Ducati took maximum advantage of a 3 kg (6.6lb) weight reduction to dominate free practice and the first qualifying session under a partly cloudy Utah sky at Miller Motorsports Park today. Prior to the beginning of practice, rain showers were spotted over the Stansbury Mountains, which form the western edge of the Tooele Valley, and raindrops were felt on pit lane. The threatening skies never turned into anything serious, however, and the session quickly turned into the battle of the twins with with Jakob Smrz, Carlos Checa, Shakey Byrne, Luca Scassa, Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio all near the top at various stages. Xerox Ducati's Fabrizio pulled out a last-gasp 1'49.756 after the checkered flag flew to end the session to top Athea teammates Checa and Byrne. Series runner-up Max Biaggi took advantage of the prodigious power of the Aprilia RSV4 to claw his way into 4th position.
As ever, the guys at OnTheThrottle.tv have released another pre-race show for this weekend's upcoming World Superbike round. Making the logistics of the show much easier is the fact that the race is in the US, and so David Williams, Jonathan Green and Steve Martin can talk directly, instead of via a more cumbersome Skype link. That's the theory, anyway, but Steve Martin had flight problems, and so Green and Williams receive a succession of guests at their table in a bar in Salt Lake City, including Roger Lee Hayden; John Larsen, GM of Miller Motorsports Park; Simon Buckmaster, manager of the Parkalgar Honda World Supersport team, and Alan Bell, one of Eugene Laverty's engineers. Once again, another great way to kick off the World Superbike Weekend.
The Le Mans MotoGP race turned into a bit of a mystery for a couple of riders. Casey Stoner lost the front for no apparent reason, and Dani Pedrosa, who had looked strong all race, lost two places on the last lap of the race. Afterwards, Pedrosa spoke to the press, explaining that his problems at the end of the race had been caused by a rear brake which had failed. The Repsol Honda rider also expressed his frustration at the continuing problems with the RC212V. Here's what Pedrosa had to say.
Q: What happened at the end? Was your front tire gone?
Dani Pedrosa: No, I couldn't stop the bike. I was all the time off line and I was making mistakes.
Q: Because you were riding defensively?
DP: Not really, I wasn't closing with two laps to go, but my rear brake was finished, and I don't know. I didn't know I had no rear brake, I could push and it felt OK, I just felt I was not stopping for the last 10 laps or so. But I had Dovizioso behind, so I couldn't say "I'll brake a little bit earlier and make no mistakes," because he would get past easily. So I still had to brake very hard, but you could see that in the middle of the corner I was off line. So finally in the last lap, I lost two positions, just because of mistakes. It's disappointing.
Behind the glamorous facade of MotoGP lies a hard-nosed world of contracts, money and taxes the fuels the show. It is not a side that is revealed very often, but two recent news stories have revealed MotoGP's darker side.
The first story was turned up by Roadracing World magazine. Papers filed with the courts in the US revealed that Ben Spies and his management company Speez Racing LLC have been ordered to pay $1.9 million in damages and costs against Spies' former manager Doug Gonda and his company, Protac Inc., Roadracing World's research has turned up. The dispute arose as a result of a conflict between Speez Racing and Protac about, among other things, Spies not obtaining a ride in MotoGP for the Texan for 2009. Speez Racing also alleged that Protac had not been involved in the contract that Spies signed with Yamaha for 2009, and that there had been problems with logistics for three international races caused by Protac, as well as alleging a string of other breaches of contract.
After my many trials and tribulations, stymied at every turn by a mixture of bad luck, poor decisions and my own stupidity, I have finally returned home. My return shall be brief, however, as tomorrow morning first thing, I head back to France, with a vehicle large enough to contain my misbehaving motorcycle, only to rush home again on Friday.
As a consequence of all these perambulations, I will have little time to update the site. Fortunately, Mike Walt and Scott Jones will be heading to Miller soon, to cover this weekend's World Superbike event there. And so as of Friday evening, or at the latest Saturday morning, the site should start to return to normal, and updates will once again start to appear with their usual regularity.
Thanks very much for your patience, and my apologies at having let you, my readers, down. Fortunately, neither Scott nor Mike are as incompetent as I am, and will make up for my failings this weekend.
After crashing out at the Le Mans Grand Prix this weekend, a visibly upset Casey Stoner spoke to the press, to give his side of events. The Marlboro Ducati rider was upset, but most of all, he was mystified why he had crashed. There was nothing in the data to explain it, and he did not believe he had done anything wrong. He spent nearly 15 minutes talking to a throng of reporters in a crowded Ducati hospitality unit. Below is a nearly complete transcript of that conference, with only some sections where Stoner repeated himself removed.
Q: Front end Casey?
Casey Stoner: Yeah, I lost the front end for about 15 to 20 meters before it actually went down. I'd pretty much ground through my elbow protection there trying to keep it up, but it was a lost cause. After a while the rear end just followed it round and it was game over.
You know I'd pushed that bike around really hard all weekend, because we didn't want the same problems that we'd had at Jerez and Qatar. I pushed it as hard as I possibly could, and it never faltered, it never wobbled, it never did anything. The rear had a couple of moments which we were trying to improve all weekend, but nothing with the front.
The response to the tale of woe that my visit to Le Mans to cover the Grand Prix has become has been both touching and overwhelming. Offers of help have coming flooding in from all over the world, for which I am truly grateful. The only problem with having an international audience is that despite the many kind offers of help, few of them have come from anywhere close enough to be of immediate assistance.