A sudden deluge has put an end to the 125cc race at the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Normally, rain is not a problem for the bikes, and the race would be restarted once the bikes had been fitted with wet tires. But the problem with the Qatar race is that it is a night race, run under the spotlights. And despite Musco lighting's remarkable and ingenious lighting system, once the rain starts falling, the light reflects off the surface water, the reflections start dazzling the riders, making it very difficult to see, let alone race.
Racing has been suspended, and there's no news at this time about when the race will resume. Dorna and the organizers will be under a lot of pressure to ensure the MotoGP race starts on time, due to TV commitments in Europe, so if the track does dry out, the races will be rescheduled to give priority to the MotoGP riders. We will keep you updated as and when we learn any more.
MotoGPMatters.com spoke to De Graaf Grand Prix rider Danny Webb a few minutes before he went out for the last 125cc practice session. Webb has a factory-spec Aprilia RSA bike to race this year, but the team have struggled with set up at the front end so far.
MGPM: So we have thunder and lightning in the distance and there’s no telling what the next few hours will bring. How are you feeling about tonight?
Webb: Yeah, it’s not looking too good at the moment, is it? Sounds like they’re going to cancel it if the weather’s not good enough. But at the moment it’s not raining, so that’s the main thing. I’m still not sure about the thunder and lightning… (Laughs)
Full results from the Warm Up session for the 2009 Qatar Grand Prix:
|6||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'57.658||0.961||0.209|
|8||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'57.874||1.177||0.174|
Full result of the 250cc Warm Up session for the 2009 Qatar Grand Prix:
|12||35||Raffaele DE ROSA||HONDA||2'03.734||1.407||0.212|
|18||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||APRILIA||2'06.055||3.728||0.603|
Result of the 125cc Warm Up at Qatar:
Nicky Hayden has spent his first weekend racing the Ducati MotoGP bike embodying the phrase "inauspicious start". Electrical problems, engines blowing up, nothing would go right for the American, hoping for a new start after years at Repsol Honda. Then, at the very end of qualifying, Hayden added a huge highside to his run of misfortune.
So severe was the crash that it was feared Hayden had suffered serious injury. The American stayed on the ground, barely moving, for a long time. Fortunately, he was quickly able to sit up under his own steam, and was taken first to the Clinica Mobile, and then to a local hospital for further checks. Even better news for the Kentucky Kid was that both checks turned up no fractures, and only a minor wound on his neck, according to GPOne.com.
Though Hayden immediately told his team that he wanted to race, team boss Livio Suppo, was a little more cautious. The team will wait to see how Hayden's condition is on Sunday before making a decision about whether to allow the American to race. As the Qatar race would mark his 100th start in MotoGP, Hayden is highly motivated to be on the grid.
Just a single throwaway line, yet so full of meaning. The FIM today issued a press release with the outcome of deliberations of the Grand Prix Commission:
The commission unanimously accepted the proposition of the MSMA to have a “One Make Engine Regulation” in the Moto2 class. The name of the manufacturer will be announced later."
What this means is that, as expected, the Moto2 class will use a spec engine. And there are a lot of good reasons to do so, not least the history of conflict between Dorna, the Flamminis and the FIM over the definition of a prototype. By requiring a spec engine from a single supplier, any teams being tempted to use an engine out of a road bike, and thereby incurring the wrath of the Flamminis and Infront Motor Sports, the organization which runs World Superbikes, would have to think again.
Of course the ostensible reason - and a very good one - is that by removing the need to compete on the basis of engine development, the costs of running a Moto2 bike will be drastically reduced. This is a perfectly valid line of reasoning, though the fact remains that teams go racing to win, and will spend whatever money they can rustle up to try and do so. Though the bikes may not end up costing as much as the Aprilia RSA 250s they are meant to replace, they are unlikely to be cheap.
The one question left is who will be awarded the engine contract. MotoGPMatters.com has already been contacted by one engine supplier, desperate to submit a tender for the contract, but unable to find the proper channels to approach the FIM through. Knowing the FIM, the process will be open, transparent and honest. But it would help if they published the guidelines for application somewhere publicly.
Changing the way that Qualifying works is apparently the latest fashion in motorcycle racing. The World Superbike series did it by dropping the old single-lap Superpole format, and adopting a series of three knockout sessions, shameless copied from Formula One. MotoGP would protest that it has changed its qualifying format - though cost-cutting measures have reduced the length of qualifying from an hour to just 45 minutes - but the adoption of the single tire rule and the disappearance of full-on one-lap qualifying tires left MotoGP followers wondering just how this would affect the way the teams and riders approached Qualifying.
As the session started, at least one thing remained unchanged. Within a few minutes of the green lights, and on his first couple of laps out of the pits, Casey Stoner was laying down a blistering pace. The 2007 World Champion had cracked into the 1'56 bracket, and by his fourth lap, came within 0.009 of equaling the fastest time of the weekend, set by none other than Casey Stoner. The Marlboro Ducati rider was setting the bar for the rest of the field.
Though no one could directly challenge Stoner, he did not enjoy his huge (over a second) advantage for long. Within a few minutes, Valentino Rossi had jumped up to second fastest, just over 3/10ths of a second behind the Australian. Stoner did not wait long to respond: Six minutes later, the Australian was back out on track and cracking another barrier, into the 1'55s, extending his lead to over a second again with a lap of 1'55.504.
Behind Rossi, the fight for third was hotting up, with first Loris Capirossi taking the last front row spot, then Colin Edwards, before Andrea Dovizioso also got involved. Dovi held the spot for five more minutes, before Jorge Lorenzo confirmed his strong form at Qatar by blitzing a lap just short of Rossi's second place time.
Results of the Qualifying Practice for the 250cc class for the Qatar Grand Prix:
Results of the MotoGP Qualifying Practice for the Qatar Grand Prix:
Marco Simoncelli's season got off to a bad start before it even began, when the reigning 250cc World Champion broke his wrist last Sunday riding a motocross bike. Determined to defend his title, he had the fractured scaphoid pinned in an operation on Tuesday, before flying out to take part in the first free practice session at the season opener at Qatar. It was a very short time for the wrist to heal, and was going to be an uphill struggle for Simoncelli to take part in the first race.
It was too much to ask. The Italian announced this evening that he wouldn't be trying to race at Qatar, and would be going home to concentrate on his recovery in time for the next race at Motegi in two weeks' time. Simoncelli had tried running fast laps at Qatar, and had put in respectable, if now world-shattering times, but after just a couple of laps, his wrist was becoming too painful to concentrate. Simoncelli took the wiser course, and withdrew.
Simoncelli's withdrawal leaves Alvaro Bautista in the ideal spot to gain maximum advantage in the 250cc title chase. To do that, of course, he'll have to win the race. And with a surprisingly strong Gabor Talmacsi, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Qualifying for the race is due to take place later tonight.
Full results of Qualifying Practice for the 125cc class for the Qatar Grand Prix:
Results of the 250cc Free Practice 2 session at Qatar:
|4||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||APRILIA||2'01.486||0.380||0.317|
|8||35||Raffaele DE ROSA||HONDA||2'02.037||0.931||0.319|
Casey Stoner continued to top the timesheets at Qatar on Saturday, but his domination started to look less complete. Although the Australian increased his lead to over 0.7 seconds over the man in second spot, Valentino Rossi, on multiple occasions, Rossi kept coming back to within a couple of tenths. By the time the flag dropped for the end of the session, Rossi had been joined by a brace of other riders within half a second of Stoner.
In the end, Rossi finished just 0.096 behind the 2007 World Champion, with Loris Capirossi and Jorge Lorenzo around 3/10ths off. Biggest surprise of the evening was the man in fifth: Marco Melandri beat out all of the Hondas, a factory Suzuki and a factory Ducati to finish just 0.8 off of Stoner. Dani Pedrosa seems to be finding riding a little easier, closing the big gap he had yesterday, ending up in twelfth, up from dead last yesterday. Nicky Hayden's struggle with the Ducati has got worse, finishing the session way down in 15th. His only consolation will be that he has at least one more Ducati behind him, in the shape of Niccolo Canepa.