Another day, another signing. It's been fairly clear for some time that Andrea Dovizioso would be stepping up to MotoGP, and considering his long history with and loyal service to Honda, it was virtually unthinkable that he would be on anything other than a Honda. And so it came as no suprise when Dovizioso announced that he would be moving up to MotoGP on a Honda, but as obvious as the announcement was, just how and who he would be riding for was still left clouded in mystery.
Silly season is winding down, and seats are filling up, as the last of the rides still vacant start getting taken. The first of the official announcements was made yesterday, with Sylvain Guintoli signing to ride the Pramac d'Antin Ducati for 2008. Guintoli, all set to be rookie of the year, by virtue of being the only rider in the race, has nevertheless impressed the paddock with his quick learning and aggressiveness, and after losing his ride at Tech 3, looked certain to be signed somewhere.
The MotoGP free practice sessions at Estoril have so far followed an all too familiar pattern, and a rather dispiriting one for anyone who is not Casey Stoner, or one of Stoner's fans. From the very first free practice session, Stoner has once again come out and been the fastest rider on the track, every single outing. The only glimmer of hope for the opposition was that on Friday, Stoner's dominance wasn't quite as total as at previous tracks, with the afternoon's FP2 session ending with 16 riders within a second of Stoner's fastest lap.
For many of you, the loyal readers of this site, the working week after a race weekend begins on Monday morning, when you fire up your computer, and warm your brain up to optimum working temperature by sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading Kropotkin's report of Sunday's race. Now, you can remove the strange sense of mismatch from that experience by swapping your company-supplied standard white coffee mug for a MotoGPMatters.com one, complete with full color logo.
If there's been one topic which has consumed MotoGP this year, both inside and outside the paddock, it's been tires. Casey Stoner's runaway season has been laid partly at the door of Michelin's failure to cope with new tire regulations, killing the French rubber maker's chief advantage, which was building special tires on Saturday night for use on race day. Almost since the season opener at Qatar, speculation has been rife that the rules, which limit riders to 14 front tires and 17 rear tires, will be changed for next year, would be changed for the 2008 season.
With all the factory rides taken for 2008 ‘ despite Dani Pedrosa's continuing refusal to sign the new contract Repsol Honda have for hime ‘ the focus of the silly season has switched from the official to the satellite teams. The situation at the satellite Honda teams and at the Pramac d'Antin team is all very fluid, the only definite signing being Randy de Puniet at LCR Honda.
The pre-race press conference which takes place at every MotoGP round follows a pretty rigid format. A handful of riders are present on a podium, and field a selection of fairly predictable questions with similarly predictable answers. The whole affair has an air of tradition about it, such is the ritual of questions and answers.
There is something about the Circuito do Estoril which just exudes drama. Firstly, there's the location: Situated just a few miles from Portugal's wild Atlantic coast, with only a few hills between the track and the ocean, the next stop past the beach is Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The Spanish motorcycling journal Motociclismo.es is reporting that Jorge Martinez Aspar, the man behind the team dominating the 250 and 125 classes, turned down an offer of runnig a Dunlop-shod M1 in MotoGP from Yamaha.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a team that nobody loved. Their results had become ever more marginal, since a woefully underfunded season with World Superbike stars Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus. Yet though the results got worse after Hodgson and Xaus left, finances gradually started improving. Pramac, having lost their Honda tie up in 2004, found an alternative home with Luis d'Antin for 2005, and expanded to field two riders in 2006.