The sight of just 16 bikes taking to the MotoGP grid has been all too common this year, with 6 of the 14 rounds of MotoGP so far starting with at least one of the permanent riders missing and no replacement. But 16 bikes is looking increasingly likely to be a full grid next season, as British motorcycle weekly Motorcycle News is reporting that Suzuki is likely to field just a single machine in 2011. According to MCN, several members of the Suzuki team were told on Thursday night they are free to seek offers elsewhere, including veteran engineer Stuart Shenton, currently crew chief to Loris Capirossi.
Rumors have been floating around the MotoGP paddock for many months that Suzuki was considering pulling out, and an announcement on the team's future was expected at Motegi, after a meeting between top management of the Suzuki factory and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. That meeting was pushed back until after the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix, and it now appears that Ezpeleta has been unable to persuade them to change their minds. According to MCN, the factory will field just a single bike for 2011, with a promise of increasing their involvement again when the formula changes back to 1000cc in 2012.
A smattering of tropical rain interrupted FP1 for the Moto2 class, the riders losing about 20 minutes of practice to the weather, before the track dried out again and the times began to drop again. Rain or not, Alex de Angelis was the fastest man of the session, topping the timesheets on the JIR Motobi before the rain came, then improving his time again at the very end of practice. De Angelis leads Marc VDS rider Scott Redding by nearly two tenths, while championship leader Toni Elias ended in 3rd, a quarter of a second behind the man from San Marino. Given the fact that he can wrap up the championship at Sepang with a 9th place, Elias decided caution was the better part of valor, and left his Gresini Moriwaki in the pits after the rain stopped falling, not wanting to risk injury.
The only man who can stop Elias from becoming the inaugural Moto2 champion, Mapfre Aspar's Julian Simon, ended FP1 as 4th fastest, four tenths of De Angelis but just over a tenth off Elias' time. And Andrea Iannone got his Malaysian adventure off to a much better start than in Motegi, the Fimmco Speed Up rider running 5th fastest in FP1.
Valentino Rossi has set out his stall in the MotoGP class at Sepang, setting the fastest time during the first session of practice. The Fiat Yamaha rider comes to Malaysia with two aims in mind: The first, publicly admitted goal was to test how his shoulder was holding up and get some data to compare with the testing data from February, to see how his injury affects his riding - the answer to that being not very much at all. The second is surely to press home the point he made at Motegi, and take away some of the attention from Jorge Lorenzo's first championship, which the Spaniard is almost certain to secure in Malaysia.
Rossi may have set the fastest time, but he had to hold off Andrea Dovizioso to do so. The Repsol Honda rider was blisteringly fast throughout the session, ending the day a tenth behind Rossi and upholding the honor of the Repsol team while Dani Pedrosa recovers from having his collarbone plated in Spain. Five hundredths behind Dovizioso came Jorge Lorenzo, not as fast as his Fiat Yamaha teammate, but much more consistent, his eyes now much more firmly on the prize than at Motegi, where he got drawn into a fight he would have been better staying out of.
Marc Marquez kicked off the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend at Sepang by dominating the first session of free practice for the 125cc class. The Red Bull Ajo rider was a whole second up at one point, but ended the session nearly four tenths faster than the second man, Tuenti Derbi's Pol Espargaro. Championship leader Nico Terol ended the session in 3rd, the Bancaja Aspar rider the last man to finish inside a second of Marquez. Blusens-STX rider Esteve Rabat finished the session in 4th.
Hiroshi Aoyama's 250 World Championship has not brought the Japanese rider much luck. Aoyama gained his promotion to the MotoGP class on the back of his 250 crown, and he started the season well, but a brutal highside at Silverstone, in which he fractured a vertebra, put a halt to his progress. And it seems like he will not get a second chance, for the Italian magazine Motosprint is reporting that the Interwetten team is to pull out of MotoGP for next season. According to Motosprint, team boss Daniel Epp acknowledged that he would not have the sponsorship to run a MotoGP team in 2011, and have been forced to withdraw to focus on their 125 and Moto2 efforts.
With the 2010 World Superbike season at an end, and the calendars for MotoGP and Formula 1 mostly settled, the FIM have announced the provisional calendar for the 2011 season. World Superbikes kicks off as ever in Australia, at Phillip Island, after a test the week before. A month later - and the week after the MotoGP season gets underway - the WSBK paddock heads back to Europe, for the European round at a circuit yet to be decided upon. This was the weekend that used to be at Valencia, but pressure from Dorna is believed to have kept the WSBK series out of that track.
The rest of the calendar is relatively similar to the 2010 schedule, with one or two slight changes. The spectacular Motorland Aragon circuit has been added to the calendar, though the WSBK riders will face the much hotter temperatures of June in central Spain. Portimao will once again wrap up the season, returning to the place the outstanding Portuguese track took in 2008. Imola is once again a problematic fixture, with the date penciled in but the track left open. Given that the date selected is the same weekend that Imola was staged this year, the chances of a repeat at the historic circuit are high, but once again funding and inspection issues remain. The US round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah is once again on a Monday, the Memorial Day public holiday.
Two of the big stories that have dominated the 2010 MotoGP season collided at Sepang, and both involve Valentino Rossi: The tale of Rossi's injured shoulder, and the saga of his move to Ducati. After the thrilling battle between Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, in which the two did physical combat, swapping places for 3rd for the last couple of laps, Rossi was reprimanded by Yamaha for potentially endangering Yamaha's hopes of a championship, with Jorge Lorenzo still not having wrapped up the 2010 title. Shortly after, rumors emerged from the Rossi camp that the Italian would race at Sepang then return to Italy for shoulder surgery, skipping the final three rounds of the MotoGP championship. Paddock rumor suggested this decision had been prompted by the fact that Yamaha were now extremely unlikely to allow Rossi to test the Ducati at Valencia, directly after the final race of the season.
In the press release issued yesterday by the Repsol Honda team, Dani Pedrosa described his chances of racing in Sepang as "very small". Today comes confirmation that even those chances have disappeared, as the team has issued a new press release confirming that Pedrosa has decided to skip the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang and focus instead on returning at Phillip Island a week later.
That the decision was not made easily, and was in doubt for a long time is evident from a story over on GPOne.com. As early as this morning, Spanish TV commentator and former World Champion Alex Criville believed Pedrosa would fly to Sepang and try to practice on Saturday, missing out on Friday practice. Criville is still very close to the HRC and Repsol Honda organization, and would be well aware of Pedrosa's plans. But the official communique has now ruled that out. If Jorge Lorenzo finishes 9th or better on Sunday, the Fiat Yamaha rider will now be champion.
Date : 07/10/2010
PEDROSA'S ABSENCE CONFIRMED FOR MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX
Newly-crowned World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu has made no secret of his desire to move to Moto2 next season. Representatives of the Turkish rider were in the paddock at Aragon, where they spoke to several teams about a ride for 2011. So far, no news has emerged of exactly where Sofuglu will be racing next year, but a hint comes in a press release issued today by the Technomag CIP team.
For the Technomag team has announced that Kenan Sofuoglu is to take the ride left vacant by Shoya Tomizawa, who was killed in a tragic accident at Misano. Sofuoglu is to contest the final two races of the season with the Technomag CIP team, at Estoril and Valencia, aboard Tomizawa's Suter Moto2 machine.
This is not the first time Sofuoglu has ridden a Moto2 bike: The 2007 and 2010 World Supersport champion tested a couple of Moto2 bikes earlier this year, the Turk describing them rather disparagingly as "like badly set up World Supersport machines." The bikes have moved on a great deal since then, so the comparison between the current machines and Sofuoglu's WSS machine will be very interesting.
Any chance that Dani Pedrosa had of snatching the 2010 MotoGP championship from the grasp of Jorge Lorenzo disappeared on Friday at Motegi, when the Repsol Honda rider suffered a nasty crash which fractured his collarbone. Pedrosa flew straight back to Spain to have the collarbone plated, in the hope of making a speedy return to racing. Realistically, though, his hopes were gone, for Pedrosa would have to win the remaining four MotoGP rounds, while Jorge Lorenzo would have to score next to no points in the rest of the races for Pedrosa to become champion. Beating Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner is hard enough when Pedrosa is fit, let alone a week after breaking his collarbone in three places.
In a press release issued today by the Repsol Honda team, Pedrosa explained that his recovery was progressing well, but he implicitly conceded that his chances of the title were gone. Though he did not rule out a return at Malaysia, both the team and Pedrosa judged the chances of that happening as being "very small". Pedrosa is suffering from a lot of stiffness in his neck and his shoulders, and is still incapable of moving his arm under his own strength. He is undergoing physiotherapy to help fix the problem, but it requires time for his shoulder to be strong enough to race again.
It's been a long time since the last time the folks at OnTheThrottle caught up with Ben Spies, but it's definitely been worth the wait. Once again, OTT's David Williams talks to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider about his race at Indy, his adventures at Misano and the thrilling battle for 5th at Aragon with Andrea Dovizioso. Along the way, Spies talks about the role that electronics play in riding a MotoGP bike, and his own progression as a rider, as well as revealing just how much support he is really getting from Yamaha. Here's 31 minutes you'll be glad you spent listening to Ben Spies:
The brutal last-lap battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo - two riders who are reportedly teammates for the Fiat Yamaha squad - may end up having far-reaching consequences. Lorenzo complained about Rossi's riding after the race, and Yamaha management spoke to Rossi about the incident, pointing out that having two teammates take each other out while one of them is so close to wrapping up a world championship for the factory is not a desirable state of affairs.
Yamaha's reprimand may be the penultimate chapter in the long history between Rossi and the Japanese factory. The ever well-informed Mela Chercoles of Spanish sports daily AS.com quotes "sources close to Valentino Rossi" as saying that the Malaysian MotoGP round at Sepang will be the nine-time world champion's last race on a Yamaha, and that he will return to Italy for surgery on his injured shoulder immediately after the race.
WSBK Silly Season Update: Haga With Aprilia, Sykes With Kawasaki, Toseland To BMW, Biaggi To Retire?
After the final World Superbike round of the 2010 season, news has inevitably started to filter out of Magny-Cours about the shape of 2011. There were official announcements, cryptic hints and barroom gossip concerning who will be doing what for next year in World Superbikes and World Supersport. A round up of the latest rumors is given below:
Nori has not been very "Nitro" at all this season, and his less-than-explosive form may have helped contribute to Ducati's decision to scrap the factory team, but despite that, Haga has found sanctuary with the newly assembled Pata Racing Team Aprilia. The team consists of the former DFX Corse squad, the CEO of Pata (the Italian snack company who funded Jakub Smrz this year), and Marco Borciani, who ran the Pata B&G team for Smrz. The team is to field a single Aprilia RSV4R for Haga, and many believe that a return to riding a four-cylinder bike is just what Haga needs. The Aprilia is clearly competitive, so Haga will be hoping for a better season in 2011.
Dani Pedrosa's crash during the first session of free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi effectively ended the Repsol Honda rider's chances of wresting the 2010 MotoGP championship away from Jorge Lorenzo. The incident, caused by a wayward throttle return spring leaving his throttle jammed open while braking, saw Pedrosa crash heavily and fracture his collarbone in three places, as well as suffer a grade 1 ankle sprain, ruling him out of Sunday's Japanese MotoGP round.
Pedrosa flew back to Spain immediately after the crash on Friday evening, and was admitted to the Dexeus Institut hospital in Barcelona, where he had surgery to fit a custom-made titanium plate to his collarbone to fixate it on Saturday. On Monday, Pedrosa was officially discharged and sent home to recuperate, which will involve a program of physiotherapy. Pedrosa is reported to be recovering well, and is scheduled to return to the Dexeus Institut on Wednesday for a further medical evaluation of his condition.
It will come as no surprise that Valentino Rossi's brutal entanglement with Jorge Lorenzo during the last couple of laps of the Japanese MotoGP Grand Prix at Motegi did not go down well in Spain. With Spain on the verge of only their second World Championship in premier class motorcycle racing, and after a whole year of extraordinary sporting achievement for Spain, race fans on the Iberian peninsula are getting more protective than usual of the MotoGP stars, and so Rossi's manhandling of Lorenzo was not very well received. With the passes being clearly legal - though arguments continue to rage over the wisdom of such moves - the media in Spain has turned its attention elsewhere.
Spanish TV broadcaster TVE is now claiming that Valentino Rossi made a jump start prior to the MotoGP race at Motegi, and that his failure to be penalized was a failure by Race Direction. The video on the TVE website (only accessible in Spain, readers outside of Spain with a MotoGP.com subscription can will have to watch the full race video on MotoGP.com at around the 21:26 minute mark) appears to show Rossi creeping forward a fraction of a second before the red lights went out, in breach of section 1.18 subsection 14) of the FIM Grand Prix regulations, which state the following: