Archive - Sep 2009
Leon Camier has been looking for a ride in the World Superbike paddock for a while now, and his utter domination of the British Superbike series certainly showed that he has the necessary talent. As we reported yesterday, Camier is to get his chance, taking the place of the injured Shinya Nakano riding the Aprilia RSV4.
Three points. Three miserable stinkin' little points. That's what the World Superbike championship has come down to coming into the penultimate round at Magny Cours, in central France. Despite being the final round in the series from 2003 to 2007, Magny Cours has somehow never been one of those places where legendary battles to the finish happen. The closest that the the French circuit has came to deciding a title was in 2007 when this year's point leader Noriyuki Haga doubled to come as near as he ever has to winning a world championship, a mere two points behind James Toseland.
Haga is in the catbird seat, albeit just barely, after winning race 1 and taking second in Race 2 at Imola. Haga and Ducati have historically done well at the mostly flat French track, with 4 wins and eight podiums for Haga and 7 wins and 10 podiums for Ducati. Haga's showing at Imola confirms that the Rider Formerly Known as Nitro is recovered from his mid-season shoulder and arm injuries, or at least well enough that they don't matter much.
It's been a tough year for Honda. The season got off to a bad start with the injury to Dani Pedrosa, then when it came time for the team to sign new riders, it took a suspiciously long time to actually reach deals with both Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, while rumors raged that HRC was also courting Jorge Lorenzo. Along with the rider difficulties, there have been continuing rumblings that Repsol, the factory Honda team's title sponsor, is dissatisfied with the way the team has performed and was looking at pulling its support for the squad.
To deal with this problem, Honda has invested a huge amount of time and effort to solve the problems they have faced. HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto has publicly admitted that the team's difficulties have been down to Honda's failure to produce a competitive motorcycle, rather than any shortcomings by the riders - as has been the previous practice. Honda has even started experimenting with Ohlins suspension, replacing the equipment produced by Honda subsidiary Showa.
MCN is reporting that James Toseland will announce tomorrow that he will be moving to the Yamaha World Superbike team in 2010. There should also be a concurrent or simultaneous announcement that, as has been heavily rumored for weeks, American Ben Spies will ascend to Toseland's old seat at Tech 3. Perhaps Tech 3 will also confirm that Colin Edwards will team with his fellow Texan. As Toseland had been rumored to be in line for a number of "A" list rides in WSBK, this move should set forth a chain reaction of rider placements in the superbike paddock.
With Shinya Nakano out for the rest of the season with an injury, Aprilia are in need of a replacement rider for the World Superbike rounds at Magny-Cours and Portimao. Marco Simoncelli returns to his day job as factory Gilera 250cc rider this weekend at Estoril, and Aprilia test rider Alex Hofmann has duties of his own as a TV presenter for the German-language sports channel DSF at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Thus Aprilia is taking the opportunity of the two final races of the year to give a chance to candidates for the factory seat next year. Their main target is newly-crowned BSB champion Leon Camier, according to the Swiss magazine SpeedWeek. The Airwaves Yamaha rider wrapped up the BSB title last weekend at Silverstone, and has made no secret of his desire to make the switch to the World Superbike series next season. And so Camier has the Magny-Cours and Portimao WSBK rounds to secure a ride in the WSBK paddock for 2010 with a few good results.
Though Camier's talent is beyond question, whether the Aprilia is the best vehicle for showcasing that talent is another matter altogether. The RSV4 is by far the most compact - even minuscule - of the current Superbikes, and Camier is one of the tallest men in racing. Max Biaggi fits on the RSV4 neatly, but the Roman Emperor is no giant. Marco Simoncelli, at 6' or 1.83m, looked cramped on the bike, so how Camier, at 6'2 or 1.89m will fit on the RSV4 remains to be seen.
Simoncelli has also set the bar high for the young Briton. The reigning 250 World Champion came into the series as a wildcard at Imola, crashing out of 5th in race 1 and getting on the podium in race 2. As reigning BSB champion, Camier will have goals which, if not quite as high, will still be to finish well inside the top 10. Aboard a machine which will make him look like he is riding a pocket bike, that may be a tough ask.
The long awaited press release from Ducati is finally here, and it contains the news that many fans around the world have been waiting for: Casey Stoner will be back and ready to race at Estoril. The press release also contains the most detailed explanation of Stoner's medical situation yet to be released by either Ducati or the Australian World Champion, but the diagnosis remains unclear. No viral or bacterial problems turned up in any of the tests Stoner was subjected to, and the only problems to appear were low blood pressure and a sodium imbalance. These are probably the causes of Stoner's extreme fatigue, which prevented him from being competitive. Stoner is currently on a sodium-rich diet, to help raise his blood pressure and muscle responsiveness.
We don't usually reprint press releases, but this is one that is worth reading, so it is reproduced below, or you can read it on the Ducati website:
STONER BACK ON TRACK AND HAYDEN CONFIDENT OF CONTINUED PROGRESS AS DUCATI MOTOGP TEAM HEADS TO ESTORIL
The Ducati MotoGP Team returns from a long September break this weekend ready to tackle the Estoril circuit with Casey Stoner back in the saddle alongside his team-mate Nicky Hayden.
The Italian outfit has been working hard on two fronts since the end of July, on one hand liasing with doctors in Australia monitoring the progress being made by Casey and on the other continuing exhaustive development of the Desmosedici, on which Nicky has been able to make great strides, culminating with his podium finish at Indianapolis and further signs of competitiveness at Misano before a blameless first lap crash.
During two months away from racing under the supervision of an expert medical team in his homeland (Dr. Neil Halpin, Sport Physician, Dr Jeremy Coleman, Consultant Physician, Dr Harry Grunstein, Endocrinologist and Professor Jonathan Silberberg, Cardiologist), who have remained in touch with Prof. Fabio Catani (Specialist in Pathology and Locomotive System at the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute of Bologna and Ducati's doctor for several years) and Dr Claudio Macchiagodena of the Clinica Mobile, Casey has undergone a series of exams and special tests.
Makoto Tamada has had a miserable season with the Kawasaki World Superbike squad this year. Dogged by crashes and injury, Tamada has already missed nearly half the season with one injury or another, and his crash in race one at Imola saw the Japanese veteran concussed and suffering amnesia. As a result, the Japanese rider looks set to miss yet another round of racing, with the next round of World Superbikes due to take place this weekend at the Magny Cours circuit in France.
Once again, South African Superbike champion Sheridan Morais is set to take his place. No official confirmation has yet been received, but friend of MotoMatters.com Bentley Mtafu bumped into Morais at the airport in Johannesburg, carrying his helmet and leathers and ready to go racing. And so Morais will get another chance to impress the World Superbike scene, after finishing ahead of his temporary team mate Broc Parkes in both races at Kyalami, where Morais filled in for the injured Tamada back in May. If Morais scores points at Magny-Cours - which he is surely capable of - he will overtake the rider he is replacing in the championship standings, both Tamada and Morais currently tied with 8 points, despite Morais only having ridden two races.
Casey Stoner continues to make headlines, though whether the basis on which the stories are written merit the headlines or not remains to be seen. The most reliable information comes from the well-connected Matt Birt at Motorcycle News. According to this story over at MCN, Birt spoke to Ducati team boss Livio Suppo, who informed him that he had spoken to Casey Stoner, who was already in Europe, having landed in Switzerland, and preparing to fly to Estoril and ready to race, though Suppo emphasized that expectations were low for the Australian. "It is not about him coming back and winning the next four races," Suppo told MCN, but rather about making the 2007 World Champion comfortable and working on the 2010 bike ready for next year's championship challenge.
While MCN's story is built on fairly strong foundations, the story in the Spanish press is a little shakier. Motocuatro is assuring their readers that Stoner will return at Estoril, but the site is basing it's story on contact with the Ducati press officer, who has assured Motocuatro that she has spoken to Stoner, as always prior to writing the pre-race press release, and Stoner has told her that he will be ready to race in Portugal. In short, Motocuatro are writing that the press release will state that Stoner will return. When stories are being written speculating on the possible contents of a press release, then you know for sure that you are in the middle of a media feeding frenzy.
David Miller, editor of Bike Sport News writes on the the Mirror.co.uk website that it is rumored that James Toseland will ride on the Yamaha World Superbike team with fellow Brit Cal Crutchlow in 2010. Toseland, who is reportedly all but gone from MotoGP, has been linked to nearly every "A" level ride in the production-based series. This pre-supposes that American rookie sensation Ben Spies will take Toseland's seat in the Tech 3 squad next year. Crutchlow, whose coronation as 2009 WSS champion has been put on hold due to yesterday's crash at Imola, reportedly has an option clause in his contract that would elevate him to the SBK series in 2010, given the right results. Crutchlow might have other things to say about Yamaha's plans for him, however, as he has been closely linked to a ride on Fausto Gresini's Moto2 squad in 2010.
Aprilia head of communications Alain Roger, in an interview with Caradisiac. com revealed that Aprilia will field another 2-bike team in World Superbikes in 2010. Roger was not forthcoming on who would manage the team or whether the team would be a satellite. Roger did infer however, that current factory rider Shinya Nakano could find his way onto the squad. Roger also dropped the bombshell that former World Champion Troy Bayliss approached the team inquiring about a ride. How serious or tongue-in-cheek that contact was is yet to be determined. As for other candidates for the seat alongside Max Biaggi, Roger said that it was too early to decide, given the number of "orphans" likely to exit MotoGP.
The Spies Saga continues to rumble on. Despite the official announcement by Yamaha that Ben Spies will be racing in World Superbikes next season, rumors persist that the Texan will be riding a Tech 3 Yamaha alongside Colin Edwards in 2010. The persistently half-hearted denials by Yamaha, Spies and his mother and manager Mary serve merely to fan the flames, rather than deliver a decisive verdict on which Spies will be riding in next season. A typical example of this equivocation is below, in the interview posted by the excellent On The Throttle TV website, in which World Superbike commentator Jonathon Green asks Ben Spies about a possible switch to MotoGP, and Spies replies that he is "not at liberty to say what's going on right now," which is about as far from an outright denial as it is possible to get.
So convinced was the leading Italian magazine MotoSprint that Spies is going to MotoGP, that they ran a story on the website that an announcement on the move would be announced directly after Sunday's race at Imola. Sunday came and went, and the announcement never came, and so the story was pulled, but thanks to Google's voracious recording of everything that appears on the internet, the story is still visible through Google's search cache.
Alstare Suzuki and title sponsor Dr Brux, an Italian dentifrice manufacturer, have terminated their partnership due to what Alstare calls a "non-fulfilment of sponsorship obligations". What this means in non-PR-speak is that the check(s) weren't in the mail. This news can't be good for team owner Frankie Batta's quest for a top rider as Suzuki is reportedly cutting direct support to most of their road racing efforts.
There's just something about Italy and motorcycles. The culture and economy are suffused with the love of all things two-wheel. Chances are, if you are a motorcylist at least a bit of your kit is produced in Italy or maybe your garage is populated by machines that were designed and built by people who have a preternatural passion for motorcycles. Italians love racing, too, and when you combine the two on Italian soil you always have the opportunity for something special. Italian riders feed on this passion and the energy and intensity they absorb makes them try just a bit harder than they might at, say, Sepang or Motegi. Of course, that energy and intensity can have a flip side as well, just ask Colin Edwards, he'll give you a profane mouthful about Italian riders in Italy.
Coming into Imola, 2 riders not from Italy but who have been virtually adopted by the paisanos as their own and whose teams are from the country, came into ths round in a dogfight for the world title. Amercan Ben Spies had clawed back from an 88 point deficit to lead the series by 18 points on the back of 2nd place man Noriyuki Haga's crash in race two at the Nurburgring. This capped a misbegotten string of mostly mediocre races that saw Haga slipping in the points spread, partly due to injuries to his shoulder and arm.
Race One: Old Age and Treachery