17 December 2014

End Of Season Debrief: Old Dogs And New Tricks

What a year 2014 was for motorcycle racing. It had all the cliches, there were enormous highs, unfortunately, coupled with tremendous lows; as well as records being smashed to pieces. But most notable of all, for us anyway, it was the year of the old dogs showing the young bucks that they can still give as hard as they get.
It was a year to remember for this man.
Photo: YamahaMotoGP

At the domestic level, a year later than intended, the War for Four between Shane Byrne and a resurgent Ryuichi Kiyonari raged throughout the season. The pair saw off any challenge from the young(er) guns of the series with Byrne reigning supreme in the finale at Brands Hatch back in October, becoming the first ever 4-time British Superbike Champion.

Sylvain Guintoli, Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes were the main contenders for the 2014 World Superbike title. Some will say the outcome was spoiled through team orders coming into play from both factory Aprilia and Kawasaki teams. However, fierce racing all the way until the chequered flag dropped under the lights in Qatar left 32 year old Sylvain Guintoli top of the pile and 2013 Champion, Sykes, having to play second fiddle.

Although ye old geezers of MotoGP couldn't overcome the youthful exuberance and sensational speed of Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi showed that you can never be too old to adapt your riding style on a motorcycle to remain one of the very best. After Marquez's devastating run of 10 wins in a row from the green light at round one in Qatar, 'The Doctor' tallied up two wins and a further eleven podiums throughout the year, finishing second overall ahead of struggling team mate Jorge Lorenzo.

This special edition of Midweek Debrief will take a look back at the season gone by with our topical sections of Five Riders Worthy of A Mention, Hang Your Head, Medal of Valour, One To Watch, as well as some of our top tweets from the season gone by.

That's not all. Tis the season to be jolly, and thus to give you a biking fix throughout these dark winter days to keep the mood lifted until we all stuff our faces with turkey next week, we've rounded up some light reading and scoured the web for some cracking videos for you all to watch and to whet your two-wheeled appetite 'til we see in the new year. Don't forget to check out the bottom section and ear mark the dates for when action recommences!

This, is End-Of-Season Debrief. See you in 2015!


10 December 2014

GBmoto to enter road racing campaign with Gary Johnson

2015 will see MCE British Superbike team GBmoto embark on a new venture as they expand over to road racing with Kawasaki with Gary Johnson.
Johnson returns to his old team
Photo: GBmoto

The former TT winner will bring experience and knowledge to the team as they move into the road racing world as they enter the Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix and North West 200. The Lincolnshire rider will be riding the new high spec ZX-10R Superbike as well as the Superstock bike.

Johnson will first test the Kawasaki in the pre-season test with the teams BSB riders James Ellison and James Westmoreland on the 5th March:“This is a fantastic opportunity to be working with such a great team and so closely with a major manufacturer, I’m really happy. I rode for GBmoto in 2011, they were one of the most professional teams I’ve ever worked with and they’ve obviously stepped up again since then. To see what they did this year in BSB by changing manufacturers and immediately getting podiums was incredible. Their infrastructure, bikes and kit is all mega and although this is their first time at the TT I know they will put all the right pieces in the right places, to be successful. 

Hopefully I can bring my own experience to the team from both the events side and with a good reference point from riding a Kawasaki. I have to thank the guys who have worked so hard to help me in the last few years, it’s because of them that I’ve been put in the shop window for this opportunity. With the support of GBmoto and Kawasaki and their testing schedule I’m the most confident I’ve ever been going into the TT and the other events, so bring it on!”

9 November 2014

Crutchlow: A fitting end to the year

Cal Crutchlow ended his brief stint in the factory Ducati team with a strong fifth placed finish in the 2014 MotoGP finale at Valencia.

Crutchlow was content with his send off for the Italian factory
Photo: Steve English
The 28-year old was embroiled in a race long battle with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso throughout the 30-lap race. As they disposed first with early leader Andrea Iannone and then Jorge Lorenzo when the rain began to fall, the official Ducati pairing found themselves battling for fourth place.

Crutchlow headed the pair as they began the penultimate lap but was unable to resist Dovizioso’s advances, the Italian getting past at Doohan Corner two laps from the end. Still, he was happy to put an end to his unfortunate run of three consecutive DNFs.

“I think it’s been a fitting end to the year to finish, with Andrea and me together in fourth and fifth, we did a good job,” Crutchlow said after the race. “I believe I should have pushed a little bit more in the tricky conditions created by the rain, but we could also have been strong for this result in the full dry conditions. I was pleased for the weekend, I felt my race pace was good and we made a good race with Andrea so I’m happy with the final race of the season.”

Rossi happy with season showing, already looking ahead to 2015

Valentino Rossi declared himself happy with his 2014 showing and believes he can use it as a platform to achieve more next year after securing the runner up spot in the MotoGP world championship at Valencia.

Rossi savours his 13th podium of 2014
Photo: Movistar Yamaha
The nine-time world champion’s second place finish in Sunday's 30-lap race was good enough to ward off team-mate Jorge Lorenzo for his best championship finish since 2009, the year of his last world title.

Starting from pole position for the first time in four and a half years, Rossi was the man most likely to prevent Marc Marquez from winning his 13th race of the year. In changeable conditions Rossi ran the Spaniard close until two-thirds distance before settling for a comfortable podium finish.

“I’m happy, because I finished this very positive season for me and my team with a great race and a good result here in Valencia,” said Rossi. “For me it’s a great achievement to take the pole position and to finish in second place, especially because this race was very difficult and the conditions were very dangerous. I tried to stay concentrated and not to make a mistake. It’s a bit of a shame that I started to suffer a little bit on the right side of the tyre, because I wasn’t so far from Marc, but it still has been a good season.

Marquez overcomes the elements for 13th win

It was going to take a great deal more than some inclement weather to halt the Marquez family party as Marc ended the season in record breaking fashion with a convincing MotoGP win at Valencia.

Marquez shows off the style that brought him a record 13 wins in 2014
Photo: Repsol Honda
On the day in which his younger brother secured the Moto3 World Championship – making them the first siblings to win grand prix world championships in the same year – Marc surpassed Mick Doohan’s 18-year old record number of wins in a single season to claim his 13th victory of 2014.

In a race that was peppered with light showers of rain, pole-sitter Valentino Rossi was the only rider able to keep Marquez honest. The Italian confirmed his runner-up spot in the championship with his 13th podium finish of the year, a place ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who finished a distant third.

In stark contrast, Jorge Lorenzo pitted from sixth place for a change of tyres during a second shower that allowed the Ducati pairing of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow though to fight for fourth. Lorenzo rejoined the track in 18th and after a few laps spent lapping ten seconds slower than the leaders, retired from the race.

Moto3 and Moto2 Valencia round-up: Marquez champion despite Miller victory, shock win for Luthi.

The final race weekend of 2014 opened up with the only title battle left to be decided as Moto3 got the action under way at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste.

Jack Miller did all he could, giving everything to pull back a 1.5 second lead as the field splintered with five laps to go, reeling in Isaac Vinales' Calvo bike to leave the Spaniard second.

Behind them Alex Marquez ran a considered race, doing just what he needed, sealing the World Championship title from third despite the best efforts of Danny Kent to push for the final podium spot.
On his way to the world title, Alex Marquez Photo:Honda Racing

The British riders last move for the position left him adrift of Marquez in fourth, with Alex Rins riding his own race in fifth for Estrella Galicia.

Sixth went to Efren Vazquez who briefly led when the lead group swelled to eleven, Pole man Nico Antonelli finished seventh with the Mahindra riding pair of Miguel Oliveira and Ambrogio's Brad Binder next across the stripe in eighth and ninth respectively.

Karel Hanika took tenth, Enea Bastianini eleventh with the remaining points scrapped out between Alexis Masbou in 12th, Jakub Kornfeil in 13th for Calvo Team, Romano Fenati making no progress in 14th with Aspar's Juanfran Guevara taking the final point on offer in 15th.

John McPhee was just raced out of the points in 17th position at the flag.

Moto2 had a strange and unexpected ending as a race long competition for the win between Tito Rabat and Tom Luthi ended abruptly as Rabat's Marc VDS bike seemed to struggle over the line, his wheel lifting and slowing the champion, leaving Luthi clear to surge forward for the win on his Suter powered Interwetten Sitag bike.

8 November 2014

Moto2 and Moto3 qualifying round-up -Valencia: Maiden pole for Antonelli, more records for Rabat

A windy Valencia saw Moto3 get qualifying under way for the final time this season, and in a session which often felt like a race it was to be a final charge from Junior Go & Fun rider Niccolo Antonelli which would see the Italian take pole, the first of his career despite suffering an early crash.

The rest of the front row is where the championship title battle rivals sit – Jack Miller did his best to move the KTM riders up through the order, though Antonelli's lap was his own work, with the Red Bull KTM man knocked out of the top spot in the final moments, second by just a difference of 0.068.
More Records For Rabat                Photo: Marc VDS

Alex Marquez crashed on the way to a nervous third. Mind games were key between the Estrella Galicia rider and the Australian from the off with Miller staring down Marquez into the pits. The Spaniard crashed at turn two with seventeen minutes to go when leading the way and never recovered or improved from there on.

Row two features the KTM of Calvo's Isaac Vinales, Marquez team-mate Rins who mainly ran alone, with Karel Hanika moving up to sixth behind his fell Red Bull rider Miller before a late crash.

Their Ajo team-mate Niklas Ajo sits in seventh ahead of the Hondas of SaxoPrint-RTG team-mates of John McPhee in eighth and Efren Vazquez in ninth.

Juanfran Guevara, continued to improve as the season draws to an end and seemed to be propelled up the order after a promise of a small MotoGP test if he hits the podium to complete the top ten for Mapfre Aspar.

A race winner this season, Romano Fenati returned to his troubled qualifying form in 14th.

Already a champion, Tito Rabat seems focused on setting new records as after already taking the most Moto2 poles ever he now moves into the lead for the record for the whole intermediate class securing his eleventh pole this season at the Cheste circuit at the close of qualifying.

50th career pole for Rossi at Valencia: "It was a bit of a surprise"

To top off his resurgence to form in 2014, Valentino Rossi clinched his 50th premier class pole position this afternoon at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo Circuit in the dying moments of the Q2 session by little over a tenth of a second ahead of friend and compatriot Andrea Iannone.
Pole number 60 across all classes
Photo: YamahaMotoGP

There was little to celebrate from qualifying for Repsol Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa as Pedrosa lapped a further 2 hundredths of a second slower than Iannone to claim 3rd spot on the grid, while Marquez could only manage 5th place due to a minor crash in the session.

Former double World Champion Jorge Lorenzo will head the second row for tomorrow's final Grand Prix of 2014 with Pol Espargaro on the outside in 6th.

Bradley Smith will start from 7th on the grid as he looks to overtake team mate Espargaro for 6th in the overall championship standings. Ducati pairing Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso will start their final Grand Prix as team mates from 8th and 9th on the grid.

The 9 time World Champion Valentino Rossi opted for a different qualifying strategy to normal by waiting patiently at the start of the Qualifying 2 session before bursting out on circuit while his rivals made changes to their machines in the pits. Rossi secured his first pole since Le Mans in 2010 on his final circulation after chequered flag came out. The Italian said: "Getting my 50th pole position in my MotoGP career is a great achievement. It was a bit of a surprise, I didn’t expect it. I knew that I could do a good lap time because I felt really good with the bike. When I pushed the times were already not so bad, but on the last lap I was able to give a little bit extra. To get another pole position after four years is quite emotional. I like it a lot and I’m very happy, especially because it will be very important for tomorrow’s race.”

A full list of results from Q1 can be found here and Q2 here.

3 November 2014

Sykes slams Baz on Twitter over 'not respecting' team orders at Qatar

2014 World Superbike Championship runner-up, Tom Sykes has slammed his now former team mate Loris Baz over Twitter for failing to acknowledge Kawasaki's team orders put on the young Frenchman in race one at Qatar yesterday, attributing to the Huddersfield rider failing to retain his World Championship under the lights of Losail circuit.
Team 'mates'...
Photo: KRT

It's well known that Sykes and Baz do not get on, which quite frankly is understatement of the year. The pair have had numerous comings together on track throughout the year, most notably in Sepang when a mistake from Baz lead to Sykes crashing out of the race.

Despite the very public feud, Baz proceeded to help his team mate in Magny-Cours when he allowed Sykes through to take fourth place, reducing the potential loss of points to Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli heading to Qatar for the final round. 

However, while in a comfortable second position in race one last night, Baz ignored his pit board which clearly stated he needed to drop a place to allow Sykes into second place - which, provided Sykes still managed to bag second in race two, would have gifted him the double World Championship. 

Baz took to Twitter last night justifying his actions, saying: "About team orders. At least I've helped him once in my life ! In magny cours. Not sure he can say the same . END NOW MOTOGP".

This morning Sykes responded with a series of tweets directed at the Frenchman, starting with: "..great words big mouth!! Yes you helped me in Magny Cours. But my data and settings helped you when you joined Kawasaki...."

"...."Team Orders" are orders given to you by the team and NOT me... The team and Manufacturer that gave you everything...."

".... These TEAM orders were probably given to you from the mess you created in Sepang for the TEAM & Kawasaki......"

"... But like always, your EGO is too big to see the Needs of the TEAM....!! You showed not respect to the orders of the team..."

The Grinner finished off by wishing Baz good fortunes in his ventures for next season which will see the 21 year old on a Forward Yamaha in MotoGP, partnering German Stefan Bradl: "..Anyway, I wish you luck for next season... And congratulations for your "5th place" this year. You must be proud?!"

Debate has been rife on social media about team orders since Marco Melandri's actions in Magny Cours where the Italian conceded a place to chi team mate and eventual 2014 Champion Guintoli in race one as a result of team orders, but chose not to obey his team's wishes in race two. What do you think about the use of team orders? Did the actions of both Melandri and Baz have a significant influence on the championship outcome? Leave us a comment below with your opinions or tweet us @PaddockChatter on Twitter.

2 November 2014

WSBK: Sylvain Guintoli secures 2014 crown as it goes down to the wire in Qatar

Aprilia Racing Team's Sylvain Guintoli has been crowned 2014 World Superbike champion following a dramatic evening of racing under the floodlights in Qatar after securing a double win.
Guintoli dazzled infront of a small crowd in Qatar
Photo: Aprilia Racing Team

Davide Guigliano started on pole but it was Sykes who shot into the lead in the first corner ahead of Pata Honda's Jonathan Rea with Loris Baz not far behind.

It was soon a four way battle for the lead, with Kawasaki rider Baz leading the way and clearly not thinking of helping his team-mate Sykes out as Guintoli was keeping up with the leading pack.

Mid-way through the race the Aprilia rider moved up into third position ahead of Rea and then had KRT duo of Sykes and Baz in his sights. With four laps to go Guintoli clinched the lead from his compatriot which kept the championship alive as Sykes was battling with Melandri for the final spot on the podium.

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.