With MotoGP now one third through its 18 race season, the effect of the engine-life regulations - restricting each MotoGP rider to just 6 engines throughout the entire season - is starting to become clear. The latest engine information list - assembled by IRTA and MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb, and distributed (if you can call it that) by Dorna - provides an interesting perspective on the impact the regulations are having, and how the factories have approached the problems posed by limited engines.
The clear winner that emerges from the list is surely Honda. Of their six riders, three (Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, and San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli) have used just two engines, and not had to have a third engine officially sealed. Dovizioso and Simoncelli have distributed their races equally, with three races on each of the two engines, while Dani Pedrosa has four races on his number 1 engine, and just two on his number 2 engine.
Marco Melandri has been ruled out of Saturday's Dutch TT MotoGP race at Assen. The San Carlo Gresini Honda rider crashed at the revised Ruskenhoek corner, and landed heavily on his shoulder, dislocating it. The Italian has been taken to the local hospital in Assen for further treatment, and will take no further part in the proceedings.
The crash was a rather strange affair. Melandri overshot the Ruskenhoek, entering the runoff area at high speed. The Italian was unable to follow the narrow tarmac run-on lane, though, and ran onto the grass on the inside of the corner. The rear began to slide just before Melandri got back onto the track, and as soon as the rear tire touched grippy asphalt, the Italian was catapulted off his bike in a huge highside, landing on his shoulder.
Melandri's crash reduces the MotoGP grid to 15 again for Saturday's race, and a shoulder dislocation could mean the Italian missing next Sunday's MotoGP race at Barcelona. With three races on three weekends, this was always going to be the danger zone for MotoGP. The Barcelona round will see numbers bolstered by Wataru Yoshikawa filling in at Fiat Yamaha, but with two test riders on the grid, the situation remains perilous.
With the MotoGP paddock reconvened at Mugello - and it really is a stunning setting for a motorcycle race - the atmosphere is hectic and frenzied, and it's only just Thursday. There are many reasons for that atmosphere, but mostly, it comes down to two key facts: 1) We're in Italy, and 2) We're at Mugello.
Being in Italy means that some riders are on double duty, with Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso doing their usual press debriefs in addition to appearing at the press conference. The usual Thursday pre-event press conference was positively heaving, the room packed to the rafters and all seats taken, a change from most other Thursday conferences. It's not just that every Italian newspaper has sent extra journalists to the round, but journalists from around the world are seizing the opportunity to attend one of the most spectacular races of the year, and follow it up with a few days in Tuscany.
It's not just journalists either: the teams are in the same position. One team representative said they had ten times the number of guests here that they have at other races, sponsors grabbing their chance to spend a long weekend in Tuscany, and enjoying the food and wine the region is rightly famous for.
One day after the last-lap thriller of a Spanish Grand Prix, the MotoGP riders were back on track for a one-day test at the Andalucian track, the first of two scheduled for the season. As on Saturday during qualifying, it was the Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa which was fastest, finishing ahead of the Fiat Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Differences were small, however: the top 12 riders finished inside 1 second, and just 1.5 seconds covered the entire field.
The riders had plenty to test. Yamaha were testing minor chassis modifications, some electronics and a revised engine which provides improved acceleration, which both Rossi and Lorenzo declared a slight improvement. Lorenzo spent a lot of time working on his starts, which have so far been his weak point, while Rossi also found some setup changes which solved a rear grip problem.
Every year, as the MotoGP season commences, a veritable jungle of MotoGP Fantasy Leagues springs up around the internet, give fans the chance to test their skills in running a MotoGP team against like-minded individuals. Although we're big fans of those kinds of games, MotoMatters.com wouldn't be MotoMatters.com if we didn't do things just a little bit differently.
Another season of MotoGP approaches, and as every year, the fans (and far too many journalists) will spend the first race struggling to pick out which rider is which, after the traditional off-season merry-go-round and livery change. The wise heads over at Spanish motorcycle magazine Motociclismo.es have anticipated this problem, and thoughtfully snagged all of the riders at the last Qatar MotoGP test and got them to hand over their helmets for a quick snapshot. The result is an overview of the helmets of all 17 MotoGP riders, as they are going to be used in MotoGP for 2010. The one exception ('t was ever thus) is Valentino Rossi, who as always is using his "Old Chicken" helmet throughout testing, but is likely to return to a more traditional design once the flag drops.
Nicky Hayden's 2010 helmet. For the rest of the helmets, head over to Motociclismo.es and see all 17.
Overall times from both days of testing at Qatar:
Casey Stoner finally managed to break Valentino Rossi's stranglehold on testing on the final day at Qatar, the Australian putting his Marlboro Ducati on top of the timesheets early on, and only occasionally ceding the lead to the Fiat Yamaha man. The Australian was fast throughout the session, not even a minor crash slowing Stoner down.
Despite finishing half a second down to the rider he has annointed as his main challenger, Rossi pronounced himself happy with the way the test went, telling GPone.com that he believed the new Yamaha M1 had proved it was competitive at Qatar. The Italian also tested some tires for the 2011 season; after testing a hard front in Sepang, Rossi tried the softer compound 2011 front tire at Qatar, but revealed he did not believe it represented a huge leap forwards.
The first day of the final test for the MotoGP class before the season commences saw Valentino Rossi continue his domination of testing, ending the session three tenths ahead of his nearest rival Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider was constantly at the top of the timesheets, only really ceding the top spot when he paused for dinner late on in the evening. Despite the track cooling and the evening dew which started to form, Rossi took another half a second off his best time to stamp his authority on the session.
Casey Stoner found himself demoted to second, at a track where he has won three years in a row, but the Australian pronounced himself happy with the test, telling GPOne.com that the bike was working really well, especially on used tires. The Ducati Marlboro rider did comment that he would like some more power with the long-life engines, as would everybody, but he praised the new engine character, which made the Ducati much easier to ride.
It is a truism that motorcycle racing fans love to collect items connected to their favorite sport. If your budget can't quite stretch to a genuine FTR Moto2 bike, then Indianapolis Motor Speedway can help you out, while helping to do good. The legendary US racetrack is auctioning off a collection of various memorabilia for an excellent cause, the American Red Cross' relief effort in earthquake-stricken Haiti.
Honda is caught between a rock and a hard place. Like all of the other manufacturers, Honda has been hit hard by the recession, and is looking to cut costs wherever it can. However, the factory is also desperate for another World Championship, having had only one since Valentino Rossi left the factory in 2004 after winning nine out of the previous ten. The factory has to find a way to win another MotoGP title without breaking the bank.
The way they have selected to marry those two very different objectives is simple yet efficient. As of this season, all of the teams, whether satellite or factory, will be given the same bike. The only difference between the two machines will be the electronics, which control the performance of the bike to a significant degree.
The move marks a huge change in direction for Honda. In previous years, HRC supplied two different specifications of machine: A factory spec RC212V provided to the factory Repsol Honda team and a few selected satellite riders; And a satellite spec for the other satellite teams. The different spec of these machines could be significantly different, with different chassis, engines, fairings and exhaust systems. Even the factory spec machines were not identical, the Repsol bikes always at least a few iterations ahead of the bikes supplied to satellite rider.
Looking back at the two days of MotoGP testing at Sepang throws up only a few surprises. The Aliens continue to dominate, as ever, and Colin Edwards is still firmly in place as #5. Behind, the top 5, the picture is a little more interesting. Loris Capirossi's strong outing on Thursday shows that the Suzuki can be fast, but the GSV-R has a long history of being outstanding in testing, yet falling short during the season. Whether it's business-as-usual for Suzuki or a breakthrough will have to wait until the first few rounds have been run.
Ben Spies continues his methodical improvement, but with the Texan complaining of jet lag and telling reporters that he is still very much just learning, he should soon be edging Colin Edwards out of 5th spot and closing on the top 4. Spies is holding station with Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian improving but still looking for more pace.
The rain that held off yesterday finally came to Sepang on Friday, disrupting testing during the morning and at the end of the day. The rain in the morning combined with the limit on engines to persuade most of the riders to sit in the garage, or restrict their laps to a minimum. The track started to dry out at lunchtime, and from then, all 17 MotoGP riders, along with a couple of Yamaha test pilots, got to work on their testing program. By the time the rain came around 5pm, it was Valentino Rossi who had set the fastest lap, finishing ahead of Casey Stoner and Rossi's Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Dani Pedrosa completed the top four, the Aliens still clearly a breed apart in the MotoGP paddock.
While both Rossi and Stoner finished in the same positions as yesterday, both Jorge Lorenzo and especially Dani Pedrosa made a huge leap forward. Lorenzo jumped from 5th spot to 3rd, though he did not close the gap to his Fiat Yamaha teammate. Dani Pedrosa, on the other hand, closed the gap by over half a second, while working on the all-new Honda RC212V. Given that the bike has new Ohlins suspension, new electronics, a new chassis and a number of swingarms, there would appear to be plenty of room for improvement once the Repsol Honda team find the right setup for the bike.
The rain that threatened to ruin the first day of testing for 2010 luckily decided to stay away, but the session was still disrupted by the weather. Instead of water, it was the oppressive 40°C tropical heat that sapped the strength of the riders, limiting the amount of testing the riders could do. The rain finally came just before 5pm to cool the track from the scorching 50° Centigrade it was at most of the day, though only adding to the humidity.
Valentino Rossi ended the day with the fastest time, a comfortable half a second ahead of Casey Stoner on the Ducati. Stoner had suffered chatter for part of the day, and the hot asphalt made it difficult to judge the difference adjustments to the bike were making. The riders in 3rd and 4th place were a big surprise, Colin Edwards' 3rd spot slightly less so than Loris Capirossi's 4th fastest time. It's clear the Yamaha is good, but even the satellite bikes are so good that on their day, they can match the speed of the factory bikes, Edwards finishing ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and nearly a quarter of a second faster.