Latest MotoGP News
The first day of testing with the official Honda engine is over for the Moto2 class, and finally we have some kind of indication of both what the lap times and what the relative strengths of each rider, team and chassis are. And those indications are throwing up some very interesting surprises.
The name at the very top of the timesheet is very far from a surprise: Ever since it was clear that Toni Elias would be returning to MotoGP's middle class, he has been favorite to take the title. Elias got his campaign off to a good start, lapping in the mid 1'37s, a respectable pace which would have put him in 12th on the grid for the last ever 250cc race here just over 4 months ago. The name of Julian Simon, reigning 125cc World Champion is no real shocker either, the Mapfre Aspar rider also being hotly tipped by both fans and insiders.
Places 3 through 5 are more of a surprise, though they range from an insiders' tipped rider to a complete wildcard. Kenny Noyes in 3rd may come as a surprise to MotoGP fans, but anyone who has kept half an eye on the Spanish CEV Formula Extreme championship in recent years will know the American's name, and will know that he is fast. Noyes has had some experience on Moto2 bikes already, having tested immediately after the race at Valencia.
The waiting is over, and the Moto2 bikes are finally out on track at Valencia on equal terms, with equal engines. At last we can start comparing times properly, as everyone is now using the official standard Moto2 engine. Using the spec Honda engine, Kenny Noyes is so far quickest, confirming the form the Antonio Banderas Racing rider has shown at all of the Moto2 tests so far. The American - son of US journalist and Spanish TV commentator Dennis - leads the Gresini squad, with Russian newcomer Vladimir Ivanov surprisingly ahead of the championship favorite, Toni Elias. Yuki Takahashi, who has also been fast throughout Moto2 testing, sits in 4th, the Tech 3 rider currently about eight tenths off Noyes' pace.
But the times so far don't mean too much, as no one has put in a great many laps yet, and a sizable group of riders are still in the pits waiting to get underway. Some of the teams are suffering the consequences of - unsurprisingly - the economic crisis: One such is Scot Honda, who according to GPOne.com were forced to wait until this morning before receiving their Moto2 engines, as the team still has unpaid back payments for their MotoGP adventure last season. The team, which is to field Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, has been given a reprieve for this test, but could still be in trouble before the season starts.
After a very long wait, the official Moto2 engines have finally been delivered to the Moto2 teams. The teams, assembled at Valencia for testing over the next three days, have had to wait for the engines since November last year, but reliability issues have prevented Honda from supplying them to the teams earlier.
Each rider has been issued with one engine, assigned at random by IRTA officials, which they will have to make last for the upcoming two official IRTA tests and the first three races of the season. The engines are numbered and marked, the numbers unrelated to the numbers the riders use, though Andrea Iannone of the Speed Up team will be using engine number 73, the reverse of the number he will be running on his FTR Moto2 bike this season.
With the engines now being fitted into the chassis, the riders and teams are preparing for tomorrow's test. And for once, the weather gods appear to have looked kindly on the Moto2 class, for though the northern part of the Iberian peninsula has just been lashed by storms, the weather at Cheste looks like being largely dry and relatively warm for all three days, with rain forecast to fall only when the bikes aren't on track.
The MotoMatters.com 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar has been a huge hit, and is now adorning the walls of homes and offices around the world, helping hardcore motorcycle racing fans plan their weekends around their favorite sport. With each race weekend clearly marked, keeping up with when the next race is now incredibly easy for the lucky souls who purchased the calendar. But those who have not yet done so are about to get even luckier: We have slashed a sizable chunk off the purchase price, to help sell the last few copies we have in our storerooms.
On top of the price cut, we will also be offering a free Riders for Health sticker (graciously provided by the US chapter of Riders) to the first 15 people to place an order. 10% of the purchase price already goes to Riders for Health, and the bonus sticker is our way of showing our support to this outstanding organization, and can be your way of joining the mass of people who have helped Riders become what it is today.
At the end of the day at each MotoGP event, journalists crowd into hospitality suites and pit garages to question the riders on how the day went, and find out what they have been riding on. Unfortunately, those interviews are not usually available online during the racing season. However, our good friends over at GPOne.com have been recording these interviews at the current MotoGP test at Sepang, and have put up edited versions for their readers to listen to.
Valentino Rossi finished the second day of testing at Sepang in the same style he finished the first day: On top of the timesheets, with a comfortable lead over his closest rival Casey Stoner. The Italian smashed his existing pole record on a used tire early on the session, before going on to work on the electronics of his Fiat Yamaha M1. At the end of the day, Rossi pronounced himself very happy with the progress of the Yamaha, and even took time to try the Yamaha Test Team's bike, setting the 15th fastest time in the process on a bike not set up for him.
Rossi finished nearly a quarter of a second faster than Casey Stoner, the Australian having also lapped under Rossi's previous pole record. There was also good news for Stoner's teammate, 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden. After struggling yesterday, Hayden improved his time by over 1.5 seconds, setting his best ever testing result on the Ducati. The Kentucky Kid had complained of a lack of strength from the arm pump surgery he had just a couple of weeks ago, but a day back on the bike was sufficient to sort those problems out too. Hayden took it a little easier than his usual marathon testing sessions, with 10 other riders doing more laps than the American.
The new MotoGP regulations for 2012 have the MSMA caught on the horns of a dilemma: In the long run, the 1000cc formula should be cheaper than the current crop of 800s. In the short run, the switch requires that the factories design a new engine based on the new limitations imposed by the rules. With the factories still reeling after the global economic crisis has left their finances in turmoil, a significant investment to develop a brand new engine is not an attractive prospect at all.
Consequently, at the meeting the MSMA held at Sepang three weeks ago, the factories agreed to allow the 800cc bikes to remain in the class as a separate category for the foreseeable future. The 800cc bikes were to be given a 3 kilogram weight advantage over the 1000s, but were to be subject to the same fuel, engine limits and 81mm maximum bore restriction to be imposed on the liter bikes. This would allow the factories to get more value out of the 800cc bikes they have already poured so much investment into, and prevent them from having to persuade their management boards from dipping heavily into the rapidly-dwindling coffers to develop a new bike.
Valentino Rossi continued his dominance at Sepang, picking up where he left three weeks ago and topping the timesheets at the end of the first day of testing at the Malaysian track. The Italian put in his fastest time early, and has spent much of the day working on the electronics, content with the work done on the engine and chassis at the previous Sepang test.
Casey Stoner was the second fastest man, and the only rider to get close to the Italian. Stoner has been testing a new carbon fiber swingarm on the Desmosedici GP10, as Ducati continues to work on incorporating the advantages the aluminium swingarm offers into the carbon fiber version.
Third and fourth fastest men were Andrea Dovizioso and Loris Capirossi, the two Italians throwing up a bit of a surprise. Dovizioso took half a second off his time from the previous test, the Repsol Honda team starting to integrate the data they collected three weeks' ago into finding a strong setup for the new Honda RC212V. Dovi's teammate Dani Pedrosa was less fortunate, suffering a slow speed fall that kept him off the track for a couple of hours, before returning and setting the 7th fastest time.
The weather gods really do have it in for the Moto2 class. The teams that had chosen to skip last week's Moto2 test at Barcelona seemed to have made a wise choice after the rain ruined most of those three days of testing. But the Gresini, Scot and JIR teams -featuring MotoGP refugees Toni Elias, Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, along with former 250 star Mattia Pasini and Russian rookie Vladimir Ivanov - were given the same treatment that the Barcelona teams had received from the elements: At Misano, it rained just about all day.
The miserable weather saw the Moto2 bikes spend most of the time in the garage. De Angelis and Canepa spent time comparing the Rapid Inside NCR Scot bike against a set of stock Honda CBR600s, and De Angelis came away suitably impressed. "It's hard to fully evaluate the bike after so few laps," the Italian rider told GPOne.com, "but the first impressions from today are that the bike is very good, much more responsive, agile, and lighter than the CBR600. It's easier to handle and has a lot more grip."
The FB Corse MotoGP bike took a step closer to finding its way onto the grid today. According to the Italian sports broadcaster Sport Mediaset, the team has been given a special dispensation by Dorna and the FIM to test the bike outside of the official MotoGP testing events, with a contracted rider rather than a test rider. As a consequence, Garry McCoy has until February 28th - this coming Sunday - to test the bike and demonstrate the machine is fast enough to make it a worthy entry to the MotoGP class.
When the announcement was made that Moto2 would be single engine class, the accompanying press release stated boldly that the engines would produce in the region of 150 horsepower. This seemed an entirely reasonable and achievable figure, given that the top flight World Supersport 600s, such as those prepared by Ten Kate Honda or by Chris Mehew for the Parkalgar Honda team produce something very close to that number. So HRC's engineers disappeared into the dyno room with a pile of CBR600RR engines and bunch of ideas to get them producing horsepower.
Rumors floating around the Moto2 paddock suggest that Honda's engineers - normally no slouches when it comes to extracting power from four-stroke engines - emerged from the dyno room carrying not a powerful 600 cc engine, but rather the remains of several engines which had died in the attempt to find that horsepower. And so HRC switched tack, and went for reliability instead, cutting horsepower but ensuring that the engines will last reliably for the three race weekends they are expected to have to cope with.
When Moto2 was first announced, fans around the world consoled themselves over the loss of the 250s with the hope that the new class would bring a new wave of design innovation in motorcycle chassis. As the spec engine made innovation in the engine department a moot point, chassis builders, it was hoped, could give free reign to their imaginations and experiment with ways of improving on the basic chassis concept.
And so the disappointment has been considerable as Moto2 bike after Moto2 bike has been unveiled, to reveal the same basic chassis and very little novelty indeed. About the most adventurous in terms of design that we have seen so far is the use of a trellis chassis in the RSV bike to be used by the Aspar team, and that can hardly be described as revolutionary. Other than that, there has been some small experimentation in the margins of bike design, with slightly non-standard subframe sections and swingarm mounts.
I was fortunate enough to visit the workshop of FTR Moto in early February, the firm who are building bikes to be fielded by Alex Debon, Gabor Talmacsi and Andrea Iannone in the 2010 Moto2 season. At FTR, I spoke at length with the company boss Steve Bones and engineer Mark Taylor. During our conversation - a full report of which should be available some time in March - I put this point to both Steve and Mark, and their response was both surprising and illuminating. They pointed out that as much as they would like to incorporate a host of innovations which they have lined up for the next version of the FTR Moto2 bike, anything they attempted would have been rejected by the teams they were trying to sell their chassis to. "What surprised me most," Bones said, "Was how conservative the Moto2 paddock is."
Ever wondered what a MotoGP rider does during the off-season, and how they prepare? Well, veteran US broadcaster Greg White visited Nicky Hayden to find out, went for a cycle training ride and talked to him about 2010, recovering from his arm pump surgery and college basketball.
On the cycle ride:
Thanks to 2WheelTuesday for finding the video.
The gods have not looked kindly on the advent of the Moto2 class. Nearly every time the new bikes have taken to the track for testing, the elements have intervened, throwing wind, rain and even snow into the paths of the CBR600-engined prototypes. The final day of testing at Barcelona was no different, the day starting wet and the track only drying out some time after 2pm, leaving precious little time for the riders to work further on developing and setting up their brand new Moto2 machines.
Despite the conditions and the lack of track time, the majority of riders still at the circuit did manage to improve their times. Once again, it was Shoya Tomizawa who was fastest, sharing the honor on Friday with Julian Simon and Yuki Takahashi. In the unofficial standings, Jules Cluzel was awarded the 4th fastest time, ahead of Ant West on the MZ.
But twelve riders finished the test within a second of each other, though being unofficial and self-reported, the lap times need to be treated with an artery-clogging helping of salt. A potential lead group seems to be appearing, but given the well-reported difference in engine tune being used, it is hard to judge just how much difference in time is being disguised by superior engines.
The fallout from the global financial crisis continues to affect the paddock, causing more suffering as it goes. This time, it claimed the WRB team as its victims, the Spanish squad being forced to withdraw after losing sponsorship from the clothing brand Jack&Jones. The withdrawal leaves riders Danny Webb and Adrian Martin looking for work, though both men are unlikely to be without a ride for long.
British rider Danny Webb is closing on a deal with the Andalucia Cajasol team, preparing to field an Aprilia RSA125 alongside Spanish CEV 125 champion Alberto Moncayo. Both the team and Moncayo are stepping up to the World Championship from the Spanish series, and given that the CEV 125 championship is a hotbed of talent and highly professional teams, the move could work out well for Webb. Though the WRB team finished 3rd in last year's 125cc World Championship with Nico Terol, Webb's new team should be just as competitive. The deal has not yet been signed, but according to an interview Webb gave MotoGP.com, the rider and the team are close to finalizing terms, including the length of a deal.