MotoGP Notes From The Superprestigio - On Ducati, Michelin, And A Fast Frenchman

With so many MotoGP regulars either racing in or attending the Superprestigio in Barcelona, it was inevitable that a fair amount of gossip and rumor would end up circulating. It was the first chance for some of the media to talk to riders who had been testing down in Southern Spain, while the presence of Ducati's MotoGP bosses Paolo Ciabatti and Davide Tardozzi, attending as guests of Troy Bayliss, added real weight to the debate.

I spoke briefly to Ciabatti on Saturday, asking about progress with the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 and how Michelin testing had gone. Ciabatti was optimistic about the GP15, but confirmed that it was still not certain exactly when the bike would make its first appearance on track. It may not be ready for the first Sepang test in February, with the second Sepang a more likely place for the bike to be rolled out. "We think it's important for the bike to be completely ready," Ciabatti said. It was better for Ducati to roll out a bike ready to take on testing, than rush to try to get a bike going at Sepang 1, and find problems that would have been easier to deal with if discovered on the dyno.

Ciabatti did reveal a few details of what the GP15 will look like. "The shape is very similar to the GP14.2," Ciabatti said. "The tail is different, and the exhaust is different." The biggest difference, however, is the physical size of the bike. The GP15 will be a much smaller bike than the GP14.2, continuing in the direction the GP14.2 started, which was narrower at the waist of the bike. "The GP15 looks like a GP14.2 which has been washed at too high a temperature and shrunk in the wash," Ciabatti joked.

Ciabatti would not be drawn on how the tests with Michelin had gone, at Jerez at the end of November, beyond vague assurances that Ducati was happy. The contractual situation between Bridgestone and Michelin leaves all of the factories and the riders in a bind. They are not allowed to make statements comparing the two tire manufacturers while Bridgestone still has the official MotoGP contract, a contract they paid a lot of money for. This creates a difficult situation, as comparisons are exactly what journalists will want to ask about once the official MotoGP riders get their first taste of the tires at the second Sepang test at the end of February. It is a situation which will need to be addressed before testing starts in earnest.

Ciabatti was not the only person to keep silent on the issue. Anyone else with any experience of the tires was similarly reticent on the issue. Trying to read body language and gossip among the MotoGP regulars, the Michelins appeared to have retained the feel of the tire, for which they are famous, though the front may not quite have the performance of the Bridgestone front. Extrapolating based on minimal information, that suggests that riders should be able to find the limit more easily with the front Michelin, but that limit is not quite at the level of the Bridgestone. This, I should stress, is based more on reading tea leaves and trying to read between the lines, rather than any actual basis in fact. The truth will start to emerge at the second Sepang test.

French youngster Fabio Quartararo was also at the Superprestigio, though solely as a spectator rather than a competitor. Rumors concerning the youngster's lap times at the Valencia test abounded among the media, with suggestions that he lapped under the lap record at the test, and that this was the reason Honda had not wanted to publish the youngster's lap times. However convoluted and ridiculous the process has been by which Quartararo has been allowed into Moto3, despite being technically underage, and a new rule created specifically to allow him to race, his talent seems to be beyond doubt. Quartararo could be good enough to win races in his first season in Moto3, something which is virtually unheard of. The Frenchman has been widely tipped as the man to beat Marquez, and the rumors at the Superprestigio will only feed the hype. Perhaps Quartararo's biggest test will be learning to deal with the media attention and the weight of expectation.

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surely the best confirmation of the grip of the Michelin front will be if or when we get the first photo of Marquez entering a corner leant over with the back wheel in the air as he has previously said this style of corner entry was impossible in Moto2 with the Dunlop front. Hopefully we will continue to see that spectacle beyond 2015.

David, I love that you don't just go to an event for itself, but always have your eyes and ears open for potential further info from unsuspecting paddock insiders also in attendance. Even if they didn't give much away, you never know until you ask. :)

First the Spies rule which was quickly yanked to allow MM to go directly to a factory ride.

Now the "must be 16 y.o." rule gets bypassed to allow Quartararo to race Moto3. Why was the age rule there in the first place, to protect kids younger than 16? So by winning the CEV he must have aged faster than normal.

Let me guess, HRC pulling the strings.

HRC will always stack the deck if they can. Of course Marquez was faster this year. He's had a year to practice on a small track, nothing like an American short track. Jared Mees was not going to beat him on a stock bike. Sure it was lowered and had Mees suspension on it and his own pit crew working on it but you think if HRC lets Marquez race they're not going to do whatever they can to see him win. Nothing illegal I'm sure but do you think that was a "factory" one off bike? Doesn't matter really, it was all for charity. More fans than last year, probably more fans next year. All for a good cause right?

if you listened to the commentary during the superp, you would have heard that there was to be a special practice session for roadracers friday night, and marquez blocked it saying both roadracers and flat trackers would have to be allowed.

'Money talks' I suppose, a keystone component of motor racing throughout the ages is that never let the safety of individuals get in the way of the show or the money that it brings.

Would we really have been deprived if he hadn't been allowed to race the first part of the season?

Let's hope that there isn't a serious injury involved in the early part of the season, if there is those responsible for bending the rules would need to be brought to account.

The Spies rule, never understood why it was called that, because it never affected 1 rider, including Spies himself. All i can say is, im sure glad to see it gone, we would have been robbed of GP history had the idiotic rule still been in affect.

Hi David
Thanks for keeping the lights on during the dark winter time.
One big part of recent Honda success is the seemingly constant ability to secure the services of the fastst new riders, as early as possible. If they retain Quartarar, this will go a long way in assuring Red Domination in the coming years.
Is it just a matter of Budget Power or do they employ some very effective policy, consisting a wide network of contacts, scouts and what not --besides deep pockets that is?
It seems also that Yamaha and Ducati should do well to try such an offensiv recruiting policy as technical prowess alone is not enough for titles.
Last time Ducati did that was with Stoner and Yamaha with Lorenzo.
I would consider a related article very interesting.

than the HRC/ Repsol connection. . As long as Repsol is the sponsor of Honda's GP effort, the pipeline of talent will point in their direction. Its a commitment to winning and why them and Honda together are so formidable.

Monlau Repsol Technical School - Emilio Alzimora CEO
Estrella Galicia/ Repsol Moto3
FIM/CEV Repsol Spanish series .

Now that Honda is taking the entry level seriously
throw a little money at the kids, pay a few bills to help them along the way and when they blossom, you have pick of the litter.

It can be argued that Yamaha have recruited proactively with Pol Espargaro, if few others visibly of late.

Perversely, a large contingent of 'commenters' criticised that signing.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't?

The repsol CEV moto3 championship has been renamed as the International Junior FIM champion.

The age limit of 16 is still in place, only change is an exemption is granted for the junior champion. Ie Spanish championship winner.

If you want to look at this politically it's more a move to make sure Spain retains its place to be status as the championship to get exposure in path to GPs than anything else.

As for Fabio Quartararo being able to race he'd just have to sit out the first three rounds without this but otherwise could've done 15 if 18 rounds. So the aim is on more than a few wins but to give it a real go for the title, as it should be.

"The Frenchman has been widely tipped as the man to beat Marquez"

Widely tipped by whom? This kind of thing annoys me, the kid hasn't even started a race yet and already the writing is on the wall for number 93!

Plenty of riders that have become World Champions in later years did not excel in the smaller classes (thinking of Stoner for instance, who despite success at regional levels very early in his career, was neither 125 nor 250 WC yet went on to double WC in the big class). Similarly plenty of 'next big things' have gone on to disappear or fail to reach the status that their performance in the Red Bull Cup or Spanish CEV would indicate; Jakub Kornfeil, Arthur Sissis, perhaps even Karol Hanika who.

No doubt the kid is quick, but lets see how he copes with the modern lifestyles of a GP racer, the massive media and financial pressures, and everything else that goes with it, before rushing to proclaim someone as a world beater before they have taken more than the first step.

Tipped by everyone I speak to in the Spanish CEV championship, and a lot of top Moto3 teams. I know of at least 3 top Moto3 teams who were very annoyed that Honda has already tied Quartararo up. I was told that he was lapping consistently 0.4 seconds under the pole time at Valencia. HRC are rumored to have him under contract.

The reason I use a phrase such as "widely tipped" is because I don't want to reveal the names of the people with whom I have had informal, off-the-record conversations.

It's interesting how few of racing's Next Bob Dylans make it. And how pretty much every world champion was "widely tipped" by somebody at some point beforehand. Proving it doesn't take much mental prowess to be a cynic--or a prophet.

But speculation is what keeps the sport going, isn't it? Whether in the minutes at the track waiting for the procession to come by again or the months at one's computer between the end of one season and the beginning of another.

It is within that spirit that I offer this 2016 MGP Championship prediction:

1. Quartarro
2. The Great Jack Miller
3. Rossi
4. Marquez

Maybe there can be an accurate assessment of potential here that still does not make for an accurate prediction of what actualizes there and then necessarily.

When I see good ingredients on the counter and smell the first few things hitting the pan I get a good sense of what could be cooking. The kid ain't no can a beanie weenie, and HRC is quite a chef.