The rivalry between Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa is both bitter and well-known. The rivalry, which started in 2005 after incidents in the German and Japanese Grand Prix, first came to the attention of the English-speaking world when it took the King of Spain to force the two Spaniards to shake hands, after both men ended up on the podium at Jerez in 2008. Since then, the two men have kept a careful if respectful distance between each other.
That may not be possible next year, though. The Spanish press is full of the prospect that Jorge Lorenzo could make the switch to Honda next year, and though the rumors so far suggest a return of Telefonica to sponsor a one-bike factory-supported team for Lorenzo, the Mallorcan could also join Repsol Honda, as a team mate to his rival Dani Pedrosa.
The Spanish radio channel Onda Cero spoke to Dani Pedrosa about this prospect, and the diminutive Spaniard was remarkably sanguine about the whole affair. Asked about the necessity of placing a wall down the middle of the garage if Lorenzo were to join Pedrosa as a Repsol Honda team mate, Pedrosa said it wouldn't be necessary. "The wall at Yamaha was put there because Rossi wanted it," he told Onda Cero. "I don't think Lorenzo thought it was a problem. But anyway, the policies at Honda are different. I don't know whether they work more as a team at Yamaha, but that's not the impression that Honda want to give."
However, there is no certainty that Pedrosa will even be at Repsol Honda next year. Though the Spaniard was keen to emphasize the excellent relations he has with HRC, he refused to be pushed on the subject of signing a new contract with the Repsol team. "We didn't renew the last contract until October. This year, we've started to talk very early, and it's a subject which is very distracting for riders."
The story of the Haojue team is a tale of woe, and one which appears to be reaching its tragic conclusion. After dismissing engine designer Jan Witteveen for "a lack of performance" the team elected to skip the Catalunya round of the 125cc World Championship. Their subsequent non-appearance at the Assen round added fuel to the flames of speculation which licked around their future, but the announcement that both Michael Ranseder and Matthew Hoyle have been released from their contracts showed that there was a real fire raging behind the smoke emanating from the team garage.
Ranseder has come out of the episode reasonably well, the Austrian rider having found a home with the Italian CBC Corse team and due to make his debut at the upcoming Sachsenring round. No news of the fate of Matthew Hoyle yet, this being the first season that the young British rider was to spend in the 125 class, after a strong year in the Red Bull Rookies Cup.
But Ranseder's pronouncements on his personal website do not bode well for the Chinese-backed Haojue team. Prior to the Assen race, Ranseder announced that he had finally been released by the Haojue team, after finding out that the most of the rest of the team had also been released. "I'd found out in the last few weeks that the contracts of most of the team members had been terminated. At first, it wasn't really clear to me why my contract hadn't been dissolved as well. I was desperate to get hold of Garry Taylor, and he told me that I can go look for another ride straight away," Ranseder wrote on his website.
With no riders, only a skeleton crew at best and development of the bike at something close to a standstill, the days of the Haojue team are surely numbered. An interesting experiment, bringing Chinese money into a sport which desperately needs it, is likely to fade far too quickly into the history books.
MotoGPMatters.com's Scott Jones had spoken to Guy Coulon at the MotoGP season opener at Qatar, and the conversation had left us with some questions unanswered. Colin Edwards' crew chief had told us that he wanted to reserve judgment on issues such as tires and the practice restrictions until a few races into the season. At the halfway mark of the season, we felt it was a good time to catch up with Coulon again and get his opinion, as well as ask about the Tech 3 team's plans for the fledgling Moto2 series due to launch next year. Scott Jones spoke to Guy Coulon
MGPM: When we spoke in Qatar, you said we would need to go to several races where there had been no winter testing to know how the shortened practice schedule and new tire rules would affect race preparation. What can you tell us seven races into the season?
Coulon: But already we have another change [in the practice schedule] from Le Mans. We started the beginning of the season with only three sessions of 45 minutes each. From Le Mans, we still have three sessions but each is one hour now. So the main thing we have learned this year is that the Yamaha is not difficult to set up, and I think we have an advantage with fewer [practice] sessions.
But of course we have to use the time we have differently from before when we had more practice sessions. Before we had four hours and now we have three, so we must be very focused on what changes we want to make. We must decide after each change if we will keep those settings or not. When we had more time we could compare settings, and if the rider was unsure which was better, we could compare the two settings again before moving forward. But now when we compare different settings, we must decide right away if we keep those settings or not; we follow this way or we follow that way. So that is different from before. But also this year we have only one tire manufacturer, and that means we have many fewer types of tires to combine with our tests of different chassis settings.
The summer break is traditionally the moment that MotoGP's silly season is unleashed in all its fury, and with two more races to go, it is already starting to build up some momentum. At the center of the whirlwind is Jorge Lorenzo, the young Spaniard who has made an astonishing impact in his second season of MotoGP, winning two races and missing out on a podium only once so far this year, when he crashed out at Jerez.
Lorenzo's contract with Yamaha runs out at the end of the season, and the Mallorcan seems not to be in too much of a hurry to renew it. In all of his pronouncements so far, Lorenzo has reiterated that Yamaha is his primary option, but that this does not mean that staying with Yamaha is an automatic choice, for either Lorenzo or Yamaha. Rumors about Honda's offer to Lorenzo are growing, and both Yamaha and Lorenzo are engaged in a complex bout of contractual wrestling in a bid for the upper hand in negotiations.
Yamaha boss Masao Furusawa made the factory's position clear in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport recently: Yamaha are keen to hold on to the Spanish prodigy, but not at any price: "We know about Honda's offer," Furusawa told La Gazzetta, "If he wants to go with them, we won't be raising our stakes in order to retain him."
Results of the Laguna Seca MotoGP race:
If you're sitting around waiting for the Red Bull US Grand Prix from Laguna Seca to start, you could do worse than to head on over the official MotoGP.com website. MotoGP.com will be showing free live coverage of the pre-race build up to the race, getting you in the mood and up to speed for the Laguna Seca race. Coverage does not include footage of the race - you'll either have to switch on your TV or ante up for a MotoGP.com subscription - but it's a nice way to kick of race day. You can watch the race build up on the Live Video page of MotoGP.com.
Casey Stoner was fastest in this morning's warm up session at Laguna Seca, seemingly unhampered by the injuries he suffered in the highside during yesterday's qualifying practice. Stoner hobbled to his bike, looking very stiff, but once aboard, was flying. He took the fastest time within the first ten minutes of practice, then went back into the pits and did not emerge again.
The other of the walking wounded, Jorge Lorenzo, was clearly much less comfortable than Stoner. Lorenzo had great difficulty walking, but still managed to ride the bike for 13 laps, setting the 5th fastest time in the process, just under 0.6 seconds behind Casey Stoner's time. The question of whether Stoner and Lorenzo will race looks settled, though it remains to be seen whether they can actually last for 32 laps round Laguna's physically exhausting circuit.
Valentino Rossi was 2nd fastest, just 0.08 off Casey Stoner, but that belies the real difference between the two men. Rossi was blistering in the first three sectors, over a tenth faster in each, but losing out big time in the final sector, running through Rainey back to the finish line. Rossi was between a quarter of a second to nearly half a second slower through those final turns, offering an interesting confrontation between the Australian and the Italian once again. Rossi will need some more of Jeremy Burgess' magic to find another tenth or two in T4.
Dani Pedrosa finished the session in 3rd place, ahead of a promising Colin Edwards on the Tech 3 Yamaha. Andrea Dovizioso was 6th fastest, ahead of Nicky Hayden.
The session saw a number of crashes, with Marco Melandri crashing heavily in Turn 6, while Toni Elias took a trip through the gravel at Turn 2.
A reminder for all our American readers wondering why the Laguna Seca MotoGP race hasn't shown up on their DVR. While normally, MotoGP is shown on SpeedTV, today's race is to be shown live on network TV, broadcast by Fox. The race starts at 2pm local time (PDT) at Laguna Seca, which equates to 5pm EDT (there's a list converting the race start time into the correct time all around the world on this website). You can also check the starting time on the excellent TV Racer website.
So remember, if you're based in the US, the MotoGP race at Laguna Seca is on Fox, not Speed, live at 2pm PDT.
Viewers based in the UK have a choice of viewing. The race is scheduled to be shown live on BBC2 at 10pm BST, but it will simultaneously be broadcast live on British Eurosport with the fabulous voices of Toby Moody and Julian Ryder. So people capable of receiving both the UK and British Eurosport have the luxury of choice. For most of the rest of Europe, however, the MotoGP race will not be shown on Eurosport, so consult your local TV provider.
It's Saturday, and Scott Jones has his eye in. Here are more of his fantastic shots from Laguna Seca. Click on the photos for hi-res versions:
Up the hill towards Terrifying Turn 1. That media center used to be right where the run off is.
Casey Stoner. Just because you're ill, it doesn't mean you can't be fast.
This is how hard you have to work just to ride around in 16th place in MotoGP
Qualifying practice turned out to be one of the most dramatic sessions we have seen for a long time at Laguna Seca, and not in a good way. By the end of the session, two of the three men leading the championship had suffered violent highsides and been stretchered off, though both Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo are expected to race tomorrow.
It all started off much as expected, with Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo leading the way, Stoner the first into the 1'22 bracket, followed shortly after by Lorenzo. The two young championship protagonists were soon joined by Andrea Dovizioso, and as the first quarter of the session ended, the Repsol Honda man and his team mate Dani Pedrosa took charge, Pedrosa taking over pole.
The Repsol Honda resurgence would be short-lived. Within a couple of minutes, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner were playing leapfrog with provisional pole again, Stoner getting down into the low 1'22s and then Lorenzo cracking the 1'21s with a lap of 1'21.950. Valentino Rossi, who until that point had been well down the order, soon chipped away at his best time and was soon up to 3rd, a quarter of a second off Lorenzo's pole time.
As the 20 minute approached, Jorge Lorenzo suffered the first of the two crashes he was to have during qualifying, folding the front in Turn 10 and sliding off relatively unhurt into the gravel, his main concern how to get back to the pits in time to improve his time. In the meantime, Casey Stoner took back pole, shaving hundredths off first Lorenzo's time, and then his own, with a lap of 1'21.910. Minutes later, Valentino Rossi joined Stoner and Lorenzo in the 1'21s with a lap of 1'21.958, then another of 1'21.954.
News is starting to seep in of the injuries suffered by Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, both of whom suffered nasty highsides in the final minutes of qualifying at Laguna Seca. The good news is that both men are likely to be able to race tomorrow, but the bad news is that they are both pretty banged up.
Casey Stoner escaped with the least damage. According to reports on GPOne.com, Stoner only suffered a badly bruised hip, and should be able to race without problems tomorrow. Of course, Stoner is still suffering with the mystery virus which has plagued him at the last couple of Grand Prix, though some of the color seemed to have returned to the Australian's face today, and Stoner looked a good deal better than he did yesterday.
Jorge Lorenzo came off the worst of the pair. In another huge highside, resembling all too starkly the kind of crashes Lorenzo was prone to last season, Lorenzo fell heavily on his shoulder, and banged up his knee. According to reports on both GPOne.com and Roadracing World, Lorenzo has suffered a dislocated collarbone and a badly bruised metatarsal in his right foot. Lorenzo has also been pronounced fit to ride, though by Dr. Claudio Costa, who places more faith in the riders mental resilience rather than their physical health. If Lorenzo does ride, he will be far from at full strength.
The official MotoGP.com website is reporting that no decision will be made on whether Jorge Lorenzo will race until tomorrow (Sunday).
Results of MotoGP Qualifying Practice at Laguna Seca: