Latest MotoGP News
Last but not least of the entry lists released by the FIM today is the 125cc class. Few surprises here either, but certainly a few names of note. Perhaps the most remarkable name on the list is not that of a rider, but of a bike. The vaunted Italian marque Lambretta is on the grid, fielding a two-rider team. For those over the age of about 40, Lambretta is forever associated with scooters rather than racing motorcycles, in part as a result of popular culture and the film Quadrophenia. But the Lambretta team is actually the remnants of the old Loncin team, the Chinese manufacturer of commuter bikes having pulled out at the end of last season. It is unlikely that the Lambretta team will be racing with vast numbers of lights and mirrors attached to the fairing.
Along with the release of the MotoGP entry lists, the FIM also announced the provisional entry lists for the Moto2 class. Unlike the MotoGP entry list, which is more or less set in stone given the size of the budgets and the importance of the class to Dorna, the Moto2 list is still incredibly fluid. It is unlikely that the starting grid at Qatar will contain all of the names appearing on the list here, as witnessed by the fact that the list also contains two reserves.
The list contains 39 entries plus 2 reserves, a number which even Dorna CEO believes is too many, as he told the official MotoGP.com website. The names on the list have been floating around for some time now, and there are few surprises. The two-rider lineup announced by Michael Bartholemy's Marc VDS racing team has been split into two, with Scott Redding having been accepted as an official entry, while former Superstock 600 Vincent Lonbois is still on the reserve list. Former factory Kawasaki MotoGP rider Ant West is also on the reserve list for the MZ Moto2 project, but the status of that team is currently on hold, as they continue search for funding, like so many other teams.
The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for the MotoGP class, and the list has no surprises in it. The list contains official confirmation of the numbers the MotoGP rookies will be using, most of which are the numbers they used previously. Hiroshi Aoyama is the only exception, taking number 7 as the number 4 which he used in the 250 class has already been claimed by Andrea Dovizioso - who in turn had been forced to take 4 because his preferred number 34 has been retired in honor of Kevin Schwantz.
Rather surprising is Marco Melandri's entry. He was listed under the number 24, and not the number 33 which he has used since entering MotoGP. This turned out to be a mistake, as pointed out to us by the San Carlo Honda Gresini press office. Melandri will be running number 33 in 2010 after all.
2010 MotoGP Rider Lineup
A small and select group of World Superbike riders have decamped from Portimao and headed across the Iberian peninsula to Valencia, for two more days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit. They are joined there by a gaggle of Moto2 teams, including the Pons Kalex team, the Mapfre Aspar team and the Tech 3 team. But their journeys have been in vain, as the weather has not been in the least conducive to riding racing motorcycles. High winds, a damp track and temperatures not that far above freezing left most of the riders stuck in their garages, sipping espressos and hoping the weather would clear.
The John Hopkins saga is over. An announcement has been made. The time, place and method used to make the announcement exemplified just why Hopper's decision to return to the AMA or move to MotoGP has become such a saga. For at the Anaheim Supercross round on Sunday, John Hopkins announced to the assembled crowd that he would be racing the M4 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 in the AMA Pro American Superbike class for 2010. This news was then disseminated further by Cycle World's managing editor Matthew Miles, who posted the following tweet on Cycle World's official Twitter page:
John Hopkins just announced to the crowd at Anaheim that he will race an M4 Suzuki GSX-R1000 in AMA Pro American Superbike in 2010. MPM
Hopkins had previously made a verbal commitment to the FB Corse team, who are developing their three-cylinder MotoGP prototype, designed by Oral Engineering and based on the engine originally built for BMW's stillborn MotoGP effort. The role would primarily be that of test rider, with an unknown number of races as a wildcard entry. That commitment was contingent on Hopper being able to test the bike before signing a contract, but a number of circumstances prevented that from happening.
Over the past year, the Balatonring project has been dogged by bad luck and economic hardship. The project was born under the unluckiest of stars, planned in Hungary and to be built by a Spanish-based construction firm shortly before the economic crisis began. Just months later, the Spanish real estate market collapsed, causing huge problems for the Spanish construction industry. At the same time, the value of the Hungarian Forint plummeted, plunging the country into further economic difficulties as so much of the business of the country was being done in Euros.
Fortunately, those troubles seem to be at an end. The holes created in the project's budget by the financial crisis have been filled by Magyar Fejlesztési Bank, the Hungarian Development Bank, according to BikeRacing.it. The Bank, whose mission is to provide funding for infrastructure and economic development projects such as the Balatonring circuit, has stepped in with a loan to allow the circuit to be completed in time for the September 19th Hungarian round of MotoGP. As a consequence, the Hungarian Grand Prix, which was cancelled last year after work on the Balatonring circuit ceased, is almost certain to take place as scheduled. Sources close to the management of the Balatonring track are extremely confident that the race will go ahead as planned.
The signs are growing that John Hopkins has come to a decision about his future. That future, it seems likely, is in his home country of the United States of America rather than Italy. The grounds for such a conclusion were first spotted by the Italian website BikeRacing.it: The entry list for the American Superbike class in the AMA includes the following line item:
|21||TBD||M4 Suzuki||Suzuki GSX-R1000||TBA|
As anyone who has followed Hopkins' career for any length of time knows, #21 is John Hopkins' number. And M4 Suzuki is Team Hammer, the team run by Roadracing World Editor and Hopkins' former mentor, John Ulrich.
The 2011 MotoGP Silly Season is already the biggest news of 2010, and the year is just a few weeks old. Shots have been fired over various bows in the runup to the summer, when negotiations with all four members of the Aliens - Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, whose contracts expire at the end of 2010 - will commence.
The biggest target for all three major manufacturers - Yamaha, Honda and Ducati - is probably the nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi. So far, Rossi has been decidedly ambiguous about his own plans, flirting openly with Ducati one moment whilst avowing his loyalty to Yamaha the next. Rumors persist that Rossi is considering a switch to Ducati - fueled by the dreams and desires of 60 million Italians - and even Honda have hinted they would welcome a return. So the press, and especially the Italian press, seize on any opportunity to search for any hint of Rossi's intentions for 2011.
With the Italian currently lapping the Barcelona track in a 2008 Ferrari F2008 Formula One car - a "gift" from his friend, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali - Alberto Porta of the Italian broadcaster SportMediaSet put a few questions to Valentino Rossi's father, Graziano, who was also at the test. In the video interview, Porta asks Graziano Rossi a series of questions about Rossi's future, both in the short and long term.
With the announcement that Toni Elias and Vladimir Ivanov have signed for the Gresini Moriwaki Moto2 team, as well as updates on the Campetella and CIP Technomag team, we are edging closer to what passes for a definitive Moto2 entry list. The biggest surprise is the size of the list: After the initial announcement at Valencia that only 37 entries would be accepted for the 2010 Moto2 class, the total already stands at 40. No doubt the process of raising the necessary funds to actually go racing will whittle that list back to a more manageable size. As one paddock insider put it to us, "when Moto2 was first announced, everybody jumped in. Now they need to actually raise the money, they're starting to pull back..."
Provisional Moto2 list as of January 18th, 2010
It's taken a while, but Toni Elias finally has a ride. The Gresini team made the long-awaited announcement today of their rider line-up for 2010, which features the long-anticipated signing of Toni Elias, alongside the little-known Russian rider Vladimir Ivanov. The two men are to campaign Moriwaki's MD600 Moto2 bikes in the inaugural Moto2 championship in 2010.
Elias' journey to a contract with Gresini has been a long one. It was clear early on in 2009 that the chances of Elias staying with Gresini in MotoGP were fairly slim after Fausto Gresini signed Marco Simoncelli for 2010, then announced that he needed two Italian riders to satisfy his sponsor, Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo. After various rumors and machinations to try and stay in MotoGP, the Spaniard finally conceded that he would have to spend 2010 racing in Moto2, with a return to Gresini looking increasingly inevitable as time passed.
The signing of Elias did not come as much of a surprise. The Spaniard has already tested the Gresini Moriwaki a couple of times, setting the fastest time at the Valencia tests after the final MotoGP round of the year. However, given the disparity in engine configurations being used in the tests - everything from full-fat World Supersport-spec lumps to HRC Superstock kitted CBR engines - it is hard to assess just how much weight to put on the reported times. Elias was certainly quick, though, and looked extremely comfortable. The only complaint he had of the Moriwaki was that it was far too slow, the one factor that none of the teams will be able to influence.
Normally, the month of January is a quiet time in the world of MotoGP and motorcycle racing. Last year, that quiet was ruptured by the fallout from Kawasaki's decision to withdraw from MotoGP, and one of the major players in that scenario is making waves in 2010. John Hopkins, who lost his 2009 ride when Kawasaki canned their team, has been desperate not to be caught out for the second year in a row, and has had been linked with a number of options.
The main team the American has been associated with is the brand new FB Corse project, which is to field a three-cylinder 800cc bike designed by Oral Engineering, based on the bike the Italian engineering firm originally built for BMW. However, the FB Corse 34100, as the machine has been christened, is still very much under development and the question of how much racing the team will do is still unclear.
Given this uncertainty, Hopkins appears to have been hedging his bets. The M4 Suzuki team - which is scheduled to contest the AMA's American Superbike championship next season- announced last week that Hopkins would be testing for the team at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This news, which included a statement from a team source to the effect that they were trying to tie Hopkins to a deal to race the bike in AMA for 2010, seemed to preclude any further involvement by Hopkins in FB Corse's MotoGP project.
Over the past few weeks, news of the Moto2 class has flooded the media. Such has been the volume of news, announcements and rank speculation that it has been hard to keep up. Fortunately for us, our friends over at the highly respected Italian website GPOne.com have set their minds to this tricky task, and have produced a list of the current state of entries in the Moto2 class.
The list is still very much provisional, and many of the teams are still in doubt. Despite the fact that the Moto2 class is meant to reduce the costs of competing in the support class, the amount of money required to take part in the world championship remains high. Estimates and budgets have varied, with teams spending between 1.5 and 3 million euros to field a two-rider team for a year, and in these straitened economic times that kind of cash is proving more difficult to raise than expected.
The fact that teams such as Campetella Racing have not yet announced riders make them a doubtful prospect to make the first ever Moto2 race at Qatar. But even established teams are not safe. Rumors persist that the Gresini team will not make it onto the grid, as the team is short of funds for its MotoGP effort, and cannot afford the extra to run a Moto2 team alongside its premier class team. The team was due to announce Toni Elias as one of their riders on Thursday, but that announcement has been pushed further and further back, with the Spanish press now reporting that a decision will be made on Monday about the future of the team.
An appendix is a wonderous thing. A few centimeters of obscure and largely defunct organ has shaken up the world of motorcycle roadracing over the past couple of days, mainly because that vermiform organ is located inside Valentino Rossi, MotoGP's biggest superstar and the reigning world champion.
The worries for his health appear to be over, though. When contacted by MotoMatters.com, a Fiat Yamaha spokesperson set the racing world's collective minds at rest. "Valentino is fine," the spokesperson told us. "Hhe had a mild stomach pain which they thought necessary to get checked out, but there is no further problem."
This is corroborated by the fact that the Italian has been given the all clear to take part in Ferrari testing next week. Rossi is due to test Ferrari's Formula One car at Barcelona, and tested his condition yesterday by driving a Ferrari 458 Italia at the Fiorano circuit, as well as taking a seat in the factory's F1 simulator at Maranello.
The news that Valentino Rossi was admitted to hospital yesterday with a case of appendicitis, but was released without having surgery to remove his appendix, raised a number of questions among followers of MotoGP. Sensible people that they are, the Italian website GPOne.com decided to call Dr Claudio Costa, the head of the Clinica Mobile, to get his vision on the situation.
Dr. Costa revealed that he had spoken to Rossi about the issue, and had offered some advice on the course of action to be followed. "I can confirm the news which as emerged so far," Costa told GPone.com. "The results of the tests show that the situation does not require surgery. Valentino can recuperate with just some medication, and everything should be fine."
Dr. Costa also warned that Rossi was not yet in the clear, however. "It's possible that infection can take place in that part of the intestine, which can result in inflamation. The problem now is that such cases can recur, even if they've been successfully treated." Rossi had consulted Dr. Costa on the best thing to do next. "Rossi asked me how long it would take before he could ride again if he decided to have an operation," Dr. Costa told GPOne.com. "I answered that it would be just a couple of days."
Ill fortune has once again befallen Valentino Rossi in the off season. According to reports on GPOne.com, the multiple world champion was rushed to hospital in Pesaro last night with severe abdominal pains. The reports further state that tests showed Rossi to be suffering from a serious inflammation of the appendix. Doctors treating Rossi decided that emergency surgery was not necessary, and the Italian was sent home to rest.
According to GPOne.com, the problem will not require surgery to remove Rossi's appendix, but will be treated using a course of rest and antibiotics. This seems a highly unusual step, as appendicitis - especially acute appendicitis - always involves surgery, invariably removing the mysterious organ to avoid further complication. The risk of infection from an inflamed appendix is great, and commonly leads to peritonitis which can be fatal. The minor risk from surgery hugely outweighs the major risk of leaving an infected appendix in place.