After months of secrecy, the announcement is finally out in the open. Ducati and Honda today officially announced the news that Casey Stoner is to leave Ducati and is heading to Honda. The move has been expected for a long time, ever since news leaked out after the Jerez round of MotoGP. Stoner's father and manager Colin accompanied his son to the Jerez race, and has not been seen at a race since.
The news is no real surprise: Stoner is known to have a very strong relationship with Livio Suppo, and when the former Ducati team boss left Borgo Panigale to join HRC, he reportedly told Ducati's management that his first target would be the young Australian, and that he intended to bring Stoner to Honda.
Q: Can you explain what happened at Turn 1?
Casey Stoner: The air turbine basically just makes you go that much faster. Even when you're on the brakes you're still getting a slipstream, so I just wasn't able to stop fast enough, because both of them [Lorenzo and Dovizioso] were just a little bit offset, so I got a slipstream off both, and I got a little bit ahead of myself.
Q: Somebody said this is the second race that you are following the Honda because you are studying it...
CS: This should be coming from you! [Points at Italian journalist who has been badgering Stoner about whether he has signed for Honda, and the assembled press all laugh.]
But personally, I'd much rather beat it. The last race, I didn't have much chance to try to attack Dani because the arm pump came and I wasn't able even to be close enough. This race, I put my wheel in everywhere I could to try and pass Dani, but he just got the acceleration, he got good traction, and was good enough on the brakes to keep me off, and that was it. I mean, if you don't make a mistake, for me to get close enough was impossible. So this is the only reason, and it's not what everyone is thinking about me studying it! [Laughs]
Arm pump (or compartment syndrome, to give it its medical name) is an incredibly vexing condition that has troubled many top level motorcycle racers over the years. The latest victim of this problem is Casey Stoner: the Marlboro Ducati rider started to suffer with the issue at Silverstone, and with just six days between the British Grand Prix and the Dutch TT at Assen, Stoner had no time to recover.
With a little longer between Assen and Barcelona, Stoner has had time to work on the problem and recover. The Australian has taken two approaches to solving the problem: changing his position on the bike and a physical therapy to deal with the symptoms: "I've actually done some acupuncture to it, to see if that can release the pressure," Stoner told journalists after practice on Friday. "There's just one muscle that runs up the arm, I can feel it, that's the hard point, that's the tightness, it's so stiff, and it just doesn't want to relax."
Even though the US round of World Superbikes has come and gone, John Gardner, Media Manager over at Miller Motorsports Park continues to organize teleconferences with the top World Superbike riders, to talk about how the season is progressing. Earlier this week, it was the turn of Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa, currently third in the championship and the best of the Ducatis, despite being on what is in essence a privateer bike. During the call, Checa covered a number areas, including the big improvements that Pirelli has made with the spec tire, the need for more power for the Ducatis, and the minimal effect that the weight reduction has had. Here's what Checa had to say:
With MotoGP now one third through its 18 race season, the effect of the engine-life regulations - restricting each MotoGP rider to just 6 engines throughout the entire season - is starting to become clear. The latest engine information list - assembled by IRTA and MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb, and distributed (if you can call it that) by Dorna - provides an interesting perspective on the impact the regulations are having, and how the factories have approached the problems posed by limited engines.
The clear winner that emerges from the list is surely Honda. Of their six riders, three (Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, and San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli) have used just two engines, and not had to have a third engine officially sealed. Dovizioso and Simoncelli have distributed their races equally, with three races on each of the two engines, while Dani Pedrosa has four races on his number 1 engine, and just two on his number 2 engine.
The last of Michel Hulshof's race-day photos from Assen. If you like these shots, or would like prints of his photos, you can contact Michel through his website at http://www.sports-photography.org/. You can also follow @ProNikon on Twitter.
Yet more stunning images from the camera of Michel Hulshof, shooting his home Grand Prix at Assen. You can see more at http://www.sports-photography.org/
With the introduction of the limit of 6 MotoGP engines for the entire season, the significance of engine blowups has suddenly skyrocketed. Where previously bikes ending a practice session in a cloud of oily smoke attracted merely curiosity, and perhaps wry amusement, now, every sign of failure is jumped upon and examined in minute detail.
So when Nicky Hayden pulled up on Friday morning at Assen, with a whiff of smoke trailing from his Marlboro Ducati, speculation began in earnest as to the nature and the cost of the event. When Hayden spoke to the press early on Friday evening, the first questions he fielded were on the subject of his blown motor.
"We think we lost an engine this morning," Hayden admitted, though he rejected suggestions it was a cause for great concern. "We haven't really gotten it apart to have a look, but it wasn't like a real fresh one. If I do have to lose one, it's not so bad. I still had a little time left on it, but it was almost finished anyway," the Marlboro Ducati rider told the press.
MotoMatters.com ace photographer Scott Jones may not be on the ground at Assen, but we still have a few photos for you. Our friend Michel Hulshof of Sports Photography picked his favorite spots around his home track and shot a few snaps for us. Enjoy:
MotoGP's bumper silly season has taken another step closer to its conclusion in recent weeks, with signs that both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are starting to move towards finalizing deals. Reports in the Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport indicate that Valentino Rossi has been offered 15 million euros by Ducati to sign for the Italian factory.
That is a good deal more than Yamaha have offered the Italian. Rossi is reportedly currently under contract for some 14 million euros, but had been in discussions with Yamaha prior to Mugello about reducing his salary to between 9 and 10 million euros. That reduction was being driven by the need to cut costs, and the Corriere dello Sport is reporting that Rossi was looking favorably upon the salary cut, and had expressed a desire to finish his career at Yamaha.
After the formal press conference which traditionally kicks off every MotoGP weekend, Casey Stoner stayed on to speak to the English-language journalists at the Dutch track. The subject turned to the cold-tire highsides which saw Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama injured, and taken out of action for at least a couple of months in both cases. Stoner was clearly sympathetic to the plight of both Rossi and Aoyama, but when one journalist asked if something needed to be done to prevent such injuries, the Marlboro Ducati rider pointed out that it had always been that way in the premier class. "Look at the 500s," he told reporters, "the riders were always flicking themselves back then."
But when another journalist suggested that we do not want to see a return to the bad old days of the 500cc two-stroke bikes, Stoner became vehement. "It was my dream to ride them," Stoner told the press, and went on to point out that this tendency to shy away from danger is part of an underlying trend in the modern sport. "This sport's becoming wimpy," Stoner said, "if everyone's not wrapped up in cotton wool, and it's not walls here, and walls there, there's no danger to the sport any more."
Prior to the first day of practice at Assen, Nicky Hayden gave his usual press debrief, to talk about the upcoming weekend's race. With two MotoGP regulars out for the foreseeable future, and factory test riders in at Fiat Yamaha and Interwetten Honda, we seized the opportunity to ask Hayden why he thought that the teams went with test riders, rather than bringing in a young talented rider to get some experience on a MotoGP bike. Here's what Hayden had to say on the matter:
Q: We've got two test riders coming in to substitute for Rossi and Aoyama, who are both injured. Why is it so hard to find someone to ride these bikes?
Nicky Hayden: You know, I'm not sure. I don't know why Colin turned it down. He complains his bike was slow but then he didn't want to ride the factory bike. I didn't understand that. But you know, I'm not really sure, because it's not like you're trying to get somebody to fill the Ilmor, these are bikes that can win races.
Q: What happened at the start.
CS: Ask my technician that, because it wasn't my fault.
Q: You weren't in second gear!
CS: No, the bike jumped and shuddered and shook, and it sounded like the bike basically exploded off the start, nearly stalled the thing and just started going horribly, and managed to keep it going. Got into the first turn and got shoved around and pushed around, and really spat out the back door.
I'm a little disappointed, because it would have been an easy second, maybe even battle with Jorge for the win, but I would have had to push for that.