John Hopkins To MotoGP With FB Corse - But Will He Race?

To describe John Hopkins' career since leaving Suzuki as "checkered" would be to indulge in understatement. Hopper left the stability of the Suzuki team for a difficult and painful year with Kawasaki, before the Akashi factory decided to pull out of MotoGP, leaving the American without a ride. Hopkins' next step was to the Stiggy Honda team in World Superbikes, where he had some success before suffering a couple of horrific crashes which put him out of operation for most of the season. Adding insult to injury - painfully literally in the case of Hopper - came the announcement at the end of the 2009 season that Stiggy Racing would be pulling out of racing altogether, leaving Hopkins high and dry once again.

Fortunately, perhaps, for the American, Hopkins could yet have found a ride for 2010. Hopper had earlier been linked with a return to the AMA, but with the US national series in its current disastrous state, this was perceived as being very much the last resort. Yesterday, salvation appears to have come from Italy, with the Italian FB Corse team announcing that they hoped to finalize a deal with Hopkins when he visits Italy for the launch of the team's new three-cylinder MotoGP bike in January 21st.

Peter Clifford Interview Part 2 - "The Privateers Are At The Whim Of Politics"

We continue today with the second half of our interview with Peter Clifford, the manager of the former WCM team, who we asked to get his take on the new rules for MotoGP, which are scheduled to come into force in 2012. In yesterday's episode, Clifford expressed his opinion that privateer teams running production-based engines would find it impossible to be competitive without spending equivalent amounts to the factories. Today, Clifford talks about the problems presented by ever-shifting rule changes, the political risks of the new rules in MotoGP and Moto2, and how long Moto2 is going to remain an affordable class.

PC: The other thing is, we were talking about the Flammini reaction, and it is interesting that he's not saying "I'm going to take everybody to court," and all this sort of stuff. Of course, we still don't know what his contract with the FIM says, that's still secret. He may just feel that what he was relying on in the old days was the way the contract was read, not the words in it. And he had his people at the FIM who read the contract the "right" way, and went in to bat for him and took us off the grid and carried on like that. What he may be waiting for, of course, is another election at the FIM, make sure that he gets the right people in, and they will read the contract in the way that he would like it to be read and this idea would be kicked out, and maybe even the Moto2 rules as well.

MM: Right, and of course that's a huge risk, because if we get a new FIM president who interprets the contracts a different way to Vito Ippolito, because Ippolito has a Grand Prix background, and whenever I've spoken to him, he's said again and again, "what we need are the TZs, the production racers."

PC: Well, that's how Venemoto [the team founded by Ippolito's father, brief history here] won Grand Prix and world championships, with TZs.

Peter Clifford Interview Part 1 - "There's No Commercial Reality In MotoGP"

Ever since Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta started talking about using production engines in MotoGP bikes, one name has come up again and again in any discussion of this subject. That name is WCM, and the team manager of the time, Peter Clifford. MotoMatters.com had already spoken to Clifford at the IRTA test in Jerez, where he gave us a potted history of the WCM project, but after the Grand Prix Commission announced that MotoGP would be returning to 1000cc, with no restrictions on engine provenance and a bore limit of 81mm, we went back to Clifford to get his opinion of the changes. After all, if there's anyone who knows the real cost of turning a production bike into a MotoGP bike, it's Peter Clifford and his team. The discussion was long and very interesting, and so we have split the interview into two parts. Part one is below, while the second part will be published tomorrow. 

MM: When Carmelo Ezpeleta first came up with the idea of using production engines, your name and the WCM project was raised by just about everybody, because basically what they're talking about is allowing you to do what you could have done back in 2003. How do you feel about that?

PC: Well, it's just very humorous isn't it? It was so obvious that that is what needed to happen, but at the time, there was enough machinery at the sharp end and the factories were all keen to have a go at it, so the few people that were left out of that loop, no one cared very much about them. That's just the way it goes, though isn't it.

Moto2 News - Abraham Fastest In Almeria, Aspar Still Undecided On Chassis

From Valencia, a number of the Moto2 teams made their way further south, for another couple of days testing at Almeria in Spain's far southeast corner. Pons, Viessmann Kiefer, Promoracing (now the Antonio Banderas Racing Team), and Cardion AB all made the trip south to take advantage of the climate in Europe's driest corner.

Times are once again very difficult to interpret, even when available, but for what it's worth, the fastest man at the track was Karel Abraham on the FTR Moto2 bike, some seven tenths quicker than Sergio Gadea on the Pons Racing team's Kalex machine. But here, too, the Moto2 bikes were put into the shade by World Supersport equipment: the Motocard Glaner Kawasaki team was also present at the test, with 2009 surprise package Joan Lascorz setting an extremely respectable lap of 1'37.45 lap, over a second and a half faster than Abraham aboard the FTR bike.

Last Call For Christmas 2010 Calendar Orders

Only a few more days to the holidays, and time is running out if you want your MotoMatters.com 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar delivered to a friend or loved one in time to slip under the tree. Realistically, orders will have to be in by Saturday morning if they are to be delivered in the US or Europe, and the chances are not good for receiving a calendar in time if you are outside of the US, Canada or Europe. So you had better hurry if you want a calendar before Friday!

Fortunately, 2010 is still 13 days away, and so you still have plenty of time to order the MotoMatters.com calendar, and get the maximum value out of the  14 beautiful photographs by Scott Jones the calendar features. If you need a stocking filler or New Year's gift for friends or family you won't be seeing until after the holiday season, this is still the ideal gift.

Full details of the calendar are available on the MotoMatters.com calendar ordering page, but the highlights of the large 12"x18.5" calendar are one of Scott Jones' fantastic photos every month, as well as a monthly grid with the race weekends for that month clear marked, showing all three days of on-track action for the MotoGP and World Superbike series, as well as birthdays for most of the world's top motorcycle racers. An example page is shown below, while the calendar ordering page has the lowdown on the calendar. Best of all, 10% of the calendar's purchase price goes towards Riders for Health, helping provide health care in remote regions of the world.

Flammini: "Production-Based Bikes Won't Be Competitive In MotoGP"

The two parties on either side of the argument over the 2012 rules in MotoGP - 1000cc, a maximum bore size of 81mm and the freedom to enter production-based engines - are circling slowly, sizing each other up. And from time to time, one party or another fires a broadside, in the hope of exposing weaknesses in the other side's arguments.

Today is no exception. In an interview in the German-language magazine Speedweek, Paolo Flammini took another potshot at the MotoGP series over the proposal to allow production-based engines to be used. This time, though, the man who runs the World Superbike championship together with his brother Maurizio tried another tack, by claiming that the production-based bikes just would not be competitive.

"I can't see any way that someone with [a production-based bike] can be competitive," Flammini told Speedweek. "Production-based bikes will lower the level of the World Championship." Flammini did say that he was sympathetic to MotoGP returning to a larger capacity. "I can see that the future for MotoGP will be 1000cc, but everything should be a prototype: Engine AND chassis!" Flammini said.

Fiat Yamaha Video Interviews - Behind The Scenes with Davide Brivio, Gigi Soldano, Laura Motta

Yesterday, we brought you video interviews with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, provided by the Fiat on the Web project. Today we have three more videos for you, courtesy of the same Fiat on the Web team. And today's videos actually provide an insight into a side of MotoGP that doesn't get so much coverage, what goes on off the track.

First up is an interview with team manager Davide Brivio, in which he talks about his background and how he first started working with Valentino Rossi. Brivio talks about Rossi's strengths and lack of weaknesses, and about his emotions at winning the world championship with Rossi again.

Fiat Video Interviews With Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo

One of the more interesting developments in the world of motorcycle roadracing this year has been the explosion of internet coverage of the sport, and especially of MotoGP. That development has been going on outside the paddock for a long time now (both with conventional news sites such as GPOne.com and Superbikeplanet.com, and with blogs and podcasts such as Motoblog.it and MotoGPOD), but the same development is starting to creep into the paddock, the updating (and vast improvement) of the official MotoGP.com website being perhaps the prime example.

But pressure is coming especially from sponsors. The Fiat Yamaha team is a prime example, with Fiat's own Fiat On The Web website hooking into the new wave of social networking websites, use of which has skyrocketed this year. The website's team have made optimum use of websites such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter to get their message across, and engage fans and sell their brand. Two examples of how to do this are below: At the end of the season, the Fiat On The Web team interviewed some of the key - and colorful - figures inside the Fiat Yamaha team, and posted the results up on Youtube. You can watch the first two of those interviews - with riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo - below:

MotoCzysz To Enter MotoGP In 2012?

From the moment it was first suggested by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, the aims of the proposed switch of the MotoGP class to 1000cc were crystal clear: To reduce costs and to increase the number of bikes on the grid. The official announcement of the basic rules for the 2012 MotoGP season reinforced that objective. The idea behind the move is that the larger engine capacity allows power to be produced more cheaply, and by limiting the engine bore to 81mm, revs can be capped, keeping maintenance costs down. The bore limitation, together with a more relaxed attitude towards the interpretation of the word "prototype" will make it possible for privateer teams to modify production engines for use in prototype chassis, making participation in MotoGP significantly cheaper, in theory at least.

It was also hoped that the switch to 1000cc would attract new entrants to the series. The reduced cost of horsepower and, more importantly, the reduced role of sophisticated electronics - which the current crop of horrifically peaky 800cc four-strokes require to make them rideable - should put competing MotoGP within reach of smaller manufacturers. The hope is that the new rules will mean that designing and building a MotoGP bike can be done for a couple of million dollars, rather than many tens of millions the current bikes cost to build.

It looks like the Grand Prix Commission may have already scored their first success in this area. Over on the MotoCzysz company website, Michael Czysz has posted a blog entry suggesting that the Portland, Oregon-based company could be considering breathing new life into their shelved MotoGP project, the MotoCzysz C1. "I believe based on the rules that MotoCzysz could have an extremely competitive 81mm 4 cylinder motorcycle ready for the grid by 2012," Czysz wrote.

De Angelis To Scot Moto2 Team, Elias Close To Moto2 Deal

Of the six (or seven, depending on how you count them) MotoGP riders to lose their places in the premier class after the 2009 season, Alex de Angelis and Toni Elias surely deserved it the least. Both men had a difficult early part of the season, left waiting for their Gresini Honda team to find the funds for the upgraded chassis for the team's Honda RC212Vs. Once they received the new parts both Elias and De Angelis made a big leap forward in performance, turning into regular front runners. By then, though it was too late, and the available seats in MotoGP had already filled up.

For a while, it looked like Alex de Angelis would stay in MotoGP, but the negotiations between the Scot Honda team and the government of the Republic of San Marino, the tiny city state foundered on the rock of money, the San Marino tourist board simply unable to stump up the necessary cash to run a full season of MotoGP.

That did not mean that the deal was over, however. Today, the Scot Racing team announced that De Angelis will be racing with the team in Moto2 next season. The tourist board of San Marino will finance the team, stepping into the role of title sponsor, a much more affordable prospect in Moto2 than in MotoGP.

Andrew Pitt To Take 2nd BMW WSBK Ride, No Room For Mladin?

There has been much commotion in the World Superbike paddock recently, much of it caused by one man: Mat Mladin. The seven time AMA Superbike champion had intimated on social networking service Twitter that he had received a couple of "very interesting" offers to race in World Superbikes in 2010, though he didn't mention any names. He left that to the rest of the motorcycle racing world, and they did not fail him.

The most obvious candidate would be Yoshimura Suzuki, but nothing but a deadly silence has emanated from the Japanese Suzuki team in response to those suggestions, leading most commentators to believe that this is not the option Mladin was referring too. The British publication Motorcycle News knew better, linking Mladin to the second seat at the satellite Reitwagen Racing BMW team, to partner the young Austrian Roland Resch.

Stiggy to Reitwagen?

Stiggy Racing may be no more but team owner Johan Stigefelt has reportedly wasted no time in securing gainful employment for 2010.  Stigefelt is tipped to step into the role of technical director of the increasingly interesting Reitwagen Racing BMW privateer team. Stigefelt will also bring ex 500GP and WSBK rider Peter Goddard with him from Stiggy racing to fill the role of suspension specialist.

Reitwagen will also bring another rider on board to team with Roland Resch but that individual will likely not be recently retired 7-time AMA Superbike champion Mat Mladin, who allegedly could not agree to terms with team manager Andy Werth. Resch claims that Makoto Tamada and John Hopkins are under consideration, but as far as he knows, no agreement has been formalized.

Stiggy Honda Shuts Up Shop

Johan Stigefelt's adventure into World Superbike racing is at an end. The team today issued a press release announcing that the financial situation in which they found themselves meant that they had been forced to call it a day, and that therefore the Stiggy Racing Team would not be competing in either the World Superbike or World Supersport championship next year.

The press release left no doubt as to where the team felt the blame lay. "The decision has been made after a close evaluation of the team's poor economic situation which was created during this year's expanded venture by participating in both Championship classes. A huge financial project that was poorly executed by the team's investors as a result of failure to [fulfil] their financial commitments for the 2009 season." So went the explanation from Stiggy. The reference is to the split between Stiggy and their financial partners S2 Racing, which occurred amidst much acrimony on October 1st of this year.

Order Now If You Want Your MotoMatters 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar Before Christmas!

The Holiday season is nearly upon us, and anyone looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, friend or family member who is crazy about bikes need look no further than our very own 2010 Motorcycle racing calendar, allowing the motorcycle racing fan in your life to organize their year around the most exciting sport in the world. Of course, at this time of year, the world's post offices are slowly starting to clog up with gifts and cards, making deliveries later and later. So if you want to order the most beautiful motorcycle racing calendar on the market, the time is now. If you don't order the calendar within the next couple of days, the chances of the calendar arriving in time to be gift-wrapped and placed under the tree will start to diminish. So better to be safe than sorry, and order your copy today.

Full details of the calendar are available on the MotoMatters.com calendar ordering page, but the highlights of the large 12"x18.5" calendar are one of Scott Jones' fantastic photos every month, as well as a monthly grid with the race weekends for that month clear marked, showing all three days of on-track action for the MotoGP and World Superbike series, as well as birthdays for most of the world's top motorcycle racers. An example page is shown below, while the calendar ordering page has the lowdown on the calendar. Best of all, 10% of the calendar's purchase price goes towards Riders for Health, helping provide health care in remote regions of the world.

The "Ben Spies" Rule - Limited Engines For Wildcards

Yamaha's announcement that they would be fielding Ben Spies as a wildcard rider in the final MotoGP round at Valencia saw fans and journalists rushing to their rule books. The MotoGP regulars were mostly on the last of the 5 engines they had been permitted to use in the last 7 races, but how did the engine limit rule affect Ben Spies? Just how many engines did a wildcard rider have? The answer, it turned out, was as many as Yamaha wanted to give him, for the rule book made no mention of wildcards, and therefore wildcard riders could use as many as they liked. In Ben Spies' case, this was basically two - one in each of the two Yamaha M1's he was using, but in theory, he could have popped a fresh engine in every time he went out.

Members of the Grand Prix Commission admitted at the time that it was an anomaly, while pointing out at the same time that it was mostly irrelevant. MotoGP rarely - and tragically - sees wildcard riders take part in races, and so the lack of a rule would have no real effect on the outcome of the championship.

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