April 24th, 2010
Troy Corser continued in the second session of Free Practice where he left off in QP2, by heading the timesheets on the BMW S1000RR. The Australian once again finished ahead of HANNSpree Ten Kate's Johnny Rea, while Leon Haslam put the Alstare Suzuki in 3rd. BMW's progress continued in the other half of the garage as well, with Ruben Xaus ending the session in 4th, just over three tenths of a second behind Corser.
Troy Corser took provisional pole spot during the second session of qualifying for the World Superbike class, underlining the serious steps forward that BMW have made with the S1000RR. Corser's hot lap displaced Jakub Smrz from provisional pole, and bumping Ten Kate's Johnny Rea down into 3rd. Carlos Checa made a big jump forward to move up into 4th place.
The final starting grid will be settled during Superpole this afternoon.
Eugene Laverty finally broke the stranglehold which the Ten Kate Honda World Supersport team had at Assen, putting his Parkalgar Honda between Kenan Sofuoglu and Michele Pirro. Sofuoglu still has a firm grip on the class, though, leading Laverty by over half a second. Lorenzini by Leoni Kawasaki's Fabien Foret was 4th fastest in the morning session, run in cool, but sunny and dry conditions.
Entering the paddock at any World Championship event still sends a thrill of excitement through me every time I do it, though as a fellow - and far more experienced - journalist pointed out to me, perhaps that's because I've only been doing this for a couple of years. Yet the difference between entering the World Superbike paddock and the MotoGP paddock is huge, despite the fact that their core activity is absolutely identical: allowing brave young men (and in the case of the World Supersport paddock, one brave young woman) to go as fast as possible on two wheels.
There are the obvious differences, of course. The World Superbike paddock is a much friendlier, more relaxed place. Riders, team members and fans mingle freely - or as freely as the constraints of time and hard work required of the riders and teams allow. The fans are welcomed into the paddock, as paddock passes are on sale to the public, rather than only available through specialized resellers as part of VIP packages. The post-qualifying and post-race press conference takes place in the public WSBK tent, in the middle of the paddock, in front of a live crowd, rather than in the press room in the media center. And there are still plenty of teams who race out of the back of a van - albeit a large one - instead of a giant race truck.
As is their custom, OnTheThrottle.tv have another pre-race show for this weekend's round of World Superbikes at Assen. Recorded live in the press room at Assen - just a pre-fab wall away from the coffee corner - World Superbike commentators Jonathan Green and Steve Martin round up the first day's events at the legendary Dutch track, talk about the new, improved Ruskenhoek corner (more old Assen than new Assen) and even get a guest onto the show. Pata S&G Ducati's Jakub Smrz takes over the mike and talks to Dave Williams about setting the fastest time of the day during qualifying.
Here's the OTT WSBK Preview show:
The Ten Kate World Supersport team are clearly determined to dominate their home round of World Supersport this weekend. After sweeping all opposition before them during the first session of free practice, Kenan Sofuoglu and Michele Pirro continued in the same vein during QP1. Sofuoglu sits on provisional pole, three tenths ahead of his teammate Pirro, but the gap to the rest has been reduced from huge to just dominant. Frenchman Fabien Foret sits in 3rd, half a second behind Sofuoglu, while Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty took the final spot on the provisional front row, three quarters of a second off the pace of the young Turk.
Jakub Smrz is on provisional pole for Sunday's World Superbike races, after taking the top spot from Johnny Rea with a few minutes left in the first session of qualifying. The Pata S&G Ducati rider was helped to first spot by Rea himself, after the engine of the HANNSpree Ten Kate rider's Honda CBR1000RR blew up in a very oily mess, causing the session to be red-flagged, while the marshalls cleaned up the mess.
Troy Corser finished the session 3rd, continuing his strong start at Assen on the BMW S1000RR, while Alstare Suzuki rider - and championship leader - Leon Haslam finished in 4th, and rounds out the provisional front row.
The volcanic ash cloud that caused the cancellation of the Motegi MotoGP round has had only a very limited effect on this weekend's World Superbike round at Assen. With nearly all of the material already in Europe, and most of the riders being based here as well, the World Superbike field will be nearly complete at the historic track of Assen.
Nearly, but not quite. Two teams will be missing from the start line at the Dutch track, one regular team and one wildcard. The missing wildcard is a victim of Eyjafjallajökull: In the flight chaos which ensued after the Icelandic volcano started spewing out clouds of ash, the Yoshimura Suzuki team was forced to cancel their travel plans from Japan to Europe, and skip the Dutch round of World Superbikes. The trip would not have been a problem for the rider, Yukio Kagayama, as the Japanese ex-WSBK man is currently racing in BSB and was in Europe already, but the team could not get the material or the personnel from their base in Japan to Europe in time for the race.
After a torrid preseason of testing, with Dani Pedrosa finishing well down the order during several sessions at the official MotoGP tests at Sepang and Qatar, speculation started as to the causes of Pedrosa's mediocre performance. And when Pedrosa finished just 7th at Qatar, the buzz really started about whether one of MotoGP's aliens had finally gone missing.
Anyone watching practice and the race could quite clearly see what Pedrosa's problem was, however. His Repsol Honda RC212V shook and weaved going into corners, and again coming out of corners, causing the bike to shake its head all the way along Qatar's long straights. After qualifying, in a press debrief, when asked how it felt to ride a bike bucking and weaving like that, Pedrosa fixed his interrogator with a beady eye, before replying that it felt awful.
Much of the Spaniard's problems have been put down to the adaptation process to the new Ohlins suspension that Honda are using on all their bikes, but in a story on the website of Spanish sports daily AS.com, journalist Mela Chercoles explains that the suspension is not the issue. The problem, Chercoles learnt from Pedrosa, was the chassis and the swingarm. Pedrosa has asked HRC for a stiffer frame and a stiffer rear swingarm, to allow the Spaniard to gain the rear traction that Pedrosa and his crew have been chasing, while making the bike more stable under braking and on corner exit.
In the weeks and months before the races, both Miller Motorsports Park and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been organizing press conferences with leading names in the World Superbike and MotoGP series respectively. This week, it was the turn of Indy, and with the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi being called off unexpectedly, we had the chance to talk to Marlboro Ducati rider Nicky Hayden, moderated as ever by IMS' press chief Paul Kelly. During the teleconference, Hayden talks about how much more ridable the 2010 Ducati Desmosedici GP10 MotoGP bike is, how the revised tire allocation procedure has affected the team's buildup, and how he still aches to win a dirttrack mile. Here's what the Kentucky Kid had to say to a bunch of journalists:
The 2010 season opener at Qatar also witnessed the birth of a brand new class. The Moto2 bikes - a prototype chassis housing a standardized Honda engine - had generated a lot of interest during the off season, not least because the class threw up a number of new and unknown names in the tests. One of the favorites to emerge from the preseason was American rider Kenny Noyes, riding a PromoHarris Moto2 bike for the Jack&Jones Banderas Racing team.
After finishing consistently in the top three during testing, Noyes had a difficult qualifying session, ending up just 30th on the grid. A tactical error, and being caught off guard by the adrenaline-fueled chaos of the last 10 minutes of qualifying saw Noyes 1.8 seconds off polesitter Toni Elias, at a track he had only seen before testing road bikes for a Spanish magazine. We caught up with Noyes a couple of hours before the Moto2 race was due to start at Qatar.
MotoMatters.com: Nervous yet?
Kenny Noyes: Not now! [Laughs] I was real nervous before the first session, especially the first free session, going out there the first time in the World Championship, and learning the track. It's a lot to take in at once. But I kinda settled down as the weekend has gone on, and now I'm starting pretty far back, but we can only really go forward from here.
The news that Dorna and the FIM had been forced to postpone the Motegi MotoGP round, scheduled to take place next Sunday, had plenty of fans worrying that a similar fate might befall this Sunday's Assen World Superbike round. But whereas the only way to get from Europe to Japan was by plane, a journey which had become nigh on impossible due to the ban on air travel throughout most of Europe, caused by the cloud of ash being spewed out by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the route from the previous WSBK round at Valencia to Assen went almost exclusively over land. And surface travel - though tricky in some places - is still largely unhindered.
Just to be sure, we contacted the World Superbike Series press officer, Infront Motor Sports' Julian Thomas, to make sure there the Assen WSBK round would be unaffected. "There shouldn't be any issues for the Assen World Superbikes round," Thomas told us. "The bikes are already all in Europe following the last round at Valencia, and so are the riders. There should also be no problems for the fans either, which are mainly local or from Germany and UK. The teams are organizing to get there by car as well."
While news of the cancellation of next week's MotoGP race at Motegi has been seeping out to news outlets from teams, riders and officials inside MotoGP's organizing bodies, the official status of the race was that it was not canceled until the FIM (the sanctioning body for MotoGP) had spoken. Unfortunately, however, the discussions and decision-making all took place over the weekend, a period during which the FIM's offices in Switzerland are closed. Now that the weekend is over, the long-awaited official confirmation is here: The FIM has finally issued a statement announcing that the Motegi MotoGP race has been postponed until October 3rd, 2010. Here is the FIM statement:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Postponement of the Grand Prix of Japan
The recent vulcano eruption in Iceland has resulted in an ash cloud cover infiltration. Air traffic space over Europe has stopped all international travel in and out of Europe.
This case of ‘force majeure’ has obliged the Grand Prix Permanent Bureau composed of the FIM President Vito Ippolito and Dorna C.E.O. Carmelo Ezpeleta, with the agreement of the Grand Prix Promoter, Mobilityland Corporation, to postpone the Grand Prix of Japan planned on 25 April 2010.