It's been an awfully busy week for Ben Spies. If one admires anything about the young Texan other than his blinding speed, it's the the forthright, no worries way he goes about conducting his business. One imagines that he has a list of tasks to be accomplished and then checked off when done, rather like shopping for groceries or some such other mundane task. This week those tasks have included fielding enquiries from hundreds of journalists, finally being able to talk about his appointment to the Tech Trois Yamaha MotoGP team and making sure that his travel plans to Valencia are changed to a few days earlier than anticipated so that he can participate as a wild card in the season-ending MotoGP race. On top of that extracurricular stuff, Spies still has his day job to do, which this weekend involves qualifying well, winning two Superbike races in France and regaining his lead in the World Superbike championship.
When Yuki Takahashi was dropped from Team Scot at the Laguna Seca round, it saw a period of over 17 years in which a Japanese rider had been in the premier class come to an end. Since then, speculation has raged about how long the Japanese factories - and Honda in particular - would be willing to tolerate this state of affairs.
The situation was made worse by the current outstanding form of Hiroshi Aoyama, who is leading the 250cc World Championship on a bike that has seen virtually no development since 2007, and is barely changed since 2003. Surely, the thinking went, Honda will want a Japanese rider in MotoGP, and surely Hiroshi Aoyama has proved that he is the right man for the job?
Honda agrees, apparently. The well-informed magazine Speedweek is reporting that Hiroshi Aoyama is to move up to the MotoGP class with a new team to be run by the Caffe Latte team. The team had originally planned to make the step up to MotoGP with their current 250cc rider, Thomas Luthi, but the 2005 125cc World Champion is having a mediocre year in the 250cc class and has conceded that he is simply not ready to make the move into the premier class.
Results of 250cc qualifying:
The FIM has announced the list of teams which will be granted start licenses for the Moto2 teams. The teams now have until November 2nd, 2009 (the weekend before the final Grand Prix at Valencia) to enter riders officially, though the names of the riders will be provisional. More information on teams and riders as we get it.
The FIM press release is shown below:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
- Moto2 class 2010 FIM World Championship announcement -
Results of the qualifying practice for the MotoGP class at Estoril:
Updated Superpole results as they happen:
Out after Superpole 1: Ryuichi Kiyonari Matteo Baiocco, Broc Parkes, David Salom
Jonathon Rea led the final session of free practice for the World Superbike class, just edging Ben Spies. Noriyuki Haga follows at a distance, just ahead of Max Biaggi in 4th.
Results of qualifying practice for the 125cc class at Estoril:
Hector Barbera continues to lead the way in the 250cc class at Estoril, but only by a hair's breadth. The Spaniard is three hundredths ahead of the remarkable Ratthapark Wilairot, who is in turn four hundredths ahead of Mike di Meglio. The Frenchman is a similar distance ahead of his Mapfre Aspar team mate and title contender Alvaro Bautista, while the man that Bautista is trying to beat in the title race, Hiroshi Aoyama, was 6th fastest, an improvement from yesterday's practice.
Ben Spies has been confirmed as a wildcard entry for the final round of MotoGP at Valencia. A press release has just been issued stating that Spies is to ride in Valencia for Yamaha. The news had broken earlier, with Motorcycle News' Matt Birt reporting that an entry has already been submitted to Dorna and IRTA for the Texan to ride in the last MotoGP round of the season, and Autosport's Toby Moody correctly predicting that the wildcard entry would be confirmed today by Yamaha.
It was originally expected that Spies would ride in Yamaha's corporate blue colors, in the same vein as HRC's wildcards have done in previous years. But the BBC's Matt Roberts has just posted on social networking site Twitter that former NBA legend and motorcycle racing nut Michael Jordan is to sponsor Spies' one-off ride. Jordan has his own brand of sportswear, and has run a team in the AMA Superbike series to promote the brand previously.
Yesterday, news broke that Aprilia had once again pulled the plug on Team Toth, refusing to hand over the ECUs of their leased RSA 250s over payments which have not been made. This left Mattia Pasini sitting helpless in the pits, while Imre Toth Jr went out on a completely uncompetitive 2001 spec Aprilia which the team still owns. But Pasini's season may have been rescued by the Caffe Latte team, which runs Swiss rider Thomas Luthi. Pasini is currently out circulating on a bike fielded by Caffe Latte, but currently without any stickers. The sponsor's colors are due to be added before qualifying, the deal only just having been cemented. And according GPOne.com, Daniel Epp, owner of the Caffe Latte team, has picked up Pasini's contract, and could field the Mugello race winner for the rest of the season, with equipment support from Aprilia.
Jorge Lorenzo continues to set a scorching pace in Estoril, already lapping over half a second under the lap record, and doing so constantly. The only man anywhere near the extraterrestrial Lorenzo is Casey Stoner, and even the Ducati man is over three tenths back. Lorenzo's Fiat Yamaha team mate is nearly three quarters of a second off Lorenzo's time, and will not be happy, as the man leading the World Championship is only a couple of tenths faster than Colin Edwards on the satellite Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. The last of the Fantastic Four is in 5th, another couple of tenths behind Edwards, and over a second behind Lorenzo.
The championship leaders all improved their times during the second session of qualifying, with Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga leapfrogging over Jonathon Rea to sit behind Michel Fabrizio on the timesheets. British Superbike Champion Leon Camier improved as well, moving up to 16th and into Superpole. Kawasaki replacement rider Sheridan Morais is struggling at Magny-Cours though, failing to qualify for Superpole with 23rd fastest time.
Since the introduction of the new engine durability rules, aimed at cutting costs in the series, much debate has centered on the punishment to be meted out to anyone using an extra engine. In the original rules introduced earlier this year, punishment for any rider forced to use an extra engine outside of their allocation of 5 for the last 7 races of the season would be to have 10 points deducted. This has met with much resistance from the riders, who were all in favor of being put to the back of the grid, rather than having points deducted, as they felt it would at least give them a chance to compete.
The FIM, it seems, has listened. Today, the announcement was made that the rules are to be changed. Any rider using an extra engine outside of their allocation is to be punished by being made to start from the back of the grid. The manufacturers will be punished further by having 10 points deducted from the constructors championship, ensuring that they would not benefit by having another rider score points for them instead of the rider being punished.