Archive - Apr 2007
The announcement the MotoGP world has been expecting since Ilmor withdrew from racing after the Qatar season opener has finally been made. Today, Mario Illien, Ilmor GP Team Principal, and Steve Miller, Managing Director, announced that the current GP team will be scaled down to a "skeleton crew", and switch the focus of the team to engine development. The pair cited problems raising sufficient sponsorship to make racing a "viable option", and announced that most of the Ilmor GP Team staff will be released from their contracts at the end of May.
Crash.net is reporting that Ilmor will make an official announcement about their future on Monday. As we reported earlier, it seems inevitable that what will be announced is a permanent withdrawal from MotoGP, at least as an official manufacturer. Ilmor was 6 million Euros short of the funds required to carry on running the factory team, but with such an obvious development deficit, that money was very hard to come by.
If there was one thing that commentators, fans and team managers alike could agree on prior to the 2007 MotoGP season, it was that this was to be the year of the former 250 riders. The season that we switched from the point-and-squirt 990s to the smooth, high corner speed 800s would be the second season for the phenomenal class of former 250 rookies, and the year that they would demonstrate exactly what they were made of. The weight of expectation lay heavily on Randy de Puniet, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
With Casey Stoner having dominated practice in Istanbul this far, it was with some trepidation most riders approached this afternoon's official Qualifying Practice. The question foremost in their minds was "How do we stop the Ducatis?" And within 5 minutes of practice starting, their worst fears were confirmed, as the young Australian quickly put his Marlboro Ducati at the top of the timesheets. Their worries were compounded when a minute later, Stoner's team mate Loris Capirossi took over the top spot, becoming the first rider to break into the 1'54s.
After this morning's cold, damp and crash-ridden practice session, this afternoon saw better weather, a completely dry track, and a warning. The warning was aimed at the entire MotoGP field, the issuer was Ducati, and the message was that if they were scared by the Ducatis at Qatar, they should be terrified here. For perched atop the timesheets are the Marlboro Ducati team mates Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi.
To those of us in the West, the Orient has always been an exotic place, shrouded in mystery. Throughout history, the East represented aromatic spices, spectacular colors and an unfathomable and alien world. Most of all, the East stood for adventure, a place where anything was possible, and reputations and riches could be made or lost.
On the eve of the Istanbul round of MotoGP, tragedy has already struck. Turkish online newspaper Today's Zaman is reporting that the Turkish Motorcycling Federation will ask the FIM to cancel its contract to host the round. The problem is money.
Well, we have already had our first silly season rumor for the 2008 season, and now the team negotiations seem to be gaining momentum. We had reported last year that Yamaha were interested in World 250 Champion Jorge Lorenzo, and now Autosport.com has further confirmation that Lorenzo is talking to Yamaha for next year.
Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins has elected not to have surgery on his injured right hand. He damaged the ligament between the lunar and scaphoid bones in a huge highside during pre-season testing at Qatar in February, and has been riding injured every since. He revealed that he had spoken to doctors about having surgery to fix the tear, but decided against the procedure, which would have required a 6 week layoff from racing.
Roberto Locatelli, the 250 cc rider who suffered such a horrific crash at Jerez, is recovering well. He is currently at home, having left hospital yesterday. And despite the terrible injuries he suffered when he careened off the track into a tire wall, he is determined to return to racing. Dr Costa has told him he may be ready to race at the Mugello round in June, but Loca himself is determined to return one round earlier, at Le Mans.