Ant West looks certain to miss the final round of Moto2 at Valencia. The Australian has been found guilty of using methylhexaneamine, a mild stimulant on the WADA list of banned substances which is also used by the FIM in their anti-doping code. West tested positive at the Le Mans round of MotoGP, but he has only now been heard before the FIM International Disciplinary Court. The Court found West guilty of violating the anti-doping code, banned West from the Le Mans Moto2 round (meaning that his 7th place finish will be scrapped from the results) and had a 30-day competition ban imposed, starting October 30th. The ban means West will be unable to take race at Valencia in 10 days' time. He has five days to appeal the ban.
The substance West has been banned for is methylhexaneamine, a mild stimulant originally marketed as a nasal decongestant. It also has mild stimulant properties, increasing body metabolism slightly. For this reason, it is a common ingredient in some sports supplements, especially those aimed at weight loss or weight control. However, because it is used in small quantities, it is not always listed in the ingredients of those supplements, making it easy to ingest without knowing it. There are currently programs, such as those run by the NSF, to label sports supplements as being safe for elite athletes to use, without falling foul of various anti-doping regulations.
Two freshly anointed champions, three impressive winners, and a large crowd of ecstatic and yet wistful fans, come to say goodbye to a departing hero and hope to spot a new one arriving. Even the weather cooperated. That's how good the Australian Grand Prix was at Phillip Island this year. All three races were a lot less intense than the previous two weekends, but even that didn't matter, because of the manner in which the winners secured their victories, and because the Australian crowd had something to cheer about in all three categories.
It started in the Moto3 race, where Sandro Cortese rode one of his best races of the year, the title he clinched last weekend at Sepang clearly a weight off his mind, allowing the young German to ride freely. He had Miguel Oliveira to contend with for most of the race, but in the end, he would not be denied. The home crowd still had much to cheer about, as local boy Arthur Sissis, the 17-year-old former Red Bull Rookie, won an intense battle for third, putting an Australian on the podium for the first time on Sunday.
2012 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Confidence, Control, The Half A Second Between The Rider's Ears, And A Minimum Wage
When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 - now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor - he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit. Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. "I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!" Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1'29s (just, his fastest lap being 1'29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1'30s.
Confidence. That's Stoner's secret. And it's the secret of another Australian, a rider almost surprised to find himself at the front of the Moto2 class, Ant West having bagged the 3rd fastest time on the first day of his home Grand Prix. The podium at Sepang had kicked him into gear, West admitted, pointing out the importance of confidence to results. "I must have woke myself up!" West joked. "This class is all about having good confidence, because from 1st to 20th, everyone's fast. I just feel confident, and it makes everything so much easier. Today I feel good, and the bike's working really well." West's success was more than just an overnight transformation, West insisted. Things had slowly been improving since the QMMF team switched from the Moriwaki to the Speed Up chassis, West now able to close the gap the front. "We've been building up the last few races getting better and better, and I'm happy today. It just seem to be going well, even went out the first part of this session on old tires and still had quite a decent time."
The Grand Prix Circus came to Sepang with three titles in the balance. Only one of them got wrapped up on Sunday, though, tropical rainstorms throwing a spanner into the works of the other two, but generating some fascinating racing. The fans had one fantastic dry race, one fantastic wet race, and a processional MotoGP race that looked much the same as it would have had it been dry. There was a packed house - over 77,000 people crowded into the circuit, a highly respectable number for a flyaway round - cheering on local heroes, there was confusion over the rules, and there were a lot of new faces on the podium. There was also a much better balance of nationalities on the podium: where in previous races, the Spanish national anthem has been played three times on a Sunday, at Sepang, it was only heard once. Most of all, though, the Moto2 and MotoGP races ran in the wet would be determined by the timing of the red flags, with Race Direction's decisions on safety also having an outcome on the results of the races, and in the case of MotoGP, possibly implications for the championship.
After Maverick Viñales' shock decision to quit his team, it got a lot easier for Sandro Cortese to wrap up the Moto3 title at Sepang, needing only to keep a watchful eye on Luis Salom during the race and not finish behind him. Salom had made Cortese's task even easier a week previously, by launching an ill-considered dive up the inside of Jonas Folger at the start of the last lap at Motegi, incurring a penalty which dropped him five grid positions at the start. Cortese started from the front row, while Salom had his work cut out, starting from way back in 10th. Cortese could more or less cruise home at Sepang and secure the title.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying at Jerez on Saturday:
With the Moto2 and Moto3 trucks all departed from the paddock, the Jerez circuit is now the domain of the MotoGP teams for the final test ahead of the season opener at Qatar. Thursday, the eve of the test, saw a massive amount of pit lane activity, but mainly among the photographers as they chased up and down the track shooting the riders in their full season livery for publicity shoots and the official MotoGP.com website.
Jerez is the first time that all of the bikes, both the CRTs which have tested in Spain and the factory prototypes which have tested in Sepang, hit the track at the same time. The difference was immediately obvious, from a mosey up pit lane with a camera. At the CRT end of pit lane, garages were open, and mechanics were working on their bikes in full public display. I strolled past bare chassis with engines standing separately waiting to be fitted, bikes in various stages of undress, and stood taking photographs as mechanics worked on their bikes, undisturbed by my presence.
With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.
Young riders coming up today, and even current riders, need to understand that they are no longer being paid to race. This is a major change in mindset, what they are paid to do is work as a marketing tool for their sponsors and patrons. For most of the history of athletics and motorsports, one of two things had to happen for you to compete, you either were either wealthy, or, you had to have a wealthy patron. Patron, another term for sponsor, is something that disappeared, for the most part, post-World War II on a personal level. Post World War II sponsorship came from corporations rather than people though that really didn't become visible until the 1960s with the Lotus Formula One team.
Just hours after Ant West announced on his Facebook page that he would not be racing in MotoGP, as he was unable to find the sponsorship to fund his ride at the Speed Master team, the team issued a press release announcing West's replacement. Italian rider Mattia Pasini is to take West's place, and ride the Speed Master Team's Aprilia CRT bike in MotoGP for 2012.
Rumors had emerged earlier today that Pasini would be racing in Moto2 in 2012, with much speculation that the Italian would be riding for the Stop & Go Racing team. Those reports were based on an announcement on Pasini's Facebook fan page that he had finally signed a contract for the upcoming season, but only later did it emerge that Pasini would be racing in MotoGP rather than Moto2. Despite West's obvious ability - masked during his time at MZ by organizational problems in the team, which made it impossible to ensure a consistent setup for the bike - Pasini is a more natural fit with the Speed Master project. Pasini is highly popular in his native Italy, and having an Italian rider on an Italian bike in an Italian team is a much easier proposition to sell to Italian sponsors.
Popular Australian rider Ant West is to retire from motorcycle racing. The popular Australian made the announcement on his personal Facebook page, citing the failure to raise sufficient sponsorship to be able to pay for a ride for 2012. West was signed up to ride an Aprilia CRT machine for the Speed Master team in MotoGP in 2012, but was unable to find the 250,000 euros that the team had demanded he bring to the ride.
West posted on his Facebook page that he had attempted to sell his car, his motocross bike and his house in Switzerland to help fund the Speed Master ride, and had even offered his house as collateral. That had not been sufficient to save his ride, however. The Australian faces similar problems racing elsewhere, as all the other teams are demanding that West bring money to a ride, and West cannot afford to do that.
The objective of keeping costs at reasonable levels for the CRT entries has been underlined again today, when news emerged that a series of separate tests is to be organized for the teams in Europe. While the factory and satellite teams head to Sepang for the official MotoGP tests, the CRT bikes will be circulating in Spain, GPOne.com reports, with the two groups facing each other on the track at the end of March in Jerez.
Three tests have been organized in Spain, starting at Valencia on January 30th and 31st. Three weeks later, from 20th to 22nd of February, the CRT entries will convene again, this time at Jerez, before heading to Aragon on March 8th for a two-day test. Two weeks later, from 23rd to the 25th of March, the entire MotoGP field meets at Jerez once again, for the final official IRTA test before heading off to Qatar for the season opener on April 8th.
The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for all three Grand Prix classes, and the grids are looking remarkably healthy. Some 21 riders will line up in the MotoGP class, the Moto2 grid has been shrunk to a more manageable 33 entries, and 32 riders will be at the start for the inaugural season of racing in the Moto3 class, the grid the same size as it was for last year's 125cc class, which Moto3 replaces.
There are no surprises in the MotoGP class. As expected, there are 21 entries: 12 factory prototype entries and 9 CRT entries. Of the factory prototypes (which includes satellite machines), the three factory teams remain unchanged with the exception of the reduction of the Repsol Honda squad from three riders to two, Andrea Dovizioso having been dropped, despite finishing 3rd in the championship in 2011 ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who retains his seat. Dovizioso joins Cal Crutchlow at Monster Tech 3, Yamaha maintaining its commitment at 4 YZR-M1 machines. Both Honda and Ducati have cut back to just two satellite bikes apiece, with the bikes spread over four different teams. Stefan Bradl, whose usual number, 65, was retired in honor of Loris Capirossi, has elected to use the number 6.