Pepe World Aprilia's Hector Barbera dominated the first session of free practice at Misano today, walking away with the fastest time of the day and a lead of nearly half a second back to 2nd place man Team Toth's Mattia Pasini. The lead changed hands several times during the session, but it was always Barbera who kept taking it back, and taking it back in style.
Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama was 3rd quickest in the session, leaping up the order in the final moments, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista, who also improved on the last lap. Marco Simoncelli, the final man in the title race, could only manage the 7th fastest time of the session.
Valentino Rossi has struck the first blow at Misano, edging ahead of Fiat Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo, with 10 minutes to go, then taking another tenth of a second off his best time to hold onto provisional pole. Lorenzo had dominated the session up until that point, only briefly ceding the lead to Dani Pedrosa, and hammering a whole sequence of laps in the 1'35s, over half a second faster than the rest of the field for most of practice. Lorenzo even looked like taking back provisional pole from Rossi, but the Spaniard ran into traffic on two fast laps in succession, leaving him stuck in 2nd. His fastest lap may have been slower than Rossi's, but his race pace was a good deal faster than anyone else could match.
Dani Pedrosa rounds out the provisional front row, to nobody's surprise, the Spaniard developing a bizarre problem with his Repsol Honda at the end of the session, fluid spraying either from a loose clutch reservoir or front fork, forcing a furious Pedrosa to ditch the bike and take a trip back to the pits on a scooter. Pedrosa's misfortune allowed Alex de Angelis to close right in on him, the man from San Marino - just a few kilometers from the circuit - getting to within 0.016 of Pedrosa's time, and finishing ahead of Pedrosa's team mate Andrea Dovizioso and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards. Dovizioso has switched to Ohlins this weekend, and his first run out was fairly successful, the Repsol Honda rider finishing pretty close to where he might have been expected to end up if he had stuck with the Showa suspension Pedrosa is still using.
Most striking of all, however, is the gap between the Fiat Yamahas and the rest of the field. Pedrosa is over six tenths behind Lorenzo, and three quarters of a second behind Rossi, while a second covers 3rd to 12th places. The Fiat Yamahas appear to be in a league of their own. Again.
Bradley Smith led the first session of free practice at Misano, the British Aspar rider having been fast throughout the session. Smith received a little help from Czech rider Lukas Sembera, who balked Smith's Aspar team mate Julian Simon on a fast lap, leaving the Spaniard to settle for 2nd. Local hero Andrea Iannone set the 3rd fastest time, while Stefan Bradl took 4th place.
Smith's British compatriates Scott Redding and Danny Webb finished the session down the field in 15th and 16th, while American Cameron Beaubier ended up 29th.
Silly Season is just about over in MotoGP: With the announcement that Ducati have just offered Nicky Hayden a new one-year contract for 2010, the available factory seats are all filled, with the notable exception of Honda. Andrea Dovizioso has admitted he is very close to a new deal with Honda, but most of the media and fan attention has been focused on the future of Dani Pedrosa.
At Indianapolis, Pedrosa acknowledged approaches by Ducati - for a salary thought to be broadly similar to the gigantic sums on offer to Jorge Lorenzo, before he turned the Bologna factory down - but repeated that discussions with Honda were still ongoing, and that no firm conclusions had been reached. The sticking point, it was believed, was the role that Pedrosa's manager and mentor Alberto Puig was to play next season, with HRC pushing for a much diminished role for the former GP winner, and Pedrosa refusing to sign unless he had the man who has done so much for his career by his side.
Reports coming out of Spain earlier today - published by the sports daily Sport.es and reported by the Catalonian radio station Catalunya Informacio - indicate that Dani Pedrosa has already decided to sign a new contract with the Repsol Honda squad, and will make an official announcement this weekend at Misano. According to the reports, Pedrosa will sign a contract for at least one year, but no word has been forthcoming on the role of Pedrosa's manager Puig.
An interesting press release has just dropped into our mailbox, one which highlights how the lack of testing is impacting the teams and their efforts at developing the bikes. Repsol Honda has just announced that Andrea Dovizioso is to switch from Showa suspension to Ohlins at Misano, and to continue using the Swedish forks and shocks for the rest of the season.
Both Dovizioso and Repsol Honda team mate Dani Pedrosa tested the Ohlins suspension units during the post-race test at Brno in mid-August, but as it rained for a couple of hours during the one-day test, Pedrosa in particular lost a lot of his opportunity to test the new suspension. As a consequence, it appears that Repsol Honda have decided to take a different tack, with Pedrosa sticking with Showa while Andrea Dovizioso - who is out of the running for a top 3 finish in the championship - running Ohlins, partly with a view to gaining enough data for both riders to use the new Ohlins suspension next year.
The problem is of course with testing now drastically reduced, it has become significantly more difficult to test major changes such as this, but during the season and in the pre-season testing. It is likely that we will see more of these kind of changes taking place mid-season, using the remaining races as testing in preparation for the following year. Dani Pedrosa's mid-season tire switch from Michelin to Bridgestone was a case in point. The Spaniard arrived at the start of this season much better prepared to use the Japanese tires than other Michelin runners who had to wait until the end of the 2008 season.
After Mattia Pasini was drafted in to test the Pramac Ducati MotoGP bike, on the official one-day test after the Brno MotoGP round, speculation grew that the Italian 250cc star would be given the nod to race the Pramac bike for the next two MotoGP rounds, at Indianapolis and Misano. To many people's surprise, once he gave the Desmosedici GP9 back to the Pramac mechanics, he thanked them nicely and then told everyone that he had learned what he wanted to know, and that he had no intention of racing the bike. Instead, Pasini said, he would return to the 250cc championship where he is still theoretically in with a shot at the title.
This left Pramac casting about for a replacement. With the 250cc season also coming to a head and the Misano race clashing with the next round of World Superbikes at the Nurburgring, the list of possible substitutes was looking pretty threadbare. But within a couple of days of testing finishing at Brno, the Pramac squad have found a suitable replacement: For the next two rounds, the Ducati left vacant by Mika Kallio's temporary elevation to the factory Marlboro Ducati team will be filled by former 250cc star Aleix Espargaro. According to GPOne.com, Espargaro was offered the ride after former Suzuki rider John Hopkins declined, when the team refused to offer him a contract for 2010 on top of the two wild card rides at Indy and Misano.
After the speculation and the rumors, finally the official confirmation. Below is the text of the press release put out by Ducati Corse today, on the subject of Casey Stoner missing the next three races:
STONER OUT OF ACTION FOR THREE RACES, KALLIO TO JOIN HAYDEN IN DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM
Casey Stoner will not take part in the next three Grands Prix, and will next return to action at the beginning of October for the Grand Prix of Portugal. The Australian has suffered physical problems since the Catalunya GP, which have caused him severe fatigue during the last five races. Stoner took this difficult decision after having consulted with sports doctors who have looked after him for many years back home in Australia. At this challenging time, he has the support of the team and the whole of Ducati who together with Stoner have enjoyed racing at the top of the sport for the last three seasons.
Mika Kallio will join Nicky Hayden in the Ducati Marlboro Team for the next three races, thanks to the great spirit of collaboration between Ducati and the satellite team owned by Paolo Campinoti. Kallio is in his debut season in MotoGP and has already proved to be very competitive on the GP9. For the Brno race, his place in the Pramac Team will be taken by Michel Fabrizio.
CASEY STONER, Ducati Marlboro Team (3rd in the championship on 150 points):
"After five extremely difficult races due to my health, I returned to Australia to visit the sports doctors who have looked after me for many years. We have taken the difficult decision not to contest the next three rounds of the championship, to allow my body time to recover from the recent stress. The doctors believe that during the Barcelona race I was suffering from a virus, and, that I subsequently pushed my body too hard, leading to problems that have caused my fatigue since then. The doctors are continuing with many tests to try to understand these problems and make sure it does not happen again. I have spoken with Ducati and thank them for their understanding at this time. I feel very sorry for the factory, my team, my sponsors and the fans and I am also disappointed because the bike in the last races has been very competitive. I will be doing everything possible to come back at full strength for Portugal."
The World Superbike circus came to Misano on Italy's Adriatic coast hoping for sun, sea and speed, but this weekend, they got plenty more than that. The heat and humidity was scorching on Friday, turning showery on Saturday, only to start with a downpour on race day.
The rain had fallen heavily all morning, but as the riders headed out at noon for race 1, the rain had just about stopped and the World Superbike series was set to see the first time its flag-to-flag rules would be put into effect. The dash into the pits to swap bikes always guarantees plenty of spectacle, but the action started even before the race had gotten underway. Johnny Rea's Ten Kate Honda developed a fueling glitch on the sighting lap, and the Ulsterman was forced to hitch a lift back to the pits from his team mate, Ryuichi Kiyonari, an act which would cost them both a ride-through penalty later on, and forced Rea to start from pit lane. Then on the warm up lap, an electronics glitch caused Troy Corser to flip his BMW S1000RR, ruling himself out of the race before it had even started.
When the red lights did finally dim it was Shane Byrne who led into Turn 1, taking Jakub Smrz and Ben Spies with him. Byrne, who has had a difficult year so far on the Sterilgarda Ducati, was clearly in his element in the wet, and was rapidly heading off into the distance. By the end of the first lap, the reigning British Superbike champion had a lead of over 2 seconds which had grown to nearly 17 seconds by the halfway mark.
Behind Byrne, Jakub Smrz was also at ease in the wet conditions, not able to match Shakey's blistering pace but faster than those that followed, leaving Ben Spies and Michel Fabrizio trailing in his wake. Spies was clearly less comfortable in the wet conditions, Fabrizio quickly getting past the Texan in the very wet early laps, but as the track started to dry, the Texan picked up his pace and got back on the tail of the Xerox Ducati.
Results of the European Superstock 600 race at Misano:
Results of the delayed FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race:
Results and synopsis of World Superbikes Race 2 at Misano:
Final result of the two-part World Supersport race at Misano:
Results of the red-flagged first part of the World Supersport race at Misano: