What we feared earlier today has now been confirmed: Marco Melandri will take no further part in the Czech Grand Prix at Brno, as a result of the pain and weakness he is suffering caused by the neck injury he sustained at Laguna Seca. Despite intense treatment, including a series of injections and magnetic therapy, Melandri is still in too much pain to ride due to a herniated disk.
The Italian will now concentrate on recovering in time for the next round at Misano, just 50 miles from his hometown of Ravenna, Italy.
With Saturday's morning session of free practice under way, Marco Melandri's name is once again missing from the timesheets. It seems that the Italian is still suffering as a result of the trapped nerve we reported yesterday, and is still in too much pain, and lacking too much strength to take much part in the proceedings. It's conceivable that Melandri is saving himself for this afternoon's qualifying practice session, but if he doesn't set at time in qualifying, his weekend is effectively over.
Marco Melandri was conspicuous by his absence from this afternoon's free practice session, and only afterwards did we find out the reason. The Dutch site Racesport.nl is reporting that a trapped nerve is causing considerable pain and a lack of feeling in Melandri's left arm, leaving the Italian incapable of riding during FP2, after he was unable to remove his own helmet at the end of the first free practice session. Doctors believe that the problem is a result of the crash which Melandri suffered at Laguna Seca, in which he also broke his ankle. The crash appears to have damaged a nerve in Melandri's left shoulder, leaving him with no feeling and no strength in his left side.
Melandri received treatment in the Clinica Mobile during the second practice session, but the doctors could do little for him. Melandri will have to wait for 12 hours before he knows whether he will be able to take any further part in the proceedings in the Czech Republic.
It's finally official: Loris Capirossi has finally announced that he has a one year deal to ride for Suzuki for 2008, with an option for 2009. The Italian veteran held a press conference at Brno today, remarkably enough in the Ducati hospitality area, at which he made his decision public. "I have a good feeling about Suzuki: They have a lot of 500cc titles, and it means I will still be riding for a factory team, which was important," Capirossi said. He also confirmed that he had offers from both Kawasaki and from the satellite Pramac d'Antin Ducati team, which he rejected.
Capirossi was joined at the end of the press conference by Ducati's team manager Livio Suppo, who publicly thanked Capirossi for all of the effort he had put in to developing the Ducati Desmosedici to become the bike it is today. In a further sign that there are no real hard feelings between Capirossi and the Italian manufacturer, Suppo confirmed that Capirex would be given permission to test with Suzuki before the end of 2007.
Further details of the press conference are available over on MotoGP.com
For weeks now, ever since Marco Melandri signed with Ducati, effectively pushing Loris Capirossi out of the picture at the Bologna factory, speculation has been rife that the Italian veteran would turn his back on the factory with which he had become virtually synonymous. Many teams were named, but it became increasingly clear that there was only one destination which Capirex could realistically arrive at. Today, at 3pm Central European Time, Loris Capirossi is due to give a press conference at which he will announce that he will be joining the Suzuki MotoGP team for 2008, according to Motorcycle News.
The move will not come as a surprise to most people in the paddock, as Suzuki were effectively the only team with both the budget and the equipment to match Capirossi's ambitions. Kawasaki had previously confirmed that they currently didn't have the funding to be able to afford Loris Capirossi's salary demands, and although Ducati were offering to run a third bike for Capirex, his bitterness at the way in which he'd be pushed aside by Ducati made it highly implausible that he would seriously consider the offer.
More news once the press conference has been held.
~~~ UPDATE 1 ~~~
The Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that Capirossi has signed a one year deal with an option for 2009 as well.
Finally, a little better news for the Gresini Honda team. Both Marco Melandri and Toni Elias passed fitness tests on Monday, and have been cleared to ride at Brno. Elias is still recovering from a broken femur and Melandri is still suffering with a broken ankle he suffered at Laguna Seca. The Gresini duo spent two hours riding Honda CBR 600 sports bikes around the Misano circuit, to test their condition, which revealed that they are both capable of riding, albeit with some pain.
The test was doubly useful, as the Misano track used for the fitness test is the location for the San Marino Grand Prix on September 2nd, and is unknown territory for most of the MotoGP paddock, the series not having visited there since Wayne Rainey's fateful crash in 1993, which left him in a wheelchair.
Well, the previous batch of photos from Jules "Popmonkey" Cisek proved such a success that we thought we'd provide some more. Reader Scott Jones e-mailed us to let us know that he had some photos of Laguna Seca, and he kindly agreed to let us feature a few here. We hope you agree with us that they are well worth a gander.
If you've never seen one, this is what the tail of a Kawasaki Supersport bike looks like
Ben's spare leathers
Choices, choices ...
So that's what they make
Raid your piggy bank, and check down the back of the sofa ...
No, not that 46
Come in, number 7, your time is up
The Doctor, about to crest Turn 6
Team mates. This year ...
You're supposed to look where you're going, Shinya
Minutes later, Alex Hofmann and Sylvian Guintoli would tangle. Very painfully.
Alex Barros, Ace Braker
Chaz Davies, The World's Luckiest Man
Valentino Rossi, about to head down the Corkscrew once again
Yes, that's fast.
Dani Pedrosa. He's fast at Laguna.
Randy de Puniet
Nicky did not three-peat
Former world champion Kenny Roberts Jr. Is he done?
And the title of Coolest AMA Superbike Rider goes to .... Ben Bostrom
... despite competition from Ben Spies ...
... and Spies' team mate Mat Mladin
Commentating legend Julian Ryder
Another fast Hayden, Roger Lee
Jeremy Burgess, motorcycle genius
Another key piece in the 2008 MotoGP jigsaw puzzle is about to fall into place. Reports are appearing on several news sites that Loris Capirossi will make an official announcement about which team he will be joining on Thursday, the eve of the Czech Grand Prix at Brno. The Italian veteran, has offers from Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Ducati, although the Ducati offer consists of running as the third bike in the factory Ducati team behind Casey Stoner and Marco Melandri, a big step down for the man who has led Ducati's development effort almost from the outset, and whose name has become almost synonymous with Ducati.
All the signs are that Capirossi will sign with Suzuki, as predicted by Autosport.com. A simple process of elimination confirms this hypothesis: According to Motorcycle News, Kawasaki don't currently have the funds to meet Capirossi's wage demands, after spending all their money on John Hopkins, and Capirossi is still bitter at the way he found out that Ducati had signed Marco Melandri to take his place. This would leave Suzuki as the only viable option for Capirex, if he wishes to retain both his sense of self-worth and his salary.
On a side note, the news that Kawasaki can't afford to sign Capirossi seems to confound rumors that surrounded John Hopkins' signing with Kawasaki. Murmurs emanating from the US had it that Hopkins would be bringing a large amount of cash to Kawasaki from his personal sponsor Monster Energy Drinks, with Roger Lee Hayden even being mooted as a third rider at Kawasaki, according to reports this website received from motorcycle racing podcaster The Duke of Rumblestrip Radio. The deal made a huge amount of sense, with Monster funding Kawasaki's efforts both in the AMA Superbike series and AMA Motocross series. However, the cash concerns being raised seem to rule out both serious involvement from Monster with the MotoGP team, and the entrance of Roger Lee Hayden into the MotoGP paddock.
As we predicted just a couple of days ago, the Italian authorities appear to have declared open season on Italian MotoGP riders. After Valentino Rossi was stung with a tax demand for 112 million Euros, now it's Loris Capirossi's turn. Officially, the Ducati veteran resides in Monaco, exempting him from paying Italian taxes, but the Italian tax authorities respectfully disagree, and have hit Capirex with a tax demand over 1.3 million Euros he earned in 2002. And this demand comes on top of the arguments over another 12 million Euros in undisclosed earnings the Italian is alleged to owe tax over for the period between 1995 and 2000.
Carlo Pernat, Capirossi's manager, is adamant that the whole business is nonsense. "It's completely absurd," Pernat told La Gazzetta dello Sport, "Loris genuinely lives in Monaco. I don't understand how they expect to make this claim stick. He doesn't own a thing in Italy. Loris loves Monaco so much, his son was born there, he has his friends there. He only travels to Italy to meet the team at Ducati and to visit his mother." Pernat was equally damning about the charges of tax fraud against Valentino Rossi: "What has happened to Valentino is insane. I have read things about him which are completely untrue."
This crackdown has all the makings of a high-profile strategy by the Italian authorities to go after the big names, in the hope of persuading the little fish that they'll get caught if they try to avoid paying their taxes. It's doubtful whether the Italian authorities believe they have any hope of actually receiving any money from Rossi and Capirossi, but they must surely believe that it will encourage ordinary Italians to be a little more forthright about their earnings. But it must also leave anyone involved in professional sports feeling a little nervous at the moment. The question now is how long it will be before Marco Melandri gets a visit from the tax man.
As expected, Ivan Silva has been called in to replace Alex Hofmann on the Pramac d'Antin Ducati. Hofmann is still recovering from the very nasty hand injury he suffered during the first free practice session at Laguna Seca, where he was speared by the track rookie Sylvain Guintoli at the Corkscrew. Although is hand is recovering, the injury is so serious that he is unable to take part at Brno. Hofmann's next target will be a return at Misano on September 2nd.
Silva has been a part of the Luis d'Antin squad for several years now, and substituted for Hofmann last year at Assen and Donington, while Hofmann took Sete Gibernau's ride after the big crash at Barcelona. This time, he should have more of a chance to prove what he is capable of, as the Pramac team have much better bikes and much better tires.