The switch from Central European Time to Central European Summer Time meant we lost an hour at Jerez this morning, the clocks going forward. So when practice opened at 10am this morning, the track had barely warmed, and the cold wind made wearing a coat highly advisable. As a consequence, most of the riders didn't hit the track until 10:45, with only the test riders out and circulating.
Casey Stoner was one of the first official riders out, and was apparently entirely unhindered by the cool track temperatures. Within three laps, Stoner was under the existing lap record, and a tenth of a second quicker than his own time yesterday. Behind Stoner were the Fiat Yamaha pair, Jorge Lorenzo leading team mate Valentino Rossi once again, while Suzuki's Loris Capirossi was less than a tenth slower than Rossi, showing that Suzuki mean business this year.
Andrea Dovizioso was 5th fastest, but the Repsol Honda rider was already over a second behind Stoner, and nearly half a second slower than Capirossi.
The Dash For The Car is up next.
Final times from the morning session of testing at Jerez:
Sete Gibernau's team revealed its new livery here at Jerez yesterday, a rather handsome blue, green, white and red color scheme, vaguely reminiscent of the special livery Gibernau ran in 2006 at Mugello when he was partnered with Loris Capirossi at Ducati. But one thing was prominent by its absence from the bike - a reference to Equatorial Guinea, the small African nation run by the 14th worst dictator in the world, according to Parade Magazine. This is something of a surprise, for the team was originally entered under the banner of Guinea Ecuatorial, the Spanish name for the country, where Francisco Hernando, the man funding the team, is engaged in building a holiday resort complex.
Further research reveals that the whole team has been quietly rebranded. Any association with the dictator is gone, replaced instead by Grupo Francisco Hernando and Nueva Edificacion 2000, another - and less tainted - project run by the Spanish construction group. Even the team has been renamed: Instead of the Guinea Ecuatorial team, it is now called the Grupo Francisco Hernando team.
Over the years, MotoGP has had some sponsors of debatable ethical standards, and discussions have flared up from time to time as to whether it's good for motorcycle racing to be linked to products like tobacco. But while we can argue about the choice of people to use tobacco products or not, brutal dictatorships which routinely engage in torture are not the kind of association that MotoGP needs. Good riddance.
Final times from day 1 of the IRTA test at Jerez:
|Pos||No.||Rider||Bike||Time||Diff||Fast lap||Total laps|
|8||15||Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'40.900||1.109|
|13||14||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'41.168||1.377|
Lap Record: Valentino Rossi, 2005, 1'40.596
Times shortly at 3:30pm
The track is drying at Jerez, though more due to the wind than the sun, the skies are still cloudy, if not quite leaden. But the times are now definitely starting to drop. So far, Loris Capirossi is topping the timesheets, finally emerging from the pits to prove that the Suzuki genuinely looks fast. James Toseland is currently second, ahead of the Playboy LCR Honda of Randy de Puniet.
Valentino Rossi was the last of the late wakers, finally entering his pit garage shortly after 1pm.
Times shortly after 1pm
The track at Jerez is slowly drying out, but the action on track is still sporadic. Bridgestone only has four rain tires for each rider here at Jerez, so riders are choosing to stay in the pits. The track is in that horrid inbetween stage where it's tricky on slick tires, but too dry for full wets.
The biggest shock of the second hour of testing was of Brawn GP proportions: Marco Melandri spent a good 20 minutes at the top of the timesheets on the Hayate / Kawasaki / Hai Karate bike. But shortly before noon he was deposed by James Toseland, who went out as the track began to dry more fully, and times began to drop dramatically.
So far, James Toseland and Jorge Lorenzo have been the real workhorses at Jerez, pounding in lap after lap, while others are hoping for better conditions to appear. Despite the relative lack of action, and the indifferent weather, crowds are out in force, and mobbing any rider brave enough to appear. Valentino Rossi's motorhome is easy to identify - it's the one surrounded by fans - and Fiat Yamaha have sectioned off the area around their transporters with barriers, to prevent the crowds from thronging into the trailers and probably the garage as well, given the chance.
Judging by the reception Sete Gibernau is receiving, the Grupo Francisco Hernando team should have sectioned off their carrier as well. Gibernau risks being crushed to death under the weight of fans wanting to have their picture taken with the Spaniard. Gibernau is clearly still a star.
Times shortly after noon:
Jerez awoke this morning to the gentle trickle of rain running off the rooftops, a rather inauspicious start to the first day of testing. Luckily, it had just about finished once the bikes hit the track, though the track is still very damp, though it looks like drying out reasonably quickly now that the sun has come out to help burn it off.
About half the riders here are out on track, the rest electing to sit in their motorhomes until conditions improve. And at 11am, it was Casey Stoner rather unsurprisingly topping the timesheets, the Australian putting in a few laps to get a feel for the track here once again. Second fastest was, again unsurprisingly, Chris Vermeulen on the Rizla Suzuki, while Colin Edwards on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha was 3rd quickest.
Times at 11am
This is the final, official version of the 2009 MotoGP calendar. After being in doubt for a long time, the Hungarian Grand Prix was eventually canceled over problems with the track. It will now make its debut on the calendar in the spring of 2010.
|May 17th||France||Le Mans|
|July 5th***||United States||Laguna Seca|
|July 26th||Great Britain||Donington Park|
|August 16th||Czech Republic||Brno|
|September 6th||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Misano|
|October 18th||Australia||Phillip Island|
|November 8th||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo - Valencia|
* Evening race
** Saturday race
*** Only MotoGP class
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|
Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin won the inaugural American Superbike race today at Daytona International Speedway. So what, you say, won't Mladin win them all this year now that Ben Spies has moved on to World Superbikes? Besides, those bikes they're riding aren't really superbikes, are they? You'd be wrong if you looked at the spec sheet and the finishing order and thought the race was boring. It's true that Mladin took over on the 7th lap and won by over a second but the actual racing was a lot more entertaining than that.
Mladin, Corona Honda's Neil Hodgson and Foremost Ducati's Larry Pegram all led in the early stages of the race and Mladin's teammate Tommy Hayden overcame a poor start that he attributed to an unfamiliar starting procedure to join a lead pack that saw numerous overtaking manuevers behind the leader. Mladin's grasp on the top step on the podium was in peril until he employed a backmarker to gain a bit of breathing room very late in the contest. Hodgson pipped Hayden at the line in a thrilling finish for second place by .001 second when Hayden lost speed after being balked in the chicane on the last lap. Pegram dropped back to a distant but comfortable fourth when an electrical problem forced him to switch off his 1098's traction control.
Blake Young took fifth place in his debut performance for Yosimura Suzuki after a nearly race-long battle with Graves Yamaha's Ben Bostrom. Bostrom's teammate, Josh Hayes, dropped back after an off-track excursion in the horseshoe. Hayes was sandwiched by Jordan Suzuki teammates Aaron Yates and Geoff May.
While it may be true that the hardware isn't state of the art and the finishing order looks like the same old, the point of racing is close battles and exciting finishes. Today's race delivered those requirements in spades and the series only looks to get better as the season progresses.
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time we were all wondering who would take over the AMA roadracing program and what direction the new overseers would take it in. Just as a brief recap, here's what happened:
1. Daytona Motorsports Group, a consortium comprised of the France family and Roger Edmundson bought the rights to roadracing and sundry other AMA branded series.
2. The AMA classes, rules and procedures were carried over (mostly) for the 2008 season with the notable exception that tech inspection suddenly became a deadly serious matter with tangible penalties for infractions.
3. DMG, in dribs and drabs, started formulating a new class structure for the 2009 season, which virtually eliminated the racing classes as we knew them. The premiere series was to be something called "Daytona Superbike" which featured dumbed-down Formula Extreme 4 cylinder 600cc sportbikes and a wide variety of other engine configuations/displacements. Superbike, 600 Supersport and Superstock were all to be consigned to the ash heap of history. The only other attraction initially was to be MotoST, a Roger Edmunson-owned endurance racing series.
4. Much complaining and wrangling ensued, with the major manufacturers threatening too either quit racing entirely or jump ship and take their ball(s) and go play somewhere else.
5. A lot of time passed with no firm class structure or rules in place. Time for development of new machinery and hiring talent and technical crews was growing perilously short with not much communication from DMG.
6. Eventually, very late in the figurative day, a new class structure was put into place that most could live with, however out of touch with the rest of the roadracing world it might be.
7. The new classes were to be:
As the spring equinox grows ever closer in the northern hemisphere, the wraps are starting to come off of racing motorcycles the world over. Last weekend saw the World Superbikes kick off down under at Phillip Island, and this week sees the traditional start of the American road racing season at Daytona Bike Week. The highlight this year will be the Daytona 200, to be raced under the lights for the first time.
Luckily for you, dear readers, MotoGPMatters.com is live and on the scene at Daytona. Ace photographer Scott Jones will once again be providing us with his glorious pictures, and honing his already considerable skills for the MotoGP opener in Qatar in April, which he will be covering for us. Scott will be joined by the man many of you will know as yooperbikemiike, whose acerbic wit and acute observations have graced many a bulletin board across the motorcycling world.
Although the AMA is tangential to the purpose of MotoGPMatters.com - after all, it will take a while for some of the names in the AMA to make it into the world series we cover - we just couldn't turn down the chance to cover a historic and remarkable event like Daytona. Especially as this will see the series make its first outing under new management, the DMG having taken over earlier last year. So stay tuned for fantastic photography, great writing and a little piece of history.
On the final day of testing at Qatar, Casey Stoner did his usual trick of trouncing the field, his fastest time of 1'55.744 just 6/10ths off his own lap record, and nearly a second faster than his nearest competitor. Stoner did relatively few laps, and is still in some pain from his recuperating scaphoid, but declared himself happy with its progress, calling his wrist "almost OK", although he did tell GPOne.com that he was unhappy with the number of laps he had put in on the Ducati. The only worry the Australian had was in areas which involved heavy braking for left handers with the bike tipped over. Stoner had been testing electronics settings to match the new carbon fiber swingarm Ducati is using on the GP9, and decided to call it a day at 11pm, after the track began to lose grip as it cooled.
Stoner's nearest competitor was a bit of a surprise: Jorge Lorenzo was second fastest on the final day of testing, after complaining in previous days that he was struggling to cope with the Bridgestone tires. He obviously found some kind of solution, though his time still left him just under a second slower than Stoner.
Lorenzo may have been slower than Stoner, but he was also nearly a quarter of a second faster than his Fiat Yamaha team mate. Both Lorenzo and Rossi had been focusing on race simulations, putting in long runs to test how the bike ran on the spec tires. Lorenzo's times were impressive: a long run of 1'57s, finishing with a few laps in the 1'56s.
Chris Vermeulen finished the day 4th, the Suzuki clearly improved over the winter, raising hopes that the bike may show a return to its 2007 form. But the form of the Suzukis was perhaps not the biggest news of the night.
Testing resumed under rather better conditions at Qatar today, yesterday's rain fortunately not making a reappearance. And so all of the riders took to the track, with no reason to sit it out. One rider came to regret that decision, Dani Pedrosa suffering a big highside, and fracturing his wrist and leg (full story here), a bitter irony after the Spaniard chose to sit out yesterday's session for fear of aggravating his already injured knee.
Fastest of the day was - how could it be otherwise? - Casey Stoner. The Australian put in relatively few laps, but according to Livio Suppo, his wrist was holding up better than it had been previously, the surgery on his injured scaphoid slowly starting to heal. Stoner was testing a carbon fiber swingarm to go along with the carbon fiber frame, and from the times he set, it would appear to be working.
Valentino Rossi was second fastest, though still 6/10ths behind Stoner, a big gap. But his arrears to Stoner had not left him without a sense of humor: Rossi appeared at the track with a comedy high-visibility yellow helmet, in the colors used by the emergency services in a number of countries.
Colin Edwards was third fastest, the Tech 3 Yamaha man clearly settling in with his new crew chief, while Andrea Dovizioso was left to salvage Repsol Honda's honor, taking the 4th fastest time in the dying minutes of the session, ahead of the Suzukis of Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi.
The night test at Qatar got off to a frankly bizarre start on Sunday night. The test, which was due to run from 6pm to midnight local time, got off to a difficult start, after rain in the morning left the track greasy, and then rain at around 7pm called proceedings to a halt for a while, with riders sitting in the pits for an hour or so, before going out again. But it wasn't just rain that was causing the problems: Sand had been blowing onto the track and both reducing grip while paradoxically increasing tire wear, making the whole exercise of rather dubious value.
That was certainly the opinion of a number of riders: Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa decided to sit out the evening, not wanting to risk further injury to their recovering wrist and knee respectively. Loris Capirossi did not even bother to start, while Valentino Rossi came straight in after an out lap. Jorge Lorenzo recording a single lap before coming back in again.
The two riders who recorded the most laps were the two riders who need the work the most: Nicky Hayden is still battling to come to terms with the Ducati, and find a solution to the rear wheel pump that everyone except Casey Stoner seems to struggle with. Stoner suffers it just as much as all the other Ducati riders, he just seems to cope with it better, perhaps by ignoring it completely.
Marco Melandri is still to sign his contract to ride the "Hayate", or The-Bike-Formerly-Know-As-The-2009-Kawasaki. But he put in a fair stint of testing, to try and get a feel for what the bike is like. According to GPOne.com, Melandri said that TBFKAT2K is better than the 2008 Kawasaki, which must come as a relief. The team is to be run by technical guru Ichiro Yoda, with former team boss Michael Bartholemy having been pushed aside.