and was fighting his way back through the pack. He was then involved in a collision with Italian Andrea Iannone after his Ducati clipped Pedrosa's rear. This left Pedrosa's Honda with a buckled rear wheel rim.

Pedrosa was forced to retire out of the race on the seventh lap and his race was over: "We had no luck today. I didn't get a good start, I lost a lot on the opening two laps and I ended up in a position in which I was left exposed to what happened afterwards. When you are riding amongst so many riders in this part of the field there are always incidents, and today it happened to me. Fortunately I didn't crash, but the bike was damaged and I couldn't continue."

Marquez crashes in Australia: "I was not riding on the limit"

2014 MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez had a disaster at Philip Island for the second year in a row, failing to finish the race following a crash for the Repsol Honda rider.
Marquez lost the front end in Philip Island
Photo: Repsol Honda

Starting the race from pole position the 21 year old was looking to improve on last year's DNF in Australia and he got a slow start off the line as he dropped a few places in the opening lap but was back in-front by the end of lap one.

The Spaniard was able to open up a gap on Yamaha duo and had a solid lead by the fifth lap around the Island. However by the 19th lap Marquez lost the front end of this RC213V at the bottom of Lukey Heights, ending his race and meaning this was the second year in a row he failed to score points in Australia.

Tyre problems hindered the majority of the grid this afternoon and Marquez was no exception: "Today, because I had no pressure on me, I tried a different approach pushing hard from the start to try to open the largest gap possible. We were having a good race, right up until the crash. It was a pity that I went down at a time that I was not riding on the limit or faster than the lap before. It was a race where there were many crashes, and almost all happened the same way: the front wheel locking up. 

The temperatures were down a lot, something that was also a factor today. It is better that this happened now, so that I gain experience for next year. You don’t always have the opportunity to try things out.”

Kiyonari: "Looking back at this incredible season I am very, very happy"

Buildbase BMW's Ryuichi Kiyonari was unable to compete in the last War for Four round at Brands Hatch this weekend after a crash in the third free practise session of the weekend which saw him fracture his collarbone.
Kiyonari sat out of all remaining sessions in Kent
Photo: Buildbase BMW

The Japanese rider has made a stunning turnaround of his season after a tough return to the series last year, winning his first race of 2014 at round four of the championship at Knockhill. Since July Kiyonari has been back to his best taking seven wins and six podium finishes in the British class, giving Byrne some strong competition for the title.

Coming into Brands Hatch on the back of a second position and a win at Silverstone, the three time BSB champion was looking in strong form. However he crashed his BMW S 1000 RR at Graham Hill corner on his second lap of the session which ended his record breaking championship chance.

Kiyonari kept an upbeat attitude following the break however, and is already thinking about the 2015 season:“I’m obviously disappointed not to get to battle with Shakey at Brands Hatch, but looking back at this incredible season I am very, very happy. Around one year ago I first spoke to Stuart Hicken and signed to ride the BMW S 1000 RR and we hoped, maybe, to win a race in 2014. We have done that seven times and we are second in the championship. I wanted to prove that I was still fast and now that is certain. 

Rossi wins hectic Phillip Island encounter after Marquez falls

Valentino Rossi rode to his second MotoGP victory of 2014 and his first at Phillip Island since 2005 after an extraordinary race which saw Marc Marquez crash out of a comfortable lead.

Rossi salutes the Phillip Island crowd from the top step
Photo: Movistar Yamaha
The Italian led home team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and Bradley Smith for a first Yamaha one-two-three in the class since Le Mans 2008 but only after Cal Crutchlow cruelly fell from second place on the final lap.

There were crashes and non-finishes too for Iannone and Pedrosa – the Italian tagging the Repsol man at Honda curve, falling and damaging Pedrosa’s Honda sufficiently so that he couldn’t continue -, Bradl and Aleix Espargaro, who were involved in a near identical collision, and Pol Espargaro while closing in on Lorenzo for a podium spot on the penultimate lap.

A race of attrition in which only 14 riders finished, the high fall rate was in doubt due to the changeable temperatures and wind directions throughout Sunday afternoon, not to mention the abrasive nature of the Phillip Island asphalt.

BSB: Byrne secures fourth championship with two victories at Brands Hatch

Shane Byrne has taken the British Superbike crown in the second race of the triple header weekend at Brands Hatch with a double victory as Ryuichi Kiyonari sat out with a displaced collarbone.
Byrne has rewritten history
Photo: MCE BSB

Saturday saw drama hit the MCE British Superbike paddock with broken bones, crashes and slanging matches resulting in the War For Four battle continuing through to the final day of the season. At a wet Kent circuit Howie Mainwaring won race one head of Tyco Suzuki's Josh Waters and Jon Kirkham for Halsall Racing. 

Buildbase BMW announced Kiyonari would not participate in warm-up or race two on Sunday morning resulting in Byrne only needing to finish in fourth position to take the crown for the fourth time in his career. 

Waters got the lead off the line but it was Dan Linfoot and Kirkham who got the wholeshot into Paddock Hill Bend as Ellison shot into third position. On the second lap of 20 Linfoot got into the lead on his Quattro Plant Kawasaki, as fellow Kawasaki rider Byrne was down in tenth. 

There was now a group of top five developing fighting for the victory as Byrne was slowly making his way through the field, getting up to seventh by the fourth lap. The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider was soon able to move into a championship winning position by the eighth lap and was now locked in a battle for the top podium position.

Moto3 and Moto2 round-up – Phillip Island: A home win for Miller as Vinales keeps the Moto2 title alive

Moto3 saw race day at Phillip Island get of to a great start for the home fans as after frantic lead changing and barging it was to be Jack Miller who blocked and weaved his way to win the Australian Moto3 Grand Prix, holding off the advancing Hondas over the final lap.

It is the first time that the Red Bull KTM rider has hit the podium when starting off the front row, resulting in a win, his fifth, by just 0.029 - with just 0.2 second covering the whole of the leading group over the line.
Vinales on his way to victory                  Photo: Pons Racing

Championship leader Alex Marquez lost five points but remained in control after pushing forward to secure second, with his Estrella Galicia team-mate Rins beaten in the drag to the line in third.

Efren Vazquez just scraped past his SaxoPrint-RTG team-mate John McPhee to fourth, with the British rider holding his own well despite injury in fifth.

Alexis Masbou held on despite a few wobbles for sixth and was the last of the leading group to cross the line after a nudge from Miller skittled off Brad Binder and Danny Kent. Binder salvaged the final point for Ambrogio in 15th, with an angry Kent 20th.

Miguel Oliveira was the best of the rest for Mahindra in seventh, ahead of Team Calvo's Jakub Kornfeil in eighth and Niklas Ajo, who recovered well after a big qualifying crash for ninth. Niccolo Antonelli completed the top ten.

The remaining points were sorted out in a big battle between Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) who made up 16 places for 11th, Jorge Navarro (Marc VDS) in 12th, Karel Hanika (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in 13th, Alessandro Tonucci (CIP) in 14th and Binder who regained composure for the final point.

Romano Fenati was one of a handful of crashers, running in the lead group until the closing stages.

Moto2 saw Maverick Vinales take his third win in his rookie and only Moto2 season, the first rider in the class to not be on pole to win at the Island as the Marc VDS riders braking issues at the breezy track kept the title alive for another round.