Final line up for the 2011 MotoGP season:
Here at MotoMatters.com, we have never been keen on posting press releases without any commentary to explain the background to them. But the circumstances of the first MotoGP test of the 2011 season at Valencia are so extraordinary - Valentino Rossi's long-awaited Ducati debut, for example, as well as the first outing for Casey Stoner on the Honda - that we are prepared to make an exception. Here are all today's press releases, featuring expertly massaged opinions and heavily doctored ride quotes:
LORENZO AND SPIES FIRST AND THIRD AT VALENCIA TEST
Yamaha Factory Racing Team riders Jorge Lorenzo and new team-mate Ben Spies completed a successful first day of the official MotoGP test at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia today, topping the timesheets as only two of five riders to dip below the 1.33 minute mark . Rain in the morning saw the day's session delayed until the track had dried with all riders waiting until the afternoon before venturing out onto the circuit.
The withdrawal of the Interwetten Honda team from MotoGP has been an open secret for some time now, after title sponsor Interwetten decided against renewing funding for the MotoGP team again next year. Team boss Daniel Epp had been holding off on an official announcement until all of his options to replace Interwetten had been exhausted. That happened a few weeks ago, and now, the Interwetten team has officially announced the demise of the team.
The disbanding of the Interwetten team leaves former 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama without a ride, but that situation is unlikely to last for long. Aoyama is currently being linked to the second Gresini Honda ride, alongside Marco Simoncelli, but team boss Fausto Gresini has been reluctant to sign the Japanese rider, citing a lack of money to run a second team. Gresini has been hoping that Dorna and HRC will stump up the cash to pay for Aoyama's seat in the Gresini garage, as both the TV rights holders and Honda are keen to have a Japanese rider in the series. Gresini argues that an Italian rider would be much easier to find sponsorship for.
MotoGP's silly season is almost at an end, with only a few loose ends left to tie up. The names of the riders are all known now, though contracts remain to be signed and announcements to be made, as the final details of deals are hammered out among the various parties.
While Honda's factory line up has been known for a couple of months now, the exact line up and organization has remained unclear. HRC had three riders under contract to ride in the factory team, with Casey Stoner joining Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa for 2011, but there was some doubt about the way the trio would be organized. At Aragon, HRC Marketing Director Livio Suppo told MotoMatters.com that there would be four factory Honda riders for 2011: Stoner, Dovizioso, Pedrosa and Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli, who also has a contract with HRC directly. After talks failed to tempt another sponsor in to run Casey Stoner in a separate team, Honda put pressure on Andrea Dovizioso to take a seat in the San Carlo Gresini Honda team alongside Simoncelli, with the promise of full factory support in the Gresini squad.
As the season winds towards its conclusion, the effect of the engine rules is starting to become clear. With 15 out of 18 races already having been run, reliability problems have been given plenty of time to rear their head, and what's been remarkable is the fact that there's been so few problems in this regard - with the exception of the Suzukis, who will will be glad that they got their permitted engine allocation expanded to 9 engines instead of 6.
In the reliability stakes, Honda rather unsurprisingly comes out on top, with just three engines withdrawn from a grand total of 36 allocated to the six riders on an RC212V. What's more, the Hondas have a lot of spare engines unused, and engines with just a few sessions on them. The inevitable dark murmurings of that the engine rules were drawn up at the behest of Honda will be further fueled by these numbers, but whether there is any truth in them or not, there is no doubt that HRC has done a fantastic job on engine reliablity
With MotoGP grid sizes currently shrinking almost on a daily basis, judging by the news from Sepang, it was clear that something would have to be done to stem the losses. The latest count was just 15 bikes on the grid in 2011, with Pramac and Suzuki down to one bike each, and Interwetten Honda out altogether.
The latest paddock rumors from Sepang - assembled by our friends over at GPOne.com - suggest that Dorna is stepping in to shore up grid numbers for next year, by providing support in a couple of key situations. The first move is to help get Toni Elias back into MotoGP. The way that Elias has dominated the brand new Moto2 championship, culminating in the 2010 title he secured at Sepang, has generated a huge call for the popular Spaniard to be given a ride in MotoGP. Elias' options looked very good, either taking the second bike at Suzuki, replacing the departing Loris Capirossi, or else taking over Randy de Puniet's seat at LCR Honda, should the Frenchman have plumped for the Suzuki seat before Elias. Once the second bike at Suzuki disappeared - looking more like a racing certainty with every passing day - that plan fell through, leaving Elias to look for a ride in Moto2.
Hiroshi Aoyama's 250 World Championship has not brought the Japanese rider much luck. Aoyama gained his promotion to the MotoGP class on the back of his 250 crown, and he started the season well, but a brutal highside at Silverstone, in which he fractured a vertebra, put a halt to his progress. And it seems like he will not get a second chance, for the Italian magazine Motosprint is reporting that the Interwetten team is to pull out of MotoGP for next season. According to Motosprint, team boss Daniel Epp acknowledged that he would not have the sponsorship to run a MotoGP team in 2011, and have been forced to withdraw to focus on their 125 and Moto2 efforts.
Ever since the introduction of the six-engine rule in MotoGP, keen MotoGP watchers have been wondering when the engine limits might bite. After FP1 at Misano, the 12th round of MotoGP, the answer seems to be about now.
A host of riders were left pulling old motors off the shelf to use to work on their race setup. Six riders went out on their #1 engine, which first saw action back in Qatar, while two more took out their #2 engines. Even the newer engines being used had racked up the miles. Both Mika Kallio and Casey Stoner took out engines for their 32nd sessions, Marco Melandri put the 30th session on his #2 engine, Aleix Espargaro's Ducati Desmosdici engine saw its 28th session, while the Suzuki of Loris Capirossi and the Honda of Andrea Dovizioso saw action for the 27th time.
Kings of the high mileage were Ducati. Four of the five Ducati riders went out on old engines, Stoner, Kallio and Espargaro taking the oldest engines, while Hector Barbera's engine had been used relatively lightly, with just 23 sessions under its belt.
With the highest-profile moves all officially confirmed, MotoGP's Silly Season is starting to run out of steam. The big surprises are out of the way, and we are left with just over half the seats still unfilled. But even for the unsigned rides, names have already been penciled in, some rather more firmly than others.
The two big names still waiting to put their signatures under contracts are surely Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo's Brazilian manager is said to be playing hardball with Yamaha, trying to extract the best possible conditions out of the Japanese factory now that the sales powerhouse Valentino Rossi has left Yamaha to go to Ducati. Rumors of a 14 million euro salary demand are unconfirmed, but with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica likely to take on sponsorship of the Yamaha squad, Lorenzo might be expected to earn that in sponsorship by allying his selling power to the Telefonica brand.
Confirmed and expected rider and team line up for the 2011 MotoGP season
The press office of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continue to do an outstanding job, collecting the following notes and quotes from the riders in today's MotoGP race. For quotes from the podium riders, see the separate news item.
MotoGP POST-RACE NOTES:
The industrious folks in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office have done part of our job again, collecting quotes from fifteen of the seventeen MotoGP riders for tomorrow's MotoGP race. Even better, they came up with a selection of fascinating statistics from today's qualifying session as well. Here's the official IMS press notes and quotes:
MotoGP QUALIFYING NOTES:
The impressively efficient press department at Indianapolis Motor Speedway collected and provided the following collection of quotes from fourteen of the seventeen MotoGP riders after the first session of free practice. Thanks to Paul Kelly and his staff for doing our job for us:
CASEY STONER (No. 27 Ducati Team, first): (Since you didn't run here last year, how hard was it to set up the motorcycle?): "We know genuinely the layout of the circuit. We know how the bike is going to react on a certain type – whether it's fast corners, slow corners, heavy braking or not. We had enough data from '08 just to start with, in general. There will be three or four different groups of circuits that we go to that we know what setup works. So we start with that rough idea; that's how we start every weekend. We'll know from previous years what roughly works on this style of circuit and then we just go from there. Out of the box it (the motorcycle) wasn't great. We tried one setting and completely went the wrong way, and it felt horrible. We came back and tried going a different direction and made another step and made it feel a little better, and we tried the last thing to make another improvement and sort of went backward again. We just have to go back and forth until we find that point where we're getting all aspects of the bike working."
MODERATOR: We said all the things, Jorge, 77 points, wins at Laguna, Indianapolis. You come here in very, very good shape.
JORGE LORENZO: Yes, I come here in very good shape. You know, all the things are going so well this year. There was sort of -- I got second position, so I couldn't ask for anything more. And we come here in a track that I love. In 2008 with a lot of rain and very hard conditions, I made my first podium in rain in my career, and last year I won. So it's always very positive that MotoGP comes here in America, and I'm happy for that.
MODERATOR: And just walking into the Motor Speedway is a special place, an iconic place, isn't it?
LORENZO: Yeah, very special with a lot of history and a lot of races here in the past. And obviously we are -- we want that this continues for long years, but I don't know whether it's going to happen for the next years.
MODERATOR: We sat here two weeks ago, not here but in the press conference in Brno in the Czech Republic, you said: "Now I think very hard about the championship. I have to be careful. Wins not so important but podiums. We just want to win the race again." Is it the same philosophy here, the same theory?