KTM Pull Out Of 250cc Class For 2009

The approaching demise of the 250cc class has claimed its first victim. With the two cylinder two stroke formula to be replaced by a 600cc four stroke class in 2011, KTM has decided to withdraw from the 250cc class from 2009.

Both KTM and Aprilia had voiced their deep opposition to the proposed rule changes, made in an effort to reduce costs in the 250 class. And now, KTM have turned their words into deeds, citing the fact that there is no future for the class as a reason to withdraw from 250s and concentrate their efforts in the 125 class, which is not expected to see major rule changes for the foreseeable future.

In the press release announcing the move, Winfried Kerschhaggl, head of KTM Racing said "We have decided for the GP 125 cc class because contrary to the 250 cc class, its existence is secured in the medium to long term." KTM's withdrawal will leave Aprilia as the only major manufacturer still active in the class, Marco Simoncelli's Gilera being basically just a rebadged Aprila RSA 250.

There may have been other motives behind KTM's withdrawal as well. 2008 was to be the year that KTM finally secured the world title they have been chasing in the series since they entered in 2005. Everything was in place: the bike had proven to be a race winner; Mika Kallio was in his second year in the class, and ready to challenge for the title; and Kallio would be assisted by Japanese veteran Hiro Aoyama, who had already shown himself capable of winning races and getting podiums, and could assist Kallio in taking points from his rivals.

Aspar: "If Kawasaki Wants Nakano, They Can Foot Half The Bill"

The rumblings continue over Jorge Aspar Martinez' MotoGP project, to field a third Kawasaki for the 2009 season. Although the deal for the bike is already done, arguments are still going on between Aspar and Kawasaki over who is to ride for the team.

Martinez has already made clear that his sponsors want to see a Spanish rider on the bike, and he underlined this point again this week in an interview with the Spanish press, saying bluntly "Our sponsor will only accept a non-Spanish rider if they are a proven winner."

Without sponsors, entry into MotoGP is difficult. "The costs of running in MotoGP are high, " Martinez said. "Without doubt, we will need Spanish sponsors, and their priority is having a Spanish rider."

Without Spanish sponsors, the team will need Kawasaki to make a considerable contribution towards funding the team. "If (the rider) is Nakano, the project can still go ahead if Japan can pay around 50%. They insist that they would really like to see him as a rider, and we are insisting that if the rider is to be Nakano, they will have to pay."

In an effort to change the Japanese factory's mind, Martinez has been emphasizing the potential of his rider of choice, Alex Debon. Debon has already shown his skills at developing a bike by helping develop this year's Aprilia RSA 250, and winning two races this year, and Martinez believes Debon can bring a lot to the factory. "One of the things I have tried to convince the Japanese of is that Debon could help them a lot. The other two riders, Marco Melandri and John Hopkins, are very fast, but in terms of providing technical help, they fall a long way short of Debon."

Though the project still looks certain to go ahead, the argument about the rider for the third Kawasaki ZXRR - and indirectly, about the funding of the project - look set to continue.

 

Five Different Champions, Five Different Machines

Over the past few weeks, it seems as if almost the entire world has been wallowing in doom and gloom. The world's financial system is being shaken to its core, jobs are disappearing all around the world, and Conquest, War, Famine and Death stalk the face of the planet.

Even in the cosy corner of the world occupied by reckless young men and improbably fast motorcycles, things have not been well. The motorcycling press, including this website, has been filled with stories of the end of motorcycle racing as we know it. MotoGP has gone to a single tire, the 250 class is set to disappear and World Superbikes is likely to start banning technology already available on the street bikes the class is based on. Even the two-wheeled world seems to have boarded the handbasket and set course for Hades.

So it behoves us to stand still for a moment to mark a significant fact. Of the five global road race championships which are contested at the behest of the FIM, all have been (or will be) won aboard a different brand of motorcycle. Valentino Rossi wrapped up the MotoGP title aboard his Yamaha M1, while Mike di Meglio clinched the 125cc title on a Derbi. In the World Superbike series, Troy Bayliss took his third World Superbike title on his third different Ducati, and in the World Supersport series, Andrew Pitt prolonged Ten Kate's dominance snatching the title on a Honda. The only title still left open, in the 250cc world championship, will go to either Marco Simoncelli on a Gilera, or if Simoncelli makes a serious mistake, Alvaro Bautista on an Aprilia.

Edwards Still Not Sure Of Seat At Tech 3

Colin Edwards' season started with a bang, starting on the front row of the grid, and kept on improving, bagging the Texan two podiums at Le Mans and Assen. But almost by magic, once Edwards had signed his new contract, his results took a nosedive, his best finish a 7th place at Motegi.

This performance, much remarked upon by MotoGP fans all around the world, has not escaped the notice of the bosses of Yamaha's racing division either. Various sources are reporting that Colin Edwards has been brought in and given a stiff talking to by Yamaha's bosses, and told that if his results don't improve, he could find himself riding an R1 rather than an M1. If Edwards' doesn't get his act together, Yamaha may decide to swap one Texan for another, pushing Edwards into World Superbikes, and bringing Ben Spies, already signed to race for Yamaha Motor Italia in World Superbikes, up into MotoGP to ride alongside British superstar James Toseland. 

Though the move may be a little harsh, there is plenty of reason to believe this could actually take place. With Michelin now out of MotoGP, Edwards' role as a test rider for the French tire company has disappeared, and his long experience with the Michelins is no longer a reason to keep the Texan in MotoGP. What's more, with all of the Yamahas in MotoGP now on the same tires, and Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland both heading into their second year in the series, development can be shared out between four riders, rather than leaning heavily on Edwards for data from the Michelins.

Single Tire Rule Starts To Bite: Post-Valencia Test Cut From Three Days To Two

The first day of the new MotoGP season traditionally starts on the day after the last day of the current season. On the Monday after the final MotoGP race at Valencia, testing begins for the new season, with new machinery being rolled out, and old riders wandering around looking strange and slightly uncomfortable in different colored leathers. Once the journalists leave the track on Monday afternoon, testing starts in earnest, and continues until evening falls on Wednesday.

It won't quite be happening like that this year, however. For a start, the teams have finally managed to put up a collective front against the horde of journos who come to wobble around the Valencia track, and will be severely limiting the number of motorcycle scribes who will get to lap the circuit. But the other development is a good deal more worrying. Bridgestone has already told the teams that it will not have sufficient tires for all of the teams to test at the Valencia test for the full three days, according to MotoGP veteran reporter and Motocourse stalwart Michael Scott in the free online magazine GPWeek.

This poses a fairly significant problem for both teams and riders. Firstly, everyone swapping to a new bike - including Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri, Yuki Takahashi, and the Alice Ducati team - will want to get as many miles under their belts on their new mounts as possible. Then there's the pile of new parts and bikes waiting to be tested, including the carbon-fiber framed Ducati GP9, which Casey Stoner is putting off having surgery to test. And last but very much not least there are the former Michelin riders keen to get as many laps as possible on the new rubber to collect data for the teams to digest over the winter. 

Please, no more "spec" talk!

For those fans of MotoGP who aren't properly afraid of Dorna's desire to imitate Formula One, rather than maintain a superior product, perhaps this news tidbit will shed some light on the road we have feared all along.

Now that Formula One already have spec-tires and spec-ECU's, and now that Dorna are seeking to establish both in MotoGP, this haunting promise/threat was issued from the Great Fiasco Machine himself, Max Mosely (speaking of a spec-engine formula, where "manufacturers" simply "re-badge" a spec powerplant, and presumably KERS is no longer life-threatening):

"I know there are those who say this is not the right move, but I'm talking about the real world. If Volkswagen, say, can buy a {road car} engine less expensively {than to build one}, they'll undoubtedly do it. After they put a VW badge on it, it's all the same. Unless we think very seriously about cutting costs, in the next 10 years, we'll be in trouble."

Considering that I proposed something akin to this a year ago for MotoGP - as a joke - I wonder why Mr. SS thinks people will pay to see a world-wide spec series any more than they didn't to see a U.S. one. 

Please, Mr. Ezpeleta, see this path for the foolishness that it is and quit now while you are still ahead!

 

RIP Guido, More Than Just A Dog

Guido is dead. News that a dog has died does not generally make it onto the front page of websites about motorcycle racing, but as with every rule, there's always an exception. And in motorcycle racing, exceptions to the rule generally mean that Valentino Rossi is involved somehow.

The reason that Guido's death is garnering so much attention - even meriting a mention in Italy's most prestigious sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport - is that Guido is Valentino Rossi's dog.

But Guido was more than just a pet. The white bulldog was also Valentino Rossi's mascot, appearing on Rossi's helmet and his bike, as much lucky charm as household pet. Indeed, such was Rossi's attachment to the dog that Guido even starred in Quarantasei, a graphic novel produced by Milo Manara containing a fictional account of Valentino Rossi's adventures and eventual triumph in motorcycle racing. It must be said that Guido was very much the co-star of the book, the star of the show being Rossi's M1 motorcycle.

So, it is a sad day for Valentino Rossi, and our thoughts, and most likely the thoughts of thousands of Rossi fans around the world, go out to the Italian superstar. May Guido spend the rest of eternity chasing rabbits across the Elysian Fields. 

Guido, Valentino Rossi's dog

Photo: Scott Jones, Turn2Photography

Images From Indy - Wet And Dry

Unlike Laguna Seca, where we were fortunate enough to have sent Scott Jones to represent MotoGPMatters.com officially and provide us with some spectacular images, at Indianapolis, we were unable to arrange a press pass.

Luckily, there are other ways of obtaining photos from Indianapolis. Jules Cisek, whose work we have featured previously on MotoGPMatters.com, attended Indianapolis with an ordinary general admission ticket, and still manage to shoot some fabulous shots. Here's a selection:

Friday, in the rain

Scott Redding at Indianapolis 

The strokers were back in the USA. Scott Redding shows everyone how to ride a 125 in the pouring rain.

 

Mike di Meglio at Indianapolis 

Mike di Meglio didn't need that many lessons.

 

Hugo van den Berg at Indianapolis 

Hugo van den Berg, paddock giant.

 

Gabor Talmasci at Indianapolis

The Champ, in The Wet

 

Scott Redding and Kris Turner at Indianapolis

Scott Redding and Kris Turner, full pelt

 

Puig: "Hayden Is A Hypocrite, And Can't Set Up A Bike"

It was universally acknowledged that you were unlikely to find a happy, family atmosphere in the Repsol Honda garage. But just how bad things were is only now starting to appear, as the end of a long and unhappy marriage looms at the end of three years. For now, the partners involved are starting to speak out.

Nicky Hayden has been the most reticent of the two sides of the garage so far, refusing to criticize Honda for their treatment of him since he won them their last world title. But in a recent interview with the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, Hayden spoke out about what he believed was a fundamental flaw in the Repsol Honda setup.

Hayden felt that the team wasn't functioning as a team, with each side of the garage functioning independently and not sharing data to help develop the bike. "I don't like the fact that there's a wall separating the garages and that we're not sharing information," he told El Pais. "We're both on the same team, and we should be working together."

The problem, Hayden said, was not Pedrosa, but his manager. "[Alberto] Puig has too much influence on the team. In theory, he works for Dani, not Honda, but ..." he told El Pais.  When asked how much credit Pedrosa still has with Honda, Hayden replied "Dani is great rider, with a lot of talent. But Puig is the guy with all the power at Honda, not Dani. Unfortunately, it's Puig who runs Honda. I know I'm not supposed to say so, but that's the truth."

It seems that Alberto Puig was not at all pleased after this interview appeared in the Spanish press. For today, Puig has struck back in an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, blasting Hayden with some damning comments. When asked about Hayden's objections to the wall dividing the garages, Puig told MotoGP.com "all I can say is that Hayden may be bothered because now he can't access information and telemetry data from Dani's bike. With this information he was able to improve his riding, as he had all of Dani's references and now he can't use that any longer. He was simply copying as he never knew how to set-up a bike." 

Ant West Talking To Ten Kate For World Supersport Ride

When Ant West signed up as a factory Kawasaki rider to race in MotoGP, he could hardly have suspected just how miserable his life was about to become. The Australian had spent years trying to get into racing's premier class, accepting some extremely questionable rides in 250s just to get a chance at MotoGP. Tragically for West, his arrival coincided with a sharp decline in Kawasaki's fortunes, and after some promising results in 2007, West's career has been on a downward spiral, propelled by the dismal performance of the Kawasaki.

After hoping for a long while to somehow stay in MotoGP, Ant West seems finally to have accepted his fate. The German motorsports site Motosport Total is reporting that Westy is in talks for a ride on "a competitive Honda in World Supersport." "Practically my only option is the World Supersport championship. On a Honda," West told Motorsport Total.

Although there are a number of teams fielding Hondas in the World Supersport series, Motorsport Total says that paddock whispers say West's manager is talking to Ten Kate about riding for the team. West wouldn't confirm that rumor, though he admitted "I know the team, and I'd love to ride for them."

2008 MotoGP Phillip Island Race Report - The Art Of Racing

Ever since the long-lamented 990cc bikes roared into the sunset at the end of 2006 to be replaced by the 800cc machines, MotoGP has suffered a crisis of confidence. That final year of competition with the large capacity bikes produced some of the most exhilarating racing ever seen, yet after the introduction of the new formula, the racing changed overnight, suddenly becoming processional and rather too often, positively dull.

Having been spoilt by a year of thrills and spills, and with the big name stars being left for dead by a relatively unknown Australian on a Bridgestone-shod Ducati, TV audiences switched off in droves, the viewing figures tumbling. MotoGP was starting to lose ground to other motorsports, and with teams already finding it difficult to raise the necessary sponsorship to fund their efforts, neither Dorna nor the teams could afford for the series to decline in popularity further. Something had to be done.

Whenever a group of people - be it organizations, governments or even families -  decide that "something has to be done" the first step is usually to try and pinpoint a culprit. Throughout 2007, the finger of blame was pointed squarely at tires, Bridgestone prospering as Michelin failed to adapt to the new rules limiting tire numbers. This regularly left half the field unable to compete, and most painfully, saw Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, key figures in Dorna's target markets, floundering and off the pace. The current tire situation could not be allowed to stand.

I Know I'm Unlovable

An appropriate culprit - or perhaps scapegoat - found, the rules were tweaked at the end of the season in the hope of reintroducing competition. And as extra insurance, Valentino Rossi was allowed to switch tire brands, with the hope of putting motorcycle racing's media phenomenon back on equal footing with the implacably unlovable Casey Stoner.

The first few races showed at least some improvement, with four different winners in the first four races, and Valentino Rossi then going on to win three races in a row. But the underlying problem remained: The margin of victory was never less than 1.8 seconds, and most races were still being decided by half way. And after Ducati found some fixes to the problems that plagued Casey Stoner's early season, the situation got worse. Once again, the reigning World Champion was humiliating the field, winning race after race, sometimes by as much as 11 seconds.

The changes to the tire rules hadn't changed anything. The little-known and even less liked Australian was winning races by the end of the first lap again, and the field was spread out seconds apart. Down in 6th place, huge multiple rider battles were raging, but these were going on off-camera, and for the consolation prizes. When Michelin ran all of their riders on hard rain tires in Germany, gambling on a drying track which never arrived, we were back at square one. Once again, conversations about MotoGP were all about tires, and not about riders.

Turning Point

Then came Laguna Seca. At Laguna, two things happened. First, Michelin turned up with tires that were completely inadequate to cope with the conditions, leaving all of the Michelin runners completely out of contention once again. The heat under the tire discussion got turned up another notch, and the first rumblings of more rule changes started to appear.

Secondly, as the race got underway, one of the most nail-biting battles MotoGP has seen for a long time unfolded, with Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner knocking chunks out of each other for 23 long laps. For half an hour, the crowd and TV viewers around the world held their breath, as the death-defying spectacle went on for lap after lap. And for 45 minutes, no one mentioned tires, wrapped up in the glorious duel of two racers at the very top of their ability.

The respite was to be only brief, as another Michelin failure at Brno after the summer break saw the riders, fans and paddock all talking tires once again, only briefly diverging to talk about the racing, before returning to the subject at the forefront of everybody's minds.

Lessons From The Lake

But all the talk of tires disguised a much more important lesson from Laguna Seca: There was plenty of racing to be had in MotoGP, if the track would only allow it. Laguna Seca, with a few fast corners mixed with tight and tortuous sections, but more importantly, the track layout following the lie of the land and flowing from corner to corner, proved an ideal stage for MotoGP. The combinations of corners placed the emphasis on rider skill once again, and gave Valentino Rossi, his Yamaha clearly outclassed, a chance to match Casey Stoner's terrifying pace around the Californian circuit.

Race results and championship standings
round_number: 
16
2008

Aspar: "I Can't Sell Nakano To My Sponsors"

The good news for MotoGP and Dorna at Phillip Island was that Kawasaki confirmed that they would provide a third ZXRR to compete in the 2009 MotoGP season. The announcement meant that MotoGP's rather thin grid would be filled out a little for 2009, taking the total up to 19 bikes, with a possible fifth Ducati raising that to 20.

The bad news was the conditions that Kawasaki was imposing on the deal. KHI in Japan is very keen for Shinya Nakano to return to the fold at Kawasaki, the Japanese rider having ridden for the team from 2004 to 2006. But Jorge Aspar Martinez, the man who is to run the team, doesn't want Nakano as a rider, as a Japanese rider would cause him problems with his sponsors.

"With all due respect to Nakano, he is not a rider I can sell to my sponsors," Aspar told Spanish magazine Solomoto. "I want to choose the rider, and I want a Spaniard."

The problem Aspar has is the amount of money Kawasaki wants from the team. Martinez is believed to have a Spanish telecom company lined up to sponsor the team, but because the effort would be promoting a product on the Spanish domestic market, he needs a Spanish rider to help the sponsors sell their product at home.

Aspar's preferred option is Spanish veteran Alex Debon, who is currently campaigning the Lotus Aprilia in the 250 class. Debon would be on development duty, helping to get the bike competitive enough for 2010, when Aspar hopes to bring Alvaro Bautista into MotoGP.

MotoGP Standings After Round 16, Phillip Island, Australia

Championship standings for round 16, 2008

2008 MotoGP Phillip Island Race Results

Full results of the 2008 Australian Grand Prix:

2008 MotoGP Phillip Island Warmup Result - Stoner Destroys The Field

Pos. No. Rider Manufacturer Fast Lap Diff Diff Previous
1 1 Casey STONER DUCATI 1'29.707    
2 15 Alex DE ANGELIS HONDA 1'30.829 1.122 1.122
3 14 Randy DE PUNIET HONDA 1'30.862 1.155 0.033
4 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO HONDA 1'30.946 1.239 0.084
5 69 Nicky HAYDEN HONDA 1'30.960 1.253 0.014
6 46 Valentino ROSSI YAMAHA 1'30.978 1.271 0.018
7 2 Dani PEDROSA HONDA 1'31.079 1.372 0.101
8 5 Colin EDWARDS YAMAHA 1'31.082 1.375 0.003
9 52 James TOSELAND YAMAHA 1'31.129 1.422 0.047
10 48 Jorge LORENZO YAMAHA 1'31.187 1.480 0.058
11 7 Chris VERMEULEN SUZUKI 1'31.316 1.609 0.129
12 65 Loris CAPIROSSI SUZUKI 1'31.505 1.798 0.189
13 33 Marco MELANDRI DUCATI 1'31.637 1.930 0.132
14 56 Shinya NAKANO HONDA 1'31.666 1.959 0.029
15 50 Sylvain GUINTOLI DUCATI 1'31.726 2.019 0.060
16 21 John HOPKINS KAWASAKI 1'31.986 2.279 0.260
17 13 Anthony WEST KAWASAKI 1'32.506 2.799 0.520
18 24 Toni ELIAS DUCATI 1'33.297 3.590 0.791

 

Circuit Records:

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