Latest MotoGP News
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:
The one place that everyone wants to be at a MotoGP race is in the paddock. Simultaneously, it is one of the most difficult places to get into, as, quite simply, Dorna does not sell passes into the paddock. The usual way - other than in a professional capacity, or working as a marshal - is to purchase a VIP package through one of the very few specialist travel companies authorized to issue paddock passes, such as our friends over at Pole Position Travel.
But now, MotoGP's (and MotoMatters.com's) official charity organization Riders For Health are providing an extra route into the paddock. Today, the charity announced that they will be auctioning off pairs of paddock passes for each of MotoGP's 18 races this season, with the money raised going towards Riders' outstanding work providing primary health care in Africa. If you want to get into the paddock and have a chance of meeting your own personal hero (be it Valentino Rossi, Bradley Smith or even Jerry Burgess), then read the press release below carefully, and dig deep for Riders.
Exclusive MotoGP paddock pass auction for Riders
Whenever fans talk of their dreams of being a world famous motorcycle racer, they have in their minds the image of travelling from circuit to circuit, and focusing on nothing but racing. Of course, life isn't like that, and one of the duties of a factory World Superbike rider is to turn up at motorcycle shows, corporate PR events and a host of other occasions to help market the brand helping to pay their wages. James Toseland understands this, and performs this task admirably, taking advantage of the situation to practice his second passion, playing the piano, at such affairs.
Toseland is currently in Rome for the MotoDays exhibition, helping Yamaha to launch their brand new FZ8 naked bike. While he was there, our friends over at GPOne.com took the opportunity to catch up with him, and did a short video interview with the Sterilgarda Yamaha rider. In the interview, Toseland talks about the transition from MotoGP to World Superbike, his expectations of Portimao, and why so many British riders are in the World Superbike series. Here's the video from GPOne.com:
Ask some of the veterans of the MotoGP paddock who the greatest racer of all time was, and you'll get a fairly short list of names, usually including Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz. But the answer to that question is almost always followed up by the words "And then there's Freddie Spencer, of course..." Spencer's career was cut short by a wrist injury, but before he was forced to retire, the young American shocked the world by being the only man to win both the 500cc and 250cc World Championships in the same year. Fast Freddie was precocious, sensitive and blindingly, mind-bogglingly fast.
Since retiring from racing, Spencer's fortunes have been very mixed. The Louisiana native ran a successful riding school and was the motorcycle racing commentator for the US SpeedTV channel, but both of those ventures have gone sour. Spencer's riding school was forced to shut down at the end of 2008, after financial problems saw the instructors go unpaid and the bikes repossessed. Spencer's commentary work also dried up, with Daytona legend Scott Russell taking his place in the commentary booth.
Rain once again ruined testing for the Moto2 test at Jerez, the bad weather chasing the class all over Spain throughout its off-season testing program. Hopes that the weather might brighten up for Monday's session were dashed, the rain falling on and off all day. "These three days at Jerez have been pretty much a waste of time," Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told MotoMatters.com, "Even on Sunday, the track was never really dry, there were wet patches still in places."
Ant West took advantage of the wet conditions in the morning to set the fastest time of the mixed session, ahead of Alex de Angelis and Mike di Meglio, but in the 50 minute qualifying simulation at 4pm, De Angelis moved easily ahead of the rest of the field, ending the session and the day with three quarters of a second advantage over his competitors. Toni Elias confirmed his role as favorite for the title, finishing the day in second spot, the Gresini rider having been at or near the top at every test held so far.
Testing continued for the Moto2 and 125cc class at Jerez today under considerably better conditions than prevailed yesterday. The morning saw the best of the weather, the sun coming out to dry a still damp track, but the afternoon saw intermittent rain making the track damp from time to time, and complicating testing.
Toni Elias was the rider who best used the conditions to his advantage, setting a strong lap in the early afternoon of 1'45.024, about 1.7 seconds off the fastest time set during last year's 250 race here, in much sunnier, hotter conditions. Elias was half a second faster than the Colombian Yonny Hernandez, and nearly seven tenths quicker than American Kenny Noyes, who had led during the morning. Alex de Angelis continued his strong form from yesterday, setting the 4th quickest time, ahead of the Forward Racing Team of Jules Cluzel and Claudio Corti. Julian Simon, the fastest man at the previous test at Valencia, crashed early in the session, but walked away unhurt, and could manage only the 10th fastest time.
After a brief respite at Valencia, the rain was back in full force at the Jerez test for the Moto2 and 125cc class, so bad that it was causing flooding in the nearby towns of Cadiz, Conil and Chiclana. The handful of kilometers that separated the Jerez circuit from the flood-affected areas were sufficient to spare the assembled riders most of the problems, other than being cold and wet for much of the session.
The rain dried up in the afternoon, though the track remained tricky, and by the end of the day it was Alex de Angelis who proved best at mastering the difficult conditions for the Moto2 riders, his time of 1'55.835 still over 13 seconds off track record pace. De Angelis finished the day ahead of Tech 3's Raffaele de Rosa and Gresini's Toni Elias, with Swiss rider Thomas Luthi in 4th position.
De Rosa's 2nd place is remarkable turnaround for the Italian, as at Valencia and Barcelona he had been outclassed by his teammate Yuki Takahashi. De Rosa wasn't the only rider whose relative standing changed on a wet track: Heroes of the previous test at Valencia Julian Simon and Kenny Noyes dropped down to 10th and 12th respectively in the wet, two seconds off the pace set by Alex de Angelis.