June 10th, 2009
There are two things that people missed the most after the demise of the 500cc two strokes, and their replacement with the 990cc four-stroke MotoGP bikes: The noise and the smell. You can still experience the sweet smell of burning two-stroke oil by standing as close as possible to the track as the 250 and 125 classes howl by, but as fantastic as the smaller bikes sound, they're still no match for the crackle of the 500cc four-cylinder two-stroke machines.
Fortunately, Honda have a solution: On their historic website, they are offering brief sound clips of the championship-winning Honda NSR500 machine. The files are in MP3 format, and can be downloaded to a modern mobile phone for use as a ringtone, for example, or just for the sheer enjoyment of hearing an old NSR500 on full song. The NSR500 MP3 files can be downloaded from this page on the Honda website, part of the larger NSR500 history site at Honda.
The demise of the Hoegee Suzuki World Supersport team left Barry Veneman in a difficult situation. Veneman has very strong links with Suzuki, having worked for the company in Holland for several years, as well as having ridden for Suzuki in World Supersport and the Dutch ONK national championship since 2004, limiting his options for finding a ride for the rest of the season. Hoegee Suzuki were the only team running Suzukis in the World Supersport series, meaning that Veneman would either have to switch series or leave the Suzuki connection behind.
Veneman's name had been linked to a number of rides: Alstare Brux Suzuki in World Superbikes, as well as Crescent Suzuki in the British Superbike series; but there had also been rumors linking the Dutchman to the Spanish Holiday Gym team in World Supersport, riding a Yamaha.
But word is now emerging that Veneman is to stay in World Supersport after all. According to the well-informed Dutch magazine MOTO73, the Ten Kate Honda team will be fielding a third Honda CBR600RR for Veneman for the rest of the season. No further details are currently available, but this would not be the first time that the Ten Kate team fielded three bikes. In 2007, Andrew Pitt was given an extra bike for the Assen round of World Supersport, after having replaced Sebastien Charpentier in the previous race.
After Dani Pedrosa fractured the greater trochanter of his right thigh during practice at Mugello, his chances of racing at his home Grand Prix at Barcelona looked to be slim. But after a week of complete rest, things have turned around for the Spaniard, and he announced today that he will be racing at Barcelona after all.
Pedrosa was examined by Dr. Mir and Dr. Ribas at the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona today, and after a trial with painkilling injections, was given the all clear to race in the Catalunya Grand Prix. In a press release issued by the Repsol Honda team, he said "I'm really looking forward to my home Grand Prix even though the build-up has hardly been perfect. For the past week I've just been resting and that's pretty boring. But today I went to see the doctor and the results of the new scan have been quite positive. They decided to give me a trial pain-killing injection so that I can judge how it will feel ahead of the weekend. And today's scan really helped them pinpoint the best location for the injection so it can have the maximum effect, which was something they weren't able to do in Mugello. The feeling was good, so it looks like I'll have an injection before riding each day."
"Obviously it's still not going to be comfortable riding the bike but I'm feeling positive that we can go into the weekend and aim for the best possible result. In spite of the problems, my motivation for my home race is still the same. I've been waiting for this race for a long time and I want to get the best possible result for all the fans who will be there to support me. I hope I can give them a good weekend," Pedrosa said.
Last year's Red Bull US GP was unforgettable, featuring one of the most incredible races of the modern era, as Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner slugged it out in a no-holds-barred scrap for glory. This year promises to be just as good a race, but an even bigger event. The race has been scheduled to be held on the July 4th weekend, making this year's US GP a huge festival of racing.
Part of the celebrations will help do some good too. On July 2nd, Riders for Health, the organization set up by former GP star Randy Mamola together with Barry and Andrea Coleman, will be holding the Day of Stars, a unique opportunity to spend some time with some of the greatest names in motorcycle racing history. For a contribution of just USD 500, you get the chance to take a motorcycle tour of the scenic Carmel Valley wine country, have lunch with Randy Mamola, Wayne Rainey, Don Emde and a host of current and former GP stars and other celebrities, take part in the Parade Lap around the spectacular Laguna Seca circuit, and then take a special behind-the-scenes tour of the MotoGP paddock.
The Day of Stars is a chance to spend an unforgettable day with the people at the heart of MotoGP, while at the same time, doing a huge amount of good in helping provide primary health care to Africa's more remote regions. There are still a limited number of tickets available, and so you'll have to be quick if you are to join the select few who will be spending time with MotoGP's biggest names. You can find out more about the Day of Stars from the Riders for Health Day of Stars website, and you can book tickets through the Laguna Seca website, ticket code BB19WRFH-MC. Better hurry, before they're all gone.
After two promising years in the 125cc class, young American rider Stevie Bonsey was set to make his debut in the 250 class at the start of the 2009 season. Tragically, the financial crisis put an end to that, his Aprilia Madrid team forced to withdraw at the start of the season. Since then, Bonsey has been sat on the sidelines of Grand Prix racing, keeping his racing eye in by competing in flat track events back in the US.
Fortunately, Bonsey has been thrown a lifeline. The American will return to the 250 class, this time aboard an Aprilia LE with the Milar - Juegos Lucky team. Bonsey will be joining the Milar - Juegos Lucky team for the remainder of the season, along with half of the Aprilia Madrid team. Though the step marks an important return for Bonsey, too much should not be expected of the American, as he returns to racing on an Aprilia LE, with a massive power and handling disadvantage over the factory-spec RSAs. And so far, the Milar- Juegos Lucky team has failed to make much of an impact, their best results a pair of 18th places for Spanish rider Aitor Rodriguez. Rodriguez, currently injured, will be losing his place to Bonsey, though the native of Madrid has been offered a wildcard ride by the team as compensation.
Though Bonsey's results are likely to be modest at best for 2009, his move to the Milar - Juegos Lucky team is in part a strategic move. The team has already submitted an entry for the new Moto2 class, due to replace the 250s from next season. According to Motoworld.es, the rider they submitted the entry for is Stevie Bonsey. At Barcelona, the team will find out whether their submission has been successful or not, as the FIM is due to announce the list of entries which have been accepted for the new class at the Catalunya Grand Prix.
Those worried by the current state of the MotoGP championship - dwindling grids, rocketing costs and a barrage of rule changes aimed at "fixing" the problem - can be comforted by the state of Formula 1. While overtaking became increasingly rare in F1, the racing in MotoGP got better and better, until the pointless rule change reducing capacity from 990 to 800cc effectively killed off the racing. But as long as F1 remained as processional as it had been for the past 10 years or so, MotoGP had nothing to fear, it was felt.
Then, with the onset of the topsy-turvy 2009 season, the on-track action in Formula 1 took a dramatic turn for the better, with overtaking making a big comeback. Tragically for F1, though fortunately for the MotoGP series, the off-track arguments have been tearing the world's premier motorsport apart just as the on-track antics are making it a sport worth watching again. The teams and bodies that run the sport are engaged in an all-out war for control, with Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley attempting to impose a GBP 40 million budget cap on the teams, after first attempting to instigate a two-tier system of technical rules for capped and uncapped teams.
The dispute has seen FOTA, the fledgling Formula One Teams Association, set up to allow the teams to form a common front against Max Mosely of the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management, threaten to pull out of the 2010 Formula 1 championship, and set up a championship of their own.
After months of difficulty, Donington Park's difficulties appear to be at an end. The circuit killed two birds with one stone today, announcing both that it had passed the FIM inspection ahead of this months World Superbike and next month's MotoGP round, and that the track owners had reached a settlement with DVLL, the company running the track.
The track had been facing scrutiny after a new paddock access tunnel was put in place for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, due to take place in 2010, creating problems with run off. A number of events had been canceled and postponed this year, with some events taking place under a yellow flag at the section around McLeans. But a visit by FIM Safety Officer Claude Danis confirmed that the necessary changes had been made to restore run off between McLeans and Coppice. With the FIM licence now granted, the planned rounds of World Superbikes and MotoGP can go ahead unhindered.
In a press release issued by Donington Ventures Leisure Limited, the circuit CEO Simon Gillett said, "This is great news for everybody at Donington Park and all of the fans. The ticket sales for both of our world class motorcycle racing events have been extremely positive and we'd like to thank the fans who have remained loyal and believed in us for committing to buying tickets. We have already sold 50 per cent more tickets than we had at this time last year for World Superbikes and the sales of our MotoGP tickets have remained at the same level. We've also now opened up the opportunity for the on the day tickets for both events, which should encourage more fans to come and witness safe, enjoyable and exciting two-wheel racing at one of the UK's premier motorsport circuits. I'd like to thank the FIM for the positive working relationship that we have so far enjoyed and look forward to continuing to work with them in the future."
Melissa Paris' participation in the World Supersport race during the US round of World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah generated a lot of interest in women racing, and attracted plenty of press coverage. Once at the race, Paris performed pretty well, improving her lap time by some 3 seconds from the first session of practice on Friday to qualifying on Saturday. Sadly, her race was not so successful, a mechanical issue sidelining Paris on lap 7.
If you'd like to hear more of how her weekend went, then you're in luck. The stalwarts of American roadracing, Dean Adams and Jim McDermott from Superbikeplanet.com, interviewed Melissa Paris after the race, and put the interview online as part of their regular Soupkast podcast. The interview is a fascinating view into what it takes to put on a World Supersport ride, the practicalities involved, and just what and how much you can learn from the experience. You can either subscribe to the Soupkast podcast here, or download the MP3 file directly here.
Kawasaki has been rather successful with its substitute riders. After former GP winner Makoto Tamada broke a bone in his wrist, both South Africa's Sheridan Morais and the American Jamie Hacking have posted outstanding results in his place, Morais scoring a 13th and 11th place at Kyalamin, and Hacking taking 7th and a DNF at Miller Motorsports Park. So good have been their results, in fact, that both men are ahead of regular rider Makoto Tamada in the World Championship standings.
Now, Jamie Hacking is to be rewarded for his strong showing in Utah with the chance to compete in two more World Superbike rounds as Tamada's replacement. Hacking has been drafted in to race at Misano, on June 21st, and at Donington Park, a week later. The American impressed the team with both his riding and his feedback, though some of his fellow competitors were less impressed by some of the rough passes Hacking put on them.
The official reason given by the team for the choice to replace Tamada with Hacking is to allow the Japanese rider to recover fully before returning to full time duty at the Imola test in mid-July, and then the Brno round 10 days later. But rumors have been emerging from the team almost from the start of the season that the team are not happy with Tamada, and that the rider has been forced on them by Kawasaki headquarters back in Akashi, Japan.
Jamie Hacking has been angling for a ride in the World Superbike series, and now that his best friend in the paddock Ben Spies is in the series, he has someone else putting his case for him. Spies has said numerous times that Hacking belongs in the WSBK series, and it is entirely conceivable that the support of the Texan has helped Hacking's case. Hacking is looking more and more like the next American to make the jump to the World Superbike paddock.
After the World Supersport race at Miller Motorsports Park, MotoGPMatters caught up with Eugene Laverty to discuss the race, this season, and his future.
MGPM: Eugene, you led every lap of the Supersport race until Kenan Sofuoglu got by you with a pretty hard move a few corners from the finish. What did you think of Kenan’s pass?
Laverty: I’m still happy enough with second because the most important thing was to beat Cal today. I exited the corner just before [Sofuoglu’s pass] really well. I braked fairly deep and protected the line a little bit, and was already in the corner preparing to get on the gas again when Kenan came into the side of me, maybe 10 kilometers per hour faster than me. So it was a bit of a surprise, and when he hit me I thought we were both down because he hit me with such force but thankfully we both stayed up. Nine times out of ten we’d have both ended up on our backsides, so I was fairly happy that didn’t happen. But I think if I hadn’t been there for him to use as a berm he was going to run off the track for sure. He was able to bounce off me and that kept him to his line. But as long as we both stayed on that was the most important thing, to be fair.
MGPM: I saw the pass on the big screen out on track and it looked like you had to get on defense pretty quickly to avoid giving up second place to Cal.
Laverty: Yeah, I had to because I got put up onto the curbs, and I thought Cal was going to come around me as well, which would’ve been a real bummer. I would’ve been pretty peeved off then, but the fact that I was able to get back into the next right [hand turn] and get second, I was still fairly happy with that.
Peter Lenz is a young rider who we at MotoGPMatters.com have been following with great interest over the past few years. Though he may be only 12 years old, the young American has been regularly riding against and beating riders far more experienced and on far better equipment than himself. From all we have seen of this young man, he is a real star of the future.
So it was with some trepidation that we learned that Peter sustained serious injuries in a crash at Portland International Raceway, in Portland, Oregon. Lenz suffered brake failure on his first lap out of the pits, and slammed into a tire wall, breaking his leg in two places, his arm, and severing a nerve in his arm. He has since been operated on several times to fix the breaks, and the nerve has been reattached, and Peter now faces several months of rehabilitation to recover.
According to his father, Michael Lenz, speaking to Roadracing World, Lenz came away from the crash with surprisingly few injuries, a testament to the high quality safety gear the youngster wears. Without it, Peter's father believes the accident could have been much, much worse. The only bright side to the crash for the Lenz family is that the crash both demonstrated that the safety gear worked, and that it had an immediate effect in the paddock, with other riders going straight for their previously ignored chest protectors.
The future of the British Grand Prix hangs in the balance on Friday, as the Donington Park circuit faces an inspection from the FIM's safety officer Claude Danis, according to UK weekly Motorcycle News. The circuit has undergone massive work to prepare it for the Formula 1 Grand Prix which is scheduled to be run here in 2010 - if the company that runs the circuit doesn't lose the lease of financial problems beforehand.
The sticking point has been the reduced runoff at McLeans, caused by the building of a new paddock access tunnel between the McLeans and Coppice corners. According to MCN, the FIM has told Donington Ventures Leisure Limited, the company that runs the track, that the amount of runoff at McLeans must be the same as it was last year, and DVLL has given no indication that this is not the case. The circuit has already hosted racing in the British Superbike Championship, but Claude Danis told MCN that as the FIM is not involved in organizing BSB, they have to organize their own safety inspections.
If the track fails the inspection, then Donington will have two more weeks to rectify the situation. They would then face another inspection to verify the changes. If Donington Park were to fail the safety checks, then the MotoGP series could lose its second race of the season. Rumors had emerged that a race could take place at Imola, to replace the scrapped Hungarian round at the Balatonring, but organizers in Italy worry that with two rounds of MotoGP and three rounds of World Superbikes already planned to take place in the country, and in the midst of an economic crisis, Italian fans would simply not have enough money to afford to attend yet another round of international motorcycle racing.
Sete Gibernau is to make his return to the track at the Grand Prix of Catalunya in Barcelona in a week's time. Gibernau broke his collarbone in an awkward highside at Le Mans and was forced to pull out of the race there. The Spaniard was flown to Barcelona, where the collarbone was set in an operation and Gibernau started his recovery.
Gibernau now feels ready to race at Catalunya, though he will not be 100% fit. "I can't promise that I'll be at full fitness, but I'm very motivated to get out there for the first practice," Gibernau said at the official presentation of the Catalunya race.
There is more than a hint of irony in Gibernau's returning to race at the Montmelo track, just outside Barcelona. It was at this circuit in 2006 that Gibernau suffered the injury that would lead to his retirement at the end of that season. The Spaniard suffered a badly broken collarbone in a huge first-corner pile up, when he clipped his brake lever on erstwhile team mate Loris Capirossi's Ducati, sending both men off into the gravel and out of the race.
Many may question the wisdom of Gibernau racing at Barcelona, despite the Spaniard's understandable eagerness to race in front of his home crowd. Gibernau has a long history of collarbone and shoulder problems, and at 36, he doesn't heal as quickly as he did when he was younger. Gibernau's good fortune, if you could call it that, was that at Le Mans he broke his collarbone in a place which had not previously been broken, which allowed the bone to heal better. But having broken his collarbone so many times, he must surely be running out of places where it hasn't been broken.
By their very nature, human beings are superstitious beings, seeking succor and aid from wherever they believe they can find it. Some seek it in the support of a Supreme Being, who they entrust with clearing obstacles from their path and lending them strength beyond their natural ability. Others seek it in the most mundane objects, believing that a green vest, a pair of socks, or a necklace with pendant will bring them the luck and the success that they seek. Yet others follow a fixed set of actions, putting the left shoe on before the right, touching a mirror or a picture, only speaking to a set person on entering a room, religiously observing the rituals which have always brought them luck so far.
Valentino Rossi is one of the latter, following rituals and patterns in a fixed sequence in the hope of recreating the success which has followed them in the past. So Rossi meticulously applies all his own decals to his bike before a race; stretches to touch his toes before approaching his bike; crouches down to clutch the right foot peg before mounting the bike; and stands up as he rides out of the pits to adjust his leathers caught on film in all too intimate detail a million times by the curiously positioned camera on the back of Rossi's bike. He will always wear something yellow, the color finding its way onto his leathers, his gloves, his helmet and his bike.
At Mugello, Rossi's superstition is heightened, not the least by his incredible success at the circuit. On the 13 previous occasions Rossi raced here in the world championship classes, he came away with victory 9 times, 7 of those wins coming from his last 7 visits. The last time Rossi failed to win at Mugello was in 2001, riding a Nastro Azzurro Honda NSR 500 with a special celebratory paint scheme. Rossi crashed out on the penultimate lap and swore never to race at Mugello again with a special livery. Since making that vow, he has not lost at the Tuscan track.
Rossi's proscription on special paint jobs does not extend to his helmet, however. The Italian has always come to Mugello with something special from friend and legendary designer Aldo Drudi on his head, perhaps the best and most famous of which was the helmet he wore at the last race here in 2008. This featured a picture of Rossi's face, eyes and mouth open wide in terror. It was, he explained, the expression he wore under his helmet every time he came to Mugello, heading into the San Donato turn at the end of the 340 km/h straight.
This weekend, Rossi turned up with a special helmet once again. For the 2009 race, Drudi had painted Rossi's gloved hands holding the top of his head. The Italian said it represented the stress of trying to deal with the Tuscan circuit: stress from both the demanding layout, featuring lots of fast combinations with blind entry; and the demanding crowds, tens of thousands of whom flock to the track expecting to see another Rossi victory. The attendant press added to the pressure, bombarding the Italian with questions about the difficulty of maintaining his winning streak in front of his home crowd, and whether he was disappointed on missing out on the opportunity to take his 100th victory at Mugello, after failing to score his 99th win at Le Mans two weeks previously.
Just as the global financial crisis appears to be approaching its nadir, it has claimed another victim in motorcycle racing. As we reported yesterday, the Hoegee Suzuki World Supersport team has withdrawn from the World Supersport Championship with immediate effect. The team has simply run out of money, and the potential sponsors which the team had been talking to had been unable to provide the funding which the team needed to continue for the rest of the season.
Marc Hoegee, team owner, manager, and the driving force behind preparing the race bikes, said in a press release: "I started this great adventure in 2005, and togethe with the whole team and everyone involved, we've had a chance to demonstrate just what we are capable of in a very short time. Despite all our efforts, we have not been able to find new sponsors fast enough to be able to continue both responsibly and competitively. That competitiveness is very important to me. The fact that we have to stop now really breaks my heart. Everyone has invested a huge amount of energy into this project, but this is reality and we just have to accept it. I'd like to thank the riders and the other team members for the fantastic effort they have shown again this season. We really fought for this, but the sponsorship climate is extremely unfavorable - and not just in racing. I would also like to thank all of our sponsors and everyone who has supported us over the years."