Casey Stoner kicked the weekend off to his usual dominating start, the Marlboro Ducati rider leading the first session of practice by over half a second, taking over from early leader Jorge Lorenzo in the last few minutes of FP1. Lorenzo ended the session in 2nd, just ahead of Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso, and the surprisingly strong Marco Simoncelli, while Valentino Rossi ended the session as 5th fastest.
As might be expected, the Spaniards are even more highly motivated than normal at the final Grand Prix of the season in front of their home crowd. So with the title still to play for in the 125cc class, it was Efren Vazquez of the Tuenti Derbi team who was fastest in the first session of free practice, just pipping his compatriot and title leader Marc Marquez into 2nd place. Bancaja Aspar's Bradley Smith ended the session in 3rd, another few hundredths behind Marquez, while the gap to 4th was bigger, Vazquez' teammate Pol Espargaro nearly three quarters of a second behind him.
The importance of Indonesia to MotoGP will come as no surprise to regular readers of MotoMatters.com. Indonesia retains a huge fan base for motorcycle racing's premier class, as witnessed by the fact that it is the country with the highest number of searches for the term "MotoGP", according to Google Insight, with nearly 3 times as many as the country in second place, Italy, and nearly four times as many searches as Spain.
Indonesia's importance as a market was underlined at the beginning of the year, when Yamaha Indonesia became sponsors of the factory Fiat Yamaha team. Its importance has been further emphasized by the announcement that Astra Honda, the Indonesian subsidiary of the Japanese motorcycling giant, is to sponsor the Repsol Honda squad for the final MotoGP round at Valencia, and also for the whole of the 2011 season. Astra Honda's slogan "One Heart" or "Satu Hati" in Indonesian, is to feature prominently on the leathers and on the lower fairing of the Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP machines.
The withdrawal of the Interwetten Honda team from MotoGP has been an open secret for some time now, after title sponsor Interwetten decided against renewing funding for the MotoGP team again next year. Team boss Daniel Epp had been holding off on an official announcement until all of his options to replace Interwetten had been exhausted. That happened a few weeks ago, and now, the Interwetten team has officially announced the demise of the team.
The disbanding of the Interwetten team leaves former 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama without a ride, but that situation is unlikely to last for long. Aoyama is currently being linked to the second Gresini Honda ride, alongside Marco Simoncelli, but team boss Fausto Gresini has been reluctant to sign the Japanese rider, citing a lack of money to run a second team. Gresini has been hoping that Dorna and HRC will stump up the cash to pay for Aoyama's seat in the Gresini garage, as both the TV rights holders and Honda are keen to have a Japanese rider in the series. Gresini argues that an Italian rider would be much easier to find sponsorship for.
It was an open secret for some time, but now it has been officially announced: Mika Kallio is to leave the Pramac team with immediate effect, and miss the last two races of the season at Estoril and Valencia. Speculation has been rife all year about problems for Kallio, including reports of personal problems in the Finnish media. The press release and Kallio put the Finnish rider's problems down to a nagging shoulder injury that Kallio picked up in a crash at Le Mans, earlier this year. Kallio is to return to Finland from Australia and seek treatment for his shoulder, in preparation for next season, which will probably find him in Moto2.
It appears the decision the world has been waiting for has finally been taken: According to MCN's Matt Birt, Valentino Rossi will be allowed to test the Ducati at Valencia. It appears that Rossi was told by Masao Furusawa on Saturday night that he would be allowed to test after the final MotoGP round of the year.
The decision had been almost inevitable, but Yamaha had been holding off on announcing for as long as possible. It has long been customary for factories to allow their departing riders to test for their new teams after the final race, the only exception in recent history being Valentino Rossi, after he left Honda to join Yamaha. Ducati had already set an example by releasing Casey Stoner early to test for Honda, the team he joins for 2011, and Rossi had expected Yamaha to do the same. Yamaha, however, had been playing their cards close to their chest, in part as this was the only leverage they had over Rossi to ensure he did not hinder his teammate Jorge Lorenzo's bid for the 2010 championship.
Even though Valentino Rossi has not yet heard whether he will be allowed to test the Ducati after the final MotoGP round at Valencia - a fact Rossi once again made a point of mentioning in the pre-event press conference at Phillip Island - preparations are already underway at the Bologna factory for the Italian's arrival. According to the Italian magazine Motosprint, Ducati are once again evaluating whether to use a screamer or big-bang firing order in the Ducati, and will be bringing a bike with one of each engine type to Valencia should Rossi be given the all-clear to test by Yamaha. Ducati team boss and former test rider Vito Guareschi has been seen studying Rossi's riding style very closely at a number of tracks to evaluate which bike to give Rossi first.
Carlos Checa confirmed today that he is seriously in contention to ride the Pramac Ducati at Estoril and Valencia in place of Mika Kallio. In a video posted on Twitter, Checa is shown testing the Ducati Desmosedici GP10 at Mugello today, evaluating whether he is ready to race the GP10 or not. A decision is expected sometime shortly after the test.
Below is the video Checa just posted:
After a promising rookie year in MotoGP, Mika Kallio has struggled in 2010 on the Pramac Ducati. So mediocre has his form been the past six month, that Kallio has decided to call it quits early. According to reports in the Spanish media, Kallio will not be riding the last two races of the season for the Pramac Ducati squad, and his season will end after Sunday's race at Phillip Island.
Taking his place will be yet another Spaniard: After an outstanding year in the World Superbike championship aboard a Ducati 1198R, finishing 3rd behind Max Biaggi and Leon Haslam, and well ahead of the factory Xerox Ducatis of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio, the 38-year-old veteran Carlos Checa is to replace Kallio at Estoril and Valencia. Checa last rode in MotoGP back in 2007, when he raced for the LCR Honda squad currently fielding Randy de Puniet, after which the Spaniard moved to World Superbikes.
Newly-crowned World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu has made no secret of his desire to move to Moto2 next season. Representatives of the Turkish rider were in the paddock at Aragon, where they spoke to several teams about a ride for 2011. So far, no news has emerged of exactly where Sofuglu will be racing next year, but a hint comes in a press release issued today by the Technomag CIP team.
For the Technomag team has announced that Kenan Sofuoglu is to take the ride left vacant by Shoya Tomizawa, who was killed in a tragic accident at Misano. Sofuoglu is to contest the final two races of the season with the Technomag CIP team, at Estoril and Valencia, aboard Tomizawa's Suter Moto2 machine.
This is not the first time Sofuoglu has ridden a Moto2 bike: The 2007 and 2010 World Supersport champion tested a couple of Moto2 bikes earlier this year, the Turk describing them rather disparagingly as "like badly set up World Supersport machines." The bikes have moved on a great deal since then, so the comparison between the current machines and Sofuoglu's WSS machine will be very interesting.
MotoGP fans around the world - and to an even greater extent, everyone involved in MotoGP - have been waiting for a calendar for the 2011 season for a long time now. The problem has been that MotoGP has an informal agreement with Formula One to avoid scheduling conflicts between the two series, and thereby force TV companies to choose between one or the other.
In practice, this means that Formula One dictates the MotoGP calendar, and this is exactly what appears to have happened to the provisional 2011 MotoGP calendar. An early version was leaked two weeks ago, a version that looked to be fairly reliable, but rescheduling by Formula One - shuffling some of the 20 races which it has on its calendar - meant that too many MotoGP races would conflict with F1 events.
As a result, the FIM has finally managed to produce a provisional version of the 2011 MotoGP calendar, which has seen a surprising amount of reshuffling of events happen. The season starts in Qatar on March 20th, as previously announced, and the season night race is expected to be spread over four days instead of the usual three, to allow the race to be run earlier at night, avoiding the drastic temperature drops that can happen between 11pm and midnight in the desert. It also means the season starts some three weeks earlier than in 2010, seizing back some of the ground MotoGP had ceded to the World Superbike series.
As reported this weekend, the four-practice schedule used at Aragon was a huge hit with the teams and riders. The general consensus was that the chance to try out big changes between sessions more than outweighed the shorter time during the session to make changes. As a result, the teams asked for a return to the four-practice schedule (FP1 and FP2 on Friday, then FP3 and QP on Saturday), preferring four 45-minute sessions to three sessions of 1 hour. Saturday's meeting of the Grand Prix Commission rubber-stamped the change, and so at the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril and the Grand Prix of Valencia, four sessions of practice will be run, with the same schedule likely to return for the whole of next year.
When Valentino Rossi spoke to the press after struggling to a 6th place finish in the MotoGP race at Motorland Aragon, he revealed just how bad his shoulder problem has been. The Italian injured his shoulder in a training accident back in April, and since then has struggled with a painful and weak shoulder. Rossi's problems have been disguised in part by his broken leg, which he suffered so spectacularly at Mugello, and which caused the Italian to miss races for the first time in his professional career.
Rossi had hoped that the injury would improve sufficiently to see out the 2010 season, but after the race at Aragon, he told the press that he was seriously considering having surgery to correct the problem, and miss the last two races of the season at Estoril and Valencia. Rossi said he would first test his fitness at the next three flyaway rounds at Motegi, Sepang, and Phillip Island in October, before making a final decision on having surgery.
Here's what Rossi had to say to the press:
Question: How much of what we saw today was down to the shoulder?
The announcement of the official 2011 MotoGP calendar - albeit the provisional one - has been a long time coming. Normally, the provisional calendar is settled at the Brno round of MotoGP, but the series' desire not to clash with Formula One means that the Grand Prix Commission has had to wait for the FIA to release the F1 calendar before finalizing their own. With the F1 calendar now provisionally released, the MotoGP calendar is expected to be released this weekend at the Aragon round.
An early version of the calendar has already surfaced among race travel trip organizers. As their businesses depend upon knowing the following year's schedule as early as possible, MotoGP travel companies are among the very first to know. Our friends over at Pole Position Travel pointed us to a provisional calendar which has appeared on the website of another organization selling MotoGP tickets.
The stunning new Motorland Aragon track - scene of the 13th round of this year's MotoGP championship - is to get a full time spot on the World Championship calendar. According to reports from Spain, the Aragon track is due to sign a contract to host the World Superbike series from 2011 through 2013 on Wednesday.
The deal does not mean that there will be two rounds of World Superbikes in Spain. Instead, the reports (such as the one in leading Spanish magazine Motociclismo.es) state that the Spanish round will switch from Valencia to Motorland Aragon. WSBK's departure from Valencia is believed to come after pressure from some of the parties involved in MotoGP put pressure on the Ricardo Tormo circuit not to stage World Superbikes. The Communitat Valenciana (the regional government) has very close ties to MotoGP and Dorna, and may have elected to put its support behind the MotoGP series, rather than splitting resources over both MotoGP and World Superbikes.