Once more into the Saddle
Posted on Feb 03, 2014 by Nick Harris
Britain’s top four motorcycle racers open their assault on the most demanding and competitive of all world championship campaigns at the first test of the 2014 MotoGP™ season in the sweltering heat and humidity of Sepang in Malaysia on Tuesday. The official winter break ends at the three day test at the 3.447 miles Sepang circuit on the outskirts of Kula Lumpur when the 24 riders contesting this year’s 18 round championship test their new machines for the very first time.
With Leon Camier joining those four at the second Sepang test at the end of February five British riders in the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing represents a massive change of fortune for British motorsport. This turn around is down to the spearheading efforts of Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and Michael Laverty last season. They all return to the fray this year and are joined by World and British Superbike Championship star Camier.
Last year Isle of Man – based Midlander Cal Crutchlow came close to becoming the first British premier class grand prix winner for 32 years when he took four podium and two pole positions on his way to fifth overall riding the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. He returns this year a married man and riding the Italian Ducati machine that even the likes of nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi could not tame.
Three times 125 cc grand prix winner Bradley Smith was his team-mate last year and finished a highly creditable 10th in his rookie season. The Andorra-based Oxfordshire rider was second fastest in the end of season test last year and is hoping to carry on where he left off for the next three days.
Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding makes his eagerly awaited MotoGP debut this season after coming so close to clinching the Moto2™ World Championship last year. He eventually had to settle for second place despite three grand prix wins including a home victory at Silverstone. He rides the RCV1000R Honda in the very experienced Italian – based Go&fun Gresini team.
It was a real baptism of fire for Ulsterman Michael Laverty in his first MotoGP season last year and he came through it with his reputation enhanced. He fought his way through plenty of problems in the CRT category and is rewarded with a renewed contract with the Cumbrian – based Paul Bird Motorsport team.
The three day test will be the first clash of the season between the youngest ever MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez and the former Champion Jorge Lorenzo. The two Spaniards fought a ferocious battle for last year’s championship which was only finally resolved at the last round. Their respective team-mates Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi won grands prix last year and there will also be enormous focus on the performances of Crutchlow and Redding plus the return of former World Champion Nicky Hayden to Honda.
The British Moto2 and Moto3 riders have to wait another seven days before their first test of the season at Valencia in Spain. World Supersport Champion Sam Lowes has recovered from a broken collarbone and joins Londoner Gino Rea in the Moto2 class. Wiltshire teenager Danny Kent returns to the Moto3 class where he won two grands prix in 2012 to join ever improving Scotsman John McPhee.
“If that second place in the Valencia test is already the starting level, then we (Tech3) have got to take the opportunity with both hands and see where we can end up. I can’t wait to get started again and I’m in a lot better situation than I was last year." I was really apprehensive, quite nervous and not sure what to expect. This year I’m a lot more relaxed.”