September 6th, 2009
Two more crucial pieces of the MotoGP silly season puzzle have fallen into place at Misano, as HRC announced that they have signed new contracts with Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso for next season. The deal consolidates the basic agreement which HRC boss Tetsuo Suzuki announced at the Brno round in the middle of August, though the terms are different to those in the initial announcement. Neither Pedrosa nor Dovizioso have signed two-year deals, as Mr Suzuki had said they would; instead, Dovizioso has signed a deal for 2010 with an option for 2011, while Dani Pedrosa has penned just a single year deal for 2010.
The basic agreement spoken of at Brno had the paradoxical effect of increasing speculation on the future of Pedrosa in particular. The speculation was fueled by Alberto Puig's denial of an agreement between his protege Pedrosa and Honda, made directly after Mr Suzuki made the HRC announcement. More oil was thrown on the fire when Pedrosa acknowledged he had had talks with Ducati, after the Italian factory had been turned down by Jorge Lorenzo. Stories also emerged that the sticking point in the Pedrosa / Honda negotations was the role of Alberto Puig, and as Pedrosa's manager was the man that HRC were being forced to negotiate with, that made the talks difficult.
One of the main reasons that Pedrosa had held off for so long - and possibly a reason for agreeing just to a single year deal, rather than the two year contract favored by Honda - is the failure of Honda to provide the kind of competitive machinery that the factory built throughout the 990cc era. Recent rapid improvements may have persuaded Pedrosa to give Honda the benefit of the doubt, the RC212V now clearly competitive, as Pedrosa's dominance at Indianapolis proved - at least until he crashed out of the race.
Results of the warm up session for the MotoGP class at Misano:
Results of the warm up session for the 250cc class at Misano:
Results of the warm up session for the 125cc class at Misano:
A few weeks ago, there was a flurry of excitement over the prospect of a brand new team and a brand new bike entering MotoGP, when the French site Moto Caradisiac announced that Gil Motorsport boss Jean Christophe Ponsson was about to enter the series. The team would be run using the existing Gil Motorsport structure - previously running in the World Supersport series - and field a new machine currently being designed by Eskil Suter, powered by a brand new V4 powerplant that is said to produce a class-leading 240 bhp.
There was reason to be a little sceptical about the reports - not least because the step up from running a World Supersport to running in MotoGP is a particularly large one, in terms of organization, engineering ability and sheer scale - and yet the consensus was to give the story the benefit of the doubt. Yesterday, however, news emerged that appears to justify the initial scepticism about the project. According to Moto Caradisiac, Gil Motorsport boss Ponsson had told the French site that he had spoken to no one less than MotoGP legend Kevin Schwantz, and that Schwantz had agreed to manage the team for the first two seasons.
This, it seemed to us, was asking us to suspend our disbelief just a little too much, and so we contacted Kevin Schwantz to ask if there was any truth to the reports. A spokesperson for Schwantz initially dismissed the reports as "a PR stunt", and then gave us a statement from Schwantz himself, which reads: "At this moment, I do not currently have an agreement to manage a team, whether in MotoGP, Moto2, or WSBK."
With the future of Ben Spies now apparently settled - though the English-language journalists continue to debate the exact meaning of the word "foresee", and whether it allows for Spies to move to MotoGP earlier than 2011 - half the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seems to be settled, as Colin Edwards looks certain to keep his seat in the team, especially given the outstanding results he has posted this season. The fate of James Toseland, however, looks a good deal less certain, with team boss Herve Poncharal stopping short of expressing outright criticism of the British rider, but pointing out that Toseland's results have been disappointing, both for Toseland himself and for the team. It is widely accepted that Toseland is likely to remain in MotoGP - the BBC's multi-year multi-million dollar deal with series organizer Dorna would seem to demand that a British rider be in the series - but that does not mean that JT needs to stay at Tech 3.
Indeed, it seems as if that battle has already been fought, and Toseland has lost. The usually well-informed Spanish website Motocuatro.com is reporting that not Toseland, but Alex de Angelis will be riding for Monster Tech 3 Yamaha next year. The deal would be for a single season, with Yamaha taking a look at both Edwards and De Angelis at the end of 2010, to decide who will make way for Ben Spies. De Angelis' run of excellent results since the Sachsenring are believed to have persuaded Yamaha to have given the man from San Marino a second chance to prove himself, and given the proven nature of the satellite Yamaha M1, that should be a challenge De Angelis is up to.
Result of Qualifying Practice for the 250cc class at Misano:
Results of the Superpole sessions for World Superbikes at the Nurburgring:
Results of Qualifying Practice for the MotoGP class:
Result and summary of Qualifying for the World Supersport class at the Nurburgring:
Result and summary of Qualifying Practice for the 125cc class at Misano:
Local boy Mattia Pasini was fastest in the second session of free practice for the 250cc class at Misano. The Team Toth Aprilia rider took an early lead and never gave it up, despite strong and sustained challenges from Pepe World's Hector Barbera. Metis Gilera's Marco Simoncelli was 3rd fastest in the session, getting ahead of the championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama on the Scot Honda in the final third of the session. Aoyama finished ahead of his main title rival Alvaro Bautista, who could manage only the 5th fastest time.
If Ben Spies had struggled in yesterday's soaking conditions, he had no such trouble during this morning's dry second qualifying session. The Sterilgarda Yamaha rider went straight to the top of the timesheets during the session, only relinquishing top spot after Noriyuki Haga hustled his Xerox Ducati around to a top time on his final lap. Spies is now the meat in a Ducati sandwich, with Michel Fabrizio in 3rd, ahead of Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea. Spies team mate Tom Sykes continued his run of good form, taking 5th place in the dry, ahead of fellow Englishman Shane Byrne.
The final starting order will be settled this afternoon, during Superpole.
The intense rivalry between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo continues apace, the next instalment taking place on Saturday morning during the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class. After Rossi took first blood yesterday, Jorge Lorenzo set about extracting revenge, but that would be no easy task. Rossi and Lorenzo swapped the lead multiple times during the session, with Dani Pedrosa getting involved early on, before the two Fiat Yamaha men cracked into the 1'34s and left the Repsol Honda rider behind.
Lorenzo looked like clinching the session with a blistering final lap, but Rossi had crossed the line with a couple of seconds on the clock, and another shot at a lap. He made it count, destroying the race lap record and besting Lorenzo's time by two tenths of a second. Pedrosa ended up in 3rd, comfortably ahead of the LCR Honda of Randy de Puniet and Pedrosa's Repsol Honda team mate Andrea Dovizioso. Ducati's Nicky Hayden finished the session in 6th, continuing to improve, while Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards was 7th.