It's been clear for some time now that Marco Melandri's career in MotoGP is over. The Italian shone brightly for a couple of years on the 990 MotoGP bikes, but his fortunes have faded since the switch to 800cc, and especially since his disastrous year on the Ducati in 2008. A return to the Gresini Honda team in 2010, the team that he scored his most famous victories with, could not turn Melandri's MotoGP career around, and the Italian is now headed for World Superbikes.
It had generally been expected that Melandri would be joining BMW's World Superbike squad for 2011, taking the place of the disappointing Ruben Xaus. But Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that Melandri will not be heading for the German manufacturer, but will instead take a seat in the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad. According to GPOne.com, Melandri's manager met with Lin Jarvis and Laurens Klein Koerkamp of Yamaha, and has agreed terms for 2011. An official announcement is expected to be made tomorrow after the World Superbike race at the Nurburgring in Germany.
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.
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."
On Monday morning, Jules Cisek had a final chance to take some photos during the Brno test. He had to be quick, though, as he was soon chased out of pit lane by overly officious security guards.
Yesterday, we discussed who is going where in the factory teams in MotoGP. For the most part, those deals are either public, or really badly-kept secrets. Today, we'll look at the situation among the satellite teams, a situation which is much, much less clear-cut than the factory squad, in part because the factory deals have not all been announced yet. The number of changes are suprisingly few, reflecting in part the problems in MotoGP. As costs rise, the cost of being competitive is growing, and more importantly, the cost of failure is increasing as well.
As a consequence, teams are not willing to take chances on unproven but promising talent. The learning curve in MotoGP is now so steep - electronics, bike setup, but most especially tires - that it takes half a season to start to get your head around the class. Limited testing has made the situation much, much worse, raising the penalty for rookies entering the class even further - the scrabbling around for substitute riders for Valentino Rossi, Hiroshi Aoyama and Randy de Puniet illustrating the case perfectly.
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.