|1||26||J. Lascorz||ESP||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'34.625|
|2||54||K. Sofuoglu||TUR||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.003|
|3||35||C. Crutchlow||GBR||Yamaha YZF R6||1'35.143|
|4||24||G. McCoy||AUS||Triumph Daytona 675||1'35.323|
|5||1||A. Pitt||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.498|
|6||50||E. Laverty||IRL||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.565|
|7||8||M. Aitchison||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.801|
|8||51||M. Pirro||ITA||Yamaha YZF R6||1'36.069|
|9||99||F. Foret||FRA||Yamaha YZF R6||1'36.070|
|10||14||M. Lagrive||FRA||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.127|
|11||21||K. Fujiwara||JPN||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'36.322|
|12||13||A. West||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.332|
|13||77||B. Veneman||NED||Suzuki GSX-R600||1'36.451|
|14||105||G. Vizziello||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.516|
|15||127||R. Harms||DEN||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.582|
|16||117||M. Praia||POR||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.685|
|17||55||M. Roccoli||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.819|
|18||19||P. Szkopek||POL||Triumph Daytona 675||1'36.884|
|19||69||G. Nannelli||ITA||Triumph Daytona 675||1'36.981|
|20||83||R. Holland||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.152|
|21||30||J. Gunther||GER||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.207|
|22||32||F. Lai||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.327|
|23||96||M. Smrz||CZE||Triumph Daytona 675||1'37.329|
|24||7||P. Vostarek||CZE||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.471|
|25||5||T. Pradita||INA||Yamaha YZF R6||1'37.723|
|26||9||D. Dell'Omo||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.767|
|27||28||A. Vos||NED||Honda CBR600RR||1'38.656|
|28||71||J. Morillas||ESP||Yamaha YZF R6||1'38.696|
|29||78||S. Geronimi||AUS||Suzuki GSX-R600||1'39.627|
|30||88||Y. Guerra||ESP||Yamaha YZF R6||1'39.865|
How could we be so naive as to think the on-again-off-again saga of Kawasaki's withdrawal from MotoGP had reached its final conclusion? The official announcement from The Team Formerly Known As Kawasaki (and now to be called Hayate, according to Motorcycle News) that they would be fielding a single bike in MotoGP next year, came as news to Marco Melandri, the man supposed to be riding it. Speaking to the Italian press, Melandri claimed that nobody had spoken to him about it. "It was a surprise to me too!" Melandri told Sportmediaset.it. "I wasn't expecting it, because until yesterday, I knew they were looking for a new name for the team, and that's all ... I need some time to examine the situation, and to get confirmation from Japan, because nobody has called me about this."
MotoGP continues its expansion eastwards. After adding Hungary to the calendar this year, Dorna announced that it has struck a deal with the Bulgarian Motorcycling Federation to stage a round of the series from 2012 onwards. The deal would see Bulgaria host the round for five years at first, and was struck in conjunction with a TV deal for the terrestrial broadcaster BNT to air the 2009 season of MotoGP. No details of which, if any, track the series would run at were released, but the series would visit with all three classes, MotoGP, 125s and the new Moto2 class.
While any expansion of interest in MotoGP must be welcomed, the experience with the Hungarian round must surely act as a salutary lesson. Uncertainty continues to cloud the Hungarian round of MotoGP, with disputes continuing between the Hungarian authorities and the Spanish construction company over both who is to blame for delays in the construction of the brand new Balatonring circuit, and the current status of the project.
The difference, though, is that Hungary was awarded the race at very short notice. The Balatonring round was announced only a year before the race was due to start, a hard enough task in even the most ruthlessly efficient countries. But despite having three years to prepare, the job could be even more difficult in Bulgaria. The former Eastern Bloc country is currently being threatened with a subsidy stop from the European Union, after continually failing to tackle the corruption that is rife throughout all levels of Bulgarian politics. Unlike Hungary, which is relatively well run for a former Soviet satellite state, there is little sense that things are likely to improve in the short term, and so however desirable more races in Eastern Europe may be, question marks remain over the feasibility of the project.
A palpable sense of outrage rocked the MotoGP world at the news that British Eurosport would not be showing MotoGP in 2009, the victim of contractual agreement between several terrestrial broadcasters and Dorna. But it was not so much the loss of the pictures that fans were enraged about, as the loss of the sounds. Commentators Julian Ryder and Toby Moody had built up a cult following over the years, and their interaction with former GP legend Randy Mamola - acting as pit lane reporter - managed to inform, entertain and fascinate, all in one. A difficult trick, and an admirable one to be able to pull off.
Petitions were drawn up, attracting many thousands of signatures, and the BBC was buried under a deluge of requests to replace their commentary team of Steve Parrish and Charlie Cox with the Diamond Duo of Moody and Ryder. But the BBC would not budge: they were happy with their current commentators, and would be sticking by them. MotoGP fans looked to be plain out of luck.
But no longer: Eurosport have now done a deal to broadcast the practice and the races with Moody and Ryder which won't interfere with the BBC coverage. Under the deal, Toby and Jules will provide commentary for practice, qualifying and the 125 and 250 races live, and the MotoGP races will be broadcast a few days later with the recorded live commentary. Sadly, though, Moody and Ryder will no longer be at all the races. They will be providing commentary from a studio in the UK for most of the races, with the exception of the Spanish and British round, and possibly one other race, where they will be attending in person, and able to provide their inimitable blend of excitement and in-depth knowledge. Hardcore MotoGP fans around the world can breathe a sigh of relief.
Czech rider Jakub Smrz took the first provisional pole of 2009 at Phillip Island today, after firing in a last-second fast lap to trounce the opposition. In hot conditions, Smrz put his Guandalini Ducati ahead of the factory Xerox Ducati of Noriyuki Haga. Briton Leon Haslam was third fastest, after setting a time that looked quick enough to clinch pole with just a couple of minutes to go. Behind Haslam's Honda followed the Suzukis of Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama, all within a few hundredths of Haslam.
Shinya Nakano was first of the Aprilias in 6th place, while Ben Spies, who had led the cooler morning session, slipped to 8th place, losing over a tenth of a second in the afternoon. Troy Corser was fastest of the BMW men, taking 16th spot, while Makoto Tamada was the quickest Kawasaki, way down in 18th, and just ahead of his team mate Broc Parkes, and the other BMW of Ruben Xaus. Practice continues tomorrow.
World Superbike QP1 Results
The Ten Kate dominance continues in the World Supersport class, with Andrew Pitt taking provisional pole in this afternoon's session. Team mate Kenan Sofuoglu was fastest in the morning session, but was pipped by 6/100ths in the afternoon. The Yamaha riders also saw their order reversed between morning and afternoon. Rookie Cal Crutchlow had been fastest Yamaha during free practice, but the Briton saw his French team mate Fabien Foret leapfrog ahead of him up to third place. BE1 Triumph's Garry McCoy remained on the front row, fourth fastest in both morning and afternoon session. Fellow Australian Ant West managed a creditable 7th fastest time, and must feel relief at being near the top of the timesheets, rather than the bottom.
Dutchman Barry Veneman was the fastest of the Suzukis, though only managing to set the 12th fastest time. The first Kawasaki was Spaniard Joan Lascorz, directly behind Veneman in 13th. Practice and qualifying continues tomorrow.
World Supersport Qualifying Times
|1||19||B. Spies||USA||Yamaha YZF R1||1'32.752|
|2||76||M. Neukirchner||GER||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'32.813||0.061|
|3||91||L. Haslam||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||1'33.015||0.263|
|4||71||Y. Kagayama||JPN||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'33.077||0.325|
|5||55||R. Laconi||FRA||Ducati 1098 RS 09||1'33.140||0.388|
|6||41||N. Haga||JPN||Ducati 1098R||1'33.239||0.487|
|7||56||S. Nakano||JPN||Aprilia RSV4||1'33.280||0.528|
|8||84||M. Fabrizio||ITA||Ducati 1098R||1'33.371||0.619|
|9||44||R. Rolfo||ITA||Honda CBR1000RR||1'33.433||0.681|
|10||23||B. Parkes||AUS||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'33.496||0.744|
|11||9||R. Kiyonari||JPN||Honda CBR1000RR||1'33.508||0.756|
|12||65||J. Rea||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||1'33.695||0.943|
|13||66||T. Sykes||GBR||Yamaha YZF R1||1'33.747||0.995|
|14||100||M. Tamada||JPN||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'33.835||1.083|
|15||33||T. Hill||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||1'33.845||1.093|
|16||96||J. Smrz||CZE||Ducati 1098R||1'33.901||1.149|
|17||3||M. Biaggi||ITA||Aprilia RSV4||1'33.909||1.157|
|18||67||S. Byrne||GBR||Ducati 1098R||1'33.991||1.239|
|19||7||C. Checa||ESP||Honda CBR1000RR||1'34.012||1.260|
|20||11||T. Corser||AUS||BMW S1000 RR||1'34.201||1.449|
|21||111||R. Xaus||ESP||BMW S1000 RR||1'34.780||2.028|
|22||25||D. Salom||ESP||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'35.851||3.099|
|23||24||B. Roberts||AUS||Ducati 1098R||1'36.222||3.470|
|24||99||L. Scassa||ITA||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'36.762||4.010|
|25||31||K. Muggeridge||AUS||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'36.853||4.101|
|26||77||V. Iannuzzo||ITA||Honda CBR1000RR||1'37.716||4.964|
|27||15||M. Baiocco||ITA||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'37.866||5.114|
|28||86||A. Badovini||ITA||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'38.676||5.924|
|1||54||K. Sofuoglu||TUR||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.482|
|2||35||C. Crutchlow||GBR||Yamaha YZF R6||1'35.652|
|3||8||M. Aitchison||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.758|
|4||24||G. McCoy||AUS||Triumph Daytona 675||1'35.804|
|5||1||A. Pitt||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'35.867|
|6||99||F. Foret||FRA||Yamaha YZF R6||1'35.893|
|7||26||J. Lascorz||ESP||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'35.965|
|8||13||A. West||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.056|
|9||14||M. Lagrive||FRA||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.061|
|10||77||B. Veneman||NED||Suzuki GSX-R600||1'36.182|
|11||50||E. Laverty||IRL||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.547|
|12||96||M. Smrz||CZE||Triumph Daytona 675||1'36.650|
|13||21||K. Fujiwara||JPN||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'36.722|
|14||127||R. Harms||DEN||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.735|
|15||69||G. Nannelli||ITA||Triumph Daytona 675||1'36.827|
|16||117||M. Praia||POR||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.936|
|17||51||M. Pirro||ITA||Yamaha YZF R6||1'36.955|
|18||55||M. Roccoli||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'36.957|
|19||19||P. Szkopek||POL||Triumph Daytona 675||1'37.071|
|20||105||G. Vizziello||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.225|
|21||5||T. Pradita||INA||Yamaha YZF R6||1'37.853|
|22||30||J. Gunther||GER||Honda CBR600RR||1'37.989|
|23||7||P. Vostarek||CZE||Honda CBR600RR||1'38.470|
|24||9||D. Dell'Omo||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'38.508|
|25||83||R. Holland||AUS||Honda CBR600RR||1'38.957|
|26||32||F. Lai||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||1'39.664|
|27||28||A. Vos||NED||Honda CBR600RR||1'40.712|
|28||71||J. Morillas||ESP||Yamaha YZF R6||1'40.771|
|29||78||S. Geronimi||AUS||Suzuki GSX-R600||1'41.257|
|30||88||Y. Guerra||ESP||Yamaha YZF R6||1'42.086|
After MotoGP went four stroke, there was never any doubt about which was the premier class of motorcycle racing. Coinciding with the flight of the Japanese manufacturers from World Superbikes, the combination of Valentino Rossi's charisma and roaring, smoking, sliding 990cc bikes solidified the series' position as the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing which would brook no competition. But as the Japanese manufacturers started to slowly creep back into World Superbikes, and MotoGP switched to an 800cc capacity, the balance of power has started to shift.
During the off-season, that movement has started to snowball: The combination of 35 entries in World Superbikes and Kawasaki's withdrawal from MotoGP has switched the spotlight from the Spanish-run series to the Italian-based championship. Once jokingly referred to as the Italian Open Championship, the ten nationalities which fill the 2009 World Superbike paddock has laid that old chestnut very forcefully to rest. World Superbikes are in the ascendancy, and with the might of the marketing organization which runs FIFA behind them, the Flammini brothers are preparing to take on the pomp of Carmelo Ezpeleta's Catalunyan power base.
They have everything going for them: While Kawasaki was pulling out of MotoGP, two new manufacturers, BMW and Aprilia, were joining World Superbikes, with KTM warming up their RC8R in the supporting Superstock class. What's more, and probably more importantly, this season looks like being one of the most open contests there has been for a very long time. Ask one WSBK fan who they like for the title and they will give you a long list of favorites, and ask a couple more fans and you end up with a list of possible champions almost as big as the entire MotoGP field.
But force them to make a choice, and you soon whittle it down to a manageable list of names in with a serious chance of lifting the title this year. The bookies' favorite and heir apparent to Troy Bayliss' throne is Noriyuki Haga. The Japanese veteran is after all on Bayliss' bike, and as Haga came surprisingly close to preventing the Australian from running away on the factory Xerox Ducati last year, now that he's on the 1098R, he is surely a force to be reckoned with. The only problem with this scenario is Haga's undoubted ability to beat himself. Always fast, and always spectacular, too often Haga is also prone to throw the bike up the road, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If Haga is to finally secure the championship he has been chasing for so many years, he will need to be a little more considered, and a little more consistent.
For Haga has some very serious competition, from rookies and veterans, young riders and old. It is unusual for one rookie to be tipped for the title, but for three of them to be in the mix is truly remarkable. And it is a remarkable crop which will be entering World Superbikes this year. The newcomer whose name is generating the most debate is Ben Spies. The triple AMA superbike champion is revered in the US for beating the relentless Mat Mladin three years in a row, while elsewhere around the world, there is much scepticism about the depth of Spies' talent. Such doubts are understandable, as the AMA series gets very little exposure outside of North America, and it is perceived as a two-horse affair between whoever happens to be aboard the field-destroying Yoshimura Suzukis.
On a visit to Holland's biggest motorcycle exhibition, the Motorbeurs Utrecht, MotoGPMatters.com ran into Gerrit ten Kate, part-owner of the multiple championship winning World Superbike and World Supersport team. Seizing the opportunity with both hands, we grabbed a few quick words from the Dutchmen on the upcoming World Superbike series, set to kick off on Sunday at Phillip Island, Australia.
MGPM: Who's going to be your number one rider this year?
Gerrit ten Kate: All of them! They'll all be on equal equipment, so it's whoever finishes first. But I expect good things of all of them. Carlos (Checa) is obviously a title candidate, but they're all capable of winning. Carlos will win a couple of races, Johnny (Rea) will win a couple, (Ryuichi) Kiyonari will win a couple.
Apart from Checa, who else look like title candidates. Haga of course...
Of course, Haga. But Spies is looking very strong too. Fabrizio is difficult to tell. He's very much up one week, down the next. But he's still young. Things can suddenly click, and then he'll be something to worry about.
About Moto2, you've expressed an interest in it, how's that going?
We're in discussions about that, but I can't tell you anything more. It's too early to say anything on the record.
It'll be based on a Honda, though?
Of course. Anything we do will be with a Honda.
And you're not worried about the Flamminis (who hold a contract for racing with production-based motorcycles)?
Not at all. We work with them in a lot of areas, and we're active in a lot of series, so it won't be a problem.
As reported yesterday, Marco Melandri will be on the grid at Qatar for the start of the 2009 season. Melandri will be riding a Kawasaki, with support provided by the Akashi factory. The company issued a statement earlier today, stating that the agreement to provide support for the team had come because of "the necessity to come to constructive solutions for all related parties."
Given the amount of public pressure Dorna had placed on Kawasaki, it seems reasonable to interpret this to mean that Dorna had placed severe pressure on Kawasaki to honor the contract which the Akashi factory had with MotoGP's organizers, after Carmelo Ezpeleta had made veiled - and not-so-veiled - threats to take Kawasaki to court for breach of contract. Although this seems to have solved Dorna's problem in the short term, Kawasaki are likely to be very wary of ever returning to the series once the economy recovers, afraid of finding themselves once more stuck in a series they cannot get out of without spending a lot of money.
Meanwhile, Dorna's own legal difficulties with the FIM look to have been solved, as the minimum quota of 18 riders has been met, which it is believed is stipulated by the private contracts between the FIM and Dorna. MotoGP remains a world championship. Just.
In times of crisis, drastic measures are necessary. That has been the thought behind many of the cost-cutting measures put forward to help MotoGP tackle the global financial crisis which has threatened to engulf the series since late last year. Yet the sense of urgency engendered by the seriousness of the situation can lead to hasty decisions, and cause those gathered round the table to jump to conclusions which, upon closer examination, turn out to have the opposite effects to what was intended.
According to none other than Masao Furusawa, head of Yamaha's MotoGP program, that is exactly what has happened with the proposals to extend engine life. According to Motorcycle News, the head of the Japanese giant believes that the new rules will force the factories to redesign the existing engines for more durability, raising development costs. "If we decide to use one engine for two or three races, with the current engine you can’t do that," Furusawa said.
Redesigning the engine will lead to bigger costs, Furusawa said. He added that in the long term, costs could be cut, once the teams start seeing savings from the reduced maintenance cycles required by the more durable engines. But before they get to that stage, the factories will have to invest.
From the moment that the cost-cutting measures were rumored, we here at MotoGPMatters.com have argued that this was exactly what was going to happen. The option of limiting revs was dismissed out of hand by Furusawa, for the obvious reason that this could hand their rivals a potential advantage. And so to extend engine life, the first thing that the engineers are going to do to redesign the engine for more robustness without sacrificing horsepower. That redesign, we argued, would lead the factories to spend more money, rather than less.
Episode 673 in the Kawasaki saga, as Marco Melandri used his Facebook profile once again to announce his intentions to the world. According to the Italian press, Melandri wrote "for the moment, we will test the bike at Losail, we will see whether it's going to be worth racing the bike after the test: if the bike's a disaster, we will all go home."
More interesting news about just which bike Melandri will be testing. GPOne.com is reporting that the Italian will be riding the updated 2008 version of the bike at Qatar, which was tested at Valencia and Phillip Island earlier. Melandri had previously rejected trying to race this bike, but the prospect of a year on the sidelines may have persuaded him to give the bike one more chance.
Whether this is just idle speculation or a genuine plan, we will see soon enough. The Qatar tests take place this weekend, and if Melandri is there on a Kawasaki, we will finally get an inkling of how this story is to end.
Fascinating news from Italy. According to a post on the Oberdan Bezzi's blog, Yamaha are building a Moto2 bike, ready to compete when the series replaces the 250 class, either in 2010 or 2011. Bezzi, an Italian motorcycle designer, has a stunning mockup of what the bike would look like, named, appropriately enough, the YZR 600 M2.
According to Bezzi, Yamaha has decided that the new Moto2 class could offer a good return on investment, as a way of providing production racing motorcycles to buying customers at an affordable price. In line with this thought, the bikes would be sold in Yamaha's traditional red and white production livery, much as the old TZ bikes were back in the 1980s. The bikes would be offered for sale, and not provided on a lease basis, as the bikes in MotoGP are.
Should the story be true, and Yamaha be genuinely interested in producing equipment for the Moto2 class, it would mark a turning point for the series. So far, the entries have been almost entirely from chassis specialists such as Moriwaki, Suter and BQR, building prototype chassis around production engines - mostly Honda's popular CBR600RR powerplant. But a manufacturer producing bikes would change the game significantly. What's more, Yamaha producing limited run racing motorcycles for sale would not violate the terms of the contract which the Flammini brothers have with the FIM for production-based motorcycle racing. Although the powerplant would undoubtedly be similar to Yamaha's R6 engine, changes would have to be made for it to comply with the current set of rules. The R6 is already close to the rev limit enforced under the Moto2 regulations, and the engine would likely be modified for torque, rather than power.
More troubled times for the combination of Hungary and MotoGP. This time, the financial crisis is hitting Gabor Talmacsi, former 125 Wold Champion, and about to make his debut in the 250 class, with support from the Aspar team. In an interview, Talmacsi's manager, Stefano Tavaro to Hungarian radio station Inforadio that one after another of Talmacsi's smaller sponsors were pulling out, leaving the Hungarian team with a growing hole in the budget. The team has been trying to fill this hole by cutting back on travel costs, according to Tavaro.
But not everyone had abandoned Talmacsi: The Hungarian oil company MOL is standing firm behind the former champion, and will continue to sponsor the team. Meanwhile, Talmacsi's extended network is hard at work trying to drum up new sponsorship, and given his status in his home country, fresh money may yet come in to replace the sponsors which have left. But this will not be easy in Hungary: business has been hit hard by a double whammy of a declining economy and falling currency. Hungarian companies and individuals were holding a lot of loans in either Euros or Swiss Francs, taking advantage of the drastically lower interest rates. But since August last year, the value of the Hungarian Forint has fallen against the Euro by around 30%, vastly increasing debt levels, and pushing a lot of businesses into financial problems.