In the 125cc class, the afternoon session of the final day at Jerez followed the same pattern of almost every other session here so far. Bancaja Aspar's Julian Simon dominated completely, leading the field by over 7/10ths of a second. Simon has opted to fit an older version of the forks to his Aprilia RSA, whilst others, such as Danny Webb, are using the 2009 version, which are causing problems for some riders. For now, Simon's decision has paid off very well indeed.
The race for second was a lot closer, KTM's Marc Marquez taking second spot by just two thousandths of a second from Sandro Cortese on the Ajo Aprilia, while Derbi's Pol Espargaro - riding hurt after a crash - took fourth just a few hundredths behind. Simon's team mate Sergio Gadea rounded out the top 5.
In the morning, Bradley Smith got to within one tenth of a second of Simon's fastest time, but the British rider didn't take part in the afternoon hour. This left Scott Redding the fastest Briton in 8th, one spot ahead of Danny Webb. American Cameron Beaubier, moving up to the MotoGP class through the MotoGP Academy program finished 16th.
The teams have one final test left, a two night affair at Qatar, before the season kicks off. If you don't have Julian Simon in your fantasy MotoGP team, now would be a good chance to switch.
Session 2 times (afternoon session)
Marco Simoncelli ended the three-day IRTA test on the top of the 50 timesheets, smashing the pole lap record by over 0.4 seconds. The Italian Gilera rider was nearly two tenths quicker than his Spanish title rival Alvaro Bautista, but both men were well under Dani Pedrosa's pole record at the Andalucian track which dates back to 2005.
Big surprise of the afternoon was Jules Cluzel, who took his Matteoni Racing Aprilia to the third fastest time of the day, and the fourth fastest time of the three-day test, an impressive performance from the young Frenchman, all the more so because he set the time on an LE spec Aprilia, rather than a full fat factory spec RSA bike. Clusel is the second LE rider to get among the top 250 tier, after Lukas Pesek was fourth fastest on Thursday on a similar bike. It certainly looks as if the difference in performance between the million euro RSA and the 250,000 euro LE is a lot less than it was in previous years, though whether this is down to Aprilia easing up on the development of the RSA bike as the 2011 demise of the class approaches.
Full times from both sessions will follow as soon as they are available.
Session 2 times (afternoon session)
Lucio Cecchinello, boss of the LCR Honda team, is well-known for his innovative approach to raising sponsorship for the team. Through the years that the team has raced in MotoGP, LCR has showcased a number of different sponsors all featuring on the fairing for a few individual races, rather than for a full season. Cecchinello calls this approach the "Event Title Sponsor" format. So when news appeared earlier this week that Playboy was set to sponsor the LCR Honda team, the press were surprised that Cecchinello would be dropping this tried-and-tested approach.
But we had all been wrong-footed. Despite Cecchinello having met with senior Playboy officials in Italy last week, the Italian team owner had not secured Playboy as a title sponsor. Instead, Playboy will be sponsoring LCR in the same way the team's other sponsors have, on an event-to-event basis. The deal is with the publisher of the Italian edition of Playboy, and will see Randy de Puniet carry the iconic Playboy logo on the bike for the Spanish and Japanese Grand Prix, as well as the IRTA tests which kick off for the MotoGP class at Jerez tomorrow morning.
Although the sponsorship deal is only for the first few races - it was timed to help with the relaunch of the Italian magazine, though attempts to include the season opener at Qatar failed because of advertising restrictions in that country - Cecchinello is talking to other editions of Playboy looking for similar deals. If it all pans out as the team hopes, then the Playboy logo could appear at more races during the year.
The final day of testing for the junior classes at Jerez is well underway, and after a cloudy and chilly start, the sun is out and it's warming up nicely. Out on track, the riders are filling the air with the sweet smell of two stroke fumes, but the lap times set so far are still slower than the faster times of yesterday and Wednesday.
In the 250 class, it's Marco Simoncelli who's topping the timesheets as of midday ahead of Hector Barbera, who has just pushed Hiroshi Aoyama down into third. Alvaro Bautista is down in 11th, though the Spaniard has yet to run many laps.
For the 125 boys, Julian Simon just leapt to the top of the timesheets, deposing Andrea Iannone from the top spot he had held previously. Stefan Bradl is in third, a huge improvement after a few difficult days, and after crashing and bruising his hand yesterday. Britain's Bradley Smith is sixth fastest, two places ahead of Scott Redding. American Cameron Beaubier is yet to take to the track.
More updates after the end of the session at 2:50pm.
The sun is shining, temperatures are soaring, and you'll never guess who's the fastest of the 125 riders on the second day of the official IRTA test at Jerez. Coming as a complete shock to absolutely no one, Bancaja Aspar's Julian Simon continued to top the timesheets, leading from Red Bull KTM's Spanish flyweight Marc Marquez in the morning, and Ongetta Team's Andrea Iannone in the afternoon. The only bright spot on the horizon - apart that is from the hot Andalucian sun - is that Simon's margin over the competition has dropped, with Marquez getting to within a tenth of a second, while Iannone closed the gap to just 0.065 seconds.
The good news for Bradley Smith was his pair of third places, though the British rider was over three quarters of a second slower than his team in the afternoon. The other two Britons also saw an improvement from yesterday, Scott Redding setting the 6th fastest time ahead of De Graaf's Danny Webb in 7th. American rookie Cameron Beaubier finished 18th fastest in both sessions.
The China cup ended in a draw again, with Haojue's Michi Ranseder fastest in the morning, while Tomo Koyama was quickest on the Loncin in the afternoon.
Testing finishes tomorrow, and as MotoGPMatters will be at the track, we'll have a round up of all three days testing.
Session 2 times (afternoon session)
Alvaro Bautista shone under the Spanish sun at Jerez on Thursday, topping the timesheets in both sessions. But Bautista didn't have it his own way: During the 250-only afternoon session the Mapfre Aspar rider was only barely faster than compatriot Hector Barbera, and only just over a tenth of a second quicker than title rival Marco Simoncelli on the Gilera.
Aspar's two rookies coming up from the 125 class also showed well. Gabor Talmacsi - technically in his own Balaton Racing Team, but under the Aspar umbrella - was slower in the morning session, but by the afternoon, had jumped up to 5th. Reigning 125cc champion Mike di Meglio went the opposite way, taking 2nd spot in the morning, while dropping to a still highly respectable 6th fastest during the afternoon session.
Surprise of the day was Lukas Pesek, climbing into the top 4 in the afternoon, despite only having an Aprilia LE, rather than the factory spec RSA the other top riders are running.
Meanwhile, injuries are starting to take their toll. After crashing heavily yesterday, Axel Pons - son of former 250 champion and team manager Sito - was forced to sit out today's session, while Vladimir Leonov also crashed again heavily in the morning, though he rode again during the afternoon.
Testing finishes tomorrow, before the MotoGP bikes take to the track. MotoGPMatters will be at trackside, and will bring you a summary of the three days of testing, as well as trying to track down Stevie Bonsey.
Session 2 times (afternoon session)
On the first day of testing at the official IRTA test at Jerez, it was Hector Barbera who finished the day fastest, with a fast lap in the dying minutes of the second afternoon session. The day had started overcast, but the afternoon saw sunnier skies and warmer temperatures. Rather strangely, most of the 250 men put in their fastest time in the cooler morning session, with the exception of Barbera.
Title favorites Alvaro Bautista and Marco Simoncelli finished second and third fastest, Simoncelli faster in the morning, while Bautista was quicker in the afternoon, despite both men going slower. Former 125 champion Gabor Talmacsi was also quick, staying with a couple of tenths of Barbera in the morning session, but giving up over half a second in the afternoon. Talmacsi has been consistently in touch with the title candidates, and could prove a challenge once he hits his stride in the class.
The other surprise package was Ratthapark Wilairot on the Thai Honda. The Thai rider was consistently in the points last year, and was 3rd quickest in the morning session, and not far off the two leaders.
Mattia Pasini was not so lucky. The Team Toth rider had a huge crash in the afternoon, and banged up both himself and his Aprilia. Pasini was joined in the gravel traps by Russian rider Vladimir Leonov, who is building something of a reputation as a crasher, having crashed out of the Estoril test three times.
Testing continues tomorrow.
Session 2 times (afternoon session)
The first day of testing for the 125 class at Jerez saw Julian Simon continue his domination of preseason testing. The 125 class returnee - Simon raced in the 250 class with Repsol KTM last year - has topped almost every session of 125 testing he has participated in this winter, and he doesn't look like slowing down.
Only Andrea Iannone managed to better Simon this morning, but the Italian Aprilia rider had to cede over a second to the Spaniard in the afternoon. Simon's compatriot Marc Marquez was the other man to be near the top of the timesheets, finishing third fastest in the morning, and fourth fastest in the afternoon.
British rider Bradley Smith was the worst of the Bancaja Aspar riders, finishing in 11th and 7th spot behind his team mates Julian Simon and Sergio Gadea. Smith is one of the title favorites for 2009, but he has yet to make the kind of impression in testing that his team mate Simon has. Fellow Brits Scott Redding and Danny Webb were further down the order, Redding finishing 9th and 10th, while Webb only managed the 20th and 18th fastest times, despite having an Aprilia RSA at his disposal.
Haojue won the battle of the Chinese manufacturers in the morning, Michi Ranseder finishing ahead of Loncin rider Alex Masbou, but the roles were reversed in the afternoon, with Masbou taking the 24th time, just ahead of Ranseder.
Cameron Beaubier, the sole American in the 125 class, finished a respectable 14th in the afternoon, up five places from the morning. Beaubier, who came up from the Red Bull Rookies cup last year, is having a solid debut so far.
Testing continues tomorrow.
Session 2 times (afternoon session)
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The provisional 125cc class entry list for the 2009 MotoGP season, as released by the FIM earlier this month:
|5||ALEXIS MASBOU||FRA||LONCIN RACING||LONCIN|
|6||JOAN OLIVE||ESP||DERBI RACING TEAM||DERBI|
|7||EFREN VAZQUEZ||ESP||DERBI RACING TEAM||DERBI|
|8||LORENZO ZANETTI||ITA||ONGETTA TEAM I.S.P.A.||APRILIA|
|10||LUCA VITALI||ITA||CBC CORSE||APRILIA|
|11||SANDRO CORTESE||GER||AJO INTERWETTEN||DERBI|
|12||ESTEVE RABAT||ESP||BLUSENS APRILIA||APRILIA|
|14||JOHANN ZARCO||FRA||WTR SAN MARINO TEAM||APRILIA|
|16||CAMERON BEAUBIER||USA||RED BULL KTM MOTOSPORT||KTM|
|17||STEFAN BRADL||GER||VIESSMANN KIEFER RACING||APRILIA|
|18||NICOLAS TEROL||ESP||JACK & JONES TEAM||APRILIA|
|24||SIMONE CORSI||ITA||JACK & JONES TEAM||APRILIA|
|29||ANDREA IANNONE||ITA||ONGETTA TEAM I.S.P.A.||APRILIA|
|32||LORENZO SAVADORI||ITA||FONTANA RACING||APRILIA|
|33||SERGIO GADEA||ESP||BANCAJA ASPAR TEAM 125cc||APRILIA|
|35||RANDY KRUMMENACHER||SUI||DEGRAAF GRAND PRIX||APRILIA|
|38||BRADLEY SMITH||GBR||BANCAJA ASPAR TEAM 125cc||APRILIA|
|44||POL ESPARGARO||ESP||DERBI RACING TEAM||DERBI|
|45||SCOTT REDDING||GBR||BLUSENS APRILIA||APRILIA|
|53||JASPER IWEMA||NLD||RACING TEAM||HONDA|
|60||JULIAN SIMON||ESP||BANCAJA ASPAR TEAM 125cc||APRILIA|
|66||MATTHEW HOYLE||GBR||HAOJUE TEAM||HAOJUE|
|69||LUKAS SEMBERA||CZE||MATTEONI RACING||APRILIA|
|71||TOMOYOSHI KOYAMA||JPN||LONCIN RACING||LONCIN|
|73||TAKAAKI NAKAGAMI||JPN||ONGETTA TEAM I.S.P.A.||APRILIA|
|77||DOMINIQUE AEGERTER||SUI||AJO INTERWETTEN||DERBI|
|87||LUCA MARCONI||ITA||CBC CORSE||APRILIA|
|88||MICHAEL RANSEDER||AUT||HAOJUE TEAM||HAOJUE|
|93||MARC MARQUEZ||ESP||RED BULL KTM MOTOSPORT||KTM|
|94||JONAS FOLGER||GER||ONGETTA TEAM I.S.P.A.||APRILIA|
|99||DANNY WEBB||GBR||DEGRAAF GRAND PRIX||APRILIA|
The provisional 250 cc class entry list for the 2009 MotoGP season, as released by the FIM earlier this month:
|4||HIROSHI AOYAMA||JPN||SCOT RACING TEAM 250cc||HONDA|
|7||AXEL PONS||SPA||PEPE WORLD TEAM||APRILIA|
|8||BASTIEN CHESAUX||SUI||RACING TEAM GERMANY||HONDA|
|10||IMRE TOTH||HUN||TEAM TOTH APRILIA||APRILIA|
|12||THOMAS LUTHI||SUI||EMMI - CAFFE LATTE||APRILIA|
|14||RATTHAPARK WILAIROT||THA||THAI HONDA PTT SAG||HONDA|
|15||ROBERTO LOCATELLI||ITA||METIS GILERA||GILERA|
|16||JULES CLUZEL||FRA||MATTEONI RACING||APRILIA|
|17||KAREL ABRAHAM||CZE||CARDION AB MOTORACING||APRILIA|
|19||ALVARO BAUTISTA||SPA||MAPFRE ASPAR TEAM||APRILIA|
|25||ALEX BALDOLINI||ITA||WTR SAN MARINO TEAM||APRILIA|
|28||GABOR TALMACSI||HUN||BALATON RACING TEAM 250cc||APRILIA|
|35||RAFFAELE DE ROSA||ITA||SCOT RACING TEAM 250cc||HONDA|
|40||HECTOR BARBERA||SPA||PEPE WORLD TEAM||APRILIA|
|48||SHOYA TOMIZAWA||JPN||CIP MOTO - GP250||HONDA|
|51||STEVIE BONSEY||USA||APRILIA MADRID||APRILIA|
|52||LUKAS PESEK||CZE||AUTO KELLY - CP||APRILIA|
|55||HECTOR FAUBEL||SPA||THAI HONDA PTT SAG||HONDA|
|56||VLADIMIR LEONOV||RUS||VIESSMANN KIEFER RACING||APRILIA|
|58||MARCO SIMONCELLI||ITA||METIS GILERA||GILERA|
|63||MIKE DE MEGLIO||FRA||MAPFRE ASPAR TEAM 250cc||APRILIA|
|75||MATTIA PASINI||ITA||TEAM TOTH APRILIA||APRILIA|
|77||AITOR RODRIGUEZ||SPA||APRILIA MADRID||APRILIA|
The provisional entry list for the 2009 MotoGP season, as released by the FIM earlier this month:
|3||DANI PEDROSA||SPA||REPSOL HONDA TEAM||HONDA|
|4||ANDREA DOVIZIOSO||ITA||REPSOL HONDA TEAM||HONDA|
|5||COLIN EDWARDS||USA||MONSTER YAMAHA TECH 3||YAMAHA|
|7||CHRIS VERMEULEN||AUS||RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP||SUZUKI|
|14||RANDY DE PUNIET||FRA||LCR HONDA MOTOGP||HONDA|
|15||ALEX DE ANGELIS||RSM||SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI||HONDA|
|24||TONI ELIAS||SPA||SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI||HONDA|
|27||CASEY STONER||AUS||DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM||DUCATI|
|33||MARCO MELANDRI||ITA||HAYATE RACING TEAM||KAWASAKI|
|36||MIKA KALLIO||FIN||PRAMAC RACING||DUCATI|
|46||VALENTINO ROSSI||ITA||FIAT YAMAHA TEAM||YAMAHA|
|52||JAMES TOSELAND||GBR||MONSTER YAMAHA TECH 3||YAMAHA|
|59||SETE GIBERNAU||SPA||GUINEA ECUATORIAL TEAM||DUCATI|
|65||LORIS CAPIROSSI||ITA||RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP||SUZUKI|
|69||NICKY HAYDEN||USA||DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM||DUCATI|
|72||YUKI TAKAHASHI||JPN||SCOT RACING TEAM MOTOGP||HONDA|
|88||NICCOLO CANEPA||ITA||PRAMAC RACING||DUCATI|
|99||JORGE LORENZO||SPA||FIAT YAMAHA TEAM||YAMAHA|
The entry of the brand new Haojue (formerly Maxtra) Racing team into the 125 class of MotoGP has not run smoothly. Talk of trouble between the team and engine guru Jan Witteveen have continued to rumble on, as we have reported previously. But this trouble is now starting to affect the riders, as Michael Ranseder revealed on his website on Friday.
In a post looking forward to the IRTA tests due to take place at Jerez this week, Ranseder complains that the Haojue is down on horsepower, and that team needs to find a solution if they are to be competitive. "Obviously our bike is missing a few horsepower," Ranseder writes on his website. "And on this subject, the two sides - the chassis engineers at Harris on the one hand and the engine technicians at Jan Witteveen's company on the other - keep passing the buck to each other. I have made it very clear to both sides that we have to find a solution as soon as possible, otherwise the competition will just blow by us on the straights."
Ranseder expressed the hope that the new parts the team was due to receive at Jerez could help the situation. "Our engine produces around 50 HP on the dyno. With the new carburettor and improved electronics we had at Valencia we should be able to extract another couple of HP. The exhaust system has also been thoroughly reworked since then. Harris have had another close look at the airbox, to try and track down the loss of power. As I have said several times already, there's little to complain about as far as the chassis is concerned, but we are still a long way short in terms of engine development."
It's common knowledge that finding sponsors for MotoGP is a difficult proposition, despite the sport's immense appeal and excellent demographic profile. Indeed, a lack of sponsorship is the biggest threat currently facing MotoGP in today's financial climate, a threat which has led Dorna and the Grand Prix Commission to introduce a range of proposals aimed at cutting costs - though the jury is still very much out on the effectiveness of those proposals.
While most teams aim at securing a big name as a single title sponsor - Marlboro, Repsol, Fiat and Rizla supporting factory Ducati, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki efforts respectively, while San Carlo supports the Gresini Honda team and Monster Energy are due to be unveiled as the Tech 3 Yamaha sponsors - that has been beyond the reach of some teams. Over the past two years, Lucio Cecchinello's LCR Honda team have had a novel strategy for dealing with this problem, securing a string of smaller title sponsorship deals for individual races, featuring companies such as GIVI, Eurobet and Lee Jeans. This has been a successful if risky way of funding the team, making it easier to persuade companies to fork over smaller amounts of money, but leaving the team's finances less predictable over the course of a year.
Now, though, Cecchinello is also close to securing a title sponsorship deal for his eponymous team. Sources in Italy are saying that Playboy Magazine will be sponsoring LCR Honda for the 2009 MotoGP season. The story was uncovered by the Italian motorcycling website motocorse.com, who revealed that Cecchinello had been spotted at the same restaurant in Florence as Hugh Hefner, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises Inc. Cecchinello later admitted to GPOne.com that he was in talks with Playboy about title sponsorship, and he was about 70% certain of closing the deal.
With Ben Spies tearing up the World Superbike paddock and already being hotly tipped for the championship, talk has already started of a possible future in MotoGP. Though such talk is perhaps a little premature, just two rounds in the WSBK season, but it is clear that Spies has made a devastating impact, and looks almost certain to end up in MotoGP at some point in the future.
The question is, of course, just where he'll go. That he will stick with Yamaha goes without saying: In recent years, Yamaha has shown itself very astute at selecting riders with championship potential, but this very adroitness leaves the factory with something of a problem. With Valentino Rossi set to stay in MotoGP with Yamaha for at least two more years, and Jorge Lorenzo already his annointed successor, Yamaha's embarrassment of riches leaves them no room for Spies in the factory team.
Knowing that Yamaha will want to keep Spies on board, Tech 3 Yamaha boss Herve Poncharal has already launched a bid for the Texan's throttle hand. In an interview with the French automotive portal Caradisiac.com, Poncharal stated his hope of obtaining Spies' services for next season. "Frankly, Ben Spies has astounded me," Poncharal told Caradisiac.com. "It's obvious that he's an exceptional rider. I want to have him for 2010! We talked to him last year, just as we did with Simoncelli. Ben Spies has made a big impression so far, he has more than earned a place in MotoGP. It's obvious to me that he'll be there in 2010, and I hope it will be with us."