Ducatis dominated the first qualifying session for the World Superbike class at Valencia, with 6 Ducatis finishing in the top 8. Althea's Carlos Checa was fastest again, as he had been during FP1, with Pata's Jakub Smrz and Checa's Althea teammate Shane Byrne in 3rd. Max Biaggi was the first of the non Ducatis, ahead of the leader in the title race Leon Haslam. The factory Xerox Ducatis follow, Michel Fabrizio leading Noriyuki Haga, with DFX Corse's Lorenzo Lanzi rounding out the top 8.
Results of QP1 for the World Superbike class:
Katsuaki Fujiwara lead a clean sweep for the Motocard.com Kawasaki team during the first session of free practice for the World Supersport class at Valencia. Fujiwara just pipped his Spanish teammate Joan Lascorz, but both men finished well ahead of the following pack. Chaz Davies took his ParkinGo Triumph to 3rd, just ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu and Eugene Laverty.
Carlos Checa set the fastest time in the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class at Valencia, the Althea Ducati rider finishing a tenth of a second ahead of Michel Fabrizio on the factory Xerox Ducati. Two four cylinders took 3rd and 4th, with Sterilgarda Yamaha's James Toseland ahead of BMW's Troy Corser. The two men leading the championship, Alitalia Aprilia's Max Biaggi and Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam, were 5th and 6th, while Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea finished ahead of the second factory Ducati of Nori Haga.
Results of the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class at Valencia:
Regular readers of MotoMatters.com will be aware of our admiration of and friendship with the leading Italian motorcycle website GPOne.com. The site is a goldmine of information for motorcycle racing fans, and the deep roots which the site's writers have in the paddock allow the site to provide both news and in-depth analysis of MotoGP and World Superbikes better than probably any other site in the world. The only minor drawback for English speakers is the fact that the site is in Italian, but that is a hurdle which is easier to clear than you might think.
So it was a disturbing sign when GPOne.com went off air in the period between the Portimao WSBK race and the Qatar MotoGP season opener. But its absence was for a very good reason. The people who run the site were hard at work completely redesigning and updating the site, as well as switching it to a new content management back end.
They guys over at OnTheThrottle have been holding a series of live pre-race shows with the World Superbike commentating team Jonathan Green and Steve Martin, in which they talk through the upcoming WSBK races and the issues likely to be a feature of the weekend. Fortunately, these videos are also available after the fact, for people who missed the live show and wanted to catch up.
In the latest episode, Green, Martin and OTT's Dave Williams discuss the chances of Ducati dominating the weekend at Valencia, about tires, and about Leon Haslam's chance of holding on to his lead throughout the weekend. Enjoy the video:
Whenever I go to a MotoGP race, it seems that something weird always happens. Not just the kind of weird stuff that happens when you go on vacation - that happens often enough - but stuff that catches you off guard and leaves baffled and bewildered.
So it was this morning. After a very long night finishing up my season preview and an account of the Fiat On The Web team's adventures - three quarters of which I lost, due to my own stupidity, and had to retype - I awoke to an eerie silence. In a place where daytime temps can reach 40 degrees, even this early in the year, that silence means trouble, because it replaces the hiss of the air conditioning unit, the only thing that lies between you and a lot of sweating, puffing, and fanning yourself while you attempt not to boil.
A quick flick of the light switch proved that it wasn't the airco that was the problem, but that the electricity was out entirely. Still, there was a faint wireless signal and my laptop had plenty of battery left, so I finished up some work and decided to head to the circuit. The late night meant I had overslept, and the Fiat On The Web team had gone on their road trip without me - a trip Alex later reported was fun, but hot - so I headed downstairs to the car hire desk in the hotel.
At the last preseason test of the year at Qatar, run under the floodlights to allow the riders to get used to the conditions, five riders went down in a period of thirty minutes late on in the test, as dew forming on the track made conditions treacherous. After that test, several riders called for the time of the MotoGP race to be brought forward, from 11pm local time to 9 or 10.
In the pre-race press conference, Valentino Rossi repeated his preference for bringing the race forward, a suggestion which received the support of both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden later that evening.
But at a press conference held to open the Qatar MotoGP round, attended by Carmelo Ezpeleta, the CEO of Dorna, and Nasser Al-Attiyah, head of the Qatari motorsports federation, the Dorna CEO was not convinced a change would be necessary. Ezpeleta felt that conditions had changed since the last test, obviating the need to change.
The start of the 2010 season finds MotoGP in a deeply schizophrenic state. The MotoGP class remains sparsely populated, with just 17 riders on the grid - despite prospects of one new manufacturer running wildcards and another looking to enter the series full time once the paddock returns to Europe. Meanwhile, in the brand new Moto2 class which replaces the 250cc two strokes, 40 riders are scheduled to take to the start at Qatar.
This year sees a bumper crop of rookies enter MotoGP, bringing some much-needed fresh blood into the class, along with a healthy dose of excitement. At the same time, the podium lineup at every race is as good as fixed, with the Fantastic Four almost certain to claim the lion's share of the silverware, leaving the rest of the field to pick over what remains.
The announcement a couple of days ago that I was attending Qatar as a guest of the Fiat Yamaha Team and the Fiat on the Web team drew one comment drawing into question whether I could maintain my journalistic integrity in the face of such generosity. The first day of the Fiat Yamaha Team's road trip to Losail shed some light on that question, and on the question of motorcycle racing in general.
The day started at the hotel, where we were picked up by Aref Akhal, the Fiat Group's importer for Qatar, and a pearl white Fiat 500. The crew immediately started the process of transforming it into an Official Team Vehicle.
The latest in the long line of World Superbike riders to be interviewed by the assembled press in the run up to the US round of WSBK at Miller Motorsports Park at the end of May was Max Biaggi. Unfortunately, MotoMatters.com was not able to participate, as we were on a flight to Qatar at the time the call was scheduled. We weren't missed, and the people who could attend came up with some pretty interesting questions for Biaggi to answer. In the interview, Biaggi talks about his two wins at Portimao, evaluates the relative strengths and weaknesses of the top teams in World Superbikes, explains why he decided against switching to F1 despite having had a test in a Ferrari, and admits that he still misses the two-stroke 500cc Grand Prix bikes. Well worth a read:
Moderator: Good morning, everybody. I'm John Gardner, the Media Manager at Miller Motorsports Park. This is the fourth in our series of teleconferences with riders in the HANNspree World Superbike Championship leading up to the Utah USA round, which will take place here at Miller Motorsports Park on Memorial Day weekend, May 29th to the 31st.
We are very pleased today to have with us Max Biaggi, who rides for the Alitalia Aprilia team and swept both rounds of the recent race in Portugal. He's currently second in the championship and is a legend in this sport. We're very honored to have you here, Max. Welcome.
Max Biaggi: Hi. Thank you.
Moderator: It was a big weekend for you in Portugal. How are things looking for you coming into Valencia this weekend?
Max Biaggi: Well, first of all, I'm very, very happy with the result we did in Portugal. And Valencia, I think, is going to be a good weekend for us. We'll be competitive with everybody there and possibly in the top three all the time. So, I'm quite confident for that.
The official MotoGP.com website is both a goldmine of information and the bane of many MotoGP fans' lives. The video section features literally thousands of fascinating video interviews, clips and of course, the live video feed of each race. True, the content is only available to paying subscribers, but the value offered for the €99.95 (or €79.95 for standard quality) is actually rather good.
The one gripe that everyone had about the site and video subscription was that if you missed the live race - not uncommon for US or Australian subscribers, for example - and went to website to watch the recorded race, it was impossible to do so without running across spoilers, telling you the outcome of the race before you had a chance to view it. MotoGP.com received a barrage of complaints about this problem, and have finally come up with a solution: A no-spoilers page.
If there's one experience that every red-blooded race fan craves, it's to actually a World Championship-spec machine. Tragically, fans can only sample these delights vicariously, through the experiences of the lucky few journalists who get to ride these things. Both teams and riders complain about these tests, rightly pointing out that the journos lucky enough to ride these bikes usually lack the skill to fully understand the bikes, and use them to their full potential. While that may be true - with a few notable exceptions - it is still a useful exercise, for it is as close to the reality of most ordinary bike fans as you can get.
Seen from outside, getting to follow the MotoGP circus around and flying from race to race sounds immeasurably glamorous. But just as any seasoned business traveler will tell you, the glamor soon wears thin. The day for me started out at the crack of dawn (and I'm not a morning person), traipsing off to Amsterdam airport, submitting myself to the ritual humiliation that is international air travel nowadays - nine parts theater, one part security - before boarding a short flight to Frankfurt, chasing around with just 40 minutes to transfer onto a Qatar Airways flight, being shouted at by the woman at the gate for attempting to board without a boarding pass, before finally settling into my (surprisingly roomy) economy class seat for the 5 hour flight to Qatar. The delay due to "technical problems" (not a phrase you are keen to hear before the plane has even taken off) kept us on the apron for an extra thirty minutes, but we were soon underway, and off to the sands of Arabia.
Whenever I meet readers and friends of MotoMatters.com, I am invariably asked the same question: What's it like in the paddock? Since earning entry to that hallowed ground, I have often wanted to share some of the experiences and the atmosphere in the MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks, but had never found - or never got round to finding - the appropriate outlet for such musings. MotoMatters.com is focused intently on news, analysis and background of MotoGP and World Superbikes, and fitting random observations into thenews and interviews we do would merely detract from what the core of our work. It was clear that MotoMatters.com needed some kind of blog, but with a million other things to do (mostly trying to raise money), the idea of a blog kept slipping down our list of priorities.