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GP Week : Issue 194
at BrIEFly » Casey Stoner has been out for further gallops on the factory Honda, joining a three-day test at Sugo – the first of his four planned outings not to be hit with bad weather. The double World Champ exercised the 2013 factory bike and the latest 2014 prototype, but not this time the production racer – left in the hands of factory testers. » Former US basketball superstar Michael Jordan is planning a move into MotoGP. The entrepreneurial owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team also owns a leading team in US AMA racing, but he now plans to go international, according to a report in Cycle News. The team was “evaluating both Superbike and MotoGP”, and planned possible wild card entries next year. » Fancied English racer Danny Kent has been confirmed in a back-sliding move from his current Moto2 berth to return to Moto3 – one step back to try to kickstart his career again. Kent has struggled on the Tech 3 Mistral Moto2 machine, which has never been a front-runner. Now he returns to the Red Bull KTM team where he scored his only GP win in 2012. The leading team has a strong line-up: Kent joins fast- rising Australian Jack Miller and new Red Bull Rookies champion Karel Hanika. NEW YEAR STARTS MONDAY First 2014 tests: old faces on new bikes MOTOGP >>> nEWs With barely time to draw breath after the flag falls to close out 2013, the 2014 season begins with three days testing at Valencia, with at least two fast runners trying their new bikes for the first time, and the debut of Honda’s new-rules 2014 production-racer. While the championship top four exercise prototypes of the 2014 versions of their current mounts, all eyes will be on Cal Crutchlow as he gets his first taste of the Ducati on which he has risked his future career; and on 2006 champion Nicky Hayden, as he returns from five years at Ducati to ride a Honda once more. Crutchlow’s first quest is to see if his forceful riding style will work as well with the Ducati as did Stoner’s – the retired Australian was the last rider to win a race on the Italian machine, in 2010. He will ride this year’s bike and what former team head Bernhard Gobmeier described as “a step between” . An all-new bike was planned for 2014, but would be finalised during the winter. But the English white hope’s eyes are on the future, and the second year of his contract. With ex-Aprilia engineer Gigi Dall’Igna joining Ducati, a major shake-up is expected during 2014, with the 2015 machine the brain-child of the new regime. The tests also mark the public debut of the new Honda RCV1000R, the steel- valve-spring production-racer version of the RC213V factory bike. Nicky Hayden’s time on the bike is likely to be severely restricted. Honda is expected to bring only one example to the tests, and the American will have to share it with two other riders. One is Scott Redding, in his MotoGP debut, though recent injuries may cut his time on the bike. The English rider lost his last slender chance of the Moto2 title when he crashed at Motegi: he had already lost his long-standing lead with a wrist-breaking crash in qualifying in Australia. Badly battered, he was determined to ride in the Moto2 race “for my team” and to defend second overall, “and to make a start for next year at the tests.” The other is Hayden’s team-mate in the Aspar squad, expected but not confirmed to be former 250 champion Hiro Aoyama. MOTO3 FINALe PICK anY One OF thRee The smallest class has often laid on the biggest excitement in 2013, and the finale at Valencia offers a feast of tension to underscore the reliably close battle up front. Any one of three riders could win the second Moto3 title. Just five points separate three Spaniards – two teenagers and an increasingly gloomy older rider. Between them they have dominated the rostrums, and taken 15 out of 16 wins. All ride KTMs for rival teams. Luis Salom (22) saw a long-standing lead all but nullified when he crashed at the last round at Motegi; Alex Rins (17) was in a position to capitalise heavily ... but then he too crashed. It was Salom’s first non-score of the season; Rins’s second. Their absence left a first victory for fourth-overall star rookie Alex Marquez, by inches from the third title contender Maverick Vinales. The resultant points could hardly be closer: Salom 300, Vinales 298, Rins 295. The title will be decided in one race, and on past performances on the last corner. After a year of inch-close finishes, it should be a race to remember. Cutchlow: Ducati debutant 16 GPWEEK.com // 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: