March 28th, 2009

2009 IRTA MotoGP Test Jerez Day 1 - Final Times

Final times from day 1 of the IRTA test at Jerez:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Fast lap Total laps
1 99 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1'39.791 0.000    
2 46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1'39.861 0.070    
3 27 Casey Stoner Ducati 1'39.906 0.115    
4 7 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1'40.572 0.781    
5 5 Colin Edwards Yamaha 1'40.579 0.788    
6 65 Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1'40.650 0.859    
7 4 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1'40.821 1.030    
8 15 Alex de Angelis Honda 1'40.900 1.109    
9 69 Nicky Hayden Ducati 1'40.987 1.196    
10 24 Toni Elias Honda 1'41.049 1.258    
11 52 James Toseland Yamaha 1'41.122 1.331    
12 33 Marco Melandri Kawasaki 1'41.160 1.369    
13 14 Randy de Puniet Honda 1'41.168 1.377    
14 36 Mika Kallio Ducati 1'41.226 1.435    
15 72 Yuki Takahashi Honda 1'41.362 1.571    
16 59 Sete Gibernau Ducati 1'41.737 1.946    
17 88 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 1'41.851 2.060    
18 64 Kosuoke Akiyoshi Honda 1'42.286 2.495    
19 22 Vito Guareschi Ducati 1'42.324 2.533    

Lap Record: Valentino Rossi, 2005, 1'40.596

KTM's KERS System Banned In 125s

The news that KTM was testing a KERS system for their 125cc race bikes was something of a eureka moment for those who follow any form of motorsport. If there is one place that a KERS system makes sense, it is on a small capacity motorcycle - the relatively small power gain available through KERS is of more use to a bike which starts off with relatively little power to begin with. It was obvious that KERS on a 125cc bike is an absolute no-brainer.

That very realization that KERS was a no-brainer has proven fateful for the system. In a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission held today, the body ruled that the KERS system as it was being used by KTM should be declared illegal under the current wording of the rules, which state that the bikes must be "propelled by an internal combustion engine." 

This point could be argued either way. The KERS system obtains its energy from the speed lost during braking, speed gained as a result of the internal combustion engine. But it is unarguably a supplemental system, which of itself does not operate using the principle of internal combustion. Long and expensive lawsuits could have been fought over this, such is the vagueness of the rules.

2009 IRTA MotoGP Test Jerez Day 1 - 3:30pm Update

Times shortly at 3:30pm

New MotoGP Rules - 6 Engines And 1 Bike In 2010, And No Rookies On Factory Teams

In a press conference held today during the IRTA tests at Jerez, Vito Ippolito, the president of the FIM, and Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, announced a series of measures aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP. More details to follow, but here are the rule changes:

  • At the end of the 2009 season, teams will only be allowed to use 5 engines for the last 7 races. This leaves the previous rule unchanged, answering speculation that the number of engines could be reduced after the Hungarian MotoGP round was dropped from the calendar, which would have meant 5 engines having to last for 8 races.
  • For 2010, each rider will have 6 engines to last the entire 18 race season. The engines will be sealed, and Dorna will be able to monitor remotely which engines are being used as the riders exit the pit lane.
  • The penalty for any infraction of this rule is that the rider will be docked 10 points from his championship points total. The manufacturer will also have 10 points deducted in the manufacturer standings, regardless of whether the rider was on a factory bike or a private bike.
  • Testing will be limited to 8 days in total next year, with just 2 tests during the season after the races at Catalunya and Brno.
  • As of 2010, only one bike per rider will be permitted. Teams will be allowed to scrutineer one machine for each rider. If a rider damages a chassis, a replacement chassis will have to be offered for technical inspection.
  • Friday is under discussion. Talks are still ongoing about whether the Friday afternoon practice session will be dropped.
  • Wheel rim widths are to be limited to two different sizes for front wheels, and one different size on the rear.
  • Only 5 technicians will be allowed to touch the bike during practice sessions. Once practice sessions are over, more people will be allowed to work on the bike, but this number will be limited to 5 during practice.
  • The minimum weight will be increased by 2kg for all engine configurations.
  • In 2010, no rider eligible for Rookie of the Year will be allowed to go straight to a factory team. Instead, they will have to go to a private or satellite team for at least one year, after which they will be eligible to join a factory team.

2009 IRTA MotoGP Test Jerez Day 1 - 1pm Update

The track is drying at Jerez, though more due to the wind than the sun, the skies are still cloudy, if not quite leaden. But the times are now definitely starting to drop. So far, Loris Capirossi is topping the timesheets, finally emerging from the pits to prove that the Suzuki genuinely looks fast. James Toseland is currently second, ahead of the Playboy LCR Honda of Randy de Puniet.

Valentino Rossi was the last of the late wakers, finally entering his pit garage shortly after 1pm.

Times shortly after 1pm

2009 IRTA MotoGP Test Jerez Day 1 - 12:10 Update

The track at Jerez is slowly drying out, but the action on track is still sporadic. Bridgestone only has four rain tires for each rider here at Jerez, so riders are choosing to stay in the pits. The track is in that horrid inbetween stage where it's tricky on slick tires, but too dry for full wets.

The biggest shock of the second hour of testing was of Brawn GP proportions: Marco Melandri spent a good 20 minutes at the top of the timesheets on the Hayate / Kawasaki / Hai Karate bike. But shortly before noon he was deposed by James Toseland, who went out as the track began to dry more fully, and times began to drop dramatically.

So far, James Toseland and Jorge Lorenzo have been the real workhorses at Jerez, pounding in lap after lap, while others are hoping for better conditions to appear. Despite the relative lack of action, and the indifferent weather, crowds are out in force, and mobbing any rider brave enough to appear. Valentino Rossi's motorhome is easy to identify - it's the one surrounded by fans - and Fiat Yamaha have sectioned off the area around their transporters with barriers, to prevent the crowds from thronging into the trailers and probably the garage as well, given the chance.

Judging by the reception Sete Gibernau is receiving, the Grupo Francisco Hernando team should have sectioned off their carrier as well. Gibernau risks being crushed to death under the weight of fans wanting to have their picture taken with the Spaniard. Gibernau is clearly still a star.

Times shortly after noon: 

2009 IRTA MotoGP Test Jerez Day 1 - 11am Update

Jerez awoke this morning to the gentle trickle of rain running off the rooftops, a rather inauspicious start to the first day of testing. Luckily, it had just about finished once the bikes hit the track, though the track is still very damp, though it looks like drying out reasonably quickly now that the sun has come out to help burn it off.

About half the riders here are out on track, the rest electing to sit in their motorhomes until conditions improve. And at 11am, it was Casey Stoner rather unsurprisingly topping the timesheets, the Australian putting in a few laps to get a feel for the track here once again. Second fastest was, again unsurprisingly, Chris Vermeulen on the Rizla Suzuki, while Colin Edwards on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha was 3rd quickest.

Times at 11am

1 Casey Stoner Ducati 1'53.660   3
2 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1'54.614 0.954 3
3 Colin Edwards Yamaha 1'55.097 1.437 6
4 Vito Guareschi Ducati 1'55.381 1.721 4
5 James Toseland Yamaha 1'56.916 3.256 6
6 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1'56.949 3.289 4
7 Nicky Hayden Ducati 1'57.556 3.896 3
8 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1'57.683 4.023 12
9 Kosuoke Akiyoshi Honda 2'00.130 6.470 2
10 Toni Elias Honda 2'01.218 7.55 3


March 27th

Of Walls And Riders

They seem to be all the rage nowadays: Walls dividing pit garages in MotoGP teams. The fashion started in the FIAT Yamaha team garage, where a wall was supposedly fitted to prevent data sharing between Valentino Rossi's Bridgestone side of the garage, and Jorge Lorenzo's Michelin squad. The fashion soon spread to the Repsol Honda garage, where Dani Pedrosa's switch to Bridgestones necessitated similar measures. Or so we were told, though the walls were not removed along with their original rationale once the single tire rule meant everyone would be running on Bridgestones.

The wall erected this weekend in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha garage is perhaps a more honest one. Colin Edwards is still seething at James Toseland having kidnapped his crew chief, after Toseland had reportedly had communication problems with Guy Coulon all year. Since then, Edwards has not missed an opportunity to take a potshot at his team mate, despite being very happy to have Coulon as his new chief. The instigation of the wall at Edwards' bidding is just another shot in the war of attrition which is raging in the team. And we can look forward to more of the same as the season progresses.

The irony is that at Jerez, a wall also disappeared from a team garage. In the Repsol Honda garage, now only a workbench divides the two halves of the garage, the wall entirely gone. But then again, the injured Dani Pedrosa has been temporarily replaced by Kosuke Akiyoshi at the IRTA test, who will be riding the Spaniard's bike for the two day test. If I were a betting man, I would not put money on the wall not returning along with the Spanish title favorite.

2009 Jerez 125 Afternoon Session - Simon Unstoppable Again

In the 125cc class, the afternoon session of the final day at Jerez followed the same pattern of almost every other session here so far. Bancaja Aspar's Julian Simon dominated completely, leading the field by over 7/10ths of a second. Simon has opted to fit an older version of the forks to his Aprilia RSA, whilst others, such as Danny Webb, are using the 2009 version, which are causing problems for some riders. For now, Simon's decision has paid off very well indeed.

The race for second was a lot closer, KTM's Marc Marquez taking second spot by just two thousandths of a second from Sandro Cortese on the Ajo Aprilia, while Derbi's Pol Espargaro - riding hurt after a crash - took fourth just a few hundredths behind. Simon's team mate Sergio Gadea rounded out the top 5.

In the morning, Bradley Smith got to within one tenth of a second of Simon's fastest time, but the British rider didn't take part in the afternoon hour. This left Scott Redding the fastest Briton in 8th, one spot ahead of Danny Webb. American Cameron Beaubier, moving up to the MotoGP class through the MotoGP Academy program finished 16th.

The teams have one final test left, a two night affair at Qatar, before the season kicks off. If you don't have Julian Simon in your fantasy MotoGP team, now would be a good chance to switch.

Session 2 times (afternoon session)

2009 Jerez Irta Test Day 3 - 250 Afternoon Session - Simoncelli Dives Under Pole Record

Marco Simoncelli ended the three-day IRTA test on the top of the 50 timesheets, smashing the pole lap record by over 0.4 seconds. The Italian Gilera rider was nearly two tenths quicker than his Spanish title rival Alvaro Bautista, but both men were well under Dani Pedrosa's pole record at the Andalucian track which dates back to 2005. 

Big surprise of the afternoon was Jules Cluzel, who took his Matteoni Racing Aprilia to the third fastest time of the day, and the fourth fastest time of the three-day test, an impressive performance from the young Frenchman, all the more so because he set the time on an LE spec Aprilia, rather than a full fat factory spec RSA bike. Clusel is the second LE rider to get among the top 250 tier, after Lukas Pesek was fourth fastest on Thursday on a similar bike. It certainly looks as if the difference in performance between the million euro RSA and the 250,000 euro LE is a lot less than it was in previous years, though whether this is down to Aprilia easing up on the development of the RSA bike as the 2011 demise of the class approaches.

Full times from both sessions will follow as soon as they are available.

Session 2 times (afternoon session)

Playboy Deal With LCR Honda On

Lucio Cecchinello, boss of the LCR Honda team, is well-known for his innovative approach to raising sponsorship for the team. Through the years that the team has raced in MotoGP, LCR has showcased a number of different sponsors all featuring on the fairing for a few individual races, rather than for a full season. Cecchinello calls this approach the "Event Title Sponsor" format. So when news appeared earlier this week that Playboy was set to sponsor the LCR Honda team, the press were surprised that Cecchinello would be dropping this tried-and-tested approach. 

But we had all been wrong-footed. Despite Cecchinello having met with senior Playboy officials in Italy last week, the Italian team owner had not secured Playboy as a title sponsor. Instead, Playboy will be sponsoring LCR in the same way the team's other sponsors have, on an event-to-event basis. The deal is with the publisher of the Italian edition of Playboy, and will see Randy de Puniet carry the iconic Playboy logo on the bike for the Spanish and Japanese Grand Prix, as well as the IRTA tests which kick off for the MotoGP class at Jerez tomorrow morning.

Although the sponsorship deal is only for the first few races - it was timed to help with the relaunch of the Italian magazine, though attempts to include the season opener at Qatar failed because of advertising restrictions in that country - Cecchinello is talking to other editions of Playboy looking for similar deals. If it all pans out as the team hopes, then the Playboy logo could appear at more races during the year. 

2009 Jerez IRTA Test 250s and 125s Day 3 Update - Simoncelli And Iannone

The final day of testing for the junior classes at Jerez is well underway, and after a cloudy and chilly start, the sun is out and it's warming up nicely. Out on track, the riders are filling the air with the sweet smell of two stroke fumes, but the lap times set so far are still slower than the faster times of yesterday and Wednesday.

In the 250 class, it's Marco Simoncelli who's topping the timesheets as of midday ahead of Hector Barbera, who has just pushed Hiroshi Aoyama down into third. Alvaro Bautista is down in 11th, though the Spaniard has yet to run many laps.

For the 125 boys, Julian Simon just leapt to the top of the timesheets, deposing Andrea Iannone from the top spot he had held previously. Stefan Bradl is in third, a huge improvement after a few difficult days, and after crashing and bruising his hand yesterday. Britain's Bradley Smith is sixth fastest,  two places ahead of Scott Redding. American Cameron Beaubier is yet to take to the track.

More updates after the end of the session at 2:50pm.

March 26th

2009 IRTA Test 125 Class - Day 2 - Simon Continues Reign Of Terror

The sun is shining, temperatures are soaring, and you'll never guess who's the fastest of the 125 riders on the second day of the official IRTA test at Jerez. Coming as a complete shock to absolutely no one, Bancaja Aspar's Julian Simon continued to top the timesheets, leading from Red Bull KTM's Spanish flyweight Marc Marquez in the morning, and Ongetta Team's Andrea Iannone in the afternoon. The only bright spot on the horizon - apart that is from the hot Andalucian sun - is that Simon's margin over the competition has dropped, with Marquez getting to within a tenth of a second, while Iannone closed the gap to just 0.065 seconds. 

The good news for Bradley Smith was his pair of third places, though the British rider was over three quarters of a second slower than his team in the afternoon. The other two Britons also saw an improvement from yesterday, Scott Redding setting the 6th fastest time ahead of De Graaf's Danny Webb in 7th. American rookie Cameron Beaubier finished 18th fastest in both sessions.

The China cup ended in a draw again, with Haojue's Michi Ranseder fastest in the morning, while Tomo Koyama was quickest on the Loncin in the afternoon.

Testing finishes tomorrow, and as MotoGPMatters will be at the track, we'll have a round up of all three days testing.

Session 2 times (afternoon session)

2009 IRTA Test 250 Class - Day 2 - Bautista Edges Barbera

Alvaro Bautista shone under the Spanish sun at Jerez on Thursday, topping the timesheets in both sessions. But Bautista didn't have it his own way: During the 250-only afternoon session the Mapfre Aspar rider was only barely faster than compatriot Hector Barbera, and only just over a tenth of a second quicker than title rival Marco Simoncelli on the Gilera.

Aspar's two rookies coming up from the 125 class also showed well. Gabor Talmacsi - technically in his own Balaton Racing Team, but under the Aspar umbrella - was slower in the morning session, but by the afternoon, had jumped up to 5th. Reigning 125cc champion Mike di Meglio went the opposite way, taking 2nd spot in the morning, while dropping to a still highly respectable 6th fastest during the afternoon session.

Surprise of the day was Lukas Pesek, climbing into the top 4 in the afternoon, despite only having an Aprilia LE, rather than the factory spec RSA the other top riders are running.

Meanwhile, injuries are starting to take their toll. After crashing heavily yesterday, Axel Pons - son of former 250 champion and team manager Sito - was forced to sit out today's session, while Vladimir Leonov also crashed again heavily in the morning, though he rode again during the afternoon.

Testing finishes tomorrow, before the MotoGP bikes take to the track. MotoGPMatters will be at trackside, and will bring you a summary of the three days of testing, as well as trying to track down Stevie Bonsey.

Session 2 times (afternoon session)

March 25th

2009 IRTA Test 250 Class - Day 1 - Barbera Fastest In Afternoon

On the first day of testing at the official IRTA test at Jerez, it was Hector Barbera who finished the day fastest, with a fast lap in the dying minutes of the second afternoon session. The day had started overcast, but the afternoon saw sunnier skies and warmer temperatures. Rather strangely, most of the 250 men put in their fastest time in the cooler morning session, with the exception of Barbera.

Title favorites Alvaro Bautista and Marco Simoncelli finished second and third fastest, Simoncelli faster in the morning, while Bautista was quicker in the afternoon, despite both men going slower. Former 125 champion Gabor Talmacsi was also quick, staying with a couple of tenths of Barbera in the morning session, but giving up over half a second in the afternoon. Talmacsi has been consistently in touch with the title candidates, and could prove a challenge once he hits his stride in the class.

The other surprise package was Ratthapark Wilairot on the Thai Honda. The Thai rider was consistently in the points last year, and was 3rd quickest in the morning session, and not far off the two leaders. 

Mattia Pasini was not so lucky. The Team Toth rider had a huge crash in the afternoon, and banged up both himself and his Aprilia. Pasini was joined in the gravel traps by Russian rider Vladimir Leonov, who is building something of a reputation as a crasher, having crashed out of the Estoril test three times.

Testing continues tomorrow.

Session 2 times (afternoon session)