Archive - Nov 2008 - News Item
After the rest of the field had already packed up at Jerez, the Kawasaki and Suzuki teams continued testing for one more day at Phillip Island, working mostly on testing new parts to be used on the 2009 versions of their respective MotoGP machines. Though everyone except for John Hopkins - who is still in pain from an injury caused at Assen - improved their times, for all except for Marco Melandri, the improvements were fairly small.
Only Melandri made a big leap, taking 0.7 seconds off his best race time, set on the Ducati. But it is clear that both Suzuki and Kawasaki have a big hill to climb if they are to be competitive. The engineers will now return to their workshops with the data collected from the tests, and prepare the 2009 versions of the machines, which are due to be unveiled at the first test of the year. For Suzuki, that will be in Sepang in early February, together with the rest of the MotoGP paddock, but Kawasaki have chosen to return to Phillip Island once again at the end of January, for another private test.
Times set on day 3:
Fastest times set during the race in early October:
Speculation on the future of Valentino Rossi continues apace, and such speculation has only been added to by an interview with The Doctor published by the Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport. In it, he tells the paper that he is seriously considering making the switch to Formula One for the 2011 season. "In the hypothetical situation that I could choose between any option I wanted, which is unrealistic, then today the thing that excites me most would be race in Formula One," Rossi said.
This does not mean that he has lost interest in the WRC series, though. "With rallying, I still have plenty of time to decide what I want to do, to race at the top level; But at 35, I'm afraid I'd be too old to race in Formula One."
Rossi was particularly pleased with his pace in the Ferrari at his recent test at Mugello, and was disappointed that it rained on the second day. "If we had the same weather on the second day, we could have gone a second faster. I think we could have run a 1'21," Rossi told the Corriere dello Sport.
For the moment, Rossi still prefers bikes, though. "Riding the bike is more natural to me," he said. "One big difference is that with the bike, a big part of the control is in the movement of your body. With the car, it is all technical. That's the reason I like the bike better than the car."
Testing continued today at Jerez, and despite the damp track in the morning and the continuing cool weather, lap records continued to be shattered. Once again, the battle was between Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, and while Pedrosa was quickest for a good part of the day, in the end it was The Doctor who finished the day on the top of the timesheets, with a time 1/10th of a second quicker than Pedrosa's time from yesterday, and 7/10ths faster than the lap record here.
The two title hopefuls were also a second quicker than the rest of the field, just as they were yesterday, with Dani Pedrosa setting the 3rd fastest time, a tenth off his own fastest practice time here in March. There was little separating the group behind Pedrosa, with 6/10ths covering 10 riders.
The good news in that group was for the men who had been slow yesterday: Sete Gibernau took 2 seconds off his time from yesterday, and Nicky Hayden slashed a second and a half off his lap times, putting Gibernau up to 10th place, and Hayden up to 6th, just 0.04 seconds off Jorge Lorenzo's 3rd fastest time.
What is already clear is that this is shaping up to be a two-speed championship. Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are a cut above the rest of the field, with Casey Stoner likely to join that elite group once he returns to action. Behind the front runners, the new tire regulations may have closed the field up, with times closer together than they were last year. But with at least three riders so far ahead, the racing may once again come down to a procession for the podium, followed by some great action fighting over 4th or 5th place.
Testing now ceases, apart from the last day of testing in Phillip Island for Suzuki and Kawasaki on Friday, and the riders and teams all head off for a well-earned break during the winter test ban, which lasts from December 1st to January 20th, though the riders won't be back on the track again until February 5th in Sepang. But though the riders will be able to relax a little, the teams, and especially the R&D departments, will be working flat out on improving the bikes, and getting them ready for the new season. There's still a lot to be done.
Times from Thursday's test:
Suzuki and Kawasaki continued their testing at Phillip Island on Thursday, despite rain disrupting the morning session. Rain wasn't the only issue, as the Kawasaki riders also complained about the strong winds which Phillip Island, which sits on the very edge of the great Southern Ocean, is famous for.
The Kawasaki riders all managed to improve their times, with Marco Melandri matching his best time from the race weekend in early October with a 1'31.8, Olivier Jacque taking 3/10ths off his time from yesterday, and John Hopkins being nearly a second faster than yesterday. Suzuki released no times for today, stating that Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen worked mostly on developing the new bike.
The interesting thing is that those were the times given in the official press releases, but the well-informed Italian site GPOne.com tells a different story. They show some fairly remarkable times for Capirossi and Vermeulen, with Capirossi running a 1'29.7, 3/10ths under Nicky Hayden's lap record set in October. The time given for Capirossi was provided by his manager, Carlo Pernat, who spoke to Capirex over the phone. However, GPOne.com also quotes Bridgestone tire technicians as saying that Capirossi would have run a 1'31.0, while Vermeulen set a 1'31.2.
Which of the various sets of times are accurate is impossible to say, though the word of Bridgestone technicians is probably more reliable than the manager of a rider, as managers tend to have a vested interest in presenting their riders in the best possible light. Below are both sets of times, and we leave it to the analytical powers of our readers to decide which is likely to be the more accurate.
Times according to Kawasaki:
Interesting news from HRC, and a sign of just how seriously they are taking the 2009 season. Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that HRC has decided that every Honda RC212V on the grid next year will be equipped with an engine which uses pneumatic valve springs. This reverses a previous decision that the satellite bikes would all be running the former Pedrosa-spec engine, which utilized conventional steel-spring valves, but HRC has decided that running single type of valve return actuation in all of the bikes they run is the more efficient option.
There is a good deal of sense in the decision. If the satellite bikes were to run a steel spring bike, then HRC would effectively be forced to continue to develop two completely different engines, as happened in 2008. But once Dani Pedrosa made the final switch to the air valve engine, development on the steel spring bike was always going to be throttled back. Having everyone on a similar spec engine will allow HRC to concentrate more of its efforts on improving the factory bike, and not worry about the satellite bikes.
But this is also good news for Randy de Puniet, Yuki Takahashi and Alex de Angelis, the three riders on the satellite-spec RC212Vs next year. With the satellite bike being closer to the factory Honda, upgrades and improvements should filter down to the satellite teams much more quickly, helping to make them competitive. And it's also good news for MotoGP fans: with 6 Hondas in reasonably competitive shape, there should be more Hondas, and more riders, at the sharp end, and perhaps some closer racing.
The teams will get the new spec bikes at the Sepang test in early February. But first, the engineers and mechanics will be flown to Japan to be trained on the engine. Once the teams hit Malaysia, though, we should see just how much closer the satellite-spec bikes are to the Repsol Hondas and Toni Elias' factory-spec Gresini Honda.
So much for the safety argument. On the first day of testing at Jerez under the new tire regime, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 0.6 seconds off his existing lap record at the Andalucian circuit. It's almost impossible to stand in the way of progress, no matter how hard you try, it seems.
Pedrosa set his time while riding only a relatively few number of laps. Weather conditions this morning were cold, despite the sunshine, and the riders didn't really get under way until early in the afternoon. But while Pedrosa was fastest, the Yamahas are looking strongest, as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Colin Edwards were 2nd, 3rd and 4th fastest respectively.
The gaps are large, though, with Pedrosa 6/10ths faster than Rossi, who is in turn over a second quicker than Lorenzo, the rest of the field bunched up, until we get to the Ducatis.
And the Ducatis are clearly the slowest bikes at the test, with only MotoGP rookie Yuki Takahashi in last place. Former Ducati test rider and now Pramac rider Niccolo Canepa was the quickest of the Bologna bikes, a fraction faster than Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden. Hayden is nearly 2 seconds behind Rossi, and 2.5 behind his former Repsol Honda team mate, though the Kentucky Kid is still getting used to the bike and the Bridgestone tires.
The man who could make the biggest difference to the standings has been watching from pit lane. Casey Stoner was present at the test, but unable to take part. The official Ducati press release stated that Stoner's wrist injury was healing well, and he hopes to begin training on a bicycle again soon.
Testing continues again tomorrow.
The MotoGP riders are back to work again today, though some earlier than others. The Kawasaki and Suzuki teams have decided to skip the official Jerez test in favor of a private test at Australia's Phillip Island circuit. The choice is particularly important for Suzuki, as the team has struggled to get results at the circuit, the bike being down on both power and suffering with edge grip problems.
So far, the times released from the test, are still some way off the pace they need to run. Marco Melandri is still getting used to the Kawasaki ZX-RR, this being only his 2nd full day of testing on the bike, after the Valencia test in October was curtailed due to rain. But already Melandri is as quick on the Kawasaki as he was on the Ducati during the race here in October, though 0.7 seconds slower than during practice here in October.
John Hopkins was considerably slower, but the American has had some pain from the ankle injury he suffered at Assen in June. The tendons are rubbing on the plate put in place to fix the ankle every time he changes gear, and both knee and ankle are swelling up and painful.
But the fastest Kawasaki rider was test rider Olivier Jacque. The Frenchman is working on a revised chassis, which will form the basis for the 2009 Kawasaki MotoGP bike, due to make its debut at Sepang in February. Jacque believes the chassis should make it possible for him to run consistent 1'31s, which would be faster than the pace of the Kawasakis during the race here.
The Suzukis were both quicker than the Kawasaki men, Loris Capirossi faster his team mate Chris Vermeulen by 4/10ths of a second. But just as at Kawasaki, neither man is close to the times they set in early October, when MotoGP raced here. So despite the revised electronics and suspension, Suzuki still has some work to do.
Suzuki and Kawasaki will be testing at Phillip Island for two more days.
Times released from Phillip Island day 1
Aprilia's test continued today at Valencia, with the main attraction being Marco Simoncelli being given a run on Aprilia's RSV4 World Superbike machine. The Italian was immediately quick, and matched the time set yesterday by Shinya Nakano. But Nakano was even quicker, taking a second off the time he set yesterday, and matching the fastest lap set during the World Superbike round held here in April of this year.
In the 250 class, Alvaro Bautista was fastest again today, although Gabor Talmacsi equaled the Spaniard's time. Meanwhile, in the 125 class, it was Julian Simon who was quickest, over half a second ahead of his Aspar team mate Bradley Smith. Smith was also slower than Andrea Iannone.
The smaller classes will now pack up and go home for the winter break, as the test ban starts on December 1st. But before that, the MotoGP riders will take to the track in Jerez and Phillip Island.
|3||Mike di Meglio||Aprilia||1'38.6|
The MotoGPMatters.com 2009 racing calendar is proving to be a very popular item, with piles of calendars being shipped out of MotoGPMatters.com HQ to MotoGP fans around the world on a daily basis. But as popular as the calendar is, not everyone is happy with paying by Paypal, and some people have requested other forms of payment.
Now, we are pleased to say, we have added another way to pay: It is now possible to pay for your MotoGPMatters.com calendar using Moneybookers, an established and well-respected money transfer service. With Moneybookers, you can transfer funds using your credit card, by direct debit from your bank, or by debiting your Moneybookers account.
So with the gift-giving season - and the start of 2009 - rapidly approaching, now is the time to put in your order for the beautiful and extremely useful 2009 MotoGPMatters.com racing calendar. Each month features one of Scott Jones' beautiful photographs, as an 8.5 inch by 11 inch (Letter size, or about the same size as A4) print, above an 8.5x11 page containing a grid of the month, including a list of all of the MotoGP and World Superbike weekends, and a listing of the birthdays of the big names from MotoGP, the 250 and 125cc classes, and World Superbikes and World Supersport. There's also a brief description of the state of racing for that month.
A sample month layout looks like this:
While the MotoGP teams are warming up ready for the final test of the season, either at Jerez for the official IRTA test or in Phillip Island for the private test for Suzuki and Kawasaki, Aprilia was rolling out its equipment for all of the classes it will be contesting this year at Valencia.
Shinya Nakano and test rider Alex Hofmann were testing Aprilia's RSV4 World Superbike weapon, Nakano setting a time about a second slower than the times set at the World Superbike race here in April, while Hofmann was a good deal slower, but likely to be much busier actually testing equipment, rather than setting lap times. Meanwhile, Alvaro Bautista was quickest of the 250 riders, with Bradley Smith fractionally faster than his Aspar team mate Julian Simon on the 125s.
But there were two other noteworthy visitors at the test in Spain. The first was the British Maxtra team, rolling out at one of the first public appearances of the bike. The team, which is being run by British GP legend John Surtees, features an engine tuned by Aprilia's and KTM's former engine guru Jan Witteveen, and despite Michael Ranseder being pleased with the bike, saying "you can ride the bike very cleanly, but I have to get used to the bike, as it's so different to anything else I've ever ridden," the Maxtra team did not release lap times.
The other prominent visitor was Marco Simoncelli. Simoncelli did not ride today, but he will be out on Tuesday. Not on his Gilera, though, but rather aboard the RSV4 superbike. The ride is not a test, however, but just a reward for winning the 250 World Championship. Simoncelli has unfinished business in 250s and MotoGP, and is not yet ready to head off into World Superbikes.
Times from Monday's test at Valencia:
Well, strictly speaking, not a MotoGP bike, but former GP racing motorcycles don't come onto the market very often, and when they do, fans dedicated and wealthy enough to be able to secure these machines need to move quickly.
So collectors and fans will be delighted to learn that some very rare exotica is now up for sale. Aprilia is selling off some of its 500cc V twin RSW 500 V2 GP bikes, the bikes contested Tetsuya Harada and Jeremy McWilliams in the 1999 and 2000 500cc World Championships. The exact numbers on offer are not exactly clear, but at least 3 bikes will be on sale:
- The bike which Harada used in the 1999 season;
- The bike which Harada used in the 2000 season
- The bike which McWilliams used in the 2000 season.
As you might expect for such rare and valuable machinery, the website discretely neglects to mention the prices the bikes are expected to raise, and as part of the purchase, buyers will have to sign a contract forbidding them discussing the technical details of the motorcycles with third parties, as the dimensions and details will still belong to Aprilia, under intellectual property law.
In motorcycle racing, as in all endeavors in life, some people do better than others. And whenever one competitor does better than another, the search starts for just why that should be.
In a team sport - which MotoGP is, despite the overriding importance of the ability of a single individual, the rider - fingers are quck to be pointed at elements within a team, or even the team as a whole, when a team underperforms. Sometimes, such accusations are entirely justified, and there really is a single cause of the team's woes, but more often than not, when a team does not live up to expectations, the reality is a good deal more complicated than it might seem at first glance.
Two examples come to mind inside the MotoGP paddock. The first is the JiR Honda team, led by Luca Montiron. After JiR split from Pramac after the 2004 season, Makoto Tamada's results took a nosedive. What's more, a similar thing happened to Shinya Nakano when he joined the team, and the JiR team only saw success again after the team was effectively taken over by Team Scot once Andrea Dovizioso entered the MotoGP class. In this case, the cause seemed fairly straightforward: Montiron had talented riders and proven equipment, and yet the results were consistently mediocre at best. Once Montiron was pushed aside, the results saw a dramatic turnaround, justifying the conclusion that the problem was most likely to be Luca Montiron, and his ability to run a team.
The other example is what was this year the Alice Ducati team, owned by Pramac, and run for the first part of the year by Luis d'Antin. At first glance, conclusions about the team's poor performance could be put down to the same cause as JiR's: poor management. After all, Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli, two riders who had performed above expectations on other equipment, were suddenly struggling at the back of the field. Once Luis d'Antin was fired by the team, just prior to the Sachsenring MotoGP round in July, the results improved dramatically, Elias getting back-to-back podiums in Brno and Misano. But Elias' dismal performance in the final races of the year, as well as a closer examination of the history of the team paints a much more complicated picture than just poor management.
We had already posted pictures of the brand new Aprilia RSV4 World Superbike machine from the test which took place at Portimao, after the final round of WSBK (pictures here). But now, Aprilia have unveiled the official livery that Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano will be running next year. The color scheme is Aprilia's traditional red and black, but this time, without any of the white which was used on the old RSV Mille bike. Italian site Omnimoto.it has the scoop, but here's a taster:
See all of the pictures over at Omnimoto.it.
One of the main arguments heard against the introduction of a single tire manufacturer was that any move to standardize tires would turn out to be just the first of a range of rule changes aimed at making the racing closer. Once Carmelo Ezpeleta got the tire rule through, ran the argument, then after that, he would try to introduce rules on traction control, electronic suspension, a standard ECU, until he finally achieved his goal of close racing, like we had in 2006, the final season of the 990s.
It didn't take very long for the naysayers to be proved right. In an interview with the Italian Motosprint magazine, Dorna CEO Ezpeleta revealed that he has already started talks with the manufacturers on limiting the role of electronics in MotoGP. "We need to discuss it, as it's been done in every motor racing series," Ezpeleta said. No changes were planned for 2009, but Ezpeleta stated that he believed regulating electronics would be "the next step."
Ezpeleta has been here before, having suggested that MotoGP needs a standardized ECU at the end of 2007. The Dorna chief was forced to withdraw that proposal, after unsurprisingly encountering stiff resistance from the manufacturers, who regard MotoGP as a technological showcase. But after having won a victory over the single tire rule, he may well be feeling confident he can push through further restrictions with much less resistance.
While making his arguments in favor of limited electronics, he also let slip the real reason for the move to a single tire. The move was ostensibly to reduce costs and improve safety by reducing corner speed, but Ezpeleta told Motosprint that he also expected to see the single tire rule "improve the spectacle." "I have lots of confidence in the control tire, also to see the riders closer to each other and to see races with more passing." No mention was made of the safety aspect of the rule, which is bearing ever more resemblance to the "safety" arguments used to reduce engine capacity from 990cc to 800cc.
Skeptics might argue that Ezpeleta's logic is flawed. While any attempt to reduce costs should be applauded, and each of the regulations being introduced seem at first glance to be a cheaper option, the problem is that rule changes are by their very nature expensive, and tend to increase, rather than decrease costs.
Everyone - well, almost everyone who reads this site regularly - dreams of one day perhaps making into the paddock of either MotoGP or World Superbikes, and being able to earn their living surrounded by the most exciting racing motorcycles in the world. The opportunities to make that leap are few and far between, and when they do come along, they are often surrounded by uncertainty.
So when an opportunity does arise, it is a pleasure to be able to alert eager readers to their chance to make it into the world of elite motorcycle racing. And now, just such a chance has come up.
The Ten Kate Racing team are looking for a race mechanic, to join their team of 28 who work on Ten Kate's World Superbike and World Supersport race efforts. The requirements are relatively straightforward: Ten Kate are looking for mechanics with some form of technical training, relevant experience working on motorcycles, and a car and motorcycle license. Experience in motorcycle racing would be an advantage. As the position is based in Holland, some knowledge of Dutch would also be an advantage, or at least the ability and willingness to learn it.