That Marco Melandri is unlikely to sit out the 2nd year of his contract with Ducati in 2009 was an open secret. But now, that open secret has become something akin to a public announcement. Alberto Vergani, Melandri's manager, told GPOne.com's Alberto Cani that Melandri will not be with Ducati for 2009. The Italian's contract with Ducati allows the contract to be dissolved by mutual consent with no financial penalty, despite rumors to the contrary. And with Melandri in his current form, there can be no doubt that the consent will be very much mutual.
Vergani had other interesting things to say to Cani. When asked about Melandri's future, Vergani stated that the most likely option for the Italian is a return to Fausto Gresini's satellite Honda squad, where Gresini continues to be a great admirer of Melandri. He confirmed that Kawasaki has also expressed an interest in Melandri, but denied that Melandri could end up on a Kawasaki before the 2008 season is over.
On the question of whether Melandri could quit Ducati before the season is out, Vergani was clear: "Our intention remains to finish the season with Ducati. Marco wants to tackle the problems he's been having, it's a question of saving his honor," Melandri's manager said. This does not mean that Melandri will not leave before the season is out: "That is, if Ducati doesn't have other ideas."
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|4||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'23.065||0.722||0.130|
|7||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'23.604||1.261||0.048|
The first day of practice at the Sachsenring brought the scenario that the fans of close racing feared most. Within 7 minutes of the first session of free practice starting, on his 4th lap out of the pits, Casey Stoner had already broken the race lap record. Then, in the afternoon, Stoner took all of 10 minutes and 6 laps to shatter Dani Pedrosa's pole record from 2006. Set on soft qualifying tires, which would only last a lap. Aboard a 990cc Honda RC212V.
Stoner has so far been devastatingly effective, running long sequences of 1'22 second laps in the morning, and 1'21s in the afternoon, generally running at least half to three quarters of a second faster than the rest of the field, and looking quite simply invincible. In this form, it's hard to imagine how the Australian might be stopped, and will be worrying the rest of the field. After all, there's still 8 races to go, and a very strong chance that Stoner could win every single one of them.
Behind Stoner, things are a good deal more interesting. Biggest surprise so far is Alex de Angelis, who set the 2nd fastest time, and was the only other man to break into the 1'21 bracket. De Angelis was fast in both sessions, and clearly demonstrated his potential, as he did at Mugello. If he can avoid flinging his Gresini Honda into the scenery, he may just get his first MotoGP podium.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|2||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'21.993||0.411||0.411|
|10||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'23.116||1.534||0.023|
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|2||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'22.582||0.264||0.264|
|9||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'23.360||1.042||0.146|
Despite Germany's status as an economic powerhouse and one of the motors behind European economic growth, the German language has failed to make very many inroads as a global means of communication. Coming too late to Imperialism to spread the language through the methods which worked so successfully for Britain and France - foreign conquest - it wasn't until the 20th century that words started filtering into other languages from German. While French, Spanish and English words went on to permeate the languages of almost every country on Earth, German left most other tongues completely untouched.
One German word, however, is almost universally understood, because the thing it describes has gripped the imagination of motoring enthusiasts around the world. The Autobahn has come to signify more than just the two or more grade-separated lanes of tarmac that form the backbone of Germany's transport network. Despite its troubled history, the German Autobahn has attained an almost mythological status, one of the few places on the planet where hardcore speed freaks can get a legal hit of their personal high. Although at least 25% of the Autobahn system does actually have enforceable speed limits in place, and many of the unlimited stretches of road have so much traffic on them that any speed much above the advisory 130 km/h is extraordinarily perilous, if not physically impossible, Germany's motorway system remains a place where motor vehicles can be held at their maximum speed for many minutes on end.
How ironic, then, that the German MotoGP round should take place at the Sachsenring, a circuit at which the world's fastest racing motorcycles never reach anywhere near their maximum speed - even after last year's capacity reduction to 800cc. Indeed, so tortuous is the circuit that many bikes never even see 6th gear, their riders preferring to use a longer 5th gear instead of a severely shortened 6th down the Sachsenring's short front straight.
Officially, the track has 10 left turns and 4 right turns, and technically speaking that statistic is correct. However, a cynic might say that as the bikes never actually lift between many of the turns, there are more like half that number. And the way the corners run together, this is not such a wild claim. Though the first tight right and then the open left which follow the front straight are quite clearly separate turns, from there, the corners all run into one.
The first and most obvious exponent of this is the Omega Kurve, the double right hander which, unsurprisingly, looks like the Greek letter omega. After close to 270 degrees of going right, the track then flicks back left, through an almost interminable sequence of left handers, to climb the hill before heading on down to the back straight behind the paddock. A quick flick right as they bikes fire down the hill, gaining speed and momentum until they hit the main overtaking zone at the Sachsenring, the Sachsenkurve.
Take A Chance
This is the point at the track where speed and braking allow you to stuff your bike up the inside of an opponent, and steal a place. But it isn't quite as simple as it sounds: coming down the hill, you often find yourself carrying more speed than you anticipated, and with several sizable bumps on the entrance to the turn, front wheels are for ever on the verge of tucking, ready to deposit you at the track's busiest gravel trap of the weekend.
Even if you do get past, there's no guarantee of still being there when you cross the line. Braking up the inside into the Sachsenkurve leaves you open to counter-attack along the short straight before the Quickenburgkurve, meaning you can lose the place you just gained in as much time as it took you to take it in the first place. And with just a short run up to the finish line, losing out at the final turn usually means losing out at the line.
News coming in thick and fast prior to the Grand Prix of Germany at the Sachsenring, as the MotoGP paddock assembles once again for the final leg of the summer slog.
First up comes official confirmation from Kawasaki that Jamie Hacking will replace John Hopkins at the US GP at Laguna Seca. The American - though British fan will claim him as their own, having been born in England - is currently the only man in the AMA Superbike series capable of taking the fight to Ben Spies and Mat Mladin. Hacking has already tested the Kawasaki in Japan for two days, but will have a lot of work to do once he gets to Laguna Seca. Roger Lee Hayden set the benchmark last year, finishing in 10th while running as a wildcard at Laguna, but with this year's Kawasaki not looking anywhere near as good as the 2007 bike, a top 10 finish looks out of the question.
Chaz Davies looked like a strong favorite to be given the ride initially, as the young British rider already has experience with both the Bridgestone tires and in MotoGP, having ridden the Pramac Ducati for the injured, and then fired, Alex Hofmann. But with Hacking doing so well in AMA Superbike, the MotoGP ride is likely to have been a fitting award for the 37 year old.
After Casey Stoner's devastation of the competition last year, conventional wisdom held that the Ducati was the bike to have. This claim was asserted in spite of all the evidence to the contrary: Loris Capirossi's 7th place in the championship, his worst finish since the 2004 season, and neither Alex Barrros nor Alex Hofmann managed to set the world on fire on board the Bologna Bullet.
If anything, the situation has got even worse in 2008. Casey Stoner is once again almost unbeatable on the Ducati, but everyone else who tries to ride the bike falls terrifyingly short, with Marco Melandri, the man who was runner up to Valentino Rossi in the 2005 title race, and an unquestionably talented rider, forced to cruise round at the back of the pack, and likely to lose his job at the start of the summer break.
And so the Ducati has claimed its first victim. In a shock announcement, Luis d'Antin has resigned as team manager of the Alice satellite Ducati team. The team, which once bore his name, has struggled almost since its inception, despite obtaining strong sponsorship from both Pramac and Alice. The support went so far that Pramac even bought the team from d'Antin at the end of the 2006 season, injecting vital funds which allowed the team to obtain Bridgestone tires and better support from Ducati.
There are many good reasons for working as a marshal or corner worker at motorcycle racing events. You get free access to the track, you get closer to the action than almost everyone except the riders themselves, and you often get a chance to meet the riders and teams in person. Though the pay is usually nothing more than an expense allowance, it's still the best chance most people will have to meet their personal heroes.
When riders crash, there's the double whammy of meeting the riders face to face, and getting to handle some of the most exotic motorcycles in the world. Your job, after all, is to ensure that racing can proceed safely, and part of that job is to retrieve the gorgeous, if now somewhat damaged, MotoGP bikes from the gravel and wheel it off to safety, to be retrieved at a later date. Another fringe benefit which nobody likes to mention is that you occasionally pick up souvenirs from those outings, with parts of crashed bikes taking pride of place on many a corner worker's mantlepiece around the globe.
During coverage of Friday Practice for the F1 British Grand Prix, Speed TV reported that this may be the last time Formula One is held at Silverstone for some time. According to Bob Varsha, Speed TV commentator, Donington Park has signed an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone to host the British F1 Grand Prix for ten years, following a 100 million dollar update to the facility. F1 was last held at Donington Park in 1993.
The British Racing Drivers' Club, the entity that owns Silverstone, has not been on good terms with Ecclestone for some time, and while the club is apparently doing everything within reason to keep F1 at their track, they have been unable to come to terms with Ecclestone.
Peter Windsor commented that Donington has committed to a Hermann Tilke refit of the circuit to make it suitable for Formula One. MotoGP fans will be familiar with other Tilke projects, such as the tracks at Shanghai, Sepang, and Istanbul. Windsor proposed that one of the problems with keeping Silverstone on the F1 calendar from Ecclestone's perspective is that Silverstone has not used Tilke for any modifications.
David Hobbs responded by saying that Silverstone, as is it, is "better than a lot of Herman Tilke circuits, that's for dead sure."
Marco Melandri's long-term future at Ducati is almost entirely certain, in that he neither has, nor wants, a future with the Italian manufacturer. But so dire has Melandri's predicament at Ducati become that the Bologna factory is openly speculating on a premature departure from the team by Macio.
However, just because Melandri is not going to be a long-term fixture at Ducati doesn't mean that he is free to leave whenever he pleases. Ducati boss Livio Suppo told the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Melandri will remain with the team until at least the Brno MotoGP round in mid-August. That means that Melandri will ride at both the German GP at the Sachsenring and the US GP at Laguna Seca in California.
There had been some speculation that Melandri would be released directly after Assen, and with Kawasaki's John Hopkins ruled out of at least the Sachsenring race, and probably the Laguna Seca round as well, it was believed that Melandri could switch directly to Kawasaki, filling in for Hopper until he returns from injury. Such a deal would also mean that Melandri would be offered a contract with Kawasaki for 2009 as well, and Kawasaki could run a third bike for the rest of the year once Hopper did make his return.
That deal now looks to be off. Whether this means Melandri will sit out the rest of the season after Laguna Seca, with Sete Gibernau expected to take his place on the factory Ducati, remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure. Marco Melandri's personal Via Dolorosa is very nearly at an end.
As we approach the summer, the MotoGP silly season is starting to gain steam. So far, of course, much of the speculation has been focused on the future of Marco Melandri, and how soon he'll be leaving Ducati. But there are plenty more riders who could be moving at the end of the season, and news is starting to filter out of the paddock as to who could potentially go where next year.
With all the hype and attention surrounding double AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies, Chris Vermeulen's seat at Rizla Suzuki has started to look significantly less secure. But today, Suzuki team boss Paul Denning told Matthew Birt of Motorcycle News that Vermeulen still has a good chance of retaining his seat. Vermeulen has been linked to Troy Bayliss' Xerox Ducati ride in World Superbikes, with the Aussie veteran due to retire this season - if, of course, he wins the World Superbike title. But Vermeulen's management team have also been talking to the Tech 3 Yamaha team, which is looking like a very positive career choice at the moment thanks to the outstanding results achieved by the satellite team. Denning doesn't expect to make a final decision on the matter until the USGP at Laguna Seca.
The other object of speculation concerns the man currently leading the 250 world championship, Mika Kallio. The Fin has been tipped to move up into the MotoGP class within the next couple of years, but now Livio Suppo has confirmed to Motorcycle News that Ducati is interested in seeing Kallio aboard a d'Antin Ducati in 2009. Although Kallio is likely to be keen to move into MotoGP, especially if he manages to win the 250 title aboard the KTM, the satellite Alice Ducati team is far from a tempting prospect, with both Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli - both talented riders - so far unable to make the Ducati competitive. That this is not so much down to the Alice team is witnessed by Marco Melandri. Once a runner up to Valentino Rossi in the MotoGP championship, the Italian now regularly finishes in last place aboard the factory Ducati.
Bridgestone and Ducati test rider Niccolo Canepa was fastest once again on the 2nd and final day of the MotoGP tire test at Indianapolis. The Italian put in a fast lap towards the end of the session, after Ben Spies had been fastest for much of the day. Times were generally around a second quicker on Wednesday, despite top speeds being unchanged.
Suzuki's regular test rider Nobuatsu Aoki did not feature on the 2nd day of testing. The Japanese veteran ran 4 laps on Tuesday to help get the bike set up for Ben Spies, before letting Spies get on with the testing. Aoki spent the rest of the time in the pits, helping Spies communicate with Suzuki's Japanese engineers.
The next time the MotoGP bikes roll out on the track at Indy, it will be for keeps, at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP in September.
|1||Niccolo Canepa||Bridgestone/Ducati Test Rider||1'43.0069||98 laps|
|2||Ben Spies||Suzuki||1'43.0912||124 laps|
|3||Erwan Nigon||Michelin/Honda Test Rider||1'43.6276||92 laps|
|4||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki Test Rider||1'43.8188||87 laps|
|5||William Costes||Michelin/Yamaha Test Rider||1'44.0680||74 laps|
|6||Wataru Yoshikawa||Yamaha Test Rider||1'44.2975||108 laps|
The Internet has truly democratized the media, though the debate remains as to whether this is a good thing or not. One of the most obvious benefits of this revolution in the media is that sites such as Youtube allow ordinary people to record the events they witness and share them with the rest of the world.
By just such a fortuitous turn of events, video is emerging from the MotoGP tire test currently being held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here's a couple of videos we found on Youtube, by way of the Adventure Rider Racing forum.
Ben Spies at Indy:
Turns 1 through 10 at Indy