Less than 24 hours after the 2009 season ended, the MotoGP riders were back out on the track, turning laps in preparation for the 2010 season. The weather was a little warmer than yesterday, but the wind was just as bad as it has been all weekend, sapping the heat out of both track and tires. The field was a real mixture, with the veterans out along with a gaggle of new bugs finding their feet on the MotoGP bikes, as well as a couple of Moto2 bikes undergoing the first shakedown test.
Leading the timesheet were the same names that had dominated all weekend, Casey Stoner returning to the top of the timesheets with a radically-revised Ducati Desmosedici. No details were given on the changes, but the engine sounded completely different, much more like the big bang configuration of the 990cc version of the bike, rather than the 800cc screamer. Filippo Preziosi has nicknamed the engine "V Twin" though according to the Italian site GPOne.com, it is not the same as the old "twin pulse" firing order used by the 2002 Desmosedici 990. Stoner praised the extra grip the engine provided, saying it was much smoother. Nicky Hayden agreed, but said it felt like it was a little bit down on power.
The momentum behind a return to 1000cc for the MotoGP class has been building throughout the year. On Saturday, news emerged from the Grand Prix Commission that the manufacturers had dropped their opposition to the plan, making backing for the 1000cc formula unanimous inside MotoGP's rulemaking body. As a consequence, the proposal is almost certain to be adopted for the 2012 season of MotoGP.
Under the new proposed rules, the current requirement that four-stroke motorcycles must be prototypes will be either dropped or defined far more loosely. This would allow both teams and manufacturers to use engines based on production powerplants, greatly reducing the cost of research and development and paving the way for new teams to enter the class. The aim is to cut the cost of running a team roughly in half, from around 10 million euros for a two-rider satellite team down to between 5 and 6 million euros. Using production-based engines and allowing more engineering and maintenance to be done by the teams should be a major contributing factor in making this happen.
The Rossi-to-Ducati saga continues apace, with maneuvering for the 2011 contract negotiations taking place even on the grid of the final race of 2009. Interviewed for BBC television, Valentino Rossi got in a powerful blow, demanding that Yamaha make a decision about which of their two star riders they want to build their future on. "Yamaha have to choose between me and Jorge for 2011," Rossi told the BBC.
The Italian freely admitted he had been approached by Ducati, and that he had an option to ride there. "I could change bike, ride for Ducati and try to win the world championship with an Italian bike. That would be a great motivation," Rossi said.
At the same time, Rossi underlined his strong relationship with Yamaha. "I prefer at this moment to stay with Yamaha because the love between me and Yamaha, our relationship, is something special."
Rumors of Ducati's courtship of Rossi have triggered a feeding frenzy in the Italian media, who are desperately keen for the match up to take place. However, plenty of room for doubt remains over how serious Rossi is in considering leaving Yamaha, as the Italian is renowned for making public statements to achieve a desired effect, either from a team, a factory, a rival or even the sport of MotoGP itself. Rossi's statements fit neatly into this pattern of putting pressure on one party, in order to achieve the goals he set himself for the future.
The 2009 MotoGP weekend at Valencia will be one that features in motorcycle racing trivia contests for many, many years to come. Both the 250 and the MotoGP races started with grids slightly different from those set during qualifying. While the alteration to the 250 grid was understandable - Alex Debon was in too much pain to race from the pole position he set on Saturday - the events leading up to the modified MotoGP grid were just plain bizarre.
As the pack sat on the grid waiting for the red lights to dim, one spot remained empty. Casey Stoner, always the last rider to arrive on his starting position, failed to appear. So surprising was his absence that Dani Pedrosa, sitting 2nd on the grid, failed to close his visor in time for the race to start. It didn't hinder him, though, as he entered the first corner in the lead, as is his wont.
So where was Casey Stoner? In an incident as bizarre as it was unexpected, the Australian had highsided off during the warm up lap, being tossed off his bike as he pitched it into Turn 2. After Stoner's crash speculation immediately turned to the cause. The consensus of opinion in the press room was that Stoner had got in too hot on cold tires, and this had thrown him off. The assembled press looked forward to hearing from Stoner himself the reason for his crash in the customary press debrief.
Result and summary of the final MotoGP round of 2009 at Valencia:
Results and summary of the last ever 250cc race, in which the World Champion is crowned:
Results and summary of the 125cc race at Valencia:
Alex Debon went out for a test lap, but was in too much pain. So the final 250 race ever will start with a different polesitter. Debon qualified on pole, but because he won't be starting, Marco Simoncelli will be starting from pole, alongside Hector Barbera, Ratthapark Wilairot and Hiroshi Aoyama, who moves up onto the front row.
Sadly, our regular photographer Scott Jones couldn't make it to Valencia. Fortunately, we ran into Israeli TV commentator Tammy Gorali, who also happens to be a pretty mean snapper herself. She was kind enough to allow us to use some of the shots she took today during qualifying.
The 800cc formula is dead. MotoGP is set to return to 1000cc from 2012, according to a proposal submitted to the Grand Prix Commission at Valencia today. The 800cc bikes have received a deluge of criticism, almost from the moment they were introduced, and that deluge has finally buried them.
The decision has hinged upon a change of mind by the MSMA, the manufacturers association. So far, the manufacturers have been opposed to any changes to the MotoGP formula, partly because high costs of entry created a barrier to new entrants in the class, allowing the existing participants to dominate the class. But the high costs have taken their toll even on the existing manufacturers, and with the future of Suzuki in the class in doubt under the current rules, and even doubt about just how long Honda was prepared to continue, a change was almost inevitable. 2012 is the earliest date it is possible to make the change, as the current 5 year contract that exists between Dorna, the FIM and the MSMA expires at the end of 2011. That contract states that no changes may be made to the engine capacity without a unanimous decision by all of the manufacturers in the MSMA.