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Elias Confirmed At D'Antin

Pramac d'Antin have just confirmed what we had reported earlier, that Toni Elias will ride for the Pramac d'Antin Ducati squad next year. This leaves the teams rider line-up for 2008 looking very different from their 2007 riders, two long-time MotoGP veterans.

Elias' signing brings the MotoGP silly season almost to a close, leaving only the Team KR seat open, although their plans are not yet finalized.

Nakano Joins Gresini Honda

It had been rumored for a while, and now it's official. Gresini Racing today announced that they have signed Shinya Nakano to ride for them in 2008. The Japanese rider has had a nightmare year at Konica Minolta Honda, regularly finishing around 14th place, and must bitterly regret his decision to leave Kawasaki, now that Team Green has performed so well in 2007. The move means that Nakano will once again switch to Bridgestone tires. Part of Nakano's dismal performance at JIR, who run the Konica Minolta Honda, has been put down to his failure to adapt to the Michelin tires used by the team, suffering the same fate as the team's previous rider, former GP winner Makoto Tamada. Nakano consistently complained about chatter and a lack of feel from the Michelins, a complaint common among riders who have switched from Japanese to French rubber.

The move also means that the series will not after all be without a Japanese rider, a prospect which had been threatened with Tamada leaving and Nakano's future uncertain. Honda were very keen to keep a Japanese rider in the series to keep their home market happy. Now, they must be hoping that Nakano can rekindle some of his old magic now that he's back on the Bridgestones.

Guest Column - When A Spec Tire Isn’t A Good Idea, By The Duke

In the midst of the controversy about Dorna's proposed single tire rule, The Duke, who many of you may already know as host of the outstanding, informative and entertaining motorcycle racing podcast Rumblestrip Radio sent us an excellent opinion piece on why he feels the single tire rule should not be imposed. Although it looks like Dorna has withdrawn the proposal, it could yet be pulled out of a drawer again if tires dominate another season of racing. As such, we at MotoGPMatters.com thought we should share The Duke's thoughts on why this would be a very bad idea.

When A Spec Tire Isn’t A Good Idea

On Saturday of the MotoGP race at Motegi, DORNA CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta made the announcement that MotoGP was very seriously considering the move to a spec tire, much like Formula 1, World Superbike and the Parts Canada Superbike series. A final decision will be made following the race at Sepang in Malaysia.

The impetus behind this decision has been the emergence, and occasionally the dominance of Bridgestone this year. It has been felt by a few riders that tires, rather than the riders or the motorcycles, have been the deciding factor in races. Valentino Rossi has been quoted as saying that people are fans of motorcycle racing, they do not root for tire brands. I guess that is unless you don’t count the section in the main grandstands at Motegi, where the fans wore yellow shirts and had Dunlop flags.

The fascinating thing about this potential decision, and it’s resulting impact, is that the push did not come from the tire manufacturers. The official statements coming from Michelin, Dunlop and Bridgestone were that they all wanted and enjoyed the competition as it stood. According to Julian Ryder, on the Eurosport broadcast of the Motegi race, his highly placed sources said that Messrs Rossi and Pedrosa were behind the movement.

2007 began a new era in MotoGP, that being the move to 800cc machines. The team that, publicly at least, appeared to be out testing and developing the 800cc package before anyone else was Ducati, along with their tire supplier, Bridgestone. Suzuki, also a Bridgestone equipped team, could in many ways be added to Ducati, in that for the 2006 season the chassis they were working with was the direction they intended to go for the 800cc machines.

Over the last six years Bridgestone has been working and developing a tire to compete with Michelin. More times than not this was with teams that had little shot at a podium, let alone winning. The big break for Bridgestone came when Ducati switched from Michelin for the 2005 season, it would be the first full factory team with which they worked with. Even working closely with Ducati it has been an uphill struggle to gain parity given that Bridgestone’s facilities are based in Japan. Their ability to quickly fly in tires during a race weekend were limited to those events on the Pacific Rim.

Michelin’s two primary teams, Repsol Honda and the (now) Fiat Yamaha, did not bring out their development machines publicly until very late in 2006. One would have to surmise that Michelin’s tire development did not begin in earnest until this time.

For years, Michelin had become known for taking the data from the race track on say a Friday or Saturday, sending that to the factory in Clermont-Ferrand, and having new tires based on that data flown in overnight. This, along with being the supplier for the two dominate teams over the last 15 years, the factory Honda and Yamaha entries, have lead to their dominance of the premier class and why they have been the tires of the World Champion every year since 1992. Until this year, Wayne Rainey was the last non Michelin equipped rider to win the championship, he did it that year on Dunlops.

Add to the motorcycle rules change, Michelin, Bridgestone and Dunlop agreed to a new tire regulation for 2007. The new rules limited the number of tires racers had access to on the weekend, and, that the decision on which tires were to be included in that allocation were to be chosen on Thursday, the day before the machines took to the track. This all in an effort to “control costsâ€.

So, we see a major change in motorcycle and tire regulations. The rider tagged as “maybe the greatest rider of all time†Valentino Rossi and his team struggle. Dani Pedrosa, the rider for whom the 800cc era of motorcycles were made for like a Saville Row suit, also not having the expected results, and some would lead you to believe that the ground was shaking with the four horseman of the apocalypse just over the crest, the leading rider of said group on a red steed with a 27 on it’s snout.

Could Michelin have been caught off guard for all these changes? Perhaps. Lets also not forget all the turn over at the top of Michelin in the last 18 months. The CEO of the company, and grandson of the founder, Edouard Michelin was killed in a boating accident, long time Director Of Competition Pierre Dupasquier and Head Boss Nicolas Goubert have also moved on from the motorcycle division to retirement and other jobs inside the company. This change at the top of the leadership along with the withdrawal from Formula 1 and having to redeploy thousands of people who worked in that area certainly could have caused enough distraction for them to take their eye off the ball.

Given all the major changes in the regulation, is it fair to make such a rash decision before even one season in the new era is in the books? There is this thing called the law of unintended consequences. Just because you set up the rules to have one effect, doesn’t mean that it will. After all the 800cc regulations were written to slow the motorcycles down, and yet on many tracks they are turning quicker lap times. Fifteen rounds into an eighteen round championship does not a long term trend make.

MotoGP is a prototype championship. It is and should be designed to be the bleeding edge of development when it comes to the world of motorcycle roadracing. For a production based championship such as WSBK or the Canadian series where it can make sense to try to control costs, give privateers a shot with being on some of the same equipment as the front line factory riders, an argument for a control tire can be legitimate. It could be argued that the Pirelli spec tire may have even saved the WSBK series.

For the premier series though you want the best riders on the best machines on the best tires. If a control tire were to occur in MotoGP, the first couple years could be disastrous. These machines are so diverse in engine and chassis design that no one tire could fairly represent them all. In a further effort to “control cost†and “level the playing field†tens of millions of dollars will be spent on all fronts trying to make this arrangement work. Money that will have to come from budgets and sponsors that do not exist or are completely tapped out.

When Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi dominated the series, there was the usual noise about them being the best riders, on the best equipment. Mick talked about moving from Honda several times, but never did. Rossi like Doohan dominated with the Honda and Michelins, but wanted a new challenge, He moved to Yamaha and continued to dominate and no one blinked an eye. In the middle of both of their championship runs, no one ever came out and said it was wrong that they were dominating and things needed to be changed. Yet now that Ducati with Bridgestone have had a break out year, and that this new pup at the controls who seemed to be throwing his Honda on Michelins down the road at least once a weekend last year are the new champions, you would have thought the village tramp had walked in to St. Peter's for Christmas Mass and gotten communion for the Pope himself.

No credit seems to be given that there was a package at work here. Stoner has been, for the most part been the only Ducati at the sharp end of the grid all year. His team mate Loris Capirossi has only two podiums and a win at Motegi, where he had won the previous two years. The D’Antin team, who are on very similar equipment have only one podium at Mugello with Alex Barros, so it can’t be just the bike.

Bridgestone has swept the podium five times this season, Turkey, in the wet at Le Mans (literally in Michelin’s back yard) Laguna (where they were no where last year), Misano and Motegi, where the timing of switching from wet to dry tires was more a factor. Michelin have only swept the podium once this year at Jerez. However, they have had two riders on the podium six different occasions, Bridgestone, only three. Out of 45 possible podium positions through the Motegi race, Michelin has 18 and Bridgestone has 27. Had Bridgestone been the tire brand with 40% of the podiums rather than Michelin would anyone have bat an eye? I think not. The comment most likely would have been that Bridgestone is coming along nicely and doing well.

It’s not all the tires though. Stoner was quick last year, he often could be found running on the top five in most races. His bout of crashing could have had more to do with being on a second line Honda on third line Michelins. Michelins have long been known as having grip to the point where they don’t. Casey came from years of running Dunlops in 125 and 250 where they slide before they go, Bridgestone fronts have been said to have a feel much like these Dunlops.

Lets also not forget about Dunlop. They were, in the past, a bit of a joke, their riders two to four seconds off the pace in 2006. As 2007 begins to wind down we see their qualifying tires beginning to make some noise and there race tires coming around as well. Grip towards the end of the race being the next thing they need to work on. Would this rapid development occur if there wasn’t the high level of competition?

What can you take away from the 2007 season is that we had a perfect storm. You had a team and tire company that have been working closely for a number of years and got an early jump on development. You then bring in a supremely gifted rider. One who has always shown well on non front line equipment. For what ever reasons one plus one plus one equaled seven. All this being said, it’s hard to believe that Michelin as a tire company and Honda and Yamaha as manufacturers won’t both step up in the off season and bring a much more competitive product to the table.

If in 2008 we were to get much the same results as 2007, I still don’t feel a spec tire for the premier class is called for. While two years of data could be called a trend, it could also be called years of hard work paying off, and employing one of the best riders in the world.

Too many things in the world are being dumbed down. Being the best, being at the top of the mountain, being World Champion SHOULD BE hard work. Racing is, in many ways, a snap shot of life. There ARE haves and have nots. The world, life, racing, it ISN’T fair. Sometimes money, talent and hard work isn’t enough. However, it’s all those things in the end that make ultimately succeeding that much sweeter and pleasurable. Just because the apple cart has been upset doesn’t mean that a reactionary decision is called for. To quote Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius in the movie The Hunt for Red October, “A little revolution now and again can be a healthy thing.â€

Single Tire Proposal Withdrawn - Updated

After weeks of speculation and controversy, Autosport's Toby Moody is reporting that Dorna has withdrawn the proposal to use a control tire in MotoGP. Presumably this means that Carmelo Ezpeleta got what he wanted with the rule, but just what that is, is yet to be seen. Whether that means that Valentino Rossi will be on Bridgestones next year or on Michelins is likely be made clear within the next couple of days. Stay tuned.

~~~ UPDATE ~~~

The proposal has now officially been withdrawn. The FIM has a press release (PDF file) on their website.

Spies Test At Sepang A Washout

The weather at Sepang, which had held off for Sunday's MotoGP race, has scuppered Ben Spies plans to test the Suzuki GSV-R 800 MotoGP bike. Spies, who won the AMA Superbike title aboard a GSX-R 1000, had flown to Malaysia for his first outing on the Suzuki, to acquaint himself with the bike, with a view to taking a couple of wildcard rides in 2008 before possibly making the switch to MotoGP in 2009. The weather had different ideas, however.

The rain was a double dose of bad news for Spies, as Sepang was probably his last chance to test the GSV-R this season. Ordinarily, Spies might have had another chance to ride the bike after the traditional MotoGP season finale at Valencia, but that looks very unlikely to happen now, as it will also mark Loris Capirossi's first test on the bike, which is much more important to Rizla Suzuki's 2008 plans than Spies' test.

To cap it all, Spies overcome his deep revulsion of flying to travel all the way from Texas to Malaysia, and for no result. It is unknown when Spies will get his next chance to test Suzuki's MotoGP bike.

2008 MotoGP Team And Rider Line-up

As the 2008 MotoGP grid becomes finalized, it's useful to have an overview of who is riding where in MotoGP for 2008. So I've added the list below, and in a separate post. This list will be updated as and when the final seats are filled.

No. Rider Tires
 
Fiat Yamaha
46 Valentino Rossi Bridgestone
48 Jorge Lorenzo Michelin
 
Tech 3 Yamaha
5 Colin Edwards Michelin
52 James Toseland Michelin
 
Marlboro Ducati
1 Casey Stoner Bridgestone
33 Marco Melandri Bridgestone
 
Pramac d'Antin Ducati
50 Sylvain Guintoli Bridgestone
24 Toni Elias Bridgestone
 
Repsol Honda
2 Dani Pedrosa Michelin
69 Nicky Hayden Michelin
 
Gresini Honda
3 Alex d'Angelis Bridgestone
56 Shinya Nakano Bridgestone
 
LCR Honda
14 Randy de Puniet Michelin
 
JIR / Team Scot Honda
4 Andrea Dovizioso Michelin
 
Rizla Suzuki
65 Loris Capirossi Bridgestone
7 Chris Vermeulen Bridgestone
 
Kawasaki Racing
21 John Hopkins Bridgestone
13 Ant West Bridgestone
 
Team KR
Team KR have failed to secure sponsorship, and are unlikely to play any part in the proceedings in 2008.

2008 MotoGP Team And Rider Line-up

As the 2008 MotoGP grid becomes finalized, it's useful to have an overview of who is riding where in MotoGP for 2008. So I've added the list below, and in a separate post. This list will be updated as and when the final seats are filled.

No. Rider Tires
 
Fiat Yamaha
46 Valentino Rossi Bridgestone
48 Jorge Lorenzo Michelin
 
Tech 3 Yamaha
5 Colin Edwards Michelin
52 James Toseland Michelin
 
Marlboro Ducati
1 Casey Stoner Bridgestone
33 Marco Melandri Bridgestone
 
Pramac d'Antin Ducati
50 Sylvain Guintoli Bridgestone
24 Toni Elias Bridgestone
 
Repsol Honda
2 Dani Pedrosa Michelin
69 Nicky Hayden Michelin
 
Gresini Honda
3 Alex d'Angelis Bridgestone
56 Shinya Nakano Bridgestone
 
LCR Honda
14 Randy de Puniet Michelin
 
JIR / Team Scot Honda
4 Andrea Dovizioso Michelin
 
Rizla Suzuki
65 Loris Capirossi Bridgestone
7 Chris Vermeulen Bridgestone
 
Kawasaki Racing
21 John Hopkins Bridgestone
13 Ant West Bridgestone
 
Team KR
Team KR have failed to secure sponsorship, and are unlikely to play any part in the proceedings in 2008.

2008 MotoGP Team And Rider Line-up

No. Rider Tires
 
Fiat Yamaha
46 Valentino Rossi Bridgestone
48 Jorge Lorenzo Michelin
 
Tech 3 Yamaha
5 Colin Edwards Michelin
52 James Toseland Michelin
 
Marlboro Ducati
1 Casey Stoner Bridgestone
33 Marco Melandri Bridgestone
 
Alice Team Ducati
50 Sylvain Guintoli Bridgestone
24 Toni Elias Bridgestone
 
Repsol Honda
2 Dani Pedrosa Michelin
69 Nicky Hayden Michelin
 
Gresini Honda
3 Alex d'Angelis Bridgestone
56 Shinya Nakano Bridgestone
 
LCR Honda
14 Randy de Puniet Michelin
 
JIR Team Scot Honda
4 Andrea Dovizioso Michelin
 
Rizla Suzuki
65 Loris Capirossi Bridgestone
7 Chris Vermeulen Bridgestone
 
Kawasaki Racing Team
21 John Hopkins Bridgestone
13 Ant West Bridgestone
 

Elias To Take Final Pramac d'Antin Seat

The final pieces of the MotoGP puzzle are falling into place. Confirmation is starting to emerge from several places that Toni Elias has signed for the Pramac d'Antin Ducati team for 2008, with team owner Luis d'Antin telling Spanish TV as much earlier today, and the signing being confirmed from other sources inside the team as well.

The move is likely to be popular with fans, as Elias is a huge favorite among the MotoGP faithful, his wild, hanging-off, sliding style enormously entertaining to watch. Elias' move would also explain why Chaz Davies announced earlier that he would be staying in the AMA series for 2008.

Chaz Davies Out Of MotoGP In 2008

When Chaz Davies was drafted in at very short notice to replace Alex Hofmann at Laguna Seca, after the German had injured his hand after being T-boned by Laguna rookie Sylvain Guintoli, he impressed a lot of people in the MotoGP paddock, getting up to speed very quickly on a type of machine he'd never ridden before, at a track he'd never ridden at before, using tires and brakes he'd never used before. After a test session at Mugello in September, he was drafted in to replace Hofmann for the rest of the season, the German having been sacked after the Portuguese GP at Estoril.

Since then, Davies has made steady progress, getting faster in almost every session he rides in, and speculation has been widespread that Davies could join the Pramac d'Antin team full time next season. The competition he faced was pretty tough, however, the 20 year-old British rider facing Spanish fan favorite Toni Elias and possibly even the Roman Emperor, Max Biaggi, for the satellite Ducati ride.

Now, however, it seems Davies has decided that his future lies in the AMA. The US-based roadracing bible Roadracing World is reporting that Davies is currently considering offers from Erion Honda and Attack Kawasaki. Both teams are factory-supported privateer teams, running in Supersport, Formula Xtreme and Superstock, so it looks like Davies will be on a 600 again next year.

Davies' decision to race in the US will disappoint a lot of British fans, and a number of US fans, who were keen to see what the Brit could do in MotoGP. But at 20 years of age, he still has a lot of racing ahead of him.

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