One announcement of interest at the Phillip Island MotoGP round was that Jorge Lorenzo's team manager, Daniele Romagnoli, would be stepping down from his role and pursuing a more technical and less managerial role elsewhere. Romagnoli, whose background was as a data engineer and then crew chief, was promoted to team manager to make way for Lorenzo's choice of crew chief Ramon Forcada. But like so many technicians who have been moved up to management, his engineering brain still itches to deal with technical problems, rather than the organizational headaches which face a team manager.
The question of who would take Romagnoli's place has puzzled the paddock over the past couple of weeks, but the German-language motorsports weekly Motorsport-Aktuell is reporting that the answer may be within the Yamaha family. According to MSA, Yamaha World Superbike team boss Massimo Meregalli could move up to MotoGP and take over the role vacated by Romagnoli.
Romagnoli, in turn, could well move into the World Superbike paddock. With Ben Spies taking Tom Houseworth into the MotoGP team with him, there could be a vacancy for a crew chief in the World Superbike garage. Suggestions at Sepang that Romagnoli could take the place of Andrea Dovizioso's crew chief Pete Benson were dismissed by a Honda spokesperson.
The 2010 MotoGP season is set to be a bumper year for rookies, with a grand total of 6 newcomers entering the class. Hiroshi Aoyama, Hector Barbera, Alvaro Bautista, Aleix Espargaro and Marco Simoncelli are all moving up to MotoGP from the 250cc class, while Ben Spies is parachuting in from World Superbikes. The influx of new blood into the class - including some of the most eagerly-awaited names for a couple of years - should add an extra level of excitement to MotoGP, with the new riders rated very highly indeed.
But this influx of fresh talent also faces the biggest challenge ever to confront MotoGP rookies: The cost-cutting measures put in place at the beginning of the year including huge reductions in testing, cutting the number of test days by half. This leaves the 6 rookies entering the class facing a new season, on a new bike and new tires, with just 8 days of testing behind them.
To remedy this situation, the MSMA, the association of manufacturers, is lobbying the Grand Prix Commission to schedule a special test just for the rookies at Sepang in November. The idea is to allow the newcomers a couple of extra days on the bike to allow them to start the year on a slightly more equal footing with the regular riders.
According to German site Motorsport Aktuell, Ant West, Martin Cardenas, James Ellison, and Gino (no relation to Jonny) Rea will all test in the next two days for the Yamaha Factory World Supersport team. West, who was scratched for the final race of the season at Portimao by his Stiggy Honda team because they couldn't afford to put him on the grid, has made no secret of the fact that he's looking for a ride for next season. Cardenas, who finished a creditable 12th in Sunday's race in a one-off ride for the RES Software Veidec Honda team, is currently under contract to the M4 Suzuki squad in the US, but with the American racing scene in a state of turmoil, it isn't 100% sure that there will be a series for the Colombian to race in the US in 2010. Ellison, who finished in second place behind Airwaves Yamaha teammate Leon Camier in the British Superbike series, is thought to have an option on his future services held by Yamaha. Gino Rea, who clinched the 600 Superstock crown at Portimao for Ten Kate Honda, will reportedly not be offered a seat on the Dutch team's WSS squad. The rider line-up is not the only issue in question concerning the factory Yamaha team.
Putting together the calendar for any motorcycle racing series is always a puzzle, depending on a huge number of factors such as circuit availability, travel distance, expense and a host of others. Alongside all of these more obvious factors, the MotoGP calendar also takes into account the scheduling of Formula One. An informal agreement exists between the bosses of Formula One and MotoGP to avoid direct calendar clashes wherever possible, in order to ensure the highest possible TV audiences for both series.
During the last round of changes to the Formula One calendar, the FIA appear to have forgotten about this gentlemen's agreement, as the revised dates have caused three clashes with the provisional 2010 MotoGP calendar announced earlier this summer. The three events that will fall on the same weekend are the Le Mans MotoGP round and the Monaco F1 Grand Prix; the Mugello MotoGP round and the Turkish F1 race; and perhaps most worrying of all, the Misano MotoGP race and the F1 race at Monza, just a few hundred kilometers up the A14 highway in Milan.
If you want to know what it's like to win your first World Superbike championship, you need wonder no more. Ben Spies spoke to Jonathan Green for the excellent OnTheThrottle TV website on Sunday evening about the season, the races at Portimao and how it feels to go to MotoGP as a champion.
The 2009 World Superbike season has been one for the ages. Close racing, victories snatched from the jaws of defeat (and vice-versa), heartbreak, triumph and an against-all-odds comeback from near-Palookaville. The ultimate protagonists were the stuff of central race-film casting: The lovable but aging hard-luck veteran who has been oh-so-close to the brass ring nearly too many times to count pitted against the hot young kid, a tall, cool Texan with a thousand mile stare.
As if according to a Hollywood script, our heroes came to the last round of the year in a virtual dead heat for the championship. All the ingredients for an epic confrontation were in place. Winning was essential, failure not an option. At the end of the day, one would saunter off into the sunset wreathed in victory and one would have the bitter ashes of defeat lingering on his palate, but they both would have fought the good fight and have acquitted themselves with honor. Unfortunately, real life has a way of being a bit more prosaic than what we would crave. Today's races, while hardly unexciting, were just that sort of reality check.
Race 1 -- All Fall Down
Results of World Superbike race 2 at Portimao, in which the World Championship was decided:
Results of the final World Supersport race at Portimao:
Results and summary of race 1 for the World Superbike class at Portimao:
Results of the rain-soaked MotoGP race at Sepang:
A downpour between the end of the 250cc race and the start of the MotoGP race has caused the race to be delayed. The rain has now ceased and the riders are heading out onto the track for the start, which has been delayed by 35 minutes. The track at Sepang dries very quickly in the tropical heat, but we are set for a flag-to-flag race at Sepang.