Ever since the announcement that MotoGP will return to 1000cc in 2012, a war has been brewing between Infront Motor Sports, the commercial rights holders for the World Superbike series, and the FIM and Dorna. IMS, in the person of Paolo Flammini, has threatened on several occasions to defend what they believe to be their exclusive right to organize production-based motorcycle racing against any move by the FIM - or rather, the Grand Prix Commission, in which the FIM, Dorna, the manufacturers' association MSMA and the teams' assocation IRTA all have a seat - to allow the use of production engines in the MotoGP class.
The FIM has come out clearly on the side of MotoGP, with Vito Ippolito stating clearly that the World Superbike contract does not pose an obstacle to the use of production engines in MotoGP. Ippolito's argument is that IMS' contract grants them the exclusive right to organize races for production motorcycles, not motorcycles using production engines.
Despite the fact that the proposal to return to a 1000cc capacity was made by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna have kept very quiet on the whole affair. Yesterday, however, in an interview with the Spanish website Motoworld.es, Ezpeleta spoke out to clarify Dorna's position, though he did so very carefully. He emphasized that he did not want to get into a war of words with IMS over the definition of a production engine. "Nowhere will we say anything about using production engines, nothing, nowhere." Ezpeleta told Motoworld.es. "Nor will we draw up a definition of whether an engine is a production engine or not."
There was some confusion after the DMG announced the schedule for the 2010 AMA Pro Racing series. For on the calendar for the US national Superbike series, there was a gaping hole where Laguna Seca should have been. In previous years, the AMA had shared the weekend with the MotoGP series, providing a necessary time filler for the missing support classes. Without the AMA, the Laguna Seca MotoGP weekend would be a pretty quiet weekend.
The problem, it seems, was just temporary. The leading US racing magazine Roadracing World is reporting that the DMG has reached a deal with Laguna Seca after all, and that the teams are being told to start booking hotel rooms in anticipation of the AMA series running at the Laguna Seca MotoGP weekend on July 25th, 2010.
Since the announcement that Motomatters.com would be producing another motorcycle racing calendar, our inboxes have been filling up with requests when it was going on sale. We can finally answer that question with the words "today!" The printing has been completed, and the printed pages are waiting to be collated, bound and packaged ready for shipping. The first copies will be going out to customers late next week, but they should arrive in plenty of time for the holiday season.
The calendar is bigger than last year's edition (at 12" by 9.25", or 12x18.5 when folded open), and features one of Scott Jones' fantastic photographs on the upper side of each month, with the calendar grid on the bottom half of the page. The months contain the complete MotoGP and World Superbike calendars, along with the birthdays of all of the MotoGP riders, most of the World Superbike riders, and selected riders from other series. Race weekends are clearly marked, showing all three days of on-track action for the MotoGP and World Superbike series, providing an essential tool for planning your weekends without missing out on the world's greatest motorcycle racing series. US customers should be aware that the week starts on Monday in the calendar grid, in European style, to highlight the race weekends more clearly. At its heart, the calendar features a double-page spread of the 2009 MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi. See below for the layout of the calendar, or the calendar ordering page for full details of size and printing methods.
BMW has been making a big push in the marketing of its new sportbike, the S1000RR. Facing the difficulty of persuading the public that their products are more than just long-distance tourers or specialist curiosities, the German manufacturer has concentrated its efforts on racing, hiring Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus to contest the World Superbike championship and give them a presence on the global stage.
Now that the S1000RR has been officially launched (onboard footage from the launch available here), BMW is putting a big push into getting more of its bikes on to Superbike grids around the world. At least two teams will be fielding the bikes in the German IDM championship, with former World Supersport rider Barry Veneman joining the ranks of BMW riders in the IDM earlier this week. BMW will be fielding a two-man team in the Superstock class in BSB next year, and rumors continue that the factory will be supplying bikes and support to a team for the AMA series as well.
There has been a good deal of talk in recent weeks about the proposed changes to the MotoGP class, but confusion still exists about exactly what those changes entail. When even our good friends, the normally extremely well-informed Jules Cisek and Jim Race over at the MotoGPOD podcast get the proposals wrong, then it's time for some clarification. And so we have set out below the state of the proposed rule changes, as they stand now, prior to the Grand Prix Commission meeting scheduled for December 11th, 2009.
The agreement governing the current rules package (i.e. 800cc prototypes) is due to expire at the end of 2011, and so the new rules will come into effect for the 2012 MotoGP season. Under the proposals currently being studied, the class will consist of the following machine types:
Yesterday's debut for the Tech 3 Moto2 bike saw success mixed with problems, and justified the decision to run a shakedown test at a track close to the team first. But the problems which arose made the team decide to run a second day of testing, to iron out the problems found on Tuesday. So Tech 3's Moto2 crew, led by engineer Guy Coulon, headed off to the circuit at Alès in the south of France to complete a second day of testing.
The decision had been made because the first day of testing at Ledenon had been so short, Herve Poncharal told Motomatters.com. "We could only run [at Ledenon] between 11am and 3pm," Poncharal said, "and because of the noise regulations, we could not run between 12 and 2." The first how, between 11 and 12, had been perfect, Poncharal said, but a niggling electrical fault had ruined the final hour, between 2 and 3pm. "It was a stupid problem. There was a faulty earth, and the bike would run fine, then just cut out," the Tech 3 boss told us. "It took us a long time to figure out the problem." By that time, the conditions on track were too cold to continue, and the team decided to run a second day's testing at Alès.
The move back to 1000cc by the MotoGP class is looking ever more inevitable. The issue was discussed in the Grand Prix Commission at Valencia, where the MSMA finally accepted that the switch was inevitable, reversing its previous opposition to the change after its own proposal - to lease 800cc engines which private teams could then build their own chassis round - was rejected. The chief drivers behind this project have been Dorna and the FIM, though IRTA is also fully supportive of the scheme, and FIM President Vito Ippolito once again emphasized the importance of making the switch back to 1000cc in an interview with the Italian magazine Motosprint, which Autosport has summarized on its site.
Speaking ahead of the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, due to be held on December 11th at the FIM's headquarters in Geneva, Ippolito told Motosprint "The 800cc formula hasn't worked because the power is about the same, while corner speed has increased. And costs have increased too." He pointed out that the manufacturers had accepted the need for change, and that nothing stood in the way of the regulations being changed after the current agreement with the MSMA ends in 2012.
The day of reckoning draws ever nearer for Aprilia's Moto2 project. The meeting which Aspar's Jorge Martinez was due to have with Aprilia on Tuesday has been put back to Thursday, but the chances of the bikes actually making it onto the track appear to be dwindling. In an interview with the respected Italian site GPOne.com, Aprilia's head of racing Gigi dall'Igna was somber about the project's future.
"Aprilia will not be competing in Moto2, that much is certain," dall'Igna said. "The decision has been taken at the very highest level and is not open to discussion. What we are trying to do is save the work we have done so far. For this reason we are looking at handing over the project to a third party, but that's not a simple task. We would need to reach agreement on several key points and we would have to be able to trust the partner we chose completely."
The Tech 3 Moto2 bike made its on-track debut yesterday, at the Ledonon circuit in the south of France. French youngster Florian Marino took the bike out for its shakedown test, to make sure that everything was working correctly prior to the bike's official debut at the Moto2 tests at Valencia next week. The test was a success, in both positive and negative terms, as the bike performed well, until the test was cut short by electrical problems. But this kind of issue is exactly what a shakedown test is meant to reveal.
After the test, the French magazine Sport Bikes spoke to Marino about what he thought of the bike, and how it compared to both the 125s and the Superstock 600 the Frenchman had ridden this season. "This bike is very agile and very light at 140kg, and it feels more like a 125 than a 600," Marino told Sport Bikes. "Because the chassis is so rigid, you can run into corners really fast."
While the purists - and there are many - are still lamenting the loss of the two-stroke 250cc bikes, now reduced to scrap metal in crushers in Italy and Japan, the pace of developments in the world of Moto2 is starting to pick up.
Tuesday sees the Tech 3 team debut its long awaited Moto2 bike, which features a chassis designed and built by the team under the watchful eye of chief engineer Guy Coulon. The bike is due to hit the track for a shakedown test at the Ledenon circuit in the south of France, though some confusion over who is due to ride the bike. The original reports over on Crash.net made it clear that Tech 3 would not be flying their Japanese rider Yuki Takahashi back from Japan to ride the bike, leaving Raffaele de Rosa as a possibility. According to the French site Caradisiac.com, however, Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal has granted the young French rider Florian Marino the honor of being the first man to ride the bike, after promising him that reward if the former Red Bull Rookie finished on the podium this year. At Brno, Marino did even better, winning the race and claiming his prize.
The faltering global economy continues to take its toll on motorcycle racing paddocks around the world. Today, the GSE Racing team announced that unless they can find a title sponsor, they will be forced to close up shop and quit BSB next season. Despite winning the last two BSB titles - with Shane Byrne in 2008 and Leon Camier in 2009 - GSE lost their title sponsor Airwaves (a brand of chewing gum) at the end of the 2009 season, and GSE boss Colin Wright has so far failed to find a replacement. The failure to find funding has meant that the team has been forced to notify all of their current staff that they are likely to lose their jobs at the end of the year.
The World Superbike schedule underwent a serious shakeup at the start of the 2009 season. The introduction of the new Superpole format had already meant that part of Saturday had been changed, but further cuts, including the scrapping of all on-track activity on Friday morning, were introduced as part of the cost-cutting measures introduced to help WSBK face up to the financial crisis.
Now that the situation has calmed down a little, that schedule has once again been revised. The changes are fairly small, consisting mostly of slight adjustments to the timing of events. The biggest change for the World Superbike class is that the timing of Superpole has been changed. Instead of three 12 minute sessions, the sessions will be different lengths. Superpole 1 will be 14 minutes, Superpole 2 will be 12 minutes and Superpole 3 will be just 10 minutes long. In addition, there will be a 25 minute break between the end of Free Practice 2 and Superpole, instead of the current 15 minutes.
With the announcement that the Pedercini team will be back on the grid for 2010, the World Superbike paddock is starting to fill out. The addition of Pedercini brings the total number of entries up to 20 which, while well down on the nearly 30 which started the season in 2009, is still a reasonable size given the current economic climate. One factor that is both heartening and vaguely worrying is that 14 of those riders have been entered by factory (or factory-backed) teams, with 7 manufacturers fielding two-man teams. Having 7 manufacturers in the series is a demonstration of the rude health of the liter sportsbike market, but just 6 privateer entries shows the difficulties in raising sponsorship for teams wishing to take part in the series.
The other factor of note is the very high number of British or British-based riders in the series. Johnny Rea, Cal Crutchlow, James Toseland, Leon Camier, Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes and Shane Byrne are all British citizens, while Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli lives in the UK with his British wife. Add in the three Australians - Chris Vermeulen, Troy Corser and Broc Parkes - and the paddock has an incredibly Anglophone feel to it.
After a difficult 2009, the World Superbike paddock is slowly starting to fill up. Although generously endowed with factory-backed entries, with 7 manufacturers submitting 14 full-factory (or nearly full-factory, in the case of Ten Kate Honda) supported riders, beyond that the pickings are rather slim, with just the Althea Ducati team, Echo CRS and Guandalini Aprilia adding 4 more riders.
To their numbers can be added the Pedercini Kawasaki team. Rumors floating round the WSBK paddock had previously hinted at Pedercini being forced to pull out of the series for 2010 due to a lack of funds, but Dutch exhaust manufacturer Laser has stepped in to help. Laser Exhausts will be taking the place of previous partners Akrapovic, and providing financial support to allow the Pedercini team to field two riders in the World Superbike class and two in the FIM Superstock 1000 class. No rider signings have yet been announced.
In the second of the separate rookie testing sessions, Hector Barbera and the Aspar team wrapped up a rain-hit program of testing yesterday at Jerez. The test was run in conjunction with Ducati's test team, consisting of Vito Guareschi and newcomer Franco Battaini, contracted to take some of the strain from Guareschi as he takes on his new role as Marlboro Ducati team manager.
After being rained off on day one, the second day of testing took place under sunny skies and mild temperatures, and Barbera spent the day running back-to-back tests between the Ducati Desmosedici GP9 and GP10, putting in stints of ten laps to adapt to the bike and test some engine and traction control settings. The team emphasized that the purpose of the test was not to chase lap times, but to learn more about the Ducati and make the switch from a 250 to a MotoGP bike.
"At the end of the day, I put in twenty really good laps, and I'm happy," Barbera said in a press release afterwards. "The times were not outstanding, but I can feel that we are definitely on the right road." Barbera ended the test with a fastest time of 1'41.7, some 1.9 seconds off Valentino Rossi's lap record set during the race in May this year. That time would have put him near the bottom of the fastest race laps, but the conditions at the race were considerably more favorable.