Gosselies, Belgium – 7 July 2014: It’s a short hop across the Belgian border and into Germany for round nine of the Moto2 World Championship, which takes place this weekend at the Sachsenring, the shortest circuit on the calendar.
Sachsenring also marks the halfway point in a season that has seen the Marc VDS Racing Team dominate the Moto2 World Championship. Between them Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio have won all but two of the eight races contested so far and, with the exception of Le Mans - where Kallio won and Rabat joined him on the podium in third - it’s been a Marc VDS rider that has started every race from pole position.
By anyone’s standards it’s been an impressive start to the season for the team but, for Team Principal Michael Bartholemy, it’s simply the culmination of five years of hard work.
“To get to where we are this season has taken a lot of hard work,” declared Bartholemy. “When we came to Moto2 in 2010 we were the new kids on the block; nobody knew us and attracting riders was difficult because we were an unknown quantity. We started that season with two riders who’d been passed over by the other teams but, just three years later, we were in a position to fight for the championship with one of them, namely Scott Redding.
“Now we’ve proved that not only can we win races, but we’re also capable of fighting for the championship with both riders. As you can imagine, we’ve had a lot of riders knocking on our door to talk about 2015, and that makes me proud of what the team has achieved.
Whatever happens at the Sachsenring this weekend, the Marc VDS Racing Team will head into the summer break with Rabat leading the championship, but Bartholemy is adamant that the team won’t be resting on their laurels.
“While it’s true we now have a big lead in the championship, we were in a similar position last year and look how that turned out. We need to keep working, to keep pushing to give Tito and Mika exactly what they need to win races. We can’t afford to be complacent, or to ride for points, because one mistake, one retirement and we could see that lead disappear overnight.
“With both riders so competitive this season I’ve been asked many times about team orders. Yes, we’ve spoken to the riders and told them we wouldn’t be very pleased if they took each other out of a race, but there are no team orders. They are both racing for the championship and we’ll continue to allow them to do so.
But while the team’s efforts have been rewarded with success after success in Moto2 this season, the same isn’t true of Moto3. 17-year-old Belgian, Livio Loi, is now in his second season with the team but the results, other than his fourth place in Argentina, have fallen well short of both his and the team’s expectations.
“It’s true that our success in Moto2 hasn’t been reflected in Moto3, but that’s not through a lack of effort on the part of the team,” explains Bartholemy. “This year Livio has been very vocal in his criticism of the Kalex-KTM so, for Assen, we made the decision to switch bikes to KTM, just to see if it brought the improvement that Livio himself expected.
“We took a standard KTM RC250R to Assen on Wednesday and worked through the night to upgrade it. We fitted the KTM Moto3 World Championship motor, the latest WP suspension and almost the entire KTM catalogue of factory parts. When the bike rolled out of the pit box for free practice on Thursday it was as close to factory spec as we could get it. I doubt even KTM could have spotted the differences without reducing the bike to its component parts and measuring everything.
“It wasn’t until qualifying that we saw an improvement in Livio’s lap time, but by then it was too late. He qualified 30th, his worst performance of the season, and then went on to finish 25th in the race. It was disappointing, both for Livio and the team.
“What is even more disappointing is how much criticism the team came in for after Assen. We’ve been criticised for going with the Kalex-KTM in the first place and we’ve been criticised for trying the KTM option in a bid to help Livio rediscover his confidence. It seems we are unable to do right for doing wrong in the eyes of some people.
“But the situation is very clear. We’re in Moto3 to race and Livio needs to start producing the goods and getting the results that he, the bike and the team are capable of. If the results don’t come after all this effort then we need to take a long hard look at the feasibility of continuing in Moto3 when there is no improvement and we’re finishing out of the points every week.
“Unfortunately, that’s the harsh reality of the situation, when racing at this level costs more than half-a-million Euros a season. Time is running out, so now we need to see some action…”
The Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland gets underway with free practice for all three classes on the morning of Friday 11th July.
More, from another press release issued by Marc VDS Racing Team:
Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany – 8 July 2014: The Sachsenring, venue for round nine of the Moto2 World Championship, is a track with some unique characteristics. Not only is it the shortest track on the calendar, and one of the slowest, but it’s also one of the most demanding on tyres.
The Sachsenring features ten left corners and only three right corners within its 3.671km or 2.281 mile length. The abundance of left hand turns works the left hand side of the rear tyre particularly hard, resulting in tyre temperatures regularly exceeding 140°C. This is around 35°C higher than in other races, with the exception of Phillip Island where the temperature tends to be slightly higher, due mainly to the last two corners on the track.
To counter the extreme temperature build up at the Sachsenring, Dunlop will make available the same hard plus rear tyre they supplied to teams in Catalunya, with the alternative being the normal hard compound rear.
It’s not the news that the Marc VDS Racing Team’s Mika Kallio wanted to hear.
Kallio, who currently lies second in the championship standings, has a love hate relationship with the Dunlop tyres used in Moto2. While he loves the softer options offered by the Anglo-Japanese tyre company, his feelings about the harder option rear tyres are slightly less positive.
“It’s no secret that we have an issue whenever Dunlop allocate the harder option rear tyres for a race," explains Kallio. “It’s been the same since last year; whenever we’re forced to go hard on the rear we struggle to find a good compromise between grip and tyre endurance with the set up of the bike. For us, hard is hard.
“If we set the bike up to improve rear grip then the tyre is pretty much done in less than ten laps. If we go the other way and set the bike up so that it doesn’t work the rear tyre so hard then there’s no rear grip. The main problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with the set up at all, we either have rear grip and destroy the tyre or we conserve the tyre and have no rear grip.
“Nobody else seems to have the same issues with the harder option rear, so we know it’s not the tyre, but more a combination of my riding style and my preferred set up on the bike.
“We worked hard during preseason testing to fix the issue but, when the harder rear tyre was allocated for both the Mugello and Catalunya races, it was immediately obvious that, while we’d made some small improvements, the problem remained. It was only during the one-day post race test at both circuits that we found a reasonable compromise with the set up of the bike, but by then it was too late.
“Hopefully the changes we made to the bike during the test in Catalunya will work this weekend at the Sachsenring. If they do, then that’s great. If they don’t then we maybe need to take more risks with changes to the bike during practice. In Mugello and Catalunya we found the necessary improvements one day too late. In Germany we need to find these improvements ahead of qualifying, even if by doing so we initially risk going in the wrong direction with the set up.”
“I like the Sachsenring, it’s one of my favourite tracks, and I’ve gone well there in the past. If we can get on top of the tyre situation in free practice then I hope we can challenge for the podium again, just as we did in 2012.”
One dark cloud on the horizon that may well prove to have a silver lining for Kallio is the weather forecast for this weekend’s German Grand Prix. While Friday looks as if it will remain dry, the forecast for both Saturday and Sunday is for rain.
“The opening laps of the race in Assen was the first time this year we’ve ridden in fully wet conditions and, unfortunately, we were lacking rear grip until the track started to dry,” explains Kallio. “This is the downside to the rear suspension set up we’re running on the bike now, as both the feeling and the grip in the wet were much better last year. The good thing is that if it’s wet for Saturday and Sunday at the Sachsenring then we can go back to the wet settings from last year, which we know work well and which weren’t an option given the changeable conditions in Assen.”
The German Grand Prix, which marks the halfway point in the 2014 season, gets underway on Friday 11th July with free practice for all three classes