Archive - 2008 - News Item
It's Saturday afternoon, and the sun is starting to make way for clouds. For the moment, it's still bright, but there's no guarantee of that lasting. The second session of Supersport practice was run in pleasant, if not exactly warm conditions, and times continued to drop as ever more rubber was laid on the track.
Once again it was Kenan Sofuoglu who dominated the session, quickly dropping into the 1'45s, and setting the mark for pole at 1'45.156 before the session was even halfway done. Many would try, but the closest anyone would get would be Broc Parkes in the dying seconds of the session, getting to within 7/100ths on the Yamaha.
Holland's Barry Veneman will start from 3rd on the grid, the Hoegee Suzuki team having picked up the final couple of tenths they've been missing over the last few rounds. Veneman has Andrew Pitt on the other Ten Kate Honda beside him on the grid, the 2008 World Champion finishing out the front row.
Gianluca Nannelli heads up the second row of the grid on the Althea Honda, with Spanish rider Joan Lascorz dropping to 6th, from 3rd this morning. Josh Brookes will start from 7th, while American Josh Hayes was pushed down to 8th, and the end of the 2nd row. Hayes had started well, but dropped gradually down the order, as the other riders made good their knowledge deficit of the track.
In the afternoon's World Superbike free practice session, Troy Bayliss was out to avenge his indifferent time of this morning, and quickly topped the timesheets, setting his fastest time on his 2nd full lap out of the pits. This time, Bayliss' time was good enough to beat his team mate, Michel Fabrizio setting the 2nd fastest time, making it a Xerox Ducati 1-2. Cal Crutchlow continued his run of strong times, setting the 3rd fastest time, ahead of Noriyuki Haga and Carlos Checa.
We woke up this morning to a surprise: skies were blue, more or less, the sun was out, and the world looked a much more attractive place than it has for the past two days. It's still cold here, but conditions have improved vastly overnight.
Traffic on the way into the circuit was busier than yesterday, unsurprisingly, but they still haven't finished the freeway exit which is supposed to take fans straight from the A22 freeway to the circuit. With today, November 1st, being a national holiday, the chances of it being completed and opened are minimal. If you want to get here on Sunday, leave early.
With the weather now cooperating, the World Supersport session started on time, and Parkalgar Honda's Josh Hayes was quickest for the first half of practice, before Joan Lascorz, Broc Parkes and Kenan Sofuoglu got up to speed.
Once up to speed, Sofuoglu was flying. The young Turkish rider is clearly much more at home back on his Ten Kate Honda, and finished the session on top of the timesheets. Yamaha's Broc Parkes got close, but not close enough, finishing 2nd, ahead of Joan Lascorz and Andrew Pitt. Hayes eventually finished down in 5th.
The second Superbike qualifying session saw the field shook up the same way as Supersport. Where yesterday, Britannia ruled, this morning, they merely made their presence felt, with Cal Crutchlow, Leon Haslam and Johnny Rea all hitting the top 10, rather than the top 5. No surprise to see Troy Corser near the top of the timesheets, as the Australian wants to get a win on a Yamaha before he leaves the team. All the more surprise to see Ducati's Michel Fabrizio ahead of Corser, taking top spot.
And another surprise behind Corser. Fonsi Nieto is still uncertain of his ride for next year, and grabbed some attention with the 3rd fastest time, ahead of Alstare Suzuki team mate Max Neukirchner. Crutchlow, Haslam and Rea were joined on the second row by Kawasaki's Regis Laconi, while the privateer Ducati of Jakub Smrz took 9th ahead of Ruben Xaus' semi-factory Sterilgarda bike. Troy Bayliss, running a special #21 livery on the bike for his final race weekend, could manage only 13th, but looked fast all the way round the track.
The grids for both classes will be settled this afternoon.
The weather continues to confuse and confound expectations here in Portugal, with rain and sunshine alternating almost minute by minute. The track, despite the sunshine, has barely been dry, however. As a consequence, times have been difficult to judge.
The World Supersport qualifying session was a case in point. The American Josh Hayes led for much of the session, having gone out on wet tires, and as a dry line was starting to appear, he pulled in for some intermediates. As he headed out of pit lane to start his next lap, it started to rain, and by the time he was halfway round the track, the dry line was completely gone, and his chance of provisional pole along with it.
In the end, it was the Frenchman Mathieu Lagrive who got it most right, topping the timesheets ahead of Hayes on the Parkalgar Honda, with Joan Lascorz and Gianluca Vizziello rounding out the front row. Kenan Sofuoglu continued to show just how much better he is on a Supersport bike than on a Superbike by setting the 5th fastest time, ahead of Gianluca Nanelli, with the Hoegee Suzukis of Barry Veneman and Didier van Keymeulen rounding out the second row. Jesco Gunther took 9th, while the 2008 World Supersport champion Andrew Pitt was down in 10th.
The disparity in times showed just how difficult the conditions were. Lagrive was 1.4 seconds faster than Hayes, while Hayes was 1.5 ahead of Lascorz. The top 10 are separated by 6.3 seconds.
The weather was slightly better for the World Superbike session, and for a while, it looked like being an all-British front row, with Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea, the HM Plant Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Leon Haslam, and Ventaxia Honda's Chris Walker heading the timesheets. But by the end of the session, it was Troy Corser who took provisional pole, forcing Haslam down into 2nd, with the Ducatis of Michel Fabrizio and Ruben Xaus filling out the front row.
Heavy rain overnight on Thursday meant the inaugural day of practice got off to a late start here in Portugal. There are still problems with drainage, and parts of the track were flooded. What was worse was mud on the track, which had to be cleaned off before proceedings could start.
While the track was fixed quickly, facilities around the circuit are a little more problematic, with power being alternated between the pit garages and the hospitality area, the electricity supply blowing fuses with alarming regularity. And because the outside of the track is still basically a construction site, vast quantities of rich brown mud is being tramped everywhere. At least there is an army of cleaners keeping the buildings almost spotless, but they are having to work for their money.
When practice commenced, times dropped rapidly as rubber started to be laid on the brand new surface. During the first free practice session of World Supersport, Joan Lascorz started quickly, before Parkalgar Honda's Josh Hayes took over the top spot. The Mississippian was making good use of the track knowledge acquired here during testing last week, and was getting quicker when he crashed going into turn 1. He ended the session in 5th place. Joan Lascorz took back the top spot while Hayes limped back to the pits with a damaged bike.
Lascorz finished the session on top, ahead of Matthieu Lagrive, Kenan Sofuoglu, clearly much happier on a Supersport bike than he was on a Superbike, and the Dutch Hoegee Suzuki rider Barry Veneman.
MotoGPMatters.com is in Portimao this weekend, to cover the World Superbikes finale, but mostly, to seize the last chance of seeing Troy Bayliss out on track. This morning, we headed out to find the circuit and give it the once over, and we have to say that it's an impressive facility.
The schedule for the official tests has been announced. The MotoGP and smaller classes will test separately. Highlight of the test season is as ever the official IRTA test at Jerez, also known as Grand Prix Zero. Here, a BMW coupe will be up for grabs during a special qualifying session held on the last day.
|December 1 - January 20||Winter test ban|
|March 1-3||Losail||Qatar||Night Test|
|March 28-29||Jerez||Spain||Official IRTA Test|
125 and 250 class
|December 1 - January 20||Winter test ban|
|January 31-February 1||Valencia||Spain|
|March 25-27||Jerez||Spain||Official IRTA Test|
The rain returned to Valencia on Tuesday, and the track saw little action, most riders going home. Only 7 riders hit the track in the afternoon, and as a few days earlier, Nicky Hayden was quickest in the wet.
|1||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'48.287||20 / 20|
|2||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'48.296||17 / 18|
|3||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'48.786||23 / 26|
|4||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'49.917||24 / 25|
|5||Mika Kallio||Ducati||1'50.275||25 / 26|
|6||Toni Elias||Honda||1'54.057||14 / 16|
|7||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'57.322||6 / 7|
Times from the first day of testing at Valencia. These will be updated as soon as official times are available. All times were set using the new standard tires provided by Bridgestone, with a choice of either a soft or a hard compound available. For comparison, see the fastest lap each rider set during the race on Sunday.
Times at 5pm, the end of the test:
|1||Casey Stoner||Ducati||1'32.464||31 / 54|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||1'32.672||24 / 60|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||1'32.921||20 / 34|
|4||Chris Vermeulen||Suzuki||1'33.142||41 / 67|
|5||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'33.325||37 / 75|
|6||Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'33.375||35 / 77|
|7||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||1'33.550||41 / 44|
|8||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'33.675||38 / 57|
|9||John Hopkins||Kawasaki||1'33.760||44 / 74|
|10||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'33.782||47 / 75|
|11||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'33.832||39 / 80|
|12||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'33.960||74 / 79|
|13||Toni Elias||Honda||1'34.129||78 / 81|
|14||Sete Gibernau||Ducati||1'34.451||21 / 52|
|15||Mika Kallio||Ducati||1'34.793||57 / 60|
|16||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki||1'34.925||48 / 71|
|17||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'34.995||59 / 62|
|18||Yuki Takahashi||Honda||1'35.203||72 / 73|
|19||Gabor Talmacsi||Aprilia||1'38.472||55 / 57|
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|9||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'33.839||1.257||0.213|
|14||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'34.225||1.643||0.075|
With the new tire regulations comes a severely reduced MotoGP testing schedule. Here's the testing schedule as it stands:
|October 27 - 28||Valencia||Spain|
|November 26 - 27||Jerez||Spain|
|February 5 - 7||Sepang||Malaysia|
|March 1 - 3||Losail||Qatar|
|March 28 - 29||IRTA Test, Jerez||Spain|
More details when they become available.
At the end of the season, Yamaha's top engineers usually give a presentation on the inner workings of their championship-winning M1. So it was earlier this week, but during that presentation, comments were made which were even more interesting than the notes on the MotoGP bike.
Shigeo Kitagawa, head of projects for Yamaha's racing department, told journalists that they could also be interested in supplying equipment for the new four-stroke class which is to replace the current 250s in 2011. "In the past, we had a near-monopoly in the 250 class with our TD 250 and TZ 250," Kitagawa said. "At the moment, we are engaged in MotoGP, but that doesn't mean to say that once the rules are clarified, Yamaha won't be interested in producing a low-cost machine, especially if it could also be used in national championships."
So far, the consensus has been that the 250 replacement class - due to consist of 600cc four strokes - will be Honda's plaything. But with Yamaha's long history in 250s, plus their failure to win a World Supersport title since 2000, there's every reason to assume that Yamaha have an interest in getting involved. Whether the 600s are as interesting as the 250s have been remains to be seen. But with more than one manufacturer involved, the class is starting to show potential.
Opinions about the proposal for a single tire manufacturer are still divided among the riders, but there is one thing that all of them agree on: They are going to miss the breathtaking sensation of pushing the astonishingly grippy qualifying tires to their very limits. Nicky Hayden has said the tires are so good, that "you get off the bike and you're shaking." For riders so used to being right on the edge to be shaking takes something quite remarkable.
So there was some disappointment when the weather on Saturday started off as gray and wet as it had been on Friday. It looked like the last chance to use qualifiers might be gone, but as the afternoon started, the rain stopped, and the track started to dry out.
The track filled quickly once qualifying started. With the race expected to be dry, teams and riders were anxious to find a race setting that might work on Sunday. After three drenched sessions of free practice, they had learned more than they needed to know about riding in the wet.
The track was still cool, and spotty in patches, so times came down slowly. It took 5 laps before the times even got into the 1'34s, Randy de Puniet the first to crack that barrier on his LCR Honda. De Puniet was joined seconds later by Loris Capirossi, then Shinya Nakano, the Japanese Gresini Honda rider taking half a second off the Frenchman's time, with a lap of 1'34.437.
Three minutes later, Nakano's time was beaten, Nicky Hayden taking over the top spot with a 1'34.351. The Kentucky Kid had been fastest in all three wet sessions, and was showing he was quick in the dry too. Hayden was on a strong run, going on to take 3/10ths off his time on the next lap, with a time of 1'34.009.
His team mate, with whom Hayden had been engaged in a war of words by proxy, was not about to let Hayden run away with the session, and with 15 minutes gone, set the 2nd fastest time with a lap of 1'34.195.
Central European Summer Time ends at 3am Sunday morning, and while that means an extra hour in bed for most Europeans, it could end up confusing the many MotoGP fans who live elsewhere. For with the clocks going back an hour in Europe, that could throw the schedules of fans based in the US or Australia into disarray.
The final round of MotoGP in Valencia, Spain, is due to start at the regular race start time of 2pm. But that is 2pm CET, or Central European Time, rather than CEST, Central European Summer Time. Clocks in the US and most of Australia aren't due to change for another week, so for fans there, the race may be an hour later than they thought it would.
It goes beyond the scope of this website to list the race start time in every possible time zone - the official MotoGP.com website has a nifty time zone checker for that - but by using the invaluable tools on the Time And Date website at http://www.timeanddate.com/, we can calculate that the race will start at 9am EDT or 6am PDT in the US, and midnight at EDT in Australia, for fans in Sydney.
If you want to see what time the race will start in your time zone, then check this page on the Time And Date website.
Two things dominated the first day of practice at the final MotoGP round in Valencia: Rain, and Nicky Hayden. Rain has lashed the circuit all day, turning the adjacent campsite into a mudbath, and making the going treacherous around the circuit.
Added to the rain was the cold, temperatures hovering around 14 degrees Celsius, or the high 50s Fahrenheit. So not only is the rain causing grip problems, but the chill conditions are reducing grip even further. As a consequence, and rather unsurprisingly, a lot of people have been off into the gravel.
Casey Stoner got away with just a scare. Though his crash in FP1 looked scary, coming as it did at a fair speed round Turn 13, the Australian landed luckily, and didn't injure himself. Valentino Rossi also came away unscathed from a lowside in Turn 14. One of the slowest corners on the track, Rossi almost managed to catch the rear as it went away from him, but couldn't quite lever the bike back up onto the fat part of the tire.
Unluckiest team of the day were the Alice Ducati men. Toni Elias came off after a semi-highside, and has had a generally miserable day, finishing bottom of the pile and 6 seconds off the pace. But while Elias was relatively unharmed, Sylvain Guintoli is battered and bruised, after banging his knee and his behind in a big highside during FP2.
The other constant factor was Nicky Hayden. The American was fastest in both morning and afternoon sessions, and was clearly at home both on the track and in the rain. Hayden is just a few hundredths faster than his team mate Dani Pedrosa, but he was unlucky not to be much further ahead. Coming round on a very quick lap with a few minutes to go, Hayden nearly overcooked Turn 12, and pulled into the pits for new tires, after having been half a second up at the third intermediate checkpoint.
The FIM announced a minor change to the 2009 MotoGP calendar today. The Misano round of MotoGP will be held a week earlier than previously scheduled, moving it to the week after the Indianapolis MotoGP round.
|May 17th||France||Le Mans|
|July 5th***||United States||Laguna Seca|
|July 26th||Great Britain||Donington Park|
|August 16th||Czech Republic||Brno|
|September 6th||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Misano|
|October 18th||Australia||Phillip Island|
|November 8th||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo - Valencia|
* Evening race
** Saturday race
*** Only MotoGP class