As an Englishman living in Holland, I've been following the fortunes of Danny Webb in the 125cc class very closely. The young Briton has shown a lot of talent in his three seasons in MotoGP, getting close to a podium a number of times. Webb is a product of Alberto Puig's MotoGP Academy, a project which has brought forth a whole host of young talent.
We caught up with Webb at the 2009 Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, where he spoke to us about his experience of working with Puig and the MotoGP Academy, how he got into Grand Prix racing and his experience with the De Graaf 125cc team, as well as his training regime and why he doesn't allow his father to cook.
MotoMatters: Can you tell us about how you got into Grand Prix?
The World Supersport field needed a boost. At just 18 riders, the grid of one of the cheapest classes in international motorcycle racing was looking pretty thin. And so the confirmation that Triumph's ParkinGO and BE1 Racing squads would be expanding their effort from 3 to 4 riders, news which we reported earlier this week, provides a welcome increase to the grid.
The manner in which it was achieved, however, was not so pretty. Triumph issued a statement today, announcing that American rider Jason DiSalvo would be joining Chaz Davies in the factory-backed ParkingGO Triumph team, while the Frenchman Sebastien Charpentier is to ride alongside David Salom in the ParkinGO Triumph BE1 Racing team. The statement (which is available on the official World Superbike website) contained the usual niceties and useful background information on the riders joining the team, and at the end, included a brief statement on the departure of Garry McCoy:
There will be no place in the line-up for Garry McCoy. The Australian had been expected to take his place alongside Davies but has left the team by mutual consent.
Moto2 is not the only class whose entries continue to grow. To the 23 riders already included in the provisional entry list for World Superbikes can be added two more: Makoto Tamada and Luca Scassa. Tamada has been signed by the Pro Ride Honda team run by Marco Nicotari, at least according to reportsy by the Italian website BikeRacing.it. Scassa, meanwhile, is to be part of a new Ducati effort going by the name of Team Supersonic, according to GPOne.com.
With the announcement that Toni Elias and Vladimir Ivanov have signed for the Gresini Moriwaki Moto2 team, as well as updates on the Campetella and CIP Technomag team, we are edging closer to what passes for a definitive Moto2 entry list. The biggest surprise is the size of the list: After the initial announcement at Valencia that only 37 entries would be accepted for the 2010 Moto2 class, the total already stands at 40. No doubt the process of raising the necessary funds to actually go racing will whittle that list back to a more manageable size. As one paddock insider put it to us, "when Moto2 was first announced, everybody jumped in. Now they need to actually raise the money, they're starting to pull back..."
Provisional Moto2 list as of January 18th, 2010
It's taken a while, but Toni Elias finally has a ride. The Gresini team made the long-awaited announcement today of their rider line-up for 2010, which features the long-anticipated signing of Toni Elias, alongside the little-known Russian rider Vladimir Ivanov. The two men are to campaign Moriwaki's MD600 Moto2 bikes in the inaugural Moto2 championship in 2010.
Elias' journey to a contract with Gresini has been a long one. It was clear early on in 2009 that the chances of Elias staying with Gresini in MotoGP were fairly slim after Fausto Gresini signed Marco Simoncelli for 2010, then announced that he needed two Italian riders to satisfy his sponsor, Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo. After various rumors and machinations to try and stay in MotoGP, the Spaniard finally conceded that he would have to spend 2010 racing in Moto2, with a return to Gresini looking increasingly inevitable as time passed.
The signing of Elias did not come as much of a surprise. The Spaniard has already tested the Gresini Moriwaki a couple of times, setting the fastest time at the Valencia tests after the final MotoGP round of the year. However, given the disparity in engine configurations being used in the tests - everything from full-fat World Supersport-spec lumps to HRC Superstock kitted CBR engines - it is hard to assess just how much weight to put on the reported times. Elias was certainly quick, though, and looked extremely comfortable. The only complaint he had of the Moriwaki was that it was far too slow, the one factor that none of the teams will be able to influence.
For the past two seasons, Triumph's World Supersport effort has been spearheaded by the veteran Australian Garry McCoy. McCoy has been the the face of Triumph, first with the Triumph SC team, then last year with BE1. The Australian was due to return once again to lead Triumph's efforts in World Supersport for 2010 for the ParkinGo BE1 team, but it seems this is not to be.
According to the Italian magazine MotoSprint, McCoy's salary demands have risen too much beyond the means of the ParkinGo team's relatively modest budget, and therefore the Australian will not be riding for the team in 2010. This comes as a double blow to the team, as McCoy was also set to front the Triumph ParkinGo European Series. This class, meant to showcase young talent by pitting them against one another on identical bikes, a lightly modified version of Triumph's popular middleweight naked bike the Street Triple R, is due to run as a support class at the European rounds of World Superbike.
Normally, the month of January is a quiet time in the world of MotoGP and motorcycle racing. Last year, that quiet was ruptured by the fallout from Kawasaki's decision to withdraw from MotoGP, and one of the major players in that scenario is making waves in 2010. John Hopkins, who lost his 2009 ride when Kawasaki canned their team, has been desperate not to be caught out for the second year in a row, and has had been linked with a number of options.
The main team the American has been associated with is the brand new FB Corse project, which is to field a three-cylinder 800cc bike designed by Oral Engineering, based on the bike the Italian engineering firm originally built for BMW. However, the FB Corse 34100, as the machine has been christened, is still very much under development and the question of how much racing the team will do is still unclear.
Given this uncertainty, Hopkins appears to have been hedging his bets. The M4 Suzuki team - which is scheduled to contest the AMA's American Superbike championship next season- announced last week that Hopkins would be testing for the team at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This news, which included a statement from a team source to the effect that they were trying to tie Hopkins to a deal to race the bike in AMA for 2010, seemed to preclude any further involvement by Hopkins in FB Corse's MotoGP project.
Over the past few weeks, news of the Moto2 class has flooded the media. Such has been the volume of news, announcements and rank speculation that it has been hard to keep up. Fortunately for us, our friends over at the highly respected Italian website GPOne.com have set their minds to this tricky task, and have produced a list of the current state of entries in the Moto2 class.
The list is still very much provisional, and many of the teams are still in doubt. Despite the fact that the Moto2 class is meant to reduce the costs of competing in the support class, the amount of money required to take part in the world championship remains high. Estimates and budgets have varied, with teams spending between 1.5 and 3 million euros to field a two-rider team for a year, and in these straitened economic times that kind of cash is proving more difficult to raise than expected.
The fact that teams such as Campetella Racing have not yet announced riders make them a doubtful prospect to make the first ever Moto2 race at Qatar. But even established teams are not safe. Rumors persist that the Gresini team will not make it onto the grid, as the team is short of funds for its MotoGP effort, and cannot afford the extra to run a Moto2 team alongside its premier class team. The team was due to announce Toni Elias as one of their riders on Thursday, but that announcement has been pushed further and further back, with the Spanish press now reporting that a decision will be made on Monday about the future of the team.
An appendix is a wonderous thing. A few centimeters of obscure and largely defunct organ has shaken up the world of motorcycle roadracing over the past couple of days, mainly because that vermiform organ is located inside Valentino Rossi, MotoGP's biggest superstar and the reigning world champion.
The worries for his health appear to be over, though. When contacted by MotoMatters.com, a Fiat Yamaha spokesperson set the racing world's collective minds at rest. "Valentino is fine," the spokesperson told us. "Hhe had a mild stomach pain which they thought necessary to get checked out, but there is no further problem."
This is corroborated by the fact that the Italian has been given the all clear to take part in Ferrari testing next week. Rossi is due to test Ferrari's Formula One car at Barcelona, and tested his condition yesterday by driving a Ferrari 458 Italia at the Fiorano circuit, as well as taking a seat in the factory's F1 simulator at Maranello.
The news that Valentino Rossi was admitted to hospital yesterday with a case of appendicitis, but was released without having surgery to remove his appendix, raised a number of questions among followers of MotoGP. Sensible people that they are, the Italian website GPOne.com decided to call Dr Claudio Costa, the head of the Clinica Mobile, to get his vision on the situation.
Dr. Costa revealed that he had spoken to Rossi about the issue, and had offered some advice on the course of action to be followed. "I can confirm the news which as emerged so far," Costa told GPone.com. "The results of the tests show that the situation does not require surgery. Valentino can recuperate with just some medication, and everything should be fine."
Dr. Costa also warned that Rossi was not yet in the clear, however. "It's possible that infection can take place in that part of the intestine, which can result in inflamation. The problem now is that such cases can recur, even if they've been successfully treated." Rossi had consulted Dr. Costa on the best thing to do next. "Rossi asked me how long it would take before he could ride again if he decided to have an operation," Dr. Costa told GPOne.com. "I answered that it would be just a couple of days."
Ill fortune has once again befallen Valentino Rossi in the off season. According to reports on GPOne.com, the multiple world champion was rushed to hospital in Pesaro last night with severe abdominal pains. The reports further state that tests showed Rossi to be suffering from a serious inflammation of the appendix. Doctors treating Rossi decided that emergency surgery was not necessary, and the Italian was sent home to rest.
According to GPOne.com, the problem will not require surgery to remove Rossi's appendix, but will be treated using a course of rest and antibiotics. This seems a highly unusual step, as appendicitis - especially acute appendicitis - always involves surgery, invariably removing the mysterious organ to avoid further complication. The risk of infection from an inflamed appendix is great, and commonly leads to peritonitis which can be fatal. The minor risk from surgery hugely outweighs the major risk of leaving an infected appendix in place.
After a year which started without a ride and was later blighted by injuries, John Hopkins career looked to be heading into a dead end. The competitive rides in both MotoGP and World Superbikes filled up, leaving the former factory Suzuki and Kawasaki MotoGP rider without a seat in 2010.
His salvation looked like coming from Italy, where the FB Corse MotoGP team had pencilled him in as their rider for the development year 2010. The role would mainly involve a lot of testing of the 800cc triple, designed by Oral Engineering and based on the previous design for BMW. However, the FB Corse team were confident of competing in several MotoGP rounds as a wildcard, and possibly even racing a full season. But given that development on the FB Corse MotoGP bike is still at an early stage, the bike is unlikely to be competitive.
So it looks like John Hopkins is turning his attentions elsewhere. Despite having a verbal agreement to ride the FB Corse bike, Hopper's management is hard at work making alternative arrangements back in the US. A story over on GPOne.com had previously linked Hopkins to a ride on the Rockstar Makita Suzuki in the AMA, but given the American's long-standing relationship with Monster Energy, the likelihood of Hopper riding for another brand of energy drink seemed highly unlikely.
There's an old saying in the world of computers and the internet: "Information just wants to be free." We had one demonstration of that aphorism just before Christmas, when Nicky Hayden posted that now famous picture of Ducati's GP10 on his website, without clearing it by the factory's (usually very helpful) PR bosses. This week, an alert reader of the Italian websites BikeRacing.it and Motoblog.it pointed out that the World Superbike website's timing had a small hole in it, which meant that the provisional entry lists for the 2010 season are visible on the site before they have been officially announced by the World Superbike website. The breach is trivial, after all this same information is available to anyone with a list of press releases and plenty of time on their hands, but the leak panders very nicely to those of us who suffer with Larry Wall's Three Virtues Of Programming, Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
The leaked entry lists reveal nothing new, other than that both World Superbike and World Supersport fields have thinned considerably from last year. Prior to the 2009 season, World Superbikes had 32 entries, though several of those teams and riders had fallen by the wayside by the time the series reached its climax at Portimao, as the global economic crisis took its toll. In 2010, the series has 23 entries, but perhaps the most surprising thing about the entry list is the fact that 14 of those 23 entries are factory-backed (though Ten Kate continues to deny it is a factory effort, perhaps justifiably). Another two or three riders could be added to that list, and and one or two could still disappear during the course of the season, so the final number is not yet fixed.
The third day of Ducati's traditional MotoGP team launch saw several events of real note. The most prominent but probably least significant was the official unveiling of Ducati's 2010 Desmosedici GP10, the machine that Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner will be campaigning in the upcoming season. The bike had been unofficially "unveiled" some three weeks ago, when Nicky Hayden put some photos he'd taken with his iPhone on his personal website without first obtaining permission from Ducati. "It probably got me in the doghouse a bit," Hayden admitted, but as the bike had already made its debut at the Valencia post-race tests, no real harm was done.
High in the snow-covered Dolomite mountains, in the part of Northern Italy so bitterly fought over during the Great War, the Italian motorsport giants Ducati and Ferrari hold their annual press introductions. It's a chance to show off the new big-bang Desmosedici GP10 - though Nicky Hayden had already inadvertently leaked photos of the bike on his website at the end of last year - and for the press to talk to Hayden and Casey Stoner in a more relaxed setting, without the pressure of a race weekend.
Ducati have also thoughtfully provided some video footage from the event. Today's episode features a couple of brief interviews with Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner, perhaps the most interesting part of which is Stoner's discussion of his health. The Australian believes that he has found the key to the mystery illness that destroyed his 2009 season, with lactose intolerance the culprit. Since finding the problem, Stoner has been able to train as he wishes without suffering the devastating fatigue and illness that dogged him in 2009.
Watch the video and interviews, courtesy of Ducati Corse: