Latest MotoGP News
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.
With the official withdrawal of the Kino Racing team from the Moto2 field yesterday comes a new opportunity. To fill the place vacated by the Argentinian rider Fabrizio Perren, the first reserve rider has been allowed onto the grid, in the shape of Ant West and the MZ team. West has been testing with MZ since last year, though the team started out with one of West's former CBR600RR Stiggy Honda Supersport machines. Since then, Martin Wimmer and former 250 star Ralf Waldmann have been working on a trellis framed prototype which West has tested at Valencia, Barcelona and Jerez.
There is a certain poetic irony to the return of the MZ name to the middle class. The former East German factory revolutionized the 250s and sounded in the two stroke era when Walter Kaaden took the technology he had learned building V1 rockets and applied it to two-stroke exhausts. After a modest debut in 1957, the factory returned with a vengeance in 1958, its two-stroke engine radicalizing engine design throughout the 1960s, eventually forcing the four strokes out of the sport. It took a rule change imposed by the MSMA to finally kill off the two strokes in the intermediate class, and the introduction of the 600cc four-stroke Moto2 bikes.
As the Moto2 class approaches its inaugural race, the field is going through a shake out and approaching its final lineup. For some teams this is good news, for others less so. The Stop & Go team can number themselves among the former: Today, the team confirmed it would be taking part in the 2010 Moto2 season under the name Thai Honda PTT SAG, and fielding the Bimota chassis for their two riders Ratthapark Wilairot and Hector Faubel.
There had been question marks over the team, after both Wilairot and Faubel had failed to turn up at any of the Moto2 tests since the post-race tests at Valencia. The trouble was one of contracts, team manager Edu Perales told MotoGP.com. The team had originally been negotiating with Suter for chassis, but had backed out in the end over disagreements over support. Bimota offered a more direct contact with the manufacturer, a chance that Perales and the SAG team had jumped at.
The delay has caused a problem for the team. Both riders are chronically short of test time, and will get their first proper test on the bike at Jerez in two weeks' time. Both Wilairot and Faubel will have a lot of catching up to do in those three days.
The enormous success of MotoMatters.com has seen our traffic grow tenfold over the past three years, and we are starting to become the victims of our own success. We have completely outgrown our current hosting situation, and after DNS problems made MotoMatters.com unreachable for a small part of our readers earlier this year, it was clear we had to act.
The time has now come for us to switch to a bigger, better and faster server. Unfortunately, this means some inconvenience for our readers for the next week or so, as the internet gets used to the idea that http://www.motomatters.com is located on a different server. Consequently, the website could become unreachable for a short length of time, and mail may not be delivered correctly.
Fortunately, this situation should not last too long. We're hoping everything should be back to normal by next Monday at the very latest, though the inconvenience should only last for a couple of days.
After Ducati launched their bike at their annual Wrooom event, and Fiat Yamaha and Rizla Suzuki unveiled their MotoGP machines online, it was finally the turn of the Repsol Honda team. Repsol, who have sponsored Honda for the past 15 years, launched the team in Madrid, at the penultimate round of the FIM Indoor trial at Madrid's Palacio de Deportes stadium, which Repsol Montesa Honda rider helped celebrate by winning the Indoor trial event, coming close to wrapping up the title.
After missing last year's presentation through injury, Dani Pedrosa was able to attend the event this year, though it was Andrea Dovizioso's turn to be absent as a result of the flu. In a press conference, Pedrosa spoke optimistically about the 2010 season, expressing his happiness at staring the year fully fit, though he also underlined that the team still faced challenges, primarily from adapting to the Ohlins suspension which Honda will be using for this season.
To see a video of the presentation of 2010 RC212V, as well as interviews (in Spanish) with Dani Pedrosa, jump to the bottom of the page.
As predicted, Jorge Lorenzo will take part in the Qatar tests due to take place at the end of this week. Yamaha today issued a press release confirming his intention to ride in the tests, the final opportunity for testing before the 2010 season gets underway at Qatar on April 11th.
The news had been expected, for Lorenzo had been increasingly optimistic about his chances of making a return in his posts on Facebook and Twitter. The Spaniard is not yet fully recovered, though, so his times will be difficult to judge. Lorenzo will be forced to ride with a specially-made brace and special gloves, to provide support for the fractured metacarpal he suffered. Lorenzo described his predicament in a press statement issued by the Fiat Yamaha team as follows:
Jorge Lorenzo is almost certain to take part in next week's final MotoGP test at Qatar. The Spaniard's participation in the test had been in doubt since Lorenzo broke his wrist during a motocross accident in early February. The injury had already caused Lorenzo to skip the second test at Sepang, and with testing limited to just six days before the season starts in April, Qatar would be the final chance for the Fiat Yamaha rider to test before the championship commences.
Lorenzo has spent a lot of time in physical therapy since his injury, squeezing it in between a full program of personal appearances for several sponsors, as well as appearing on a Spanish TV show. But his recovery has gone better than expected: On Thursday, Lorenzo announced on his Facebook page that he would make a decision on whether to ride at Qatar on Monday, but after physiotherapy on Friday, he announced that he thinks he will be able to take part at Qatar.
The future of the Balatonring circuit near Hungary's Lake Balaton is once again uncertain, after the Hungarian Development Bank MFB refused to underwrite a loan needed for completion of the project, according to the Hungarian business news service MTI-ECO. The loan of 15.3 billion Hungarian Forints HUF (around 57.6 million Euros or 79.3 million dollars) was part of a total package of of over 35 billion HUF in government subsidy needed to complete the 40 billion HUF project.
The MFB refused to underwrite the loan after undertaking a due diligence process. Under the terms of the loan, the state would be providing 70% of the financing of the project, while receiving a 30% stake in the Balatonring circuit. Due diligence revealed that no calculations had been done on the return on investment of the project, making it impossible to judge the value of investing in construction of the circuit. A statement issued by the MFB said that the bank had negotiated with investor about the business risks, but that the investor could not accept the conditions which the MFB had put on the loan.
Just over a month ago today, Valentino Rossi vowed to stop talking about his future in the press. But like everyone who has vowed to give up smoking or lose weight at the start of a new year, Rossi has found that such resolutions can be incredibly difficult to maintain. For at the ceremony on Thursday night where Rossi was presented with the "Winning Italy Award" in recognition of his work in improving Italy's public image abroad, Rossi was once again tempted into making statements on where he will be riding next season.
In response to questions about how much longer he will stay in MotoGP, the Italian living legend put the fears of MotoGP fans and organizers to rest: "I am again enjoying the sport and the desire to compete, so I think I will continue for some more years," Rossi told the press. Rossi could not avoid the question on all of Italy's mind, either. When asked about a potential switch to Ducati, Rossi was very clear: "An Italian on an Italian bike would be nice, yes. But I think I want to stay with Yamaha, which is also a little bit Italian. I would feel like a traitor if I acted any other way, because I feel very good with them."
After Yamaha and Ducati revealed their 2010 bikes, today it was the turn of the smallest of the manufacturers, Suzuki. The Rizla sponsorship remains, with the brand strengthened by having the livery designed by the famous American firm of Troy Lee Designs. The traditional Rizla powder blue remains, but the darker elements make the bike look squatter and rather more brooding. Much more like a MotoGP should look.
Suzuki also released the specifications of the bike, but like the specs provided by every manufacturer in MotoGP, they do not reveal any real information of note, such as bore, stroke, V angle, etc. The engine has received significant upgrades over the winter, to produce more horsepower and better engine characteristics, an improvement which saw both Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista leap up the timesheets during the last test at Sepang. Suzuki has a strong record of testing at the Malaysian track, but they tend to start slipping backwards as the season goes on. With the veteran/rookie pairing of Capirossi and Bautista, perhaps this is the year that Suzuki turns the corner.
Here's Alvaro Bautista's bike: