The four cylinder bikes struck back during the final session of free practice at Kyalami, with Cal Crutchlow and Leon Haslam setting the fastest times of the session, less than five hundredths apart. The Sterilgarda Yamaha and Alstare Suzuki lead a bevy of Ducatis, though, with Michel Fabrizio ahead of Carlos Checa and Jakub Smrz.
Once again, Jonathan Green and Steve Martin join David Williams of OnTheThrottle for the usual wrap-up of news and reviews before this weekend's World Superike race from Kyalami. Informative and interesting as ever, get into the swing of Sunday's races by hearing what WSBK's official commentating team have to say.
The Czech rider Jakub Smrz sits on provisional pole before this afternoon's Superpole session at Kyalami, the Pata S&G rider taking over the lead from Xerox Ducati's Michel Fabrizio in the last few minutes of QP2. Fabrizio, who did not improve his time from yesterday, finished the two qualifying practice sessions as second fastest, ahead of Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow, who also did not improve his time, and HANNSpree Ten Kate's Johnny Rea, who did better his time from yesterday, but only but a few hundredths. Championship leader Leon Haslam was 5th fastest, while his closest contender, Max Biaggi, was down in 8th.
Eugene Laverty continues to top the timesheets at Kyalami, the Parkalgar Honda rider again fastest during the second session of free practice for the World Supersport class. But while Laverty's margin in previous sessions was negligible, the Irishman took charge in Saturday morning, beating the next man - HANNSpree Ten Kate's Kenan Sofuoglu - by over eight tenths of a second. Sofuoglu was himself three tenths faster than his teammate Michele Pirro, with ParkinGO Triumph's Matthieu Lagrive once again rounding out the top four.
Eugene Laverty continues to top the World Supersport timesheets at Kyalami, but still by the smallest of margins. The Parkalgar Honda rider took provisional pole during the first session of qualifying by just five hundredths of a second, edging ParkinGO Triumph's Matthieu Lagrive into 2nd. The HANNSpree Ten Kate Hondas of Kenan Sofuoglu and Michele Pirro round out the provisional front row, with Motocard.com Kawasaki's Joan Lascorz heading up row two.
After a morning dominated by Ducatis, the four cylinders struck back at Kyalami, a Yamaha, Honda, BMW, and Suzuki getting to the top of the pile, leaving only one Ducati in the top 5. That Ducati sits on provisional pole, though, Xerox Ducati's Michel Fabrizio just edging out the Sterilgarda Yamaha of Cal Crutchlow to set the best time. HANNSpree Ten Kate's Johnny Rea is in 3rd, while the BMW's improvement continues, Troy Corser putting the S1000RR on the provisional front row of the grid.
Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam heads up the second row, ahead of the privateer Ducatis of Carlos Checa and Jakub Smrz. Max Biaggi, who was so fast this morning, could only manage the 8th time, after the Roman Emporer dropped his Aprilia RSV4 towards the end of the session.
Eugene Laverty topped the timesheets in the first session of free practice for the World Supersport class at Kyalami, the Parkalgar Honda rider getting the better of title rival Kenan Sofuoglu at the end of the session. The 3rd place in the session went to a Motocard.com Kawasaki rider, but unlike previous rounds, it was Katsuaki Fujiwara rather than Joan Lascorz who challenged the two Honda riders. 4th fastest in the session was a big surprise, local boy Ronan Quarmby putting in an outstanding performance on the BikeFin SafeSky Honda. So strong was Quarmby that the South African, currently leading the local Supersport championship, headed up the timesheets throughout large parts of the session, forcing the regulars to dig deep to best him.
A training accident has claimed yet another victim in the 2010 MotoGP season, with Rizla Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista the latest rider to suffer injury. Bautista fell during motocross training on Thursday, fracturing a collarbone in the process. On Friday, the Spaniard underwent surgery to fix the problem, having a plate fitted on what surgeons described as a clean fracture.
Bautista appears to have been lucky with the nature of the fracture. With the plate fitted, the team expects Bautista to be able to race at Le Mans, though, as the team press release puts it, with some pain and restricted movement. Finding a suitable replacement could have been tricky, though with the World Superbike teams on a hiatus next weekend, Alstare Suzuki rider and Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli would have been likely to get the nod, as Guintoli is both popular at home, and unlike his teammate Leon Haslam, not in the race for the WSBK title.
Michel Fabrizio was the fastest rider out of the box at Kyalami, the Xerox Ducati rider leading for most of the first session of free practice for World Superbikes in South Africa. Fabrizio led a veritable onslaught of Ducatis, with Pata S&G's Jakub Smrz 2nd and the Althea Ducatis of Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne 4th and 5th. The only real fly in the ointment was Max Biaggi, the Alitalia Aprilia rider carrying the momentum from his double victory at Monza down to South Africa. Championship leader Leon Haslam is in 8th, while Noriyuki Haga is down in 10th.
One thing that loyal readers may have noticed is that MotoMatters.com does not usually carry press releases. This is a conscious choice, as most press releases are a little too bland to be of much great interest, albeit for a number of very good reasons.
There are always exceptions, however, and the outspoken Parkalgar Honda World Supersport team manager Simon Buckmaster is very much one of them. In his latest Simon Says column, which the team sends out as a press release, Buckmaster covers a number of extremely interesting points. He discusses the reasons the World Supersport grid is so thin this year, the options the Parkalgar team is considering for 2011, and the strange qualifying schedule that has been foisted upon the World Supersport class. A very interesting read indeed.
The reports by Italian broadcaster Sportmediaset that Casey Stoner had allegedly signed for Honda - a report later denied by HRC manager Livio Suppo - unleashed the usual wave of speculation about Stoner's vacant seat at Ducati. The Sportmediaset reports also included suggestions that Ducati were pursuing Valentino Rossi hard, implying the Italian might be close to make the switch that every Italian is begging for, putting Valentino Rossi on a Ducati for 2011.
Every Italian but one, that is. In the Italian sports daily Gazzetto dello Sport, Rossi denied he was considering switching to Ducati. Acknowledging that he had an excellent friendship with Ducati Corse manager and technical guru Filippo Preziosi, he told the Italian paper that he was happy with Yamaha, and "99 percent sure" to stay with the Japanese factory. Preziosi confirmed that there were no serious talks with Rossi, and that Ducati did not expect to be able to sign the Italian, as Rossi had made it clear to them that he was happy with Yamaha.
When Troy Bayliss decided to retire at the end of the 2008 World Superbike season, there were many people who believed that the three-time world champion had made the decision in haste. Although Bayliss was 39, he had just won his third World Superbike title, and was looking as strong as ever. But, he told reporters, it was time to settle down in Australia, and he had promised his wife Kim that his racing days were over.
Or maybe not. Retirement, it seems, is not sitting well with Bayliss, and the Australian legend could well be about to return. A reader emailed rumors of a possible return a couple of weeks ago, but we dismissed those rumors out of hand. How wrong we were, for in interviews with both Superbikeplanet.com and GPOne.com, Bayliss has spoken freely about a return to racing.
Within hours of reports appearing on the Sportmediaset website that Casey Stoner has signed for Honda, the denials are starting to come in, as predicted here. GPOne.com - like Sportmediaset an Italian website, but probably the most reliable source of news from Italy - spoke to Honda Racing Corporation's Marketing Manager Livio Suppo, who denied that Stoner had already signed a contract.
"There are four great riders whose contracts are ending," Suppo told GPOne.com, "And it's clear that there will be interest in at least one of them. But at this moment, everyone is talking to everyone, but no one has signed anything."
Even before the 2010 MotoGP season began, it was clear that with the contracts of Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner all coming to an end at the end of 2010, this year's silly season - the insanity of speculation, rumor and intrigue surrounding which rider will be going where from 2011 onwards - was going to be one of the most fevered in years. The background hum of rumors had already started last year, but now, the opening salvo has been fired in the Great Rider War of 2010.
At least, according to the excitable Italian press, that is. The Italian broadcaster Sportmediaset is reporting that Casey Stoner is the first domino to fall, having reportedly signed a contract with Honda for next season at Jerez. According to Sportmediaset, the move came about as a result of Stoner's close relationship with Livio Suppo, the former Ducati manager who moved over to HRC at the start of the 2010 season, to help Honda raise its sponsorship.
With two free weekends between Jerez and Le Mans for the MotoGP riders, a couple of prominent riders took the time to visit the World Superbike races at Monza, and catch up with friends and family. While Ben Spies was in the Yamaha garage catching up with some of the team members he won the WSBK title with last year, Nicky Hayden was in the Ducati hospitality, hanging out with his brother Roger Lee, currently racing with the Pedercini Kawasaki team. While he was there, the voice of World Superbikes Jonathan Green caught up with Nicky for OnTheThrottle, to talk about how Roger Lee is getting on, about how Nicky is getting on with the Ducati and whether the Kentucky Kid has any plans to join the World Superbike paddock.