Sadly, our regular photographer Scott Jones couldn't make it to Valencia. Fortunately, we ran into Israeli TV commentator Tammy Gorali, who also happens to be a pretty mean snapper herself. She was kind enough to allow us to use some of the shots she took today during qualifying.
The 800cc formula is dead. MotoGP is set to return to 1000cc from 2012, according to a proposal submitted to the Grand Prix Commission at Valencia today. The 800cc bikes have received a deluge of criticism, almost from the moment they were introduced, and that deluge has finally buried them.
The decision has hinged upon a change of mind by the MSMA, the manufacturers association. So far, the manufacturers have been opposed to any changes to the MotoGP formula, partly because high costs of entry created a barrier to new entrants in the class, allowing the existing participants to dominate the class. But the high costs have taken their toll even on the existing manufacturers, and with the future of Suzuki in the class in doubt under the current rules, and even doubt about just how long Honda was prepared to continue, a change was almost inevitable. 2012 is the earliest date it is possible to make the change, as the current 5 year contract that exists between Dorna, the FIM and the MSMA expires at the end of 2011. That contract states that no changes may be made to the engine capacity without a unanimous decision by all of the manufacturers in the MSMA.
The reduction in testing has been a double-edged sword in MotoGP, allowing costs to be cut on the one hand, but punishing the six rookies due to enter the class for the 2010 season. With so many rookies coming, the factories - or at least one of them - have been keen to bend the rules to help the incomers adapt to MotoGP. The request for more testing for the rookies faced a lot of opposition, and up until this morning, it looked like it would be denied.
Once in the Grand Prix Commission, held at Valencia this afternoon, things swung the other way. At the request of Suzuki, the MSMA put the request to the Permanent Bureau (consisting of Dorna CEO and FIM president Vito Ippolito), bypassing the Grand Prix Commission, and the Permanent Bureau approved one extra test to be held at Estoril in the middle of November. This was a compromise proposal, as the MSMA had initially requested one extra test for the rookies, plus one day extra prior to the three official MotoGP tests to be held at Sepang and Qatar in February and March of 2010. The Permanent Bureau rejected the extra day of testing for the rookies at the three official tests, but allowed two days of testing at Estoril.
Results of qualifying for the 250 class at Valencia:
Results of qualifying practice for the MotoGP class:
Results of Qualifying Practice for the 125cc class:
Mike di Meglio topped the timesheets in the second session of free practice for the 250cc class, relegating the Valencian riders into a battle for 2nd. Alex Debon was the fastest of the local boys, edging out Hector Barbera by just fifteen hundredths of a second. Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama finished the session in 4th, in good shape for this afternoon's qualifying. Marco Simoncelli, the only man capable of denying Aoyama the final 250 crown, had a more difficult time, ending the session in 8th.
The testing limits imposed at the beginning of the season have caused much debate throughout the year. The number of winter tests were cut to just 6 days in total (plus 2 days after the final Grand Prix at Valencia) in order to restrict engine mileage and severely cut costs. But since the announcement that there will be six new riders entering the MotoGP class next season, lobbying has started for extra testing time to allow the rookies to get up to speed.
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Herve Poncharal had previously expressed his opposition to the extra tests for the rookies, despite having Ben Spies joining Monster Tech 3 as a rookie for 2010. MotoMatters.com caught up with Poncharal to ask him to explain his opposition.
Herve Poncharal: At the moment this is an MSMA proposal [to allow two extra days of testing for the rookies, MM] that will be on the agenda of this weekend's Grand Prix Commission. Me personally, as Monster Tech 3 Yamaha owner, I am against it. We will talk about it in the IRTA committee meeting to give an official position in the Grand Prix Commission. I have a feeling the committee will reject it, but it is only a feeling.
Casey Stoner continues his domination of proceedings at Valencia, the fastest rider once again in the morning session of MotoGP practice. The Australian topped the timesheets just about all session, with only Jorge Lorenzo to get close. Lorenzo looked to have a firm grip on 2nd, but was bumped down to 3rd by Dani Pedrosa, who put in a blistering lap in the dying minutes of practice. Pedrosa leapfrogged over both Fiat Yamahas, leaving Valentino Rossi down in 4th behind his team mate.
Ben Spies continued his steady improvement, finishing the session in 12th, 1.377 behind Stoner's fastest time. More importantly, the Texan improved his time from yesterday by nearly nine tenths of a second.
British rider Danny Webb has had an up-and-down year with the De Graaf Aprilia team in the 125 class this season, despite the team having leased a factory-spec RSA 125 for the Briton. But he has made an impression, and his tenacity has been rewarded with a two-year contract with the Jack&Jones WRB team.
The WRB team have done extremely well in 2009, with their current rider Nicolas Terol 3rd in the 125 World Championship, and contending for the title for much of the season. In the press release, Webb expressed his hope that the two-year project would allow him to grow gradually towards challenging for the championship. "I hope for a good season next year, and to run with the front group for most of the season, I hope to be running at the front every race. In 2011, I hope to follow the same upward line, fighting for podiums in every race of the championship."
Sergio Gadea was the fastest 125 rider in this morning's session of free practice, beating out his team mate and 2009 World Champion Julian Simon, and by quite a margin. Nico Terol was the 3rd fastest man, while Pol Espargaro made it an all-Spanish top 4 just a fraction off Terol's time. British rider Bradley Smith had another middling start, ending the session in 9th, while Scott Redding ended up 12th. De Graaf's Danny Webb finished practice with the 18th quickest time.
You would think that the secrets of how to make a MotoGP bike go faster would be kept under lock and key at all times. Not so if you're Yamaha: On Friday night, Yamaha's technical leaders Masao Furusawa and Masahiko Nakajima gave their annual presentation on what they did to the YZR-M1 to ensure that they won the championship again in 2009.
The first thing they did was identify the changes to the 2009 regulations that would be key to the development direction. They highlighted three rule changes they needed to deal with to maximize the performance of the bike:
- The tire restrictions, with just 20 slicks in two compounds and 8 wets available at each race;
- The reduction in practice, with the Friday morning session scrapped;
- The engine limits, with just 5 engines available for the final 7 races of the season.
They then pinpointed three goals that would allow Yamaha to adapt to these rule changes, and get the best out of the 2009 bike. An improvement in the chassis, to allow them to get the maximum performance out of the tires; increased reliability, while sacrificing as little performance as possible; and a refinement in the engine management system, to allow them to control what they called the vehicle dynamics.
Hector Barbera won the battle of the Valencians on the first day of practice for the 250cc class. The local hero relegated Alex Debon to 2nd place, Barbera leading Debon by over three tenths of a second. Alvaro Bautista was another three tenths behind in 3rd, ahead of championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama usefully put his team mate Raffaele de Rosa between himself and the only man capable of challenging him for the title, Marco Simoncelli.
Casey Stoner continued his domination of the MotoGP class during the first session of free practice at Valencia, coming in fresh from victory at Sepang to top the timesheets during practice. The Ducati rider took his time, though, spending most of the session as 2nd fastest behind Jorge Lorenzo. With 5 minutes to go, the Australian finally found the extra pace he was looking for, putting nearly four tenths of a second between himself and Lorenzo.
Lorenzo only just hung on to 2nd, Dani Pedrosa getting within five hundredths of the Fiat Yamaha man's time to take 3rd, while Valentino Rossi's mediocre run at Valencia continues, setting the 4th fastest time nearly seven tenths behind Stoner.
Ben Spies got off to a cautious start, improving on his times slowly as the session progressed. At one point, he climbed all the way up to 11th, only to drop towards the end of the session, finishing the day in 15th. But the Texan wasn't too far off the pace, just two tenths of a second behind Marco Melandri in 12th, and just over half a second outside the top 10.