Rumors filtering in indicate that Team Guandalini will switch from Ducatis and field a much-rumored Aprilia satellite team in the World Superbike series in 2010. Some reports indicate that the only thing left unattended in this alleged agreement is an official announcement. Reportedly, the team will be managed by current team majordomo Frankie Chili with invovement from Team Sterilgarda's Marco Borciani. Speculation that Aprilia would run 2 additional bikes in 2010 had been rampant for the better part of the 2nd half of the season, with Aprilia head of communications Alain Roger in a September interview with Caradisiac. com revealing that Aprilia would field another 2-bike team. It has been reported that Guandalini, along with other Ducati satellite teams (including Sterilgarda) were unhappy with the level of support that they had received from Bologna this past season. Additionally, it has been widely assumed that Sterigarda sponsorship for the Borciani-led squad would evaporate in 2010 given the Italian firm's renewed support of the factory Yamaha team. Given that background, one would assume that the opportunity to field Aprilia's RSV4, which had a stellar maiden season in the hands of Max Biaggi, would be an attractive proposition indeed. Guandalini currently has Jakob Smrz under contract while the factory Aprilia team has reportedly been dithering between former Gresini Honda rider Alex De Angelis and newly-crowned British superbike champion Leon Camier. Maybe both will find an Aprilia under their Christmas tree this year.
~~~ UPDATE ~~~
Another blow has been struck in the ongoing battle for supremacy inside the Fiat Yamaha garage. After Valentino Rossi announced that Yamaha would have to choose between himself and team mate Jorge Lorenzo - before backpedalling to the Italian press - this time, it is the turn of Jorge Lorenzo's side of the garage to get in a blow. That comes in an interview with the Spanish broadcaster Cadena SER, in which Marcos Hirsch, Lorenzo's manager and confidant, launched a blistering attack on the 9-time World Champion.
"It's sad that a champion of the stature of Valentino Rossi is so preoccupied by Jorge," Hirsch told Cadena SER. "What he should be doing is being happy, fighting on track and beating him man-to-man, and not using strategies like saying 'get out of here' and 'I don't want you here'." Hirsch was most critical of Rossi's mind games: "His psychological strategy of sending messages using friendly journalists surprises me a little."
The provisional calendar released for 2010 left the teams and fans scratching their heads a little. The calendar featured two sets of three back-to-back races; one set starting on June 20th with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and ending two weeks later on July 4th with Catalunya; and one set starting on August 22nd with Brno and ending two weeks later at Misano on September 5th. The first back-to-back did not raise any foreseeable problems, the middle race being the traditional run up to Assen for the Dutch TT. The second set, however, was a different kettle of fish.
For sandwiched between Brno and Misano was Indianapolis, on August 29th, meaning that the middle race in this back-to-back involved a hop back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean to the American Mid-West. As if that wasn't bad enough, the transatlantic schedule meant that the second of the two post-race tests scheduled for the 2010 MotoGP season would have to be scrapped, as alternatives for the traditional test at Brno were either thin on the ground or far too late in the season to be of any use.
In the first part of our interview with Peter Clifford, he talked about the thinking behind the WCM project, as well as the goals for keeping racing affordable. In this second part, we discuss how - and why - the project ended, as well as the general question of costs in racing. Is it still possible to go racing without spending huge amounts of money? Clifford gives MotoMatters.com his views.
MotoMatters: To get back to the prototype, who did the inspection, was it the FIM who did tech inspection? I think it was in South Africa that it failed inspection...
Peter Clifford: I think the first place we went to was Japan that year, I think.
MM: But you turned up at the race with a rolling chassis and an engine, submitted to scrutineering...
PC: That's right and they said :no thank you.: I think Chris did the first practice or whatever in the wet and was quite quick on it. And then we were told we couldn't carry on with it. I'm pretty sure we did the first practice and then you know behind the scenes shenanigans.
MM: There's lots of reason to suspect that FG Sport were behind it...
PC: If I was Mr Flammini, I would probably have done it.
I think that I was foolish enough to believe what we did here in this MotoGP paddock, that Dorna, that we as a group, because we all felt that when we went MotoGP, went four stroke, that we were going ahead together. And we very much felt that as a team, OK, we're part of this, there were no motorcycles available, it's up to us to be part of this and we'll make our own. And we knew we'd have no objections from anybody else in the pit lane, everybody felt the same, we were all going together, and I think we thought we were masters of our own destiny in this. But we weren't.
Althea Ducati has announced that Shane "Shakey" Byrne will team with Carlos Checa on the squad in the World Superbike championship in 2010. Althea ended a relationship with Honda at the end of the 2009 season that had lasted the last two years in favor of the Bologna based manufacturer. Byrne brings extensive experience with the 1098 Superbike to Althea, having won the 2008 British superbike championship and placing eighth in the 2009 WSBK season astride the Italian machine. Byrne had been previously thought to be in contention for a factory ride with Kawasaki and Aprilia, but Kawasaki opted to sign Chris Vermeulen and Tom Sykes. Aprilia is thought to be considering Leon Camier and Alex De Angelis to team with Max Biaggi.
After the recent announcement that the MotoGP class is to allow the use of production-based engines from 2012, the name on everybody's lips was WCM. After all, the team, run by Peter Clifford and Bob MacLean, had built exactly that bike back in 2003, to compete in the MotoGP class. That project ended badly, after a series of disqualifications on technical grounds saw the bike pulled from the grid due precisely to the fact that it was based on production parts. The legal battles over those disqualifications were taken all the way to the International Court of Arbitration in Sport, where WCM lost the case on the matter of how the castings were made.
Here at MotoMatters.com, we have been fascinated by this project for several years now, as it seemed to point the way to a radically different approach to a MotoGP project. With the imminent return of production-based engines - at least for privateer teams - the WCM project seems positively visionary. We tracked down Peter Clifford at the IRTA tests earlier this year, to ask him about the history of the WCM project, and to get his thoughts on racing. In the first of this two-part interview, Clifford talks about the genesis of the project, and the design concepts used to create it. Part two will be online tomorrow.
MotoMatters: The WCM project, when did it start, how did it start?
Peter Clifford: Well in 2002, end of 2002, Yamaha said that they weren't going to make enough M1s for everybody and we were going to be unlucky. At the same time, Red Bull decided that they were no longer going to continue either, so we were left with no sponsor and no machinery. It was a question of either basically stay home or go racing and my business partner Bob McLean and I decided that we wanted to go racing. Carmelo Ezpeleta said, "Look, Peter, you have to turn up with something, anything, because it's all going to get better, I'm going to get the Japanese to produce more motorcycles for everybody, so you've just got to survive through 2003 with whatever you can muster".
Testing has finally concluded for the MotoGP class for this year - or rather, almost, as Alvaro Bautista will be testing in Estoril next week, while Hiroshi Aoyama will have a test in Sepang a few days before Christmas, the two rookies being allowed extra tests to acclimatize to the MotoGP bikes.
But the regulars go home with plenty to think about. Fastest of the three-day test was the man who had dominated practice, Casey Stoner topping the timesheets on the new iteration of Ducati's GP10. The bike features a radically revised firing order, changed to achieve two goals: to smooth power delivery and make the bike easier to ride, and to require less traction control, which in turn will use less fuel, leaving more fuel for the latter stages of the race. Both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden declared themselves pleased with the new engine, Stoner describing it as giving him "more feeling in the wrist."
The smoother power delivery also helps with pumping on exit and makes the bike easier to ride. That is going to be a benefit to everyone on a Ducati, as the satellite teams will be receiving the new engine specification from the Sepang tests onwards. No longer will taming the Ducati Desmosedici be such an intensely physical experience, leaving the riders with more energy towards the end of the race.
Final times for the end of testing at Valencia. Wrap up to come later this afternoon:
The Spanish magazine Motociclismo will be publishing a list of riders in the Moto2 class in the latest issue of the magazine due to hit the newsstands on Wednesday. The list is still very much a work in progress, but given the strength of the Spanish influence in the class, and the outstanding connections which Motociclismo has within the paddock, it is by far the most authoritative list to be issued so far.
Very few names have actually be confirmed, and there are a number of names which are largely speculative. Of interest to American readers may be the name of Roger Lee Hayden, brother of the 2006 World Champion and Marlboro Ducati rider Nicky Hayden. Roger Lee is very far from being confirmed, the American being required to bring sponsorship to the package if he is to actually secure the ride.
But Roger Lee isn't the only rider to face this problem. The average amount of money being demanded by team owners is 200,000 euros, though top rides, such as the Gresini team, are up to three times that amount. The financial crisis has reinforced a trend which was already underway, making bringing sponsorship to a deal a prerequisite to any deal being done. Perhaps, once the economic crisis abates, this will not be such a factor.
Moto2 Riders and Teams
The hopes that Team Scot had of remaining in the MotoGP class have been dashed. The Italian team - home of the 2009 250cc World Champion - had failed to match the success of their 250cc riders in the MotoGP class. As a consequence, their bid to remain in MotoGP on merit has failed.
The team had hoped to stay if they could secure the extra funding to run Alex de Angelis. But though initial talks with the San Marino government had been promising, the tiny Italian republic could not justify the investment required to fund an entire MotoGP team, and though De Angelis and his manager continued to pursue the extra funds required, Honda's patience ran out. Despite being extended a number of times, the time limit placed on the project by HRC expired, and today, Scot Honda threw in the towel. Scot Honda will now concentrate on the Moto2 class instead.
While the grid in MotoGP is all but settled, in the junior classes everything is still wide open. A few key pieces are falling into place, but the grid still remains far from certain.
One major piece slotted into place today, though: Bradley Smith signed a new one-year deal with his Bancaja Aspar team, making him the odds-on favorite for the 2010 125cc title. His championship assault will be no cakewalk, however, as Aspar announced at the same time that Nico Terol, the man who finished in 3rd behind Smith, had also been contracted to ride alongside smith.
Smith's current team mate and 2009 125cc World Champion Julian Simon will be moving up to the new Moto2 class. Simon will feature alongside Mike di Meglio, the French rider who partnered Alvaro Bautista so impressively in the 250cc class this year. Both men will be riding an Aprilia-badged Moto2 bike for the Mapfre Aspar team next season.
Smith was close to a Moto2 deal, with Fausto Gresini very interested in signing the talented British youngster, but one of the conditions demanded by Gresini was that Smith bring sponsorship to the tune of 500,000 euros to the team. That kind of money is hard enough to raise even when the economy is good, and so Smith chose to stay in 125s and claim the title, with the hope of moving up in 2011 as World champion.
The Moto2 grid is slowly starting to fit together. Today came the announcement from the Tech 3 team that they had signed 250cc star Raffaele de Rosa and former MotoGP rider Yuki Takahashi to ride the team's Moto2 bike, built and designed by Tech 3's technical guru Guy Coulon. As team mate to the last ever 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama, De Rosa did very well indeed, winning the rookie of the year award in the 250cc class and finishing on the podium twice. After a strong year in 250s, Takahashi struggled on the MotoGP bike, but the experience in both classes should stand the Japanese rider in good stead for the new Moto2 formula.
Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest rider on the second day of testing at Valencia, with the lack of wind helping the Spaniard to drop into the 1'31 bracket. Lorenzo set his fastest time on the new soft tire Bridgestone has brought, which both Lorenzo and Hayden reported as giving more edge grip. Lorenzo spent the day testing some electronics and suspension.
Casey Stoner was the second fastest man of the day, ahead of Valentino Rossi, and the increasingly impressive Ben Spies. The Texan is still using basically the same setup he started the weekend on, and is continuing to work at changing his bike from a Superbike style to a more MotoGP style, easing off the brake earlier and carrying more speed through the middle of the corner. So far, he has dropped roughly half a second a day, and he enters the winter break confident for the season to come.
Test times from 3pm. Full times plus commentary at the end of the test, some time after 5pm.
Revised 2010 Provisional MotoGP Calender Released - Le Mans, Silverstone, Mugello, Brno And Misano Moved
The FIM today released the revised version of the 2010 MotoGP calendar, which sees a total of five races shifted about. Le Mans and Mugello shift up a week, while the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is pushed back two weeks to June 20th. Brno and San Marino are both moved closer to the Indianapolis Grand Prix, making for three races on three consecutive weekends.
This immediately highlights the problem with the new schedule: There are a number of tough travel weeks, which will take their toll of riders and teams. The teams will have to fly directly from Motegi halfway round the world to Jerez, the mitigating factor here being that the time shift involved is the easiest one in terms of jet lag. In June, the Silverstone, Assen and Catalunya races are also back to back, but this is not uncommon in Europe.