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.
Around the time that Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP, rumors persisted that Suzuki, too, was on the verge of pulling out. A number of sources inside Japan spoke of Suzuki withdrawing, as we reported earlier, but the Suzuki MotoGP team consistently denied the rumors, dismissing them as just talk.
But they were more than that, as an interview which GPOne.com is carrying with Shinichi Sahara, head of Suzuki's MotoGP team, makes clear. Sahara told GPOne.com "At around the same time that Kawasaki officially announced its withdrawal, Suzuki were also considering it as well. Why did we choose to stay? Because Hamamatsu is convinced that competition is in our DNA, and is important for our image. In the end, the final word was for our President, Osamu Suzuki."
Sahara said that contracts with Dorna played no part in the decision: "There were no contractual problems with Dorna," he told GPOne.com.
But costs continue to be an important factor in Suzuki's MotoGP program. And costs mean that Suzuki is unlikely to be fielding extra bikes in the short term. "I can't see more than two Suzukis on the grid in the future. But the long term could be different, of course."
Casey Stoner completed the three day test at Sepang exactly where he hoped to be: On top. Despite the continuing pain from his wrist, which prevented the factory Ducati rider from putting in any long runs, there was no stopping Stoner. His fastest lap, on the new spec tires which are capable of lasting much longer than the old soft qualifying tires, was over a second quicker than the current lap record he holds.
Second fastest was Valentino Rossi, another inmate of MotoGP's sick bay. The reigning World Champion got close - within a tenth of a second - but could not quite match Stoner's blistering pace. The Doctor kept Suzuki veteran Loris Capirossi behind him, Capirex consigned to third place, just over a tenth of a second behind Rossi. Capirossi has been the revelation of the test, the new Suzuki clearly improved, though the Sepang track also suiting the bikes handling very well.
Fourth fastest was Colin Edwards, the Texan showing both that the 2009 Yamaha M1 is an excellent package, and that he is one of the few Michelin riders to have adapted easily to the new Bridgestone tires, demonstrating just why Michelin kept him as their lead test rider for so long. The other former Michelin men are much further down the field, Jorge Lorenzo the first of them in 7th, three quarters of a second behind his team mate, ahead of Repsol Honda new boy Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi was left without a team mate, after Dani Pedrosa went home a day early with a painful knee, which is still not fully recovered from surgery in December.
Pedrosa's absence left Toni Elias the fastest Honda rider, surprising many who had thought that Elias would struggle with the new tires. The Spaniard had previously used a special custom front tire, of a much softer construction, but has adapted very well to the new, much stiffer tires being used.
Matthew Birt at MCN and the corporate MotoGP site are reporting that Dani Pedrosa has left the Sepang test a day early. Owing to surgery on his left knee in December, he has not recovered sufficient strength to complete race-distance simulations scheduled for Day 3. Considering that he rose to 4th on the time charts in Day 2 - within .4 sec of a simil
Casey Stoner continued his dominance at Sepang today, on the second day of testing, though his wrist continues to trouble him, leaving the Australian incapable of putting in too many laps. But even a relatively small number of laps is enough to be the fastest man on the grid, which should give the competition pause for thought.
Loris Capirossi continues his strong showing at Sepang, raising hopes that Suzuki might have a good season again in 2009. The Italian veteran is a fraction ahead of his compatriot Valentino Rossi, who was third fastest. Like Stoner, Rossi is also struggling with injury, though the stitches in his fingers and foot are nowhere near as serious as Stoner's healing scaphoid. But there is less than 2/10ths of a second covering the top three, so things are pretty close.
After a difficult first day, Dani Pedrosa is back up to speed, the Repsol Honda rider also cracking the 2'02 barrier. But Pedrosa is a quarter of a second behind Rossi, and nearly 0.4 behind Stoner. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden took a second off his time from yesterday, climbing to 9th. But the American is still over a second and a half behind his team mate.
James Toseland is the rider struggling the most. The Englishman didn't improve his time from yesterday, and is propping up the bottom of the timesheets. Not the start to the year Toseland will be hoping for.
Testing concludes tomorrow.
On day 2 of the Sepang test, the picture is similar to yesterday. Once again, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi are battling it out for supremacy, and a 4pm, it was the Australian who was on top. But unlike yesterday, the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was very close behind, and ready to join the front group. More times once testing finishes.
The work that Suzuki have done on their GSV-R over the winter seems to be paying off. After the deadly duo of Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi had led for most of the day, Capirossi put in a final fast lap to top the timesheets. And what a lap: over quarter of a second under Stoner's existing lap record. Suzuki have been impressive at Sepang before, putting in a strong showing here at the beginning of the 2007 season, and it looks like they have found some of the speed they lost last year, although it must be said that the Sepang track's lack of very long fast sweepers suits the Suzuki very well. With Capirossi appearing wearing standard Suzuki leathers, it looks like Rizla will not be renewing its deal, though you have to wonder whether a good result from testing here might help sway the argument.
Casey Stoner was second fastest, his scaphoid surgery apparently successful, as he was riding comfortably, and comfortably under the lap record. Valentino Rossi was in a little more discomfort from the stitches he has in his hand after falling over at home, but the Italian was still very fast, though 3/10ths slower than Stoner. Rossi suffered a fall earlier in the day, but escaped relatively uninjured. Capirossi's team mate Chris Vermeulen set the fourth fastest time, confirming Suzuki's form here in Malaysia.
The atmosphere in the factory Honda garage could be tested, as Toni Elias was the fastest of the Hondas, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso on the first of the official Repsol bikes. Dani Pedrosa, heavily tipped for the championship this year, only managed the eighth fastest time, 1.5 seconds behind Capirossi. Sete Gibernau was fastest of the other Ducatis, 1.75 seconds behind Casey Stoner, but a quarter of a second ahead of Stoner's Marlboro Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden, who finished 11th.
Testing continues tomorrow.
Action is still underway in Malaysia, and the times are starting to come in. All day long, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have been swapping the lead, and at 4pm, it was Rossi's turn at the top of the timesheets. The big surprise of the day are the Suzukis, both Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen the only riders capable of getting anywhere near the two leaders.
One of the cost-cutting proposals aimed at saving MotoGP currently under discussion is the introduction of rev limits. The idea is that the lower revving engines will stress the engines less, and make them last longer, cutting the amount of maintenance required. Whether this will work or not is open to debate, and ever the great innovator, Honda have taken the first step, in announcing that they will be placing a rev limit of 18,200 revs on RC212V engines.
Of course, Honda isn't foolish enough to sacrifice its chance of winning a title while imposing rev limits, so the only bikes these limits will be applied to will be the satellite spec RC212Vs. The factory-spec Hondas of Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso and - presumably - Toni Elias will continue unfettered by any such limits.
This is a hard blow on the satellite teams. Though aimed at extending engine life from the current 600km to 1200km - or about two race weekends - it will also most likely render the satellite spec bikes unable to compete with the much faster factory bikes. Coming after two years of - by HRC's very high standards - substandard equipment, another year of circulating at the back of the field will make it even harder for the satellite Honda teams to secure sponsorship.
The restriction is even more frustrating because it cancels out the benefits of having pneumatic valves. The satellite teams were looking forward to being able to compete once again, now that HRC had dropped its old steel spring valve engines and switched to the potentially more powerful pneumatic valve unit. But most of those benefits will be lost due to the rev ceiling.
For ten long hours, in a hotel in Sepang, representatives from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati discussed a range of proposals to cut costs in MotoGP. And at the end of those ten long hours, they emerged with, well, very little indeed, according to GPOne.com.
Subject of the talks were the proposals which have been aired over the past couple of weeks, mostly aimed at reducing the amount of mileage that is put on the bikes in testing and practice. But the results of those almost endless talks were very little. The only agreed proposal to emerge was that in future, all members of the team would fly economy class, rather than first or business class, although that already produced rumblings of disapproval from the old hands in the paddock such as Jeremy Burgess, who don't take the travelling well.
As for the other proposals, it seems likely that practice sessions on race weekends will be cut from one hour to 45 minutes, and the Sunday morning warmup will be cut from 25 to 10 minutes in length. The fate of the Friday practice sessions still hangs in the balance, with some talk of scrapping Friday altogether. But the proposals to ban testing on the Mondays after races caused the most problems. Suzuki, with only two riders, is keen to keep the tests, as they don't have the benefit of the extra data gathered by the four or more bikes which their competitors field.
The most bizarre proposal of all was to ban the team riders from testing on Monday, and allow only test riders. Just how this would save money is a bit of a mystery, as the mileage on the bikes would be only marginally reduced, while the test riders would have to be flown to all of the post-race tests, instead of leaving the team riders to do the testing for them.