Casey Stoner has returned to the top of the timesheets at Valencia, controlling the third session of free practice for the MotoGP class with apparent ease. The Marlboro Ducati rider grabbed the top spot early on in the session, and was the first rider to crack the 1'32 barrier, eventually getting his time down to 1'32.664. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was the only man who could follow, the Spaniard riding remarkably well despite still healing from a broken collarbone and also just edging into the 1'32s.
2010 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo set the 3rd fastest time of the session, nearly half a second off Stoner's time, and just ahead of San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli, the Italian continuing his strong progress since the end of the season. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Ben Spies is apparently untroubled by his dislocated ankle as Pedrosa is by his collarbone, the Texan going 5th quickest in the session, just over a tenth of a second off Lorenzo in 3rd, while Andrea Dovizioso went 6th fastest during FP3.
While their teammates dominate at the front, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi continue to struggle in mid-pack. Hayden ended the session in 9th, nearly eight tenths off Stoner's time, while Rossi could manage only the 10th fastest time, another few hundredths slower.
Pol Espargaro set the fastest time of the final session of free practice for the 125cc class at Valencia, snatching top spot from Marc Marquez in the final seconds by just two thousandths of a second. Marquez himself had taken the fastest time earlier from Bradley Smith, who had led for much of the session, while Nico Terol was the 4th quickest of the bunch, just ahead of Sandro Cortese.
Putting together a list of riders for the 2011 Moto2 season has proven to be a remarkably intractable task. Fear and uncertainty stalks the Moto2 paddock, not least because the full list of admitted teams was not released until last weekend at Estoril. The list contains 22 teams with space for 40 riders, though doubt remains over whether the teams will be able to fill all 40 seats.
Below is the information that MotoMatters.com has been able to glean from a range of sources so far. There are still a huge number of gaps as far as riders are concerned, as teams and riders scramble for cash with which to fund rides, and as teams weigh up their options in terms of riders. Even the names that are available are still not certain, and changes are expected all the way up to Sunday night, the eve of the first Moto2 test of the 2011 season. Sunday night seems to be a pretty solid deadline, however, as the teams are keen to test on Monday, and nobody will be testing without a contract.
Stefan Bradl continues his reign in the Moto2 class at Valencia, adding the best time in the second session to his lead in the first. The Viessmann Kiefer rider ended the session nearly two tenths of a second ahead of Mapfre Aspar's Julian Simon, the Spaniard under a lot of pressure to perform well at what is the team's home race. Just a couple of hundredths behind Simon came Karel Abraham on the Cardion FTR, while another couple of hundredths further back, Alex de Angelis took 4th spot on the JIR Motobi machine.
Jorge Lorenzo has taken control of practice in the MotoGP class at Valencia, setting a blistering pace in the afternoon FP2 session. The Fiat Yamaha rider was fastest early, ceding the top time in the middle of the session to Casey Stoner, before putting in another surge towards the end of the session. Stoner ended FP2 in 2nd spot, though he did not match his time from this morning. 3rd fastest in the afternoon was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards, the Texan having found some extra pace at the last race of the season, while San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli was 4th quickest.
Andrea Dovizioso is the first Repsol Honda rider in 5th, though just two thousandths behind Simoncelli, while Ben Spies is suffering few ill effects from his injured ankle, setting the 6th quickest time in the afternoon.
Bradley Smith topped the timesheets in the afternoon session of free practice, the Bancaja Aspar rider popping into the lead at the end of the session. Smith is up a tenth of a second on championship leader Marc Marquez, who is in turn nearly three tenths quicker than Smith's teammate Nico Terol. Efren Vazquez, fastest this morning, was only 4th quickest in the afternoon.
Stefan Bradl carried his good form over from his win in Estoril last weekend, topping the timesheets with a late charge in the first session of practice for the Moto2 class at Valencia. The Viessmann Kiefer rider looked like losing his spot to Cardion's Karel Abraham, the FTR rider going very quickly at the end of the session, but falling just short of Bradl's time. Forward Racing's Jules Cluzel set the 3rd fastest time, just ahead of the two men who enlived the 2010 Moto2 title race, Julian Simon and Toni Elias.
Casey Stoner kicked the weekend off to his usual dominating start, the Marlboro Ducati rider leading the first session of practice by over half a second, taking over from early leader Jorge Lorenzo in the last few minutes of FP1. Lorenzo ended the session in 2nd, just ahead of Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso, and the surprisingly strong Marco Simoncelli, while Valentino Rossi ended the session as 5th fastest.
As might be expected, the Spaniards are even more highly motivated than normal at the final Grand Prix of the season in front of their home crowd. So with the title still to play for in the 125cc class, it was Efren Vazquez of the Tuenti Derbi team who was fastest in the first session of free practice, just pipping his compatriot and title leader Marc Marquez into 2nd place. Bancaja Aspar's Bradley Smith ended the session in 3rd, another few hundredths behind Marquez, while the gap to 4th was bigger, Vazquez' teammate Pol Espargaro nearly three quarters of a second behind him.
At the end of every year, Yamaha hold a presentation to talk about their YZR-M1 MotoGP bike and how they changed it for the new year. In it, Masao Furusawa and Masahiko Nakajima give an always fascinating and surprisingly detailed technical presentation on the bike and the important factors they improved from last year.
This year was slightly different: As Masao Furusawa will be retiring at the end of this season, Yamaha gave a presentation covering all of the bikes he has worked on, from the 2004 machine through to the 2010 M1. Furusawa gave a presentation covering the bikes from 2004 through to 2009, and his descriptions were illustrated by a video featuring Valentino Rossi, talking about each bike and each season in detail, the strengths and weaknesses of the bikes. Yamaha was kind enough to release that video for use to the media, and allow us to post it to the internet. It's shown below:
Though MotoGP fans around the world focus on their favorite riders, there is a growing awareness of the importance of the crews that surround those riders, as witnessed by the constant harassment that Rossi's mechanic Alex Briggs received from his many followers on Twitter. As MotoGP bikes grow ever more complex, the role of the pit crew becomes ever more important, and the trust between rider and crew has become paramount.
This shift has led to most of the top riders switching teams this year also ensuring that they will be bringing their pit crews along with them. Valentino Rossi will be bringing Jerry Burgess and his Australian (and Belgian and Italian) crew members with him from Yamaha to Ducati; Casey Stoner will be taking Cristian Gabbarini and his Italian crew to Honda from Ducati; and even Ben Spies will be taking his former AMA pit crew and Yamaha World Superbike manager to the factory Yamaha squad next year.
During the rider debriefs on Thursday, several members of the press asked Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi to talk about the importance of taking their crews with them to their new teams. Casey Stoner had the most to say on the subject, and so his replies are shown first, while Valentino Rossi's responses were shorter, and are shown further below:
The importance of Indonesia to MotoGP will come as no surprise to regular readers of MotoMatters.com. Indonesia retains a huge fan base for motorcycle racing's premier class, as witnessed by the fact that it is the country with the highest number of searches for the term "MotoGP", according to Google Insight, with nearly 3 times as many as the country in second place, Italy, and nearly four times as many searches as Spain.
Indonesia's importance as a market was underlined at the beginning of the year, when Yamaha Indonesia became sponsors of the factory Fiat Yamaha team. Its importance has been further emphasized by the announcement that Astra Honda, the Indonesian subsidiary of the Japanese motorcycling giant, is to sponsor the Repsol Honda squad for the final MotoGP round at Valencia, and also for the whole of the 2011 season. Astra Honda's slogan "One Heart" or "Satu Hati" in Indonesian, is to feature prominently on the leathers and on the lower fairing of the Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP machines.
Once upon a time, one rider switching teams was a relatively simple affair, requiring no more than a new set of leathers and a new patch to sew on a paddock jacket. Those days are long gone, but the extent of changes brought about by Valentino Rossi's move from Yamaha to Ducati is virtually unprecedented. Today, Yamaha officially announced news that MotoMatters.com had brought you from Aragon in mid-September: that the departure of Rossi's crew from Yamaha would see the reuniting of Ben Spies crew at the factory Yamaha team, when the 2010 Rookie of the Year moves up from the Tuesday after the Valencia test.
It had already emerged at Phillip Island that Rossi's pit crew would be following the Italian to Ducati, making way for Tom Houseworth and Greg Wood to move into the factory Yamaha slots vacated by Burgess and crew. It was also an open secret that Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio would be leaving along with Rossi, a fact now confirmed by the factory Yamaha team. Brivio will be moving into a management role with Rossi's VR46 merchandise brand, though the exact details are yet to be defined, according to GPOne.com.
After the canceled practice session at Estoril, Casey Stoner spoke to the press during his regular media debrief. In that session, Stoner spoke about a number of issues, including electronics, fuel limits, Ducati's screamer vs. big bang engines, and the engine penalties. Here's what he had to say, in his own words:
Q: I spoke to Carmelo Ezpeleta yesterday, and I asked him about electronics, whether there was any plan to limit them, and he said that nobody has been complaining about electronics for the past six months, and he gave you as an example, that you turned your electronics right down, and there is nothing wrong with the current situation. What do you feel about the amount of electronics?
The withdrawal of the Interwetten Honda team from MotoGP has been an open secret for some time now, after title sponsor Interwetten decided against renewing funding for the MotoGP team again next year. Team boss Daniel Epp had been holding off on an official announcement until all of his options to replace Interwetten had been exhausted. That happened a few weeks ago, and now, the Interwetten team has officially announced the demise of the team.
The disbanding of the Interwetten team leaves former 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama without a ride, but that situation is unlikely to last for long. Aoyama is currently being linked to the second Gresini Honda ride, alongside Marco Simoncelli, but team boss Fausto Gresini has been reluctant to sign the Japanese rider, citing a lack of money to run a second team. Gresini has been hoping that Dorna and HRC will stump up the cash to pay for Aoyama's seat in the Gresini garage, as both the TV rights holders and Honda are keen to have a Japanese rider in the series. Gresini argues that an Italian rider would be much easier to find sponsorship for.