Every year, as the MotoGP season commences, a veritable jungle of MotoGP Fantasy Leagues springs up around the internet, give fans the chance to test their skills in running a MotoGP team against like-minded individuals. Although we're big fans of those kinds of games, MotoMatters.com wouldn't be MotoMatters.com if we didn't do things just a little bit differently.
Although the loss of the live video feed from the World Superbike website is greatly lamented, Infront Motor Sports has some small consolation. On the World Superbike Youtube channel, IMS have put up highlight reels from this weekend's racing, showing the best of the action from both World Superbike races and the World Supersport races at Portimao. What better way to start the week than with a quick recap of the races?
World Superbike Race 1 highlights:
World Superbike Race 2 highlights:
As the clock ticks down towards the start of the 2010 MotoGP season, the riders and teams are preparing themselves for battle to commence. Perhaps the best way to get yourself ready to race is to go watch some racing, a sentiment that Nicky Hayden clearly agrees with, as he went down to Daytona for the AMA season opener, in which is older brother Tommy took part.
Of course, a MotoGP rider attending a race packed with journalists can't expect to get away without spending some time talking to journalists, and Daytona was no different for Hayden. The Marlboro Ducati rider posted a long segment for Superbikeplanet.com's excellent Soupkast (mp3 file here), and he also did a short interview with the excellent motorcycle racing video site OnTheThrottle.com, which we've posted below. Both are well worth a listen.
Two unrelated themes dominated the 2009 MotoGP season: Cost-cutting and the Rise of the Aliens. Drastic reductions in testing, a limited number of engines and the dropping of Friday morning practice were all aimed at turning the Niagara Falls of cash the series consumes into a more manageable torrent. Meanwhile Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner took a near whitewash of podiums, cleaning up 44 of the 51 rostrum spots available during the year.
2010 is likely to continue where 2009 left off, but these two different aspects are on a collision course, due for impact around midsummer this year. For though the manufacturers and teams continue to meet in the Grand Prix Commission, to discuss further ways of trimming the costs of racing, the fact that the contracts of the four finest riders of their generation all expire at the end of the season will unleash a bidding war unlike anything ever seen in MotoGP.
The Aliens, as Loris Capirossi has dubbed them, already command the lion's share of rider salaries in the series. Numbers are hard - if not impossible - to come by, but Valentino Rossi alone probably earns more than all of the riders except the Aliens combined, and Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Stoner will each earn many times the salary of any of the other Mortals. It may not be fair, but given that the Aliens won every race but one and hogged 86% of podiums this year, it is the only guarantee of getting your bike and your sponsors onto TV. Success sells, and without an Alien on your bike, success is a very scarce commodity indeed.
Overall times from both days of testing at Qatar:
Casey Stoner finally managed to break Valentino Rossi's stranglehold on testing on the final day at Qatar, the Australian putting his Marlboro Ducati on top of the timesheets early on, and only occasionally ceding the lead to the Fiat Yamaha man. The Australian was fast throughout the session, not even a minor crash slowing Stoner down.
Despite finishing half a second down to the rider he has annointed as his main challenger, Rossi pronounced himself happy with the way the test went, telling GPone.com that he believed the new Yamaha M1 had proved it was competitive at Qatar. The Italian also tested some tires for the 2011 season; after testing a hard front in Sepang, Rossi tried the softer compound 2011 front tire at Qatar, but revealed he did not believe it represented a huge leap forwards.
The first day of the final test for the MotoGP class before the season commences saw Valentino Rossi continue his domination of testing, ending the session three tenths ahead of his nearest rival Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider was constantly at the top of the timesheets, only really ceding the top spot when he paused for dinner late on in the evening. Despite the track cooling and the evening dew which started to form, Rossi took another half a second off his best time to stamp his authority on the session.
Casey Stoner found himself demoted to second, at a track where he has won three years in a row, but the Australian pronounced himself happy with the test, telling GPOne.com that the bike was working really well, especially on used tires. The Ducati Marlboro rider did comment that he would like some more power with the long-life engines, as would everybody, but he praised the new engine character, which made the Ducati much easier to ride.
Just over a month ago today, Valentino Rossi vowed to stop talking about his future in the press. But like everyone who has vowed to give up smoking or lose weight at the start of a new year, Rossi has found that such resolutions can be incredibly difficult to maintain. For at the ceremony on Thursday night where Rossi was presented with the "Winning Italy Award" in recognition of his work in improving Italy's public image abroad, Rossi was once again tempted into making statements on where he will be riding next season.
In response to questions about how much longer he will stay in MotoGP, the Italian living legend put the fears of MotoGP fans and organizers to rest: "I am again enjoying the sport and the desire to compete, so I think I will continue for some more years," Rossi told the press. Rossi could not avoid the question on all of Italy's mind, either. When asked about a potential switch to Ducati, Rossi was very clear: "An Italian on an Italian bike would be nice, yes. But I think I want to stay with Yamaha, which is also a little bit Italian. I would feel like a traitor if I acted any other way, because I feel very good with them."
The rider lineup for the 2010 World Superbike Season:
The rider lineup for the 2010 MotoGP season:
There was much disappointment around the world when it was announced, shortly before the first round at Phillip Island, that the 2010 World Superbike season would not be shown live online on the World Superbike website, as it has been done in previous years. The reason was simple: TV companies - who had paid sizable sums to Infront Motor Sports to screen the races live - were fed up of losing their audiences (and therefore their advertising income) to the website of the company they had handed their money over to.
Fortunately, the World Superbike series can lend at least some succour to racing fans. For Infront has placed highlight reels of both World Superbike and the World Supersport race up on the World Superbike series' Youtube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/sbk. So fans who have missed the races can at least get a taster of the action from Down Under before their local TV stations show the races - if they are being shown in those territories.