Archive - 2006
Valentino Rossi heads the timesheets after FP2 at Brno, after putting in a blistering time on qualifiers. The big surprise is Randy de Puniet on the Kawasaki in 2nd. The Bridgestones must be working well, as both 2nd place de Puniet and 3rd place Loris Capirossi are using them. The Dunlops aren't doing too badly either, as Carlos Checa put in a very respectable time in 7th. Title contenders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Hondas are way down in 8th and 11th respectively.
Crash.net is reporting that Honda will wait until after the Japanse at Motegi to test its 800 cc prototype of next year's bike. Several manufacturers are rumored to have their new 800cc prototypes sitting in their garages waiting to be tested after this weekend' race at Brno, and Honda's decision not to test could be seen as a sign that they want to focus on the 2006 championship, rather than the 2007 championship.
After three weeks of official rest and relaxation, but actual frantic negotiations about 2007, the MotoGP circus descends on Brno in the Czech Republic this weekend. Set amidst wooded hills west of the city of Brno, in the east of the Czech Republic, Brno is the last of the former road tracks which MotoGP visits. Once upon a time, as at Assen and the Sachsenring, racing took place over the public roads around here, but, like the Sachsenring, eventually a separate track was built to accommodate.
And Brno resembles the Sachsenring in more ways: set among similar woods, it also has surprising elevation changes, making setting bikes up to handle lifting the front as they charge up the hill as well as remaining stable under hard braking very difficult indeed. But Brno differs from the Sachsenring in two important aspects: The track is much longer and much wider. In fact, the track is so wide, (up to 50 feet in places) that it's hard for riders to keep their lines: make a single mistake, and you end up running so wide that everyone passes you up the inside. This also means that overtaking is a breeze, which is of course a very double-edged sword. As most of the corners are in chicanes or combinations, getting past in one corner leaves yourself wide open running into the next.
After three weeks of enforced idleness after the thrills of Laguna Seca, the MotoGP circus goes back to work this weekend at Brno in the Czech Republic, refreshed and relaxed from their mid-season break. At least, that's the official story. Unofficially, the MotoGP circus goes back to work frazzled and frayed from three weeks of intense negotiation, speculation, contemplation and insinuation. Mobile phone bills are astronomical, keypads are worn down to the bare metal from frantic dialing, and Dr Costa's Clinica Mobile is awash with irritated ears, inflamed thumbs and chronic hoarseness, as the 2007 MotoGP season commences.
For the summer break is traditionally the start of what journalists tend to call the silly season, but if you're a rider, team owner, sponsor, mechanic, PR guru or even catering kitchen staff, it's deadly serious. With no races to interrupt, and everyone away from their teams, negotiations about who wants to be where, or even just somewhere next season are in full swing. And this year's round of rumors and speculation is just as wild and surprising as the season's races have been.
In yet another blow for the troubled Sete Gibernau, the Spaniard will have to miss out on this weekend's Brno Grand Prix, after a scan of his collarbone showed it was still not strong enough to hold up to the strains of racing. This will be the third race the corner incident at Catalunya has caused the luckless Spaniard to miss, as previous surgery kept him away from the Assen and Donington rounds. The only bright point for Gibernau is that he has another three weeks to recover, as the race after Brno is at Sepang in Malaysia on September 10th.
Pramac d'Antin Ducati rider Alex Hofmann will once again replace Gibernau at Brno. Crash.net has more details of the story.
The Spanish motorcycle magazine is reporting that Nicky Hayden is to star in his own TV show on MTV. The magazine claims that Hayden was due to make a pilot of the show for the global music channel, but that they decided to go straight to production after the Kentucky Kid won the Laguna Seca US Grand Prix last month. Negotiations are currently underway between International Racers and MTV about the show. Dorna will also be involved in the project.
The online version of the Spanish sports newspaper AS.com is reporting that Max Biaggi is negotiating with Ducati for a MotoGP ride in 2007. His contract with Suzuki for the World Superbike ride which never happened is said to have finished as of July 31st, leaving him clear to negotiate with other teams as of now.
Superbikeplanet.com (or Soup, as it is known in the vernacular) has a great set of comparison images of the Michelin tires at the end of the Laguna Seca race. What is really obvious is that the Yamaha uses its rear a lot harder than the Honda does. Either they have traction control working better, or they have a smoother torque curve. Well worth a look.
You can find the images here.
The official Ducati Racing website is reporting that Sete Gibernau is to undergo more surgery on his collarbone. He found he was having problems with the titanium plate put in after his monster pile up at the first corner at Catalunya, as his shoulder was weaker than it should have been, though he felt little or no pain. X-rays taken after returning home from Laguna Seca revealed the titanium plate had weakened, causing complications for the Spanish rider. The doctors treating Sete will strengthen the screw holding the plate in and administer bone growth injections, to speed up the growth of bone around the plate.
Ducati say that Gibernau is "probable, but not certain" to race at Brno on August 20th.
Over on Superbikeplanet.com, there's a great picture of Rossi's ruined rear tire, which caused him to slow and, Yamaha claims, caused his bike to overheat and blow coolant all over the track. I can't post it here because of copyright reasons, but here's a link to it:
If you look at the left-hand side of the tire, you can see a large strip where the rubber has let go. The interesting part about it is that the line of damage seems to be more or less along the line where the two different compounds in the dual-compound tires are joined. After Rossi's front tire delaminated (or to put it in layperson's terms, blew a chunk of rubber from one of the layers) in Shanghai, there was some speculation that the Michelins are not well suited to the Yamaha's power and handling characteristics this year, especially as the Honda riders have not had anywhere near as many tire problems so far this season.
The British motorcycle weekly has a video of what it believes to be the Ilmor 800cc V4 MotoGP bike, which is currently being developed by Formula 1 car builders Ilmor Engineering and Eskil Suter, the man behind MZ's former 500 cc GP bike, and who designed the chassis for the current Kawasaki MotoGP bike.
Some Like It Hot
Motorcycle racing, just in case you haven't noticed, is an outdoors sport. As such, it is ever at the mercy of the elements. And the 2006 MotoGP season has been dominated by the vagaries of the weather more than any other season in recent memory. Rain was the seemingly ever present companion to the series for the first few rounds, finally letting up when we reached Barcelona. But just as the riders had gotten used to not having to deal with the complexities which rain throws into the racing mix, Laguna Seca threw them a curve ball. It didn't rain in Monterey all weekend, it was hot. And not just a little hot, it was a pavement-scorching, rubber-melting, rider-wearing heat, with temperatures of over 100 F in the shade. In fact it was so hot that both American Superbike rider Ben Bostrom and Dani Pedrosa's mentor Alberto Puig had to be taken to the medical center to be treated for heat-related problems.
Even worse, the heat forced the track temperature up above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures not seen in a race since Malaysia in 2004. With the track at Laguna Seca surrounded by scrub, there is little vegetation or other shade to absorb the heat, so when it gets really hot, the heat is all reflected back to the crowd, the riders and the track. All this heat made finding tires and settings difficult during practice, with riders constantly struggling for grip, finding a tire which would work in the morning, when track temperatures were lower, but not in the blazing afternoon sun. And while the heat proved influential during practice, when race time came, it became the dominant factor, deciding not just the result of the race, but probably also the outcome of the 2006 MotoGP world championship title.
Over on Crash.net, there's an article discussing the various changes made to the Laguna Seca track to make it safer for motorcycle racing. An interesting background read.
Sunday morning's warmup threw up a few surprises at Laguna Seca. Firstly, prior to the warmup, the FIM ordered the AMA classes, which run at Laguna Seca at the same time, not to run until after the MotoGP event had finished. The next surprise was the names running at the front. After a previously dire qualifying session, Valentino Rossi lead the timesheets for a good deal of the session, with a very fast 1:23.494, nearly half a second quicker than the race record set last year. He was pipped shortly before the end of the session by Dani Pedrosa, who ran a 1:23.409, before fellow rookie Casey Stoner shattered the times in the dying seconds with an astonishing 1:23.029. If that was set on race tires, it's a staggering time.
Laguna Seca has thrown up a host of surprises during Saturday's Qualifiying Practice session. Many observers were expecting to see Nicky Hayden attempt to repeat last year's performance, taking pole position in an attempt to lead the race from the off, but that plan fell through. Early in qualifying, it was Casey Stoner who topped the timesheets, setting the fastest time 10 minutes into the session, then improving on the time 8 minutes later, cracking the 1:23 barrier and setting a time that was to stand for nearly two thirds of the session. Behind Stoner, Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen was quick, constantly threatening to take provisional pole from Stoner.