Next week will see the much-awaited opening MotoGP test of 2014 as the field gathers in Malaysia. For the first time this year, Factory and Open machines will share the track as riders and personnel get to grips with new teams.
Following on from the post-Valencia Grand Prix test in November that saw new bikes break cover for the first time, 2014 testing now begins in earnest with the traditional early-year trip to the Sepang International Circuit on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Key terms this season are ‘Factory’ and ‘Open’, with the CRT label having now disappeared from the sport. Furthermore, the first Sepang gathering will mark one of only two occasions on which all teams and riders are able to share a race track for testing this preseason, as the March Tire Test at Phillip Island in Australia will feature only the official riders of the factory teams, with those in question then not taking part in the following test at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
At Sepang next week, Marc Marquez will continue development with Repsol Honda Team as he retains the number 93 plate, having elected not to take on the World Champion’s privilege of running number 1. On the other side of the garage, Dani Pedrosa will continue to adapt to no longer working directly with long-term mentor Alberto Puig. There are also staff changes for Valentino Rossi, as he resumes work with new Crew Chief Silvano Galbusera who replaces Jeremy Burgess.
For Ducati Team, 2014 is the start of a new era. Andrea Dovizioso reunites with former Monster Yamaha Tech3 teammate Cal Crutchlow, as ex Aprilia guru Gigi Dall’Igna joins the outfit for what is hoped to be a dramatic turnaround in fortune over the next few seasons. The Italian, now in the role of General Manager for Ducati Corse, aims to start by improving communication between team members working at the circuits and those back at base in Bologna, Italy. Boosting the lineup for this test, Ducati Test Team rider Michele Pirro will also be in action at Sepang.
The satellite riders take on new challenges as well. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl will return to Sepang for the first time since breaking his ankle during last year’s race meeting, while Tech3 field reigning Moto2 World Champion Pol Espargaro – younger brother of Aleix – alongside Bradley Smith. Preparation for the test has been slightly disrupted for the French outfit, which last week suffered an untimely flood in its Bormes-les-Mimosas base. The satellites are completed by Alvaro Bautista with GO&FUN Honda Gresini and the Pramac Racing Ducati of Andrea Iannone. Both Gresini and Pramac have split their development, however, as second riders Scott Redding and Yonny Hernandez will race Open equipment. At the time same, Gresini is the only team on the grid to be competing with Showa suspension and Nissin brakes on both of its bikes.
For the first time ever, all bikes in the premier class are now running the Dorna-supplied electronic control unit (ECU) as part of the continued initiative to lower running costs in MotoGP. Yet there are numerous subtle differences between Factory and Open specification bikes. The Open machines must also use the spec software supplied with the ECU by Italian firm Magneti Marelli, whereas Factory entrants are able to make use of their own programs. However, Open riders will be able to enjoy 12 engines per season, contrasting with the five powerplants of Factory bikes which are frozen in development and may not be modified during the season; with this in mind, engine management now becomes more critical than ever before. On top of this, Factories are constricted to running 20 liters of fuel across a race distance (one less than last year), while there are 24 for the Open riders.
Other exciting additions to the grid include four brand-new Honda RCV1000R customer bikes, to be ridden by Gresini’s Redding, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham and the Drive M7 Aspar Team pairing of Hiroshi Aoyama and 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden, who is competing on a Honda motorcycle for the first time in over five years. NGM Mobile Forward racing is running an FTR-Yamaha package including a lease engine deal; with this, the outfit will have five Yamaha engines per rider across the season (three new units and two rebuilds). Within the team, Colin Edwards is joined by Aleix Espargaro.
A total of five rookies are on this year’s grid, with former Moto2 rivals Pol Espargaro and Redding accompanied by Britain’s Leon Camier (British Supersport and British Superbike title winner of 2005 and 2009, respectively) with IodaRacing Project, although the team is not expected to test next week. Australian Broc Parkes has signed up with PBM – with the team this year racing two own-built bikes for the first time – while France’s Mike di Meglio returns from an injury-affected 2013 to make his premier class debut with Avintia Racing.
The first Official MotoGP Test of 2014 will run between Tuesday and Thursday of next week, with the Sepang track open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. local time (GMT +8).
MotoGP 2014 preseason testing schedule:
Feb. 4-6: Sepang 1
Feb. 26-28: Sepang 2
March 3-5: Phillip Island Tire Test