Latest MotoGP News
Much has been made of the quality of broadcast by MotoGP's organizers, Dorna. The camerawork and onboard footage is very highly rated by the fans, and has received plaudits from the international media around the world. The only complaint that fans have had - apart from a lack of access in some countries - has been the fact that the broadcasts have not yet been available in High Definition.
Fortunately for the fans, this is about to change: This season, a number of broadcasters around the world are to show the races in HD quality. Viewers in the US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Scandinavia, Portugal, Hungary, Brazil, Singapore, the Middle East and in Africa will get to see the races in HD from Qatar, with other countries expected to start showing HD as the season progresses.
As the clock ticks down towards the start of the 2010 MotoGP season, the riders and teams are preparing themselves for battle to commence. Perhaps the best way to get yourself ready to race is to go watch some racing, a sentiment that Nicky Hayden clearly agrees with, as he went down to Daytona for the AMA season opener, in which is older brother Tommy took part.
Of course, a MotoGP rider attending a race packed with journalists can't expect to get away without spending some time talking to journalists, and Daytona was no different for Hayden. The Marlboro Ducati rider posted a long segment for Superbikeplanet.com's excellent Soupkast (mp3 file here), and he also did a short interview with the excellent motorcycle racing video site OnTheThrottle.com, which we've posted below. Both are well worth a listen.
There has been widespread speculation (including by this author in an opinion piece on MotoMatters.com) that the Fiat Yamaha team is simply not big enough for both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, and that one or the other of them will be forced to leave at the end of 2010. Given the incredible selling power of Valentino Rossi - not just today, but probably for the next thirty or more years - the most likely scenario is that Jorge Lorenzo will be forced to up sticks and move, either to Honda or to Ducati.
Jorge Lorenzo, however, has other ideas. Speaking to Radio Catalunya this morning, the Mallorcan told Manel Fuentes that his aim is to stay with Yamaha, whatever Valentino Rossi decides to do. "I would like to stay with Yamaha, because we're a great team, a very competitive team," Lorenzo said. The Mallorcan acknowledged that his relationship with this teammate was far from ideal, but denied this formed a problem. "The atmosphere in the team is hardly incredibly friendly, we don't have an intimate friendship," Lorenzo said. "It's a good professional relationship, a working relationship."
The theory behind running the MotoGP season opener in Qatar at night is simple: Because the daytime temperatures in the desert state are so high, causing problems for riders, bikes and tires, taking advantage of the cooler nighttime ensures the race is easier on man and machine. The evening start also timeshifts the race to a more favorable broadcast time, right into the middle of the evening primetime in key Spanish and Italian TV markets.
But night races have problems of their own: For a start, there's the monstrous amount of energy required to provide sufficient light for the riders to race in. Then there's the fact that if it rains - extremely rare in the desert, but as we saw last year, extremely rare is not the same as never - the racing has to be stopped, as water on the surface reflects the overhead lighting, making it impossible to see properly to race.
Since the announcement that the Motorland Aragon circuit was to take the place of Hungary on the 2010 MotoGP calendar, the internet has been abuzz with people trying to find out about the new facility near Alcañiz in northeast Spain. The track's website shows maps of the 5.077 kilometer circuit and even a diagram showing the amount of elevation at the track, giving a more graphic demonstration of the 50 meter elevation difference between the highest and lowest points, as well as the 7.2% drop of the "Sacacorchos" or Corkscrew corner at Turns 8 and 9.
The debut of the FB Corse bike at Valencia this week is perhaps best described as a moderate success. The three cylinder bike built by Oral Engineering demonstrated that it was reliable and had plenty of potential, though it was still at a very early stage of development. Garry McCoy lapped Valencia at around 1'40, well off the pace but not bad for a shakedown test run without any electronics. So far, the FB Corse has not been admitted to the MotoGP entry list, but a couple more tests should help get the bike ready to be examined again in time for the Jerez round of MotoGP at the beginning of May.
Overall times from both days of testing at Qatar:
Casey Stoner finally managed to break Valentino Rossi's stranglehold on testing on the final day at Qatar, the Australian putting his Marlboro Ducati on top of the timesheets early on, and only occasionally ceding the lead to the Fiat Yamaha man. The Australian was fast throughout the session, not even a minor crash slowing Stoner down.
Despite finishing half a second down to the rider he has annointed as his main challenger, Rossi pronounced himself happy with the way the test went, telling GPone.com that he believed the new Yamaha M1 had proved it was competitive at Qatar. The Italian also tested some tires for the 2011 season; after testing a hard front in Sepang, Rossi tried the softer compound 2011 front tire at Qatar, but revealed he did not believe it represented a huge leap forwards.
The FIM today released the latest - though still officially provisional - entry lists for all three classes of the MotoGP series. Though largely unchanged, there have been one or two minor modifications to the 125 and Moto2 field.
The MotoGP class remains officially unchanged, though that in itself is news. The FB Corse team had earlier announced that they had been accepted on to the official entry list, but were later forced to retract that statement and announce they will attempt to qualify for entry again prior to the Jerez round on May 2nd. This means that the MotoGP field remains just 17 riders, with hopes that the field could be expanded to 18 by Jerez, and with wildcards from the Spanish Inmotec project later in the year.
The first day of the final test for the MotoGP class before the season commences saw Valentino Rossi continue his domination of testing, ending the session three tenths ahead of his nearest rival Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider was constantly at the top of the timesheets, only really ceding the top spot when he paused for dinner late on in the evening. Despite the track cooling and the evening dew which started to form, Rossi took another half a second off his best time to stamp his authority on the session.
Casey Stoner found himself demoted to second, at a track where he has won three years in a row, but the Australian pronounced himself happy with the test, telling GPOne.com that the bike was working really well, especially on used tires. The Ducati Marlboro rider did comment that he would like some more power with the long-life engines, as would everybody, but he praised the new engine character, which made the Ducati much easier to ride.
After the jubilant tone in yesterday's press release from FB Corse, today the team have been forced to issue a retraction. The team had run a timed test at Valencia in front of Franco Uncini as Dorna representative, to demonstrate that they deserved to be on the MotoGP grid and that the team was capable of being competitive if they were allowed to enter. As reported here and at GPOne.com, Uncini was impressed by the FB01 machine, but felt it was still some way from being ready to race. With some more testing, Uncini said, they could possibly join the grid when MotoGP returned to Europe.
The team, however got a little ahead of itself. They immediately issued a press release stating they were to be admitted to the grid from Jerez, the third round of the series, and expressing their determination to compete at the highest level.
The Hungarian round of MotoGP has been troubled from the start, and doubts have hung over it ever since the end of 2008, when it became clear that the Spanish/Hungarian construction conglomerate building the circuit was having trouble completing the track. The 2009 Hungarian round was first pushed back from the spring to September, before being canceled altogether, and the debut planned for September 2010.
Even that has proved too much, though. Rumors that the round would be canceled altogether emerged earlier this week, after the Hungarian Development Bank MFB refused to underwrite a loan over doubts over the financial viability of the project and allegations of corruption. Without that bank guarantee, the project was effectively dead in the water, and cancellation of the Hungarian round of MotoGP was just a matter of time.
On the face of it, the announcement today that the Spanish TV rights to broadcast MotoGP have been awarded to the commercial channel Telecinco is good news. The channel is one of the very largest in Spain, is well funded and features some Spain's most popular TV shows, such as Gran Hermano, the local version of moribund Big Brother reality TV format.
The press release announcing the new deal certainly made it sound like a positive move. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta said of the deal, "Reaching this agreement with Telecinco once again demonstrates the status and firm grounding of MotoGP as a televised sporting spectacle which enjoys a huge, dedicated following. Telecinco are widely acknowledged for the excellence of their sports broadcasting and we are therefore highly confident that this deal is a firm step forward for MotoGP." In turn, the CEO of Telecinco, Paolo Vasile, stated "It has always been one of our goals to introduce MotoGP into our offering to viewers, as the sport has enjoyed numerous Spanish success stories." But what Vasile went on to say reveals much about the nature of this deal: "Telecinco will even be ready to work with Dorna before 2012 if the rights become available earlier."
News travels fast, and sometimes it arrives too quickly to make sense of. After reporting earlier that Dorna representative Franco Uncini said the FB Corse bike was "not yet ready to race," FB Corse have announced their intention to do just that. However, just as Uncini recommended, FB Corse have decided against joining the grid at Qatar, spending their money on developing the bike instead, to be ready for the first European round of MotoGP at Jerez on May 2nd.
Uncini had pronounced himself impressed with the bike, developed by the renowned Oral Engineering, who have a long and illustrious history in Formula One, but felt that the bike needed more development before it would be ready to compete at the highest level. That was obvious from the lap times: according to SportMediaset, McCoy's best lap was a 1'40, about 7.5 seconds off Casey Stoner's lap record of 1'32.582. But given that this was the bike's first proper foray onto the track, and that the laps were run without any electronics at all, the team stands a good chance of using the obvious room there is for improvement.
As the established MotoGP field warm their engines for the final test of the season at Qatar starting on Thursday, back in Europe, another bike has been auditioning to join the show. At Valencia today, the FB Corse team ran a timed test in front of Franco Uncini, Dorna and IRTA's representative sent to evaluate the project, with the hope of impressing Uncini sufficiently that the team and their rider Garry McCoy would be admitted as the 18th official entry into the MotoGP class.
Their hopes have been dashed, however. Uncini's verdict, though full of praise for the team, is negative, and the FB Corse team will not be allowed to start the season at Qatar. Speaking to GPOne.com, Uncini described the project as "interesting," but said what the FB Corse really needed was more time and more miles on the bike to develop it further and refine it before it is ready to race.