GP of Spain (Aragon)

Comeback by Bradl

Finishing fourth in the Grand Prix of Aragon, Stefan Bradl equaled his best performance of the season in Texas in April. In Moto2, Rabat came a step closer to the world championship title.

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The Races

While the practice test sessions were run under optimal conditions, the rain spoiled the day’s racing at Aragon. After a Grand Prix MotoGP punctuated by numerous falls and during which the riders had to return to the pits to change bikes, Stefan Bradl took advantage of the situation to pass under the checkered flag in fourth position a second away from the podium. In Moto2, Tito Rabat further increased his overall lead in the standings by finishing second in a race unaffected by the rain while Mika Kallio, beset by grip problems, could not do better than taking seventh place. In Moto3, Miguel Oliveira also ranked seventh. Andrea and Jorge Navarro Migno both crashed out into the gravel on a track where many of the riders fell afoul of the wet patches.

The Championship

With his second place in Aragon, Tito Rabat now has a 33-point lead over teammate Mika Kallio in the overall standings. Viñales was relegated to 74 points despite his victory, such that the Marc VDS team may be almost certain of winning the world championship title in the next race at Motegi. In MotoGP Bradl has kept his nineth place, but the rider of the Honda LCR team is now only 5 points away from Andrea Iannone. In the Moto3 class, although he is still in ninth place, Miguel Oliveira now ties on points with Dany Kent. Migno and Navarro are now respectively placed twenty-fourth and twenty-eighth in the overall standings.

The Background

The news is now official. Jack Miller will make his debut next year in MotoGP, flying the flag of the Honda LCR team alongside Cal Crutchlow. Aged 19, the current leader of the Moto3 World Championship will have a Honda Open. For many, the transition from Moto3 to MotoGP is one hell of a bet. “I wouldn’t have done it,” even said Marc Marquez. “Moto2 allowed me to get my bearings with a heavier and more powerful bike before making another move up to MotoGP.” With 200 more horsepower under him, the young Miller will have his work cut out. “But that doesn’t scare me,” he said. “If I didn’t feel capable, I wouldn’t have said yes to Honda. They’re giving me time to learn, for me this is a long-term project.” Lucio Cecchinello says he’s excited by the new challenge. “We’ll do everything we can to help him,” assures the boss of the LCR team. “We have the people and the experience to do so. In 1998, Garry McCoy was very successful in moving up from the 125 Class to the 500 Class. Jack has the talent to do the same.” For Christophe Bourguignon, the technical director of the LCR Honda team, it is the weight of the bike and its inertia during the braking, acceleration and change of direction that will require more time to adapt. “Of course MotoGP is a whole new world,” admits Bourguignon. “Learning to manage carbon brakes, traction control, engine braking … Not to mention the wheelies that do not exist in Moto3. And of course the tires and how to use them. Everything is different, but I know our team will live up to their reputation and help him make his mark in his new challenge.”

24 Hours le Mans race

A dark night in Le Mans

After leading the race for nearly seven hours, the Kawasaki SRC team had to withdraw in the middle of the night after a crash that ended Gilles Stafler’s dream of winning five editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours in a row.cr1-Moto-24H-Mans-2014

 

 

 

Although it’s still in the race for the world championship title, the Kawasaki SRC team had no other goal than victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the last event in the 2014 Endurance World Championship. Victorious on the Sarthe circuit for the last four years, the ZX-10R was also seen as the favourite after winning the pole position. “I’ve never had such a homogeneous crew,” recognized Gilles Stafler, the manager of the SRC. “To achieve our objective we’ll have to attack right from the start and stay on our wheels. We have the bike and the men to do that. If we win the title as well, it’ll be the icing on the cake.” After the problems encountered at the Bol d’Or early in the season, the Kawasaki team decided to enter the Oschersleben Eight Hours last month to prepare for the final meeting of the season. “We wanted to tune a few things better and give Fabian a chance to ride the bike, after being absent at Magny-Cours.” Gilles Stafler’s plan worked perfectly until 9:52 p.m., when Foret committed the first error for the Greens by crashing in the first lap of the relay that had just begun. “It was the one error not to make,” lamented his team manager. With a little less than a quarter of an hour lost in the manoeuvre, the No. 11 dropped back into the depths of the rankings. But unfortunately, after climbing back to twelfth place a few hours later, the SRC machine ridden by Mathieu Lagrive crashed again. This time the second crash sealed the fate of the ZX-10R shortly before 6:00 a.m. “The fork was damaged and the bike became dangerous,” said Grégory Leblanc. “We’d have lost too much time changing the damaged parts; there was no point in continuing. It’s a pity because we were on line to win from the practice test sessions onwards, but what can you do? That’s what racing is all about. We’ll be back and better in April.”

Race of Austin

Podium comes with frustration for Toyota

Toyota TS040 HYBRID was the fastest prototype in Austin on Saturday for the fourth event in the World Endurance Championship, but its drivers had to settle for third place in the Circuit of the Americas Six Hours.

Facts

As they did in Le Mans last time out, Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer drove the Audi R18 N.2 to victory lane although it was not the fastest. They have won by 53 seconds ahead of the N.1 and just over a minute ahead of polemen, Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Lapierre on Toyota.

In qualifying, Buemi strolled to pole. But things got complicated after half past one hour in the race, when a heavy downpour flooded the track, the race was stopped for 55 minutes. Unfortunately, Nicolas Lapierre had time getting caught out of the track.

On a drying asphalt, the N. 8 could not make up lost time and Audi operated better tire choice. On the Toyota N.7, Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway were, fifth on the grid, finished sixth.

Number

11 points – It is now the gap between the crew of the N.7, who top drivers classification, and Texas winners. As the competition reaches mid-term, a thriller is expected for the second half of the season.

Quote

“This is a frustrating result because we had the fastest car but failed to’t win the race. The wet conditions were extremely challenging and unfortunately we suffered more than our rivals. We wanted a lot more from this weekend and we will be pushing very hard to achieve a much better result at Fuji Speedway.” Toyota Team president Toshiaki Kinoshita didn’t’t hide frustration after Austin.

The anecdote

Briton Mike Conway, 31, drove the Toyota for the first time in Austin.

The IndyCar driver, twice winner this season, replaced Kazuki Nakajima who ran in Japan. “We would have preferred a better outcome,” Conway said. “But motorsports are like that.”

Next up

6 Hours of Fuji (Japan, 12th october)

GP of Singapour

Red Bull, double podium

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) took his second victory of the 2014 season in the Singapore night ahead of the Red Bulls driven by Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. The British driver benefitted from his win to move into the lead in the drivers’ Championship.

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The facts

Nico Rosberg, leading the Championship, had to start from the pit lane following problems with his electronics. The German experienced serious difficulties on track and was forced to call it a day on the thirteenth lap. This was a godsend for Hamilton, who got off to a perfectly controlled start and managed both the intervention by the Safety Car and his last pit stop with brio to claim victory under the chequered flag, flown earlier than scheduled (lap 60 instead of lap 61) as the regulation two-hour time limit ran out.

Back in business with a new chassis, on a track where he had won the last three times, Vettel drove to his best result of the season ahead of Ricciardo, while the two RB10s held Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari F14 T in check, whereas the Spaniard had handed a place back to Alonso shortly after the start, having overtaken them while running off at the first turn.

The figure

18 – Like the number of points chalked up by Vettel at Marina Bay this Sunday. The quadruple World Champion crafted his best result this season, following third-place finishes in Malaysia and in Canada.

However, the German has still not won, with just five races to go in the 2014 calendar. This is the second time this year that both RBRs are on the podium; the first was in Canada.

The quote

“Alone and unaided.” This extract of Art 20.1 of Formula 1 Sporting regulations was among the key topics, this weekend in Singapore. To enforce it, FIA ruled to extensively restrict radio communication between cars and pitwall to procedure and security talks. A good thing in theory, possible coded messages might though give headache to officials

The anecdote

By finishing 12th in the Singapore Grand Prix, Pastor Maldonado(Lotus) has equalled his best result this year for the third time, after Austria and Germany: a long way from the Enstone team’s expectations.

Next up

Japan (Suzuka, 3rd – 5th October)

GP of Italy (San Marino)

VDS riders right on

After Brno and Silverstone, in San Marino Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio offered the Marc VDS team its third twin-win in a row, the fourth since the start of the season for the team managed by Michael Bartholemy, which is heading fast for its first world championship title.

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The Races

The scenario was the same as at Silverstone. Mika Kallio started in the lead, and tried to make good his escape, before being caught up and overtaken by his Spanish teammate. Tito Rabat took control of the race with nine laps left. “He took advantage of a small mistake on my part,” said the Finn. “I thought I would be able to counterattack, but when I caught up with Tito again my rear tire collapsed.” Rabat won his third win in a row at Misano and became the third rider in the history of Moto2 to achieve such a performance after Toni Elias and Marc Marquez. In MotoGP, the Honda LCR team were not as successful. After struggling during the practice test sessions, Stefan Bradl fell during the seventh lap of the race when he was placed eighth. Miguel Oliveira had the same misfortune in Moto3, leaving Andrea Migno to sign the best result of the Mahindra team by finishing eighth. Jorge Navarro also managed to score points by finishing fifteenth.

The Championship

By chalking up Grand Prix success after Grand Prix success, Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio are continuing to go it alone for the first two places in the Moto2 World Championship. If the Spaniard now has a 22-point lead over his teammate, Kallio is 57 points ahead of Viñales. Despite his new DNF, Bradl is still in ninth place in the MotoGP championship standings, as is Oliveira in Moto3. Thanks to his first eight points he scored at Misano, Migno has entered the overall standings in 24th position. Navarro has kept his 27th place.

The Background

Following the problems encountered last year on some of the circuits, the MotoGP riders now have three types of front tires. “Until now, we only had two,” explains Christophe Bourguignon, technical director of the Honda LCR team. “For the last few Grands Prix, the race directors and Bridgestone officials have given us an additional option by allowing us to choose the front tires best suited to the weather conditions. On some circuits, depending on the conditions, and perhaps also the rider and manufacturers, the trend will either be towards hard or soft tires. Bridgestone provides us with three gum specifications (A, B, C), and their technicians decide on Thursday night which tires we’ll get. Either we start with A and B and C on option, or we start with B and C and A on option. In these cases, for the Friday we have three units of each priority specification plus one unit of the optional specification. And on Friday night we choose three extra tires according to our needs. While having a wider choice of gum is a positive move, we often find ourselves faced with a problem of quantity.” Hence the tricky management of tire allocation ahead of the race.

Rally of Australia

Meeke keeps improving

As Volkswagen secured carmakers world title with a hat-trick in the Rally Australia won by Sébastien Ogier, Kris Meeke was a valiant opponent on fourth place.

Facts

With three rounds remaining, the fight is over for the Constructors crown. With 348 points under its belt, VW will no longer be reached, even if Citroën makes wonders in France, Spain and Great Britain.

The Polos R fought between them on Coffs Harbour’s gravel, far east of Australia. The only one who seemed able to join the party was clearly Meeke. The Ulsterman took three special stages and sat as a provisional leader on day one before losing ground in the fight for the podium, especially due to a penalty inflicted on Saturday night.

He finished within 30 seconds adrift third placed Andreas Mikkelsen, and nearly two minutes behind Ogier.

At the wheel of the other DS3 WRC, Mads Ostberg suffered mechanical problems, including the breakdown of a suspension arm on Sunday, which pushed him down to 16th place overall.

Figure

61 seconds .- The harsh penalty imposed on Meeke Saturday to have largely cut a corner. More than a minute which made him lose a place to fifth before the final leg.

Quote

“It’s a slightly strange feeling … I think it’s my most successful rally since the beginning of the year even if we finish fourth that with this penalty.” Meeke felt he deserved better than fourth Sunday at Coffs Harbour.

The anecdote

Rally Australia opened auspiciously for the Citroen team, with the best time of Meeke in the shakedown, and the second for Mads Ostberg.

Then the Volkswagen machine came to action.

To be continued

France (2-5 October)

GP of Spain (Jerez)

Sykes stays on

Having renewed his contract with the Kawasaki team for the next two seasons, Tom Sykes made it once more to the podium after a somewhat complicated weekend – bringing the Kawasaki rider one step closer to a second world championship title.

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The Races

After the circuit in Aragon in April, the track in Jerez (Andalucía) played host to the World Superbike championship on the first weekend of September. The third-last race of the season and the second event in Spain was a mixed bag for the Elf riders. After a break of seven weeks, Loris Baz showed off his stuff during the practice test sessions by taking the Superpole with style, but the French rider’s luck ran out from then on. Just when victory was in his reach in the first race, the Frenchman fell after Melandri clipped his bike. The second race was difficult as well, but for a different reason. After taking the lead at the start, Baz downgraded to seventh place because of a tire problem. Tom Sykes finished fifth in the first race due to a poor start, but managed to make it to the third step of the podium in the second. “It wasn’t an easy weekend,” said the Brit. “We never really managed to find the right solutions and the bike was difficult to control.” David Salom finished first Evo driver in the first race before falling in the second. In the Supersport category, Kenan Sofuoglu crossed the finish line in thirteenth position after having to start from the pits. The Turkish pilot however consoled himself by clocking up the lap record.

The Championship

Even if he let his opponents score a few points in Jerez, Tom Sykes has kept first place in the overall classification with a 31-point lead over Sylvain Guintoli. With only two more races to go, the British rider can seriously start thinking about winning the title again. On his side, Loris Baz now ranks fifth in the championship, but is only five points away from fourth place. In the Evo class, David Salom continues to be a strong leader. Twelfth in the overall standings, the Spaniard now has a 41-point lead. In the Supersport class, Sofuoglu is now in seventh place as we approach the last two events of the season, to be held at Magny-Cours and Doha.

The Background

World Championship title-holder and overall leader in the standings, Tom Sykes has just extended his contract for two years with the Kawasaki factory. Aged 29, the British rider made his debut with the KRT team in 2010. “I’m really pleased to continue the adventure with them,” he said as he signed the new contract. “It wasn’t a difficult decision to take because Kawasaki and I go back a long way. I’ve worked so hard developing the ZX-10R that I couldn’t imagine leaving the bike to another rider.” Since his debut in Superbike, Tom Sykes’ achievements have all been with the Kawasaki brand, including 47 podiums, 22 wins and 23 pole positions. “I think Tom and the team share a deep mutual respect,” said Steve Guttridge, manager of Kawasaki Motors Europe. “He’s a great champion and a wonderful ambassador for our brand.”

GP of Italy

Ricciardo inches Vettel at Monza

Lewis Hamilton won at Monza ahead of Nico Rosberg, the two Williams and the Red Bulls. The British driver has whittled seven points from his team mate’s lead in the Championship.

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The facts

With both Mercedes on the front row, the start could have proven eventful, but that did not transpire. Hamilton experienced a slight delay at the getaway, and found himself fourth. He rapidly made it back into second place behind Rosberg. Hamilton piled on the pressure after the first pit stop, and the Championship leader didn’t hold out long, committing an error at the Rettifilo chicane. Hamilton retrieved his first place grid position, keeping it to the flag.

Felipe Massa made it to the podium for the first time since Spain 2013, in front of the fans that encouraged him for eight seasons when he was driving for Ferrari. He took third place ahead of his team mate Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo, both of whom had also made poor starts. The Australian, thanks to his authoritative overtaking of Sebastian Vettel (6th) at the end of the race, has confirmed his growing standing in the Red Bull team.

So both RB10s finished in the points on Monza’s very fast Monza circuit; conversely, for the Lotus team, it was an eminently forgettable weekend. Romain Grosjean finished 16th, two places behind his team mate Pastor Maldonado. Enstone now hopes to enjoy better success in Singapore, in a fortnight’s time, on a track where raw engine power is less significant.

The figure

60 – The number of points separating Daniel Ricciardo from Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ rankings, six races from the end of the season.

The quadruple World Champion is receiving an education from Mark Webber’s 2014 successor – an Italian lesson this time.

The quote

“Perhaps in Japan, with help from a typhoon!” Romain Grosjean does not believe he will score any more points this season; the Frenchman made that clear, in words not devoid of irony. The Lotus team will now be turning their attentions to 2015.

The anecdote

The historic circuit at Monza, which has been on the schedule since the creation of the World Formula One Championship in 1950 (except for

1980 and the Monza Interim), was modified for the 2014 race. The gravel at the outside of the Curva Parabolica has gone, replaced by a broad stretch of asphalt.

Next up

The Singapore Grand Prix (19-21 September)

GP of Great Britain

Another twin win for MVDS

For the third time this season, Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio offered the Marc VDS Racing team a resounding twin win. In so doing, the Spaniard and the Finn increased their lead in the Moto2 World Championship.

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The Races

It was an all-out fight to the finish between the two riders in Michael Bartholemy’s team. “I’m sure the fans had a great time, but for us on the wall, it was a little more stressful,” said the boss of the MVDS Racing team. For a long time the leader of the pack, Kallio was overtaken in the last lap by his teammate, who rode more cautiously earlier in the race. “I was able to start attacking as my tank lost weight,” explained the Spaniard. “I’m pleased because I wasn’t the fastest on the track and the others had better tuning than our bikes today.” In MotoGP, Stefan Bradl got off to a good start to his weekend by clocking the second fastest time on the first day of the free practice sessions. Unfortunately, after falling in the FP4, the rider of the Honda LCR team was not in the best frame of mind for the qualifying session and the race. Ninth on the starting grid, he finished seventh in the race, as in Brno. In Moto3, Miguel Oliveira came close to the podium. The Mahindra rider finished fourth at one-tenth of a second behind the winner while rookie Andrea Migno, replacing Arthur Sissis, fell early on in the race. Jorge Navarro also fell, but in the last lap. The Marc VDS rider who was in 17th place was able to get back on his bike and took the chequered flag in 27th position.

The Championship

A 17-point gap now separates the two Marc VDS riders in the overall Moto2 standings. In second place, Kallio leads Viñales by 50 points. Bradl has not changed position in the MotoGP standings. The Honda rider has kept his 9th place overall but now has a nine-point lead over Smith. In Moto3, Oliveira has also kept his 9th place. Navarro is still in 27th position.

The Background

Next year, the Honda LCR team will be fielding two riders in the MotoGP class, one with a factory bike, the other in the Open class. The decision is an important one, and well-considered by Lucio Cecchinello. “We have succeeded in expanding our budget sufficiently to enter two machines,” said the head of the LCR team with satisfaction. “Obviously, the project has been approved by Honda. We know an independent team cannot claim to win the World Championship title. That’s why I would like to develop a project with a real vision for the future by working more closely with Honda to train young riders.” By fleshing out the team, LCR will also review their logistics. “For those of us who have always operated with a single rider in MotoGP, this is a major change,” says Christophe Bourguignon, LCR technical director. “We’re going to have to reorganize the trucks, trailers, flight cases, tooling, box interior, equipment … We’ll also have to hire new staff. The positive aspect of all this is that we’ll be more important in the paddock. That will also allow us to strengthen our ties with the HRC. A team with two riders is always more attractive for sponsors and can take part in important decisions for the future of MotoGP.”