Latest MotoGP News
Another day, another set of beautiful photographs taken by MotoMatters.com snapper Scott Jones. That weekend saw the weather play a major role, with race day finally drying up and producing three great races, including a scintillating MotoGP contest. Relive it all again in glorious color:
On the third day of looking back at 2009, we return to the July 5th weekend, and the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca. The light is always beautiful on the Monterey Peninsula, and Scott Jones knows how to get the best out of. Enjoy some of his highlights from a weekend of racing in California.
The fate of John Hopkins continues to be clouded in mystery. A week ago, it looked like the former Suzuki and Kawasaki MotoGP rider was headed back to MotoGP, with various sources reporting that Hopper had signed to ride with the fledgling FB Corse MotoGP project.
Yesterday, though, Hopkins' manager told Roadracing World's David Swarts that the deal was far from done. According to the Roadracing World story, Bob Moore confirmed that Hopper was in talks with FB Corse about the Italian team's plans to enter a limited number of MotoGP races as a wildcard, but denied that any contracts had been signed. Hopkins is still considering his options, which include racing in the Superbike class in the AMA Pro series run by the DMG, according to Roadracing World.
It is a tradition to look back at the end of the year, and pick out the highlights of the season. Certainly for us at MotoMatters.com, the highlights have been Scott Jones' beautiful photos. Having paddock access for the first time meant that Scott could attend more races and take better photos. Over the next few days, we'll be going back and selecting a few of our favorites from among the very many beautiful shots Scott took for us. If you see any photos you'd like to have on your wall, then drop Scott an email to ask about pricing. And if you want to help us do it all over again in 2010, then head over to the donate page and send us a contribution. Here are some of Scott Jones' photos from Qatar to help persuade you of the wisdom of that decision.
News travels fast in the age of electronic media, sometimes so fast that it's ahead of the facts. After the Motorcycle News reported that Yamaha's World Supersport boss Wilco Zeelenberg was to become Jorge Lorenzo's new team manager, Zeelenberg himself has denied that any such decision has been taken. "I can't deny that Yamaha have spoken to me about this new position, but I'm definitely not the only candidate and a final decision is yet to be made," Zeelenberg told the Dutch website Racesport.nl.
Zeelenberg expressed his surprise at the rate at which the story had spread. "It's incredible how quickly the media publish these kinds of reports, and where they get them from, because it's a very long way from happening," the Dutchman told Racesport. What surprised him most was that nobody had checked with him, Zeelenberg said. "Up until this phone call [with Racesport.nl, Ed.] no journalists have called me to ask if the story is true or not. The story that I have already been given the job as Lorenzo's new team manager is completely wrong."
If you wanted a MotoMatters.com 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar for Christmas, you're too late, unless you can persuade Santa to take a detour via California or The Netherlands. But that doesn't mean you still can't get one. Though the calendars are selling fast, and the boxes are emptying rapidly, there's still time to get a racing calendar in time for January 1st, and maximize your enjoyment of Scott Jones' beautiful photos. Colin Edwards fans, in particular, should be quick, as January features a stunning shot of Edwards at the Sachsenring.
So just how do you fill those long drives to and from friends and family over the holiday period? My own personal preference is to listen to some of the excellent podcasts on motorcycle racing that are available on the internet. Especially in these dark times, when racing is still a long way away, listening to long and passionate discussions about racing on MotoGPOD, Rumblestrip Radio or Formula1Blog.com.
Sometimes, I get even luckier: I get to actually appear on a podcast, though the downside is that I get to listen to myself afterwards and hear all the mistakes I made. This December is no exception, Todd McCandless and Grace O'Neill of the excellent Formula1Blog.com website and podcast were kind enough to invite me onto the show to discuss the 2009 MotoGP season and hear my thoughts on the 2010 season. So, if you have a long drive ahead of you, and an hour and a half to fill with idle chatter about motorcycle racing, then head on over to Formula1blog.com and listen to the podcast on the website, or download the MP3 directly and load it onto your MP3 player. Happy listening, and happy holidays.
The dangers of modern technology are notorious, and easily overlooked. As any visitor who has done Ducati's excellent factory tour can affirm, the racing department, Ducati Corse, is closely guarded, with only a small glass window for the curious to peer through. All requests for entry are politely but firmly declined, for fear of anything leaking out before a formal announcement.
Of course, that does not stop news from getting out inadvertently. The Italian site GPOne.com had an interesting "scoop" today, displaying a "spy" photo of Ducati's brand new 2010 Desmosedici GP10 MotoGP bike. And who is to blame for this indiscretion? A sleeper planted by the covert industrial espionage unit of a rival factory? A cunning and resourceful Italian photo journalist talking his way in under false pretenses?
Hiroshi Aoyama and Marco Simoncelli finished the final day of testing at Sepang on Wednesday, bringing the cycle of extra MotoGP rookie tests to an end. Once again, it was Hiroshi Aoyama who was fastest of the rooking pairing, beating Marco Simonelli's time by a significant margin. Aoyama's fastest lap stopped the clocks at 2'02.3, just two tenths of a second off Casey Stoner's race lap record of 2'02.108 set in 2008, while Simoncelli set a fastest time of 2'03.2, according to Crash.net.
After the test, Aoyama expressed his satisfaction with the progress he had made. "I still have a lot to learn," GPOne.com reports Aoyama as saying, "because the MotoGP bike is so much different from the 125cc and 250cc machines. I have to get used to the traction control and to the fact that all works electronically, but I am satisfied with the work we have done over these days, even though I would like to do more."
The rain continues to dog the last of the rookie tests, another downpour at Sepang disrupting practice for Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama as they acclimatize to their Honda RC212Vs. Fortunately, the rain paid only a brief visit in the afternoon, allowing Simoncelli to rack up 44 laps and Aoyama to accumulate 43 laps of the Malaysian circuit.
Both men improved their times, but as yesterday, it was Hiroshi Aoyama who was the quickest of the pairing. Aoyama's 2'03.25 on the Interwetten Honda was nearly half a second better than Simoncelli's time of 2'03.70 aboard the factory-spec San Carlo Gresini Honda, but both men were still some way off both Casey Stoner's lap record of 2'02.108 and Valentino Rossi's pole record of 2'00.518.
Simoncelli continued to emphasize that times were not important. In the Gresini press release, he is quoted as saying "I must insist once again that this is not my objective at the moment. The most positive thing is that I have lapped at a consistently fast pace for all 56 laps and I started to enjoy it." His main focus was to adapt to the bike and continue to find the right set up.
Though the bumper crop of rookies due to enter MotoGP next season were given an extra session of testing, the last two to make use of that opportunity got off to a very damp start. Marco Simoncelli and reigning 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama arrived at Sepang to be greeted by a torrential downpour, delaying the start of the first day of testing until around noon local time.
Simoncelli, riding the two factory-spec RC212Vs used by Toni Elias for the Gresini Honda team, could only manage 44 laps of the Malaysian circuit, with a best time of 2'04.43, some 2 seconds off Casey Stoner's race lap record, and nearly 4 seconds slower than Valentino Rossi's 2009 qualifying record, set without the benefit of soft qualifying tires. Hiroshi Aoyama, in the familiar situation of having just one bike to ride, the former Team Scot Honda ridden by Gabor Talmacsi, was a few hundredths quicker than the man he took the 250cc title from, lapping Sepang with a best time of 2'04.38. Though well off lap record pace, both times are commendable under the circumstances. The track is still in poor shape from a series of car races, the tropical downpour serving only to worsen conditions. With just three bikes out on track - Aoyama, Simoncelli and a Honda test rider - little rubber was being laid down to give the track more grip.
After Yamaha's championship winning World Supersport team slipped quietly into oblivion, as first reported here at MotoMatters.com, the victim of the global economic crisis, the question most frequently raised was what would happen to the team's highly successful team manager, former 250cc racer Wilco Zeelenberg. The Dutchman had a proven record with Yamaha's WSS team, culminating in Cal Crutchlow's dominating championship in the team's final season. Given both his record and his long association with Yamaha, surely he would find a role somewhere?
That somewhere turns out to be inside the Fiat Yamaha MotoGP team, according to reports in Motorcycle News. Zeelenberg is being tipped to replace the departing Daniele Romagnoli as team manager for Jorge Lorenzo's side of the garage. Romagnoli ostensibly departed the team to look for a more technical role, but reports in the authoratitive German language magazine Speedweek indicate that the real cause of the rift were internal disagreements between Romagnoli and Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada. Romagnoli has since move on to become Raffaele de Rosa's crew chief in the Tech 3 Moto2 squad.
To describe John Hopkins' career since leaving Suzuki as "checkered" would be to indulge in understatement. Hopper left the stability of the Suzuki team for a difficult and painful year with Kawasaki, before the Akashi factory decided to pull out of MotoGP, leaving the American without a ride. Hopkins' next step was to the Stiggy Honda team in World Superbikes, where he had some success before suffering a couple of horrific crashes which put him out of operation for most of the season. Adding insult to injury - painfully literally in the case of Hopper - came the announcement at the end of the 2009 season that Stiggy Racing would be pulling out of racing altogether, leaving Hopkins high and dry once again.
Fortunately, perhaps, for the American, Hopkins could yet have found a ride for 2010. Hopper had earlier been linked with a return to the AMA, but with the US national series in its current disastrous state, this was perceived as being very much the last resort. Yesterday, salvation appears to have come from Italy, with the Italian FB Corse team announcing that they hoped to finalize a deal with Hopkins when he visits Italy for the launch of the team's new three-cylinder MotoGP bike in January 21st.
From Valencia, a number of the Moto2 teams made their way further south, for another couple of days testing at Almeria in Spain's far southeast corner. Pons, Viessmann Kiefer, Promoracing (now the Antonio Banderas Racing Team), and Cardion AB all made the trip south to take advantage of the climate in Europe's driest corner.
Times are once again very difficult to interpret, even when available, but for what it's worth, the fastest man at the track was Karel Abraham on the FTR Moto2 bike, some seven tenths quicker than Sergio Gadea on the Pons Racing team's Kalex machine. But here, too, the Moto2 bikes were put into the shade by World Supersport equipment: the Motocard Glaner Kawasaki team was also present at the test, with 2009 surprise package Joan Lascorz setting an extremely respectable lap of 1'37.45 lap, over a second and a half faster than Abraham aboard the FTR bike.
Only a few more days to the holidays, and time is running out if you want your MotoMatters.com 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar delivered to a friend or loved one in time to slip under the tree. Realistically, orders will have to be in by Saturday morning if they are to be delivered in the US or Europe, and the chances are not good for receiving a calendar in time if you are outside of the US, Canada or Europe. So you had better hurry if you want a calendar before Friday!
Fortunately, 2010 is still 13 days away, and so you still have plenty of time to order the MotoMatters.com calendar, and get the maximum value out of the 14 beautiful photographs by Scott Jones the calendar features. If you need a stocking filler or New Year's gift for friends or family you won't be seeing until after the holiday season, this is still the ideal gift.
Full details of the calendar are available on the MotoMatters.com calendar ordering page, but the highlights of the large 12"x18.5" calendar are one of Scott Jones' fantastic photos every month, as well as a monthly grid with the race weekends for that month clear marked, showing all three days of on-track action for the MotoGP and World Superbike series, as well as birthdays for most of the world's top motorcycle racers. An example page is shown below, while the calendar ordering page has the lowdown on the calendar. Best of all, 10% of the calendar's purchase price goes towards Riders for Health, helping provide health care in remote regions of the world.