Archive - 2008

December 31st

Yamaha To Keep World Supersport Team

More good news on the racing front, after Kawasaki's shock withdrawal from MotoGP. Team Green's pullout saw a wave of speculation in the media about who would follow. Among the names most mentioned were Suzuki's MotoGP team and Yamaha's World Supersport effort. There have been denials from Suzuki that they are under threat, but so far, no word had been forthcoming about Yamaha and their World Supersport program.

The team was considered vulnerable because of their conspicuous failure to win a world championship since 2000, despite having factory support, competitive equipment and proven riders. To make things worse, the team, based in Holland, were being regularly beaten by their compatriots Ten Kate Honda, a relatively modest effort only partially - and rather begrudgingly - supported by Honda in Japan.

But word has come today that Yamaha will be remaining in the World Supersport championship after all. The Dutch racing site Racesport.nl is reporting that Yamaha's WSS team boss and former racer Wilco Zeelenberg has denied rumors of a withdrawal. "It seems to me that as the team manager, I would be the first to be told that kind of news, but I haven't heard anything. We're signed up to race next season, though admittedly with a lower budget," Zeelenberg told Racesport. The Dutch website also contacted Yamaha's head of racing Laurens Klein Koerkamp, who also denied the reports of a withdrawal.

Canepa To Be Shifted Sideways - Off To Join Gibernau

It's hard to underestimate the impact of the shocking news yesterday that Kawasaki will be pulling out of MotoGP. And today, more bad news about teams arrives, only this time, accompanied by good news.

The bad news is that, according to Spanish sports daily AS.com, the Pramac Ducati team will only field 1 rider next year, the Finn Mika Kallio. The move has been forced as a result of Alice, the Italian telecoms sponsor, withdrawing its sponsorship from the Pramac team, leaving the satellite Ducati squad short of cash.

The good news is that this will not leave Niccolo Canepa, Ducati's promising young test rider, out of a job. The same paper is also reporting that the young Italian will be a team mate to Sete Gibernau in the Grupo Francisco Hernando team, better known as Onde 2000 in the 125 and 250 classes, run by the Nieto cousins. Despite the global recession, money is still no object for the GFH team, the personal project of Francisco "El Pocero" Hernando, a Spanish property tycoon whose career has been surrounded by allegations of corruption: From the very beginning of the project, "Paco" Hernando had wanted to field a two-bike team, stating that he was willing to make the budget available.

December 30th

Kawasaki Fallout: Hopper vs Edwards, Melandri vs De Angelis?

The withdrawal of Kawasaki from MotoGP - which Ian Wheeler, the team's press officer has told Motorsport-Total.com that he knows nothing about - is likely to blow the MotoGP riders market completely open once again. With the MotoGP merry-go-round seemingly all done and dusted before the end of the season, the sudden availability of two big name riders is likely to have satellite team managers consulting their lawyers.

Of the Kawasaki pairing of John Hopkins and Marco Melandri, Hopper is likely to be the name most in demand. Hopkins is the rider carrying the Monster Energy sponsorship, and with Kawasaki out, Monster's budget is likely to go to whoever signs the American. And in a time of hardship, that money will be very welcome indeed.

The most probable casualty of the Hopkins / Monster duo is Colin Edwards. The Texan's position in the Tech 3 Yamaha squad had already become less certain after Bridgestone were awarded the single tire contract for MotoGP. Edwards has been closely associated with Michelin for a very long time, and was their lead development rider in MotoGP until their forced withdrawal. With the tire development role gone, along with the Michelin money which was said to be funding Tech 3, Herve Poncharal may feel that Hopkins and his Monster millions are a far more attractive proposition.

The problem for Poncharal is that Edwards is not in the employ of the Tech 3 Yamaha team, but has a contract with Yamaha directly. Consequently, Poncharal has less control over the hiring and firing of the Texan than he may wish. And with Yamaha seats in the other major racing series all filled, it may prove difficult to convince Edwards to move elsewhere.

Confirmed: Kawasaki Out Of MotoGP

The extremely well-informed Spanish magazine Motociclismo.es is reporting that Kawasaki's withdrawal from MotoGP has been made official. The factory has sent a letter to Dorna and the other factories announcing their withdrawal, and giving some explanation. The full public announcement is expect on Monday, January 5th 2009, according to Autosport.com.

More news once it becomes available.

Kawasaki Out Of MotoGP?

After Honda announced its shock withdrawal from Formula One, it was feared that this was just a premonition of what could happen in other forms of motorsports. Initially, reports from Spain suggested that Honda would pull out of MotoGP as well, despite the program costing only a fraction of the costs involved in Formula One. But once Takeo Fukui's end-of-year speech as Honda CEO passed without any mention of MotoGP, the hearts of MotoGP fans were reassured: MotoGP was safe for now.

But further announcements were far from reassuring: Suzuki announced that it was pulling out of its (far from successful) World Rally Championship, a move then followed by Subaru, a brand which is inextricably linked with the sport. Days later, Toyota announced drastic cost cutting in its Formula One program, though the optimists took comfort in the fact that this was not a withdrawal.

Speculation continued around what all this would mean for MotoGP. With Honda seemingly safe, and Yamaha and Ducati positively enthusiastic about the series, attention turned to the lame ducks of MotoGP, Suzuki and Kawasaki. No word has yet been heard from Suzuki, though the extension of the sponsorship deal with Rizla is taking a worryingly long time to be confirmed, though Suzuki team bosses profess that they are unconcerned. But as a (semi-) regular visitor to the podium - including a victory for Chris Vermeulen in 2007 - the team has at least had some success over the years.

The same cannot be said for Kawasaki. The Japanese firm's fortunes have been in a downward spiral since the beginning of 2007, with last year being the absolute nadir. Ant West fought a long and hard battle for last place with Marco Melandri every race, while West's team mate John Hopkins - said to have joined Kawasaki for a multi-million dollar fee - spent all year fighting to finish in the top 10. And earlier this year, Kawasaki's technical chief Ichiro Yoda admitted to the press that he had been told by Kawasaki that he had one more year to produce a motorcycle capable of better results, or he would be looking for a job.

Now, though, press reports from one of Italy's many sports daily's Tuttosport suggest that Kawasaki have decided not to wait that long. Tuttosport is saying that Kawasaki has already decided to withdraw from MotoGP, and that the riders and team have already been informed, pending an official announcement. Yoshio Kawamura, head of Kawasaki Racing, is said to have informed Hopkins and Melandri personally.

December 26th

It Isn't January 1st Yet - MotoGPMatters.com 2009 Racing Calendar Still Shipping

Christmas may have come and gone, but the new year hasn't started yet, and so there is still time to order the 2009 MotoGPMatters.com Motorcycle Racing Calendar. Any orders placed this weekend for shipping to the US and Europe should be received before the start of 2009, if the storms lashing parts of North America and some areas in Europe don't hold the post up too much.

Antipodean motorcycle racing fans may be enjoying the Southern Hemisphere summer, but may have to wait a little longer for orders to reach their shores. But though you may spend the first few days of 2009 without the beautiful photography of Scott Jones, you won't have missed out on a key feature of the calendar: the full schedule of MotoGP and World Superbike rounds, starting in March and finishing in November. It's a vital tool when planning vacations, trips to races and your life in general.

If you really need the calendar in a hurry, or if you live outside of North America, Australia, South Africa or Europe, please send an e-mail to calendar@motogpmatters.com with your enquiry, and we'll answer your questions about the cost of express shipping, shipping to South America, the Middle East, etc.

The Calendar

Featuring a host of gorgeous photographs by Scott Jones, as well as a full listing of MotoGP and World Superbike weekends clearly marked on each month, it's the perfect schedule planner for motorcycle racing fans who don't want to miss the best racing on the planet. Printed using a four-color offset process, providing rich and beautiful photographs, the calendar measures 11" by 8.5", or 11" by 17" when folded out, with a photograph above a month grid.

Below is a sample month to give you an idea of the layout:

motogp motogpmatters calendar 2009 jorge lorenzo

 

December 24th

21 vs 46 - 56 vs 58 - MotoGP vs Superbikes?

The relative fortunes of MotoGP and World Superbikes seem to swing back and forth like a pendulum over the years. As the popularity and profile of one series wanes, the other seems to grow to take its place.

Since the advent of the 990cc MotoGP bikes - or perhaps since the advent of Valentino Rossi to the premier class, two years earlier - it has been MotoGP which has taken its turn in the sun, the coming of the four strokes causing an exodus of talent from the World Superbike class. This inflow of talent into MotoGP also coincided with a number of developments in World Superbikes which added to the decline of the production-based class. Michelin dominated the series, supplying only a handful of riders, and making the racing predictable. After FGSport, the organizers of the series, decided to go to a spec tire, handing the contract to Pirelli, the Japanese factories - already only sparsely represented - withdrew their support, leaving World Superbikes to make the epithet "Ducati Cup" even more deserved.

But as the implications of an earlier rule change upping the permitted capacity for four cylinder bikes to 1000cc started to tempt the Japanese factories back to the series, the racing started to improve. Then with the return to the series of Troy Bayliss in 2006, and the coming of Max Biaggi in 2007, the popularity of World Superbikes started to wax once again, soon threatening to eclipse MotoGP. World Superbikes' rise was helped along by the dismal racing produced by the new 800cc formula in MotoGP, as a combination of smaller engine capacity, much tighter fuel restrictions, and the arrival of a new breed of rider more interested in riding with surgical precision than engaging in armed combat saw the races become increasingly processional, and lose much of the element of competition.

And it isn't just the fans who are showing more interest in World Superbikes: Interest is growing in the MotoGP paddock as well. The latest round of speculation was started by Valentino Rossi, who, it transpired after the event, had tried and failed to arrange a wildcard appearance at the final round of the World Superbike series at the magnificent Portimao circuit in Portugal. He repeatedly expressed his admiration for the close racing which the World Superbike series throws up - though ironically, an unleased Troy Bayliss dominated both races in Portugal - and has repeatedly stated his desire to take part in a World Superbike race at some point in the future.

Since failing to get a wildcard at Portugal, Rossi changed tack, attempting to organize a showdown with - now retired - Troy Bayliss at one of the two opening World Superbike rounds at Qatar or Phillip Island. So far, Rossi has failed to get his way, with Ducati chief Davide Tardozzi currently the main fly in the ointment. Bayliss has expressed an interest (though at an asking fee of a million pounds, one that comes at a price), but has for the most part held off the boat. Meanwhile, both Ducati's Tardozzi and Yamaha's racing chief Laurens Klein Koerkamp have played down the possibility of such a clash, as it would cast a fairly substantial spanner in their carefully laid plans for both World Superbikes and MotoGP.

But Valentino Rossi's status both inside and outside of motorcycle racing means that what Rossi wants, Rossi usually gets, with only a very few exceptions in the past. As much as Yamaha would hate Rossi to be racing in March, and risking an injury which could seriously hamper his title defence, the chances of the Japanese factory actually preventing Rossi from racing in World Superbikes are vanishingly small. That would leave the small matter of Troy Bayliss' fee, but if World Superbike organizer IMS and MotoGP promoter Dorna are smart, they would put together a special TV deal for something likely to be billed as the greatest sporting event since Muhammad Ali took on George Foreman in the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire in 1974. Such an event could help elevate motorcycle racing to the levels of Formula 1 and beyond.

December 22nd

FIM Announces New Tire Regulations For MotoGP And Other Changes

The FIM released a set of rule changes on Friday, for both the MotoGP and World Superbike series. For World Superbikes, the biggest change was the abolition - or rather, the change of format - of Superpole, switching to a Formula 1 style knock-out qualifying format. The bulk of the rule changes in MotoGP were of course the new tire regulations, but there were also a number of changes to the sporting regulations, to be applied to both series.

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited of the rule changes were the changes to the tire regulations. These have now been modified to specify exactly how the single tire supplier situation will work, and it is clear that a great deal of effort has gone into ensuring that the rule is applied as fairly as possible. The most prominent example of this effort is the fact that tires will be allocated to the riders at random, and by Race Direction's Technical Director, to avoid any favoritism either by the tire company or at the behest of a particular team or rider. Otherwise, the rules are very much as had been predicted and discussed after the single tire rule was announced.

Tires

There will now officially be a single tire supplier. The tire supplier must make sure that they can supply enough tires for everyone, and that everyone will receive the same spec and same number of tires.

Tires will be selected at random and distributed by the Technical Director.

Tires are allocated to riders individually. If a rider is replaced due to injury, the rider drafted in to replace that rider will have to use the tires supplied to the rider they replace. In other words, if you break an arm on Friday afternoon, your replacement won't get to choose any new tires, but will be left with what remains of your allocation.

Each rider will have an allocation of 20 slick tires at each race weekend. There will be 2 different specifications ("A" and "B") available (most likely one harder specification, one softer). The allocation will be divided up as follows:

  • 4 "A" fronts
  • 4 "B" fronts
  • 6 "A" rears
  • 6 "B" rears

Each rider will have an allocation of 8 wet tires for each weekend: 4 fronts and 4 rears. There will only be a single wet-weather tire specification. If it rains in every session, then the riders will get 1 extra set of wets for the race.

Although no mention was made of intermediate tires in either the old regulations or in the new rules, there is a passage in the new rules which basically rules them out. Under the new regulations, only the tires supplier can cut tires, and any alterations to tires for one rider must be made identically available for all riders. As the rule stands, intermediate tires will only be cut from the available slicks if the tire supplier decides it is necessary, and the tire supplier must supply exactly the same tires for all riders. That basically means no individual rider is able to ask for intermediate tires any more.

December 19th

Film Star Antonio Banderas To Run MotoGP Team?

Actors and racing are a potent combination, though usually a mess of contracts prevent any active involvement by the former in the latter, for fear any injuries incurred the actors involved might either delay expensive film production schedules, or worse, terminate an actor's career permanently.

There have been honorable exceptions, of course, the most famous being Paul Newman, whose greatest racing achievement was a 2nd place in the Le Mans 24 hour endurance car race. But usually, all actors can do is to run a team, as the least dangerous way to be involved in a sport they love, without risking injury.

Now, another famous face is to be added to their ranks: Spanish sports daily AS.com is reporting that Antonio Banderas is engaged in trying to get the finances together which would allow him to run a team in the 125 and 250cc championships, as well as the Spanish and European 125  championship. The Hollywood heart-throb is currently in talks with a number of parties (including the Austrian sports betting company Interwetten.com) to obtain the estimated 6 million euros which the plans would require.

FIM Boss: "We Must Reduce The Role Of Electronics In MotoGP"

The role which electronics play in modern motorcycle racing is a continuing cause of discussion, or perhaps controversy would be a better word. Almost everyone inside and outside racing has had their say on the matter, some more publicly than others. Opinion remains deeply divided between the "rider purists" and the "racing purists", with both sides expressing their opinions increasingly forcefully.

Now, a new voice has been added to the debate. In an interview with Octavio Estrada of Prototipos Racing, published on the Spanish website DailyMotos.com, FIM President Vito Ippolito has spoken out against the use of electronics in MotoGP, saying that "MotoGP must not make the same mistake that Formula 1 has made, where the role of the driver is reduced to a minimum."

But despite being arguably the most powerful man in world motorcycling, even Ippolito is powerless against the factories. For it is the manufacturers who are driving the development, and resisting any attempts at regulating the field in which they have sunk many millions of dollars, and which is one of the fields which is starting to trickle down into production motorcycles.

"I'm not against the technological development of the bikes," Ippolito said, "but today the electronics control everything, from traction control to the amount of power transmitted to the road and acceleration, which leaves little margin for the riders to exploit their abilities, and this technology is only available to the richest and most powerful teams."

December 18th

Better Hurry If You Want The MotoGPMatters.com In Time For Christmas

With a week to go until Christmas, time is running out for gift shopping. And not only is it running out for gift shopping, it's running out for anyone in the US wanting delivery of the gorgeous 2009 MotoGPMatters.com motorcycle racing calendar. Under normal circumstances, USPS Priority Mail shipping would mean that the calendar could be delivered to your door within 2-3 days, but with the postal rush for the Holiday Season, even that cannot be guaranteed.

So if you want to be sure of gladdening the heart of your favorite MotoGP fan on Christmas morning, you need to get your order for the 2009 MotoGPMatters.com motorcycle racing calendar in today, and we will rush down to the post office to ensure it hits the mail on time. And with stocks starting to run low, you need to decide sooner rather than later.

For readers based in Europe, they too need to hurry if they still want a calendar before Christmas, while readers in Australia and New Zealand will need to send an e-mail to calendar@motogpmatters.com to enquire about the cost of express shipping.

The Calendar

Featuring a host of gorgeous photographs by Scott Jones, as well as a full listing of MotoGP and World Superbike weekends clearly marked on each month, it's the perfect schedule planner for motorcycle racing fans who don't want to miss the best racing on the planet. Printed using a four-color offset process, providing rich and beautiful photographs, the calendar measures 11" by 8.5", or 11" by 17" when folded out, with a photograph above a month grid.

Below is a sample month to give you an idea of the layout:

motogp motogpmatters calendar 2009 jorge lorenzo

December 17th

Moto2 Class Confirmed In Spanish Championship For 2009

Shortly after the regulations for the new Moto2 class were announced, the RFME - the Spanish Motorcycling Federation, the organization which runs motorcycle racing in Spain - expressed an interest in running the new class as part of the Spanish CEV Championship. And now, just a few days later, the Spanish Federation has made good on that statement: In a press release issued today, the RFME announced its intention to run a Moto2 class alongside the existing CEV championship.

Exact details have not been released yet - the RFME say that they expect to release the exact technical and sporting regulations shortly - and the series will only go ahead if the RFME receive enough entries for all of the CEV rounds currently scheduled. But the hope is that enough teams will be interested to take part, and that this series will serve as a proving ground for the point at which the Moto2 class replaces the 250cc class in 2011.

The entry list for the Moto2 series will be worth watching very closely. Both the number of entrants, and the parties who choose to build bikes for this will point the way to the success of the series. Several parties are believed to be interested in the series - Moriwaki having already built a prototype - but that interest may not translate into actual participation. Oscar Gallardo, the man who runs the CEV championship, told AS.com that the series would need two weeks' notice to organize. As the CEV is due to start on April 19th, we should now exactly how much interest there is by the beginning of April.

No Mention Of MotoGP In Honda CEO's Year End Speech

No news is good news, the old saying runs, and never has that been truer than for MotoGP fans after Honda CEO Takeo Fukui's end-of-year speech. Reports in the Spanish media - emanating mostly from the magazine Solo Moto - had suggested that Fukui would seize that opportunity to announce Honda's withdrawal from MotoGP. But fortunately for MotoGP fans - and for the MotoGP series - Fukui announced no such thing.

His speech certainly contained a lot of bad news: Delays in bringing a number of new factories into production; Confirmation of Honda's withdrawal from F1; Cancellation of some model development; Even cutting of salaries and reviews of bonuses for senior Honda management. But no word on the future of MotoGP.

While this is not quite confirmation that Honda will be staying, a lot of the announcements once again reaffirmed the importance of motorcycles in Honda's business strategy. Motorcycle sales were overall much stronger than Honda's car sales, growing 12% where car sales were flat, and are expected to grow by another 10.5% next year, where Honda expects car sales to fall by 7% in the same period. Fukui was emphatic: "History shows that motorcycles remain strong in a difficult market environment and have always supported Honda in difficult times."

So it seems like our friends over at the Italian site GPOne.com got it right when they said that they believed the stories (including the stories reported here) claiming Honda would pull out of MotoGP were nonsense. Even Valentino Rossi says that Honda will be staying, so our worst fears have allayed.

December 16th

Honda Could Announce MotoGP Withdrawal On Friday

Honda's future in MotoGP has been an almost constant subject of debate since the announcement that the Japanese motoring giant was withdrawing from Formula One on December 5th this year. The situation was only made worse by American Honda's decision to withdraw from the AMA Superbike championship next year, announced exactly a week later. And now, it looks like there could be three "Black Fridays" in a row for Honda's involvement in racing.

For this Friday, December 19th, Honda CEO Takeo Fukui is due to deliver his end-of-year speech, and if reports from the Spanish press are to be believed, there is a real possibility that Fukui will announce the withdrawal of Honda from MotoGP. Both AS.com and Motociclismo.es have picked up a story by the weekly magazine Solo Moto, which quotes a spokesman from HRC as saying that "all of our projects are currently under consideration."

The problem, as you most likely guessed, is due to the global economic crisis. Honda's margins are under severe pressure, with sales slowing worldwide, a fact confirmed by a drop of nearly 27% in new car registrations in Western Europe. And as profits fall, Honda is coming under extreme pressure from investors to cut costs. Investors reacted positively to both Honda's F1 pullout, as well as their withdrawal from the AMA, despite the vast difference in budgets for the two activities, and Solo Moto believes that MotoGP is their next target.

FIM Releases MotoGP Entry List: 19 In MotoGP, 22 In 250s, 29 In 125s

The FIM today released the provisional entry list for the MotoGP series, encompassing the MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc classes. As expected, the MotoGP class has 19 entries, the single tire rule freeing up the equipment for Sete Gibernau's team.

Perhaps the best news is the entry list of 22 riders for the 250cc class. With KTM's withdrawal from the class earlier this year, it looked for a while like there could be fewer than the minimum of 15 entries required for a World Championship to be organized. Since then, a number of privateer teams have entered Aprilia LE's, and Aspar has found sponsorship from the new Balatonring circuit in Hungary to provide former 125cc World Champion Gabor Talmacsi with factory equipment.

FIM Provisional Entry List 2009 

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