The Aspar team dominated the second session of free practice for the 125cc class once again. Julian Simon was fastest, as ever, with this time Bradley Smith in 2nd, ahead of Sergio Gadea. German rider Sandro Cortese was fourth quickest, ahead of Nicolas Terol, who was the last man to be within a second of Simon's blistering time. Local youngster Lorenzo Savadori impressed once again, taking the 7th fastest time, ahead of De Graaf Racing's Danny Webb. The final Brit, Scott Redding, finished down in 11th.
Results of 125cc FP2:
Friday started out sunny and clear, but by the end of the day we had huge clouds and even some lightning in the distance. Fortunately, no rain arrived before the final session, but there is a chance of thundershowers tomorrow. Miller is set in a valley surrounded by mountains, and even in late May some snow remains on the highest spots. As the clouds gathered in the distance, the setting grew more and more spectacular.
Several riders from the AMA Pro Superbike series are here on wild card rides. Jake Zemke made his WSBK debut last season, but now is filling in for injured Stiggy Honda rider John Hopkins. Hopper is here this weekend and looking pretty fit. He should return soon.
Another notable AMA rider is Melissa Paris, wife of Josh Hayes, who recently ended Yoshimura's 55-win streak at Infineon Raceway. Paris is competing in the Supersport class and making a respectable showing so far.
The second session of free practice for the World Supersport class at Miller Motorsports Park saw the same names at the top of the timesheets, with one addition: Andrew Pitt, Kenan Sofuoglu's Ten Kate Honda team mate, found the missing tenths to take him up among the earlier session's five fastest riders. At first, it looked like BE1 Triumph's Garry McCoy would be added to that illustrious list, but McCoy was soon gapped by the top men once again, and normal order restored.
So the fastest time was once again disputed by Joan Lascorz, Eugene Laverty, Cal Crutchlow, Fabien Foret, Kenan Sofuoglu and Andrew Pitt. Laverty made the early running, displaced from 1st with half an hour to go by Kenan Sofuoglu. As the session wound down, Sofuoglu was in turn deposed by Yamaha's Fabien Foret, but Foret's lead wouldn't last either, as with 8 minutes to go, Eugene Laverty once again put his Parkalgar Honda atop the timesheets.
Laverty seemed to have the top time sewn up, but as the flag fell for the end of the session, Joan Lascorz put in a last gasp attempt on his Glaner Motocard Kawasaki, and snatched the top spot from Laverty, pushing the Irishman down into 2nd place. Laverty leads Fabien Foret, and the Hondas of Sofuoglu and Pitt, with Cal Crutchlow down in 6th. Pitt is under half a second from the leader Lascorz, with Crutchlow a tenth behind Pitt, while the 7th place man Mark Aitchison is already nearly a second behind the Spaniard Lascorz.
At the back of the field, Melissa Paris was easily inside the qualifying limit, getting up to speed much faster in this second session of free practice than during the first session. Fellow female rider Marie-Josee Boucher continued to struggle, still over 2 seconds outside of the qualifying cut off. Hopefully, changes made overnight will find the speed she is missing.
Practice continues tomorrow morning, with qualifying due to take place tomorrow afternoon.
Entries closed today for the Moto2 class, and according to the well-informed GPOne.com, the number of entries for the class is very high, nearly 60 bikes in all. The success of the class means that the total number of entries will have to be trimmed down to around 36, the maximum number of grid places at most circuits. All of the satellite teams from MotoGP submitted entries, with the exception of Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando squad, as well as most of the 250 teams as well, with the Aspar team asking for three places on the grid.
The places on the grid will be shared out using predefined criteria: MotoGP satellite teams will be granted places first, followed by the 250 teams, both from this year and 2008 (allowing the now defunct Campatella team to submit an entry), with the final slots being awarded to teams from the 125 class. The final list is due to be made official at Barcelona in two weeks' time. Dorna has an ulterior motive for trimming the number of entries besides the simple fact of a lack of physical space: The organization has promised teams running in Moto2 a subsidy of between 200,000 and 250,000 euros, and even Dorna's purse is not bottomless.
Despite the fact that the class is still only in gestation, the engine yet to be manufactured, already controversy and argument is starting among the prospective teams. Teams from the two-stroke classes are complaining that the MotoGP teams will have an unfair advantage, as they already have extensive experience with the problems of engine braking and datalogging the use of a four-stroke engine will create. There are already mutterings that Moto2 will degenerate into a two-tier class, with the MotoGP teams forming the Eloi, and the rest toiling away with the rest of the mid-pack Morlocks. Whenever two or more are gathered, an argument ensues, it appears. In motorcycle racing as in the rest of life...
Max Biaggi topped the first session of qualifying practice at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah this afternoon, but the Aprilia rider only took the top spot in the dying seconds of the session. Before that Biaggi had been loitering in the lower regions of the top 10, and not looking like troubling the leaders, but in the final seconds, Biaggi found a fast lap from somewhere to take provisional pole.
Ben Spies was the man Biaggi took pole away from, the Texan having jumped up from 11th place with just 4 minutes of the session left. For most of QP1, Spies had been outside the top 10, and seemingly out of contention. But the last few minutes of practice saw Spies set a string of fast laps on his Yamaha, clearly having found the missing key to his setup.
Spies forced Carlos Checa down into 3rd spot, after the Spaniard had dominated for most of the session. Clearly Checa has refound the form which brought him the double here last year. Checa will be a factor on Sunday.
Jamie Hacking was once again impressive on the Kawasaki, setting the 6th fastest time on the Kawasaki ZX-10R. Fellow American Jake Zemke was not as lucky, Zemke only managing the 16th time. Zemke wasn't alone though, as his Stiggy Honda team mate Leon Haslam, currently 4th in the championship, could only manage the 20th fastest time, which would see him scraping into Superpole by the skin of his teeth.
The final 20 Superpole entrants will be selected after tomorrow morning's second qualifying session.
Results of the first qualifying session for the World Superbike class at Miller:
|1||3||M. Biaggi||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||1'49.820|
|2||19||B. Spies||Yamaha YZF R1||1'49.901||0.081|
|3||7||C. Checa||Honda CBR1000RR||1'50.144||0.324|
|4||96||J. Smrz||Ducati 1098R||1'50.282||0.462|
|5||84||M. Fabrizio||Ducati 1098R||1'50.457||0.637|
|6||2||J. Hacking||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'50.466||0.646|
|7||67||S. Byrne||Ducati 1098R||1'50.512||0.692|
|8||71||Y. Kagayama||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'50.556||0.736|
|9||9||R. Kiyonari||Honda CBR1000RR||1'50.701||0.881|
|10||65||J. Rea||Honda CBR1000RR||1'50.740||0.920|
|11||41||N. Haga||Ducati 1098R||1'50.755||0.935|
|12||31||K. Muggeridge||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'50.757||0.937|
|13||23||B. Parkes||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'50.961||1.141|
|14||11||T. Corser||BMW S1000 RR||1'51.002||1.182|
|15||36||G. Lavilla||Ducati 1098R||1'51.046||1.226|
|16||98||J. Zemke||Honda CBR1000RR||1'51.072||1.252|
|17||111||R. Xaus||BMW S1000 RR||1'51.216||1.396|
|18||56||S. Nakano||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||1'51.228||1.408|
|19||66||T. Sykes||Yamaha YZF R1||1'51.387||1.567|
|20||91||L. Haslam||Honda CBR1000RR||1'51.389||1.569|
|21||99||L. Scassa||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'51.430||1.610|
|22||25||D. Salom||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'51.577||1.757|
|23||57||L. Lanzi||Ducati 1098R||1'51.596||1.776|
|24||33||T. Hill||Honda CBR1000RR||1'51.821||2.001|
|25||10||F. Nieto||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'52.037||2.217|
|26||64||E. Nigon||Yamaha YZF R1||1'52.932||3.112|
The World Supersport field spent their first session at the Miller track learning their way around, and the times showed it. Ten Kate Honda's Kenan Sofuoglu, who's been here before, took advantage of his track knowledge to grab an early lead, but the rest of the fast five - Kawasaki's Joan Lascorz, Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty, and the Yamaha riders Cal Crutchlow and Fabien Foret - quickly caught up and swapped the lead. Crutchlow ended the day on top, setting his fastest lap in the final minutes of practice, ahead of Joan Lascorz in 2nd and Kenan Sofuoglu in 3rd. Eugene Laverty finished 4th ahead of Fabien Foret. The top 5 were all inside half a second, with 6th place man Andrew Pitt over a second behind Crutchlow.
Of the two female wildcards, Melissa Paris was fastest, and just inside the qualifying 107% limit, while Canadian Marie-Josee Boucher was a couple of seconds too slow. She did, however, beat out two of her male counterparts, finishing 31st out of 33 riders.
Results of FP1 for the World Supersport class:
|1||35||C. Crutchlow||Yamaha YZF R6||1'53.790|
|2||26||J. Lascorz||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'53.865||0.075|
|3||54||K. Sofuoglu||Honda CBR600RR||1'54.158||0.368|
|4||50||E. Laverty||Honda CBR600RR||1'54.199||0.409|
|5||99||F. Foret||Yamaha YZF R6||1'54.246||0.456|
|6||1||A. Pitt||Honda CBR600RR||1'54.814||1.024|
|7||51||M. Pirro||Yamaha YZF R6||1'54.869||1.079|
|8||8||M. Aitchison||Honda CBR600RR||1'55.276||1.486|
|9||117||M. Praia||Honda CBR600RR||1'55.284||1.494|
|10||21||K. Fujiwara||Kawasaki ZX-6R||1'55.541||1.751|
|11||13||A. West||Honda CBR600RR||1'55.603||1.813|
|12||24||G. McCoy||Triumph Daytona 675||1'56.105||2.315|
|13||69||G. Nannelli||Triumph Daytona 675||1'56.121||2.331|
|14||55||M. Roccoli||Honda CBR600RR||1'56.160||2.370|
|15||83||R. Holland||Honda CBR600RR||1'56.886||3.096|
|16||127||R. Harms||Honda CBR600RR||1'57.058||3.268|
|17||14||M. Lagrive||Honda CBR600RR||1'57.147||3.357|
|18||105||G. Vizziello||Honda CBR600RR||1'57.287||3.497|
|19||11||F. Perotti||Honda CBR600RR||1'57.641||3.851|
|20||77||B. Veneman||Suzuki GSX-R600||1'57.734||3.944|
|21||5||T. Pradita||Yamaha YZF R6||1'57.792||4.002|
|22||25||M. Laverty||Yamaha YZF R6||1'57.919||4.129|
|23||53||A. Polita||Suzuki GSX-R600||1'58.208||4.418|
|24||30||J. Gunther||Honda CBR600RR||1'58.251||4.461|
|25||28||A. Vos||Honda CBR600RR||1'58.366||4.576|
|26||7||P. Vostarek||Honda CBR600RR||1'58.378||4.588|
|27||88||Y. Guerra||Yamaha YZF R6||1'58.719||4.929|
|28||75||O. Pianykh||Yamaha YZF R6||1'58.971||5.181|
|29||126||A. Nelson||Yamaha YZF R6||2'00.378||6.588|
|30||29||M. Paris||Yamaha YZF R6||2'01.059||7.269|
|31||38||M. Boucher||Honda CBR600RR||2'03.924||10.134|
|32||89||C. Yates||Suzuki GSX-R600||2'04.064||10.274|
|33||111||R. Taylor||Honda CBR600RR||2'09.604||15.814|
Yukio Kagayama topped the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, taking the top spot from Carlos Checa with a minute to go. Checa had led for the second half of the session, taking over from Ben Spies, who had made the early running. Troy Corser put in a last minute effort to take 2nd spot, forcing Checa down to 3rd and leaving Spies in 4th.
But the order of the top 5 is almost meaningless, as just 0.031 seconds separates Kagayama from Kiyonari. Shakey Byrne is just over a tenth behind Kagayama's Suzuki, while the top 15 are all inside of a second of each other. Jamie Hacking is the better of the two American replacement riders, setting the 10th fastest time on the Kawasaki, while Jake Zemke is way down in 19th on the Stiggy Honda.
Results of the World Superbike FP1 session:
|1||71||Y. Kagayama||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'51.356|
|2||11||T. Corser||BMW S1000 RR||1'51.360||0.004|
|3||7||C. Checa||Honda CBR1000RR||1'51.374||0.018|
|4||19||B. Spies||Yamaha YZF R1||1'51.378||0.022|
|5||9||R. Kiyonari||Honda CBR1000RR||1'51.387||0.031|
|6||67||S. Byrne||Ducati 1098R||1'51.473||0.117|
|7||99||L. Scassa||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'51.705||0.349|
|8||41||N. Haga||Ducati 1098R||1'51.799||0.443|
|9||84||M. Fabrizio||Ducati 1098R||1'51.836||0.480|
|10||2||J. Hacking||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'51.865||0.509|
|11||96||J. Smrz||Ducati 1098R||1'51.953||0.597|
|12||3||M. Biaggi||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||1'51.989||0.633|
|13||65||J. Rea||Honda CBR1000RR||1'52.004||0.648|
|14||23||B. Parkes||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'52.026||0.670|
|15||31||K. Muggeridge||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'52.351||0.995|
|16||36||G. Lavilla||Ducati 1098R||1'52.486||1.130|
|17||10||F. Nieto||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1'52.562||1.206|
|18||91||L. Haslam||Honda CBR1000RR||1'52.609||1.253|
|19||98||J. Zemke||Honda CBR1000RR||1'52.624||1.268|
|20||111||R. Xaus||BMW S1000 RR||1'52.696||1.340|
|21||33||T. Hill||Honda CBR1000RR||1'52.763||1.407|
|22||56||S. Nakano||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||1'52.839||1.483|
|23||66||T. Sykes||Yamaha YZF R1||1'52.878||1.522|
|24||25||D. Salom||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1'53.417||2.061|
|25||57||L. Lanzi||Ducati 1098R||1'53.613||2.257|
|26||64||E. Nigon||Yamaha YZF R1||1'54.580||3.224|
After the cold drizzle of Le Mans, MotoGP hit Mugello under a sweltering Tuscan sun. The heat met with no complaints, however, as everyone in the paddock is sick to death of the wet weather which seems to follow them wherever they go.
As the bikes took to the track, Valentino Rossi did his best Casey Stoner impression, being fastest out of the gate, and staying on top for the first 20 minutes of the session. At that point, the rest of the Fantastic Four started to catch up, and leapfrogged each other for the lead. First Casey Stoner took the top spot, then with 32 minutes left Jorge Lorenzo took back the fastest time for the Fiat Yamaha team, only for Stoner to take it back again 5 minutes later.
With a quarter of the session left, Valentino Rossi reasserted himself atop the timesheets as Master of Mugello, but his team mate refused to be impressed. The young Spaniard took top spot again with 11 minutes to go, smashing the race lap record in the process and cracking into the 1'49s. Lorenzo then continued to set a string of lightning fast laps, eventually running three laps inside the 1'49s.
Valentino Rossi was left down in 2nd spot, just under 2/10ths off his Fiat Yamaha team mate, but capable of about the same kind of race pace. If The Doctor planned a spot of psychological warfare at Mugello, by coming out fast and trying to dominate practice, he ended up hoist by his own petard, coming up against a truly remarkable Jorge Lorenzo. But Rossi always has something special at the Tuscan track, so no doubt he'll be even faster tomorrow.
Both MotoGP and World Superbikes are in action this weekend, and both in spectacular locations. While Mugello nestles in a valley tucked tightly between the Tuscan hills, Miller Motorsports Park, not far from Salt Lake City, Utah, sits on a plain, surrounded by a ring of mountains, all part of the mighty Rocky Mountains, the barrier that splits the American continent in two. That spectacular location also has a downside: Like Kyalami, Miller is several thousand feet above sea level, and the lack of oxygen leaves both bikes and riders gasping for breath.
For Ben Spies, the US round of the World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park will be a breath of fresh, if somewhat thin, air. So far this season, every track the series has visited has been a relative unknown for the American rookie having at best tested there, at worst never seen the track before in his life. For the first time this year, Spies will have the psychological advantage of being both at a track he is familiar with and a race in his home country.
Spies will be hoping to exploit this advantage as much as possible. Though much of the public focus may be on breaking Doug Polen's impressive streak of 6 poles in a row, which Spies matched in South Africa two weeks ago, for Spies, there's only one thing that counts, and that's getting points back from the runaway series leader Noriyuki Haga. Spies' 88 point deficit is partly his own fault, and partly the fault of the Yamaha team, the Texan crashing out at Valencia and Assen, but technical problems robbing Spies of potential victory at both Monza and Kyalami. If Spies is to keep his title hopes alive - and an 88 point deficit is a big gap - he can no longer afford to suffer those kinds of mistakes. Spies really needs a double at Miller this weekend.
Results of the 250cc FP1 session:
Results of the MotoGP FP1 session at Mugello:
Results of the 125cc FP1 session at Mugello:
It's hard to overstate just how important motorcycling is both to Italian culture and the Italian economy. Originally adopted as cheap transport, Italians almost literally grow up on two wheels, transported about as children on Vespas before graduating to small-capacity Aprilias, Piaggios, Vespas, Derbis, Gileras and even Yamahas, Suzukis and Hondas when they hit their mid-teens. Eventually, as Italians grow older, they end up with either a Piaggio or a Suzuki Burgman to commute on, or a Ducati Monster, or perhaps a Triumph Speed Triple to cruise the country's city streets and beautiful beachfronts.
This passion has produced hundreds of businesses scattered around the north of the country. The old centers of boot and saddlemaking turned their skills with leather to gloves, boots and protective clothing, while the dozens of motorcycle manufacturers - now reduced to just a handful - spawned a vibrant industry building parts and accessories for every conceivable shape or form of two-wheeled vehicle. The chances are that if you own or ride a motorcycle, you have something Italian either attached to or associated with it, be it Brembo brakes, Marchesini wheels, Alpinestars leathers, Sidi boots, Nolan helmets, Arrow or Termignoni exhausts, or Pirelli tires. Or perhaps you just own a Moto Guzzi, an Aprilia, a Moto Morini or a Ducati. Motorcycling without Italy is simply inconceivable.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello is an event that captivates both the hearts and the minds of the Italian people. Mugello and the Italian Grand Prix are at the heart of Italy, both physically and metaphorically. The breathtaking track, surrounded by the beautiful, bucolic Tuscan hills, lies in a fold of Italy's Apennine mountains, just north of Florence. Glorious winding roads thread through the surrounding mountains, and at each mountain pass or major crossroads, there's a cafe where you can stop for a coffee and a bite to eat. In every one of these establishments hangs a shrine to motorcycling: helmets, leathers, signed photos of Italian motorcycling legends - Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Marco Lucchinelli, Luca Cadalora - cards, folders, maps, gloves; All the regalia of motorcycling hang here. And as you sit nursing your espresso, your reverie is interrupted every couple of minutes by the rumble, roar or shriek of bikes as they chase that perfect zen moment of motorcycling, dancing to the rhythm of the Passo Sambuca, or the Passo di Raticosa, or the legendary Passo di Futa.
On The Road
It is no coincidence that this latter pass leads from Borgo Panigale, a nondescript outer suburb of Bologna, through the outskirts of the city, then south towards Florence, up and over some of the most magnificent motorcycling roads on the planet, before arriving some 80 kilometers later in the village of Scarperia, past that town's beautiful bell tower, and then down winding, tiny local roads until a giant red crash helmet marks the entrance to the Mugello circuit. In Borgo Panigale, Ducati builds the motorcycles it sells to support its racing habit, then tests those bikes on that illustrious pass, on the grounds that if a motorcycle performs well on the Passo di Futa, it will perform well on any road on the planet.
The one motorcycle which Ducati has not tested over the Passo di Futa - or at least, not that they will admit to - is the Desmosedici GP9. Instead, the weapon that won the 2007 championship for Casey Stoner and the Bologna factory is tested mainly just over the other side of the Passo di Futa, at the Mugello circuit. But the Mugello track has all the elements you will find on the Futa pass and more: The 320 km/h front straight kinks, then dips right at the point you need to get hard on the brakes to slow the bike up for the double apex right hander at San Donato. The track then climbs up through a series of left-right flicks before heading over the blind crest into Casanova, and down towards the double right of Arrabbiata 1 and 2.
At Miller Motorsports Park this weekend, one wildcard rider will be receiving a good deal of attention, more perhaps than is warranted by her results alone. The key word there, and the reason for all the attention, is "her". For Melissa Paris will be making her debut in the World Supersport class, becoming one of a small number of women riders to have raced in international competition.
The team press release trumpeted the news that Paris will be the first female rider to have raced in the World Supersport Championship, a fact that was repeated unquestioningly by a large number of racing sites who ought to know better. Though technically they are correct, Paris won't be the first woman to race in the World Supersport class. In 1998, the year before the World Supersport Series became the World Supersport Championship, a matter mostly of nomenclature, the German racer Katja Poensgen raced as a wildcard at the Nurburgring in the World Supersport race, finishing a respectable 20th, and ahead of 16 other entrants in the class. Poensgen, now a TV presenter with German sports channel DSF, later went on to have two years in the 250 class, one with Shell Advance and Dark Dog in 2001, then a disastrous year aboard a severely underpowered Molenaar Racing Honda in 2003, in which she and her team mate alternated at the rear of the grid.
But Poensgen is not the only woman to have raced internationally: Dutchwoman Iris ten Katen just retired as European Women's champion at the end of last season, and after some respectable results in the Dutch Open Championship; Alessia Polita contested the European Superstock 600 championship, the entry class for World Supersport, scoring points in a large field; Maria Costello competes regularly in the International Road Racing series, racing on public roads in Ireland and the Isle of Man; And just two weeks ago, the 18-year-old Frenchwoman Ornella Ongaro entered the French 125cc Grand Prix as a wildcard.
The death of 250 class has concentrated minds over at Aprilia. The race department at Italian factory is still fuming over the decision by the Grand Prix Commission to scrap the 250s and replace them with 600cc four strokes. The company is planning its revenge, however, which revolves in large part around a switch to the rival (a description which both Dorna and Infront Motor Sports deny) World Superbike series.
The factory already has two of their new and highly desirable Aprilia RSV4 superbikes running in the series, and according to the German-language weekly, Motorsport Aktuell, they are preparing to expand their involvement for next year. With the resources freed up by the demise of the 250s, Aprilia are looking to field two more RSV4s in a factory-supported satellite team in World Superbikes in 2010.
Prime candidate to run the team is Luca Montiron's JiR team, according to Motorsport Aktuell. Montiron, who previously ran the Konica Minolta-sponsored JiR team in MotoGP, before being forced out by Honda, is currently running two Aprilia RSV4 bikes in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, to limited success.
Aprilia's Technical Director Gigi dall'Igna told MSA "Although our 2010 racing program hasn't been finalized yet, I think the JiR team will be running the other two machines in 2010. Our goal is to have another strong Aprilia team in the World Superbike Championship next season. JiR will have the same equipment as the factory team, and will receive full support from Noale."