Two separate press conferences in two different countries gave two differing views on the conflict which has split the Aspar-backed Balatonring Team in two. In the Hungarian capital Budapest, Gabor Talmacsi spoke to the mainly Hungarian press to explain the circumstances which had led him to take the radical decision to split with his team. At around the same time, Jorge Martinez, boss of the Aspar team, held an impromptu press conference in the Aspar pit garage to explain his side of the story, and how he views the situation. Unsurprisingly, two completely different accounts emerged.
Hungarian journalist Ádám Haraszti and friend of MotoGPMatters.com was present at the Talmacsi press conference, and reported that Talmacsi appeared without his management, but had with him a lawyer who explained the contractual situation: as of Monday, 11 am CET, there is no official contract between Talmacsi and Team Aspar; Talmacsi's management had the right to cancel it.
Talmacsi said that he was pressured to accept contractual changes regarding media rights, sometimes even as he was about to get out on the racetrack. "For example on the first day of the Qatar GP, half an hour before the first session I was told if I don't sign the papers, I won't race at the weekend. I was very upset indeed. I rode FP1 in anger, I think that's why I won that. But I can't allow myself to ride under such influence. I'm going over 200 kph, I risk my life in every moment, I can't let such things happen," Talmacsi told reporters.
Regis Laconi has been seriously injured in a crash at Kyalami. The Frenchman, riding for the DFX Corse team, had just taken to the track when he crashed in a fast left hander, suffering injuries to his head and torso. It was immediately clear that Laconi was badly hurt, and after the medics had stabilized his condition, he was taken first to the trackside medical center, where it was decided to fly him to the nearby Sunninghill Hospital in Sandton for further examination.
At the hospital, they found suspected fractures in 5 vertebrae, fortunately without any damage to the spinal cord, and a CAT scan showed a severe cranial trauma, though it appears that were no neurological complications. Regis Laconi was moving his limbs, and is currently being kept in a clinically induced coma, and for this reason he has been placed on the danger list. He is due to be operated on early this evening to have two plates inserted to support his cracked vertebrae.
In a press release, the team wished him a speedy recovery, to which we add our own best wishes. Laconi had started the season very strongly, taking three fourth places at Phillip Island and Valencia, and looked capable of improvement. Hopefully, he will be back riding soon.
Kenan Sofuoglu topped the timesheets in the second free practice session for the World Supersport class at Kyalami, taking over from his Ten Kate team mate Andrew Pitt who was quickest in the first session of the day. The Turk had spent most of the session in third place, but shot to the top with just a couple of minutes to go. The session once again turned into a three-way battle between Sofuoglu, Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty and Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow. With 11 minutes to go, Fabien Foret briefly entered the top 3, before Andrew Pitt nipped in ahead of him, but neither man would be quick enough to hang on to a spot in the top 3.
The BE1 Triumphs are also running well at Kyalami, with Garry McCoy and Gianluca Nannelli close to the leaders for most of practice, finishing the session in 6th and 7th. The Kawasakis of Joan Lascorz and Katsuaki Fujiwara had less luck here than at previous rounds, only managing the 8th and 10th times.
The Laverty clan have a doubly strong presence in South Africa, with Eugene's brother Michael replacing Robbin Harms, and Michael is making an impressive debut. Laverty beat one of his team mates in the first session, but was faster than both of them this afternoon. Practice continues tomorrow, with qualifying due to take place in the afternoon.
Result of the World Supersport FP2 session at Kyalami:
The first session of free practice for the 250 class started rather tentatively at Le Mans, the track still drying from the rain which had disrupted the MotoGP session before it. Local boy and reigning 125cc champion Mike di Meglio made the early running, only to see Thomas Luthi take over as the times began to get a little more serious.
Marco Simoncelli was the next man to go seriously fast, holding on to the top spot for much of the rest of the session, but with 15 minutes to go Alvaro Bautista started to fly. The first man into the 1'39s, the Spaniard then put in a string of fast laps to end the day with the fastest time. The end of the session saw a flurry of activity, with riders almost literally tumbling over one another to catch Bautista (Hector Barbera and Angel Rodriquez had two bizarre single-rider crashes), after which Hiroshi Aoyama ended up with the 2nd fastest time, just over one tenth slower than Bautista, ahead of Bautista's Aspar team mate Mike di Meglio and Hector Barbera. Marco Simoncelli finished the day in 5th spot, but crashed after the chequered flag had fallen while on a hot lap. Practice continues tomorrow.
Results of the 250cc FP1 session at Le Mans:
The first qualifying practice for the World Superbike class saw Michel Fabrizio take provisional pole, the Italian Ducati rider continuing his run of form in practice. Unlike previous sessions, however, Fabrizio did not dominate the session entirely. Fabrizio stood atop the timesheets for the first 40 minutes, but with 18 minutes to go, Johnny Rea leapt ahead of the Italian, the HANNSpree Ten Kate rider the first man to dislodge the Xerox Ducati from the top spot.
It did not last, however, as 10 minutes later, Fabrizio was back again, and half a second faster than his previous best. Fabrizio would not be bested again during the session. Johnny Rea hung on to 2nd, but on his very final lap, Yamaha's Ben Spies shot up the standings from 16th to set the 3rd fastest time. The Yamahas had been languishing outside the top 10 for nearly all the session, but in the dying minutes both Spies and team mate Tom Sykes found a serious improvement. While Spies' time was good enough for a provisional front row, Sykes advanced from 15th up to 8th.
Leon Haslam occupies the last place on the provisional front row, the Stiggy Honda man much improved from Monza. Shinya Nakano heads up the 2nd row on the Aprilia, ahead of Xerox Ducati's Nori Haga and Jakub Smrz on the Guandalini Ducati, with Tom Sykes finishing up the row. Haga is still not at 100%, and has not yet made much of an impression during practice, but he still has two days to go before the race, and he is comfortably on course to make it into Superpole.
The replacement riders were a little more off the pace during the afternoon session, Sheridan Morais the best of them in 12th place, and well ahead of his temporary team mate Broc Parkes, while Gregorio Lavilla finished in 13th, 0.001 behind Morais.
The first session of free practice at Le Mans was eagerly awaited by a lot of the MotoGP riders, as it would see a return to the full one hour length. The original decision to cut practice to just 45 minutes was reversed at a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Jerez, and Le Mans was to be the first chance to take full advantage of the extra practice time. The weather gods thought otherwise, though, the rain and drizzle making conditions difficult for the last 25 minutes of the session, the track too dry for a wet setup, and too wet for slicks. The rain eased up slightly with 10 minutes to go, only to start again a couple of minutes later.
At the end of the confused session, it was Andrea Dovizioso who topped the timesheets, deposing Casey Stoner with half the session left. But it had taken Casey Stoner 25 minutes to take the top spot, the Australian going out for very short runs before coming back into the pits. Local boy Randy de Puniet made his bid for immortality by leading the session early on, finally finishing in 3rd place.
With the rain disrupting so much of the session, it is hard to draw any conclusions from the times set so far. We shall have to wait until tomorrow, and a couple more full hours of practice and qualifying before we know just how the relative strengths of the field stand.
Results of MotoGP FP1 at Le Mans:
|3||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'36.293||0.157||0.099|
|16||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'38.323||2.187||0.291|
Free practice for the World Supersport class saw a return to the pattern we expected before the start of the season, with the Ten Kate riders at the top of the timesheets. Benefiting from being the only Supersport riders to have tested here back in December, Kenan Sofuoglu led the first half of the session, relieved by team mate Andrew Pitt in the second half of the session. Behind the Ten Kate riders, Cal Crutchlow was 3rd fastest, taking over the position from Eugene Laverty in the last third of the session. Once again, the local riders were impressive, with South African Rob Portman setting the 12th fastest time of the session. And Eugene Laverty's brother Michael had a solid debut, beating one of his team mates, but still 0.7 behind the other. Practice continues this afternoon.
Results of World Supersport FP1 at Kyalami
Result of the first session of free practice for the 125 class at Le Mans:
Practice started on a damp track, the overnight rain not yet having cleared, but the sun and wind soon dried out the track, leaving only a couple of puddles, one of which caught Nico Terol out, crashing as he passed under the Dunlop Bridge, the shade just enough to leave standing water.
The usual suspects ended the session on top, Andrea Iannone leading the Aspar bikes of Julian Simon and Sergio Gadea. Bradley Smith struggled for some of the session, before finishing in 5th spot, while fellow Brits Scott Redding and Danny Webb finished in 11th and 16th respectively. American Cameron Beaubier was two places behind in 18th.
The Haojue bikes continue to struggle, neither Michi Ranseder nor Matthew Hoyle managing to qualify. The paddock also welcomed a female rider, French wildcard rider Ornella Ongaro. Ongaro was just outside the qualifying time, but should be able to find enough to get on the grid. Ongaro is the first of a pair of female wildcards in world championship series, with Melissa Paris due to run at Miller Motorsports park as a wildcard in two weeks' time.
Results of FP1:
Results of the World Superbike FP1 session at Kyalami:
The session got off to a bad start, with Regis Laconi crashing on the first lap, causing the session to be red flagged. Once the session got underway again, Michel Fabrizio picked up where he left off, almost immediately taking the lead with a big gap back to the next man, team mate Noriyuki Haga. Haga chipped away at Fabrizio's lead, but the Italian stood very firmly at the top of the standings.
It was only towards the end of the session that riders started to make an impression on Fabrizio, with Carlos Checa, Johnny Rea, and Leon Haslam all getting within 1/10th of a second of the Italian. Shane Byrne finally started setting results more in keeping with his status as BSB champion, the Briton finishing 6th fastest, just 0.431 off Fabrizio. The replacement riders did pretty well too, Gregorio Lavilla taking the 8th fastest time on Brendan Roberts' Guandalini Ducati, and South African rider Sheridan Morais putting the Kawasaki of Makoto Tamada 7th fastest, both men profiting from previous experience here.
The Yamahas are some way off the pace, Ben Spies never better than 5th fastest, and finishing the session in 12th, two places behind team mate Tom Sykes. But the field is pretty close, with less than three quarters of a second between Fabrizio in 1st and Ryuichi Kiyonari in 14th.
Results of FP1:
This weekend, MotoGP moves from the site of one great motorcycle racing party to the location of another. But while MotoGP is at the center of the party at Jerez, in Le Mans, the party was over four weeks ago and lasted the entire duration of the race. The contrast illustrates the difference between France and its more southerly neighbor: both countries are mad about motorsport and motorcycle racing, but the Spanish love sprint racing, while for the French, if the race lasts less than 8 hours it's barely worthy of the name.
France is truly the home of endurance racing. Two of the two-wheeled discipline's greatest events take place here, the Bol d'Or, a 24 hour race currently held at Magny-Cours, and the Le Mans 24 hour race, as well as the biggest car endurance race in the world, the 24 Heures du Mans. The cars use the glorious 13.6 kilometer long Circuit de la Sarthe - including the once terrifying Mulsanne Straight, to which two chicanes have been added to slow the cars down - but that vast track is considered unsuitable for motorcycles, the bikes unlikely to last being thrashed down the Mulsanne Straight at full throttle too many times.
So the bikes run the shortened 4.2 kilometer Bugatti Circuit, a much more restrained, some might even say boring, affair. The track layout vaguely resembles a giant clothes peg, with the two prongs of the Chappelle and Garage Vert corners separated by the Musee hairpin, and a simpler section leading through Garage Bleu to the final turn at Raccordement, before hitting the front straight again.
Stop And Go
Like Motegi, which it also resembles, the track is mostly about stability under braking and hard acceleration out of corners. The front straight leads into the Dunlop Curve, and then the Dunlop Chicane, the Curve being the brave part, while the Chicane is the corner where the first lap pile ups tend to occur. It's then a matter of hard-on-the-gas, hard-on-the-brakes through La Chappelle, Musee, Garage Vert and the straights that connect them, before the long back straight down to Chemin aux Boeufs, a faster chicane which caught Nicky Hayden out so badly in 2007.
The World Superbike series returns to Kyalami in South Africa for the first time since 2002, and through no particular fault of Infront Motor Sport, the series couldn't have chosen a worse time to visit such a physical and technical track. A large part of the field is either injured or has been replaced due to injury, leaving the injured and unfamiliar to struggle to get the bike round the difficult circuit. What's more, Kyalami is located on the high plain of South Africa's eastern plateau, and the elevation takes its toll on both bikes and riders. At Monza, an injured rider could rest a little down the long straights. At Kyalami, that's virtually impossible.
The track is new to some, and all too familiar to others. The manufacturers designated teams tested here back in December last year, and a number of the veterans have raced at Kyalami in the past. Perhaps half the riders on the World Superbike grid will have ridden here previously, while a far smaller proportion of the World Supersport grid will have seen the South African track before.
With little previous form to go on, this leaves the race a rather unpredictable affair, apart from the pattern which has dominated the season so far. The races are likely to be shared between Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga again, Spies so far managing to maintain his 50% win ratio, while Haga continues to finish either 1st or 2nd. But Haga's mask of reliability slipped at Monza, if through no fault of his own.
Troy Bayliss concluded the three-day test at Mugello today, and the question on everybody's lips has finally been answered: How fast would Bayliss go? 1'51.2 is the answer.
Of course, 1'51.2 is fairly meaningless without any context. Bayliss' lap was faster than regular Ducati test rider Vito Guareschi, who improved his own lap record with a time of 1'51.4, but beating a test rider, while impressive, is not that significant. More important is to compare it to the times set during the dry sessions here last year:
A whole range of factors make it very hard to compare times from a race weekend to times set during testing: Troy Bayliss has not ridden a motorcycle since the launch of the 1198 at Portimao last year; Bayliss has not ridden the 800cc Ducati before; And Bayliss hasn't ridden at Mugello for a while. On the plus side, Bayliss gets three full days aboard the Ducati on a relatively empty track, and a chance to put a significant number of laps on the bike.
In the world of 125 and 250 racing, there is one team that is the nearest thing to a guarantee of a world title on offer: The Aspar team, run by Jorge Martinez. Hungarian veteran Gabor Talmacsi has been with Aspar since 2007, and has reaped the rewards, taking the 125cc world championship for the team in 2007.
So it must considered a truly remarkable step that the Hungarian has decided to sever his relationship with the team that helped win him the title. In a statement on his personal website, Gabor Talmacsi announced that has split from the team, and that he won't be riding at Le Mans. Talmacsi also explained the reasons for the split:
As I'm sure most of the readers of this site are aware, James Toseland can not only ride a MotoGP bike at a brisk pace, but he also plays a mean piano and sings pretty well too. As his day job at MotoGP will be taking the weekend off on May 24th, Toseland will get to do a little moonlighting with his band, Crash. That weekend, the British Superbike series will be racing at Donington Park, and Toseland will be appearing in the Assembly Rooms in Derby on Saturday, May 23rd, with part of the proceedings will be going to help the excellent charity Riders For Health. So if you want to combine a fantastic weekend of racing with a chance to meet a bona fide MotoGP rider, head on up to Derby on May 23rd, then Donington the day after. Details below:
One of the most perplexing issues of the 800cc era has been the question of the Ducati Desmosedici GP7, GP8 and GP9. The remarkable and incredibly innovative motorcycle has one world title and 18 victories to its name from just 39 races, a strike rate impressively close to 50%. But look more closely at those awe-inspiring results and you see a much darker side to the Ducati, a side which makes a nonsense of all those victories.
Of the 18 victories recorded on the 800cc Desmosedici, 17 were taken by Casey Stoner, as was the 2007 world title. Of the 394 points which gained Ducati the constructor's title in 2007, 367 were scored by Stoner, the Australian only beaten by another Ducati three times that year, and beating his team mate Loris Capirossi - the man who had been a title contender in 2006 - by over 200 points, or 11 points a race, on average. In 2008, Stoner could "only" manage to best Toni Elias, the next Ducati rider, by 188 points. So far this season, Casey Stoner has already racked up 54 points, 75% more than the other four (!) Ducati riders combined.
Anyone doubting that the problem is with the bike need only look at the riders who have been teamed with Casey Stoner. Loris Capirossi is a three-time world champion, with two titles in the 125 class and one in 250s; Marco Melandri is another former 250 champ, as well as a MotoGP runner-up; while current team mate Nicky Hayden is one of an elite group of riders - including Casey Stoner - to have beaten Valentino Rossi to the MotoGP title. This is no ragtag crew of journeymen and also-rans, these are among the very best riders in the world, and yet they have all proven incapable of taming the Bologna Beast.