Ant West

Who's Going Where In MotoGP In 2009? Silly Season Roundup

MotoGP State of the Silly Season 2008 - FINALIZED
Fiat Yamaha
Valentino Rossi Contract through 2010 Rossi will be staying until he decides to retire from the sport
Jorge Lorenzo Contract through 2009 Lorenzo is Yamaha's future, and like Rossi, will be staying until he decides he's had enough.
Tech 3 Yamaha
Colin Edwards 1 year contract through 2009 Edwards is signed for '09, but is unlikely to stay for too much longer. Much depends on what happens in the AMA.
James Toseland Took up option to stay through 2009 Toseland started brilliantly, but has stagnated a little. Will need to show a return to form if he is to stay after 2009.
Repsol Honda
Dani Pedrosa In 1st year of 2 year contract, signed for 2009.

Pedrosa and his manager Alberto Puig have firm grip on the Repsol Honda garage. Pedrosa has been drafted in by Honda to win back the MotoGP title, and Puig has taken advantage to ensure that he controls events inside the team. Pedrosa and Puig are rumored to be demanding  a wall separating the two sides of the Repsol Honda pits, and will have a very strong say in who will replace Nicky Hayden in 2009. Unfortunately, Pedrosa doesn't really want anyone as a team mate, so any such quest will be very difficult.

The news from Misano that Pedrosa will be running on Bridgestones from the Indianapolis race onwards will potentially make things even more complicated. The question is whether both Repsol Hondas will be on Bridgestones, or just Dani Pedrosa, with the garage split in the same way as the Fiat Yamaha garage.

Andrea Dovizioso 1 year contract for 2009

Andrea Dovizioso was officially announced as Nicky Hayden's replacement at Repsol Honda at Motegi, and with it came some interesting guarantees. These included being offered equal treatment, at least until one of the two Repsol riders gains a significant lead in the 2009 title race. But HRC President Hamane also stated that he would prefer to have both riders on the same tires, and pledged that there would be no dividing wall in the Repsol Honda garage.

Whether the Dovizioso / Pedrosa pairing will work better than Hayden / Pedrosa remains to be seen. Much will depend on how the internal power struggle between sponsor and each side of the garage plays out.

Ducati
Casey Stoner Contract through 2010, option extended last year Casey Stoner, like Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, can stay at Ducati as long as he likes. He has already brought the factory one title, and looks likely to repeat that feat, if not this year, then sometime in the very near future.
Nicky Hayden Contract for 2009
Hayden's rumored contract was finally announced formally on the Monday after Indianapolis. Hayden has been with Honda since he was a teenager, and so the move is a big step for the Kentuckian. The Ducati has shown to be a tough bike to ride for everyone except Stoner, though things have improved over the past few races. The question is, can Hayden tame the bike like Stoner can? One thing is for sure: it won't be for lack of effort on Hayden's part.
Suzuki
Loris Capirossi Contract through 2009

Suzuki announced that they have renewed Capirossi's contract after the Misano round. The deal is just for one year, which makes sense, as the Italian veteran's age and long list of injuries has got to make you wonder just how much longer MotoGP's longest-serving son can continue. Retirement beckons, but whether that's in '10, or '11, or via the friendly side route of World Superbikes remains to be seen.

Chris Vermeulen Contract through 2009

Chris Vermeulen's position at Suzuki was looking decidedly shaky, at least until two podiums in a row put some firm ground under his feet. But with one of those podiums coming in the wet and the other at Laguna Seca, his best track by a long way, a prolongation with Suzuki was not entirely certain. Vermeulen reportedly fell short of a performance clause at Laguna Seca which would have brought him an automatic extension, and since Laguna, he has been engaged in haggling between himself, the team and Suzuki, about the size of his wage packet.

The deal was finally done after Misano, and announced after the Misano MotoGP round, together with Capirossi's deal being announced. Like Capirossi's deal, Vermeulen's was just for one year. Vermeulen was praised for his development and progress, and this will have to continue if Vermeulen is to remain in MotoGP for another year.

Gresini Honda
Toni Elias 1 year contract for 2009

The remaining seat at Gresini Honda was finally wrapped up at Phillip Island, with Toni Elias being formally announced as partnering Alex de Angelis. More intriguingly, it was also announced that Elias would be given a factory-spec RC212V, making it the third factory Honda on the grid.

This is the package that Vermeulen rejected when he decided to stick with Suzuki. Just how smart Vermeulen's move was remains to be seen, although with the single tire contract going to Bridgestone, and the Japanese tire maker talking about drastically standardizing production and reducing the numbers of tires available, Elias, who requires a special front tire to suit his extraordinary style, could well suffer badly, opening the door again for Vermeulen at the end of the year.

Despite earlier reports linking him to Gresini, Marco Simoncelli will be staying in the 250 class.

Alex de Angelis One-year deal for 2009

Alex de Angelis has already signed a one-year deal with Gresini, as he has the double advantage of being both fast and Italian, helping in finding sponsors. Doubts remain about his propensity to head into the gravel at every opportunity, however, and the man from San Marino will have to fall off a lot less next year if he is to stay in MotoGP much longer.

Alice Ducati
Mika Kallio Contract for 2009
Although Alvaro Bautista may have been the 250 world champion in waiting before the start of the season, he has long been overtaken by two other young chargers. The Italian Marco Simoncelli, currently leading the championship, and the Fin Mika Kallio have both been made offers by Livio Suppo of Ducati to ride for the satellite Alice Ducati team, which is being transformed into the Junior Ducati team, a feat that Ducati have learned from Ferrari. Simoncelli will be staying in the 250 class, for another year, and so has been ruled out of contention. Kallio is willing, and as KTM have decided to withdraw from the 250 class, stepping up to MotoGP is his best career move.
Niccolo Canepa Contract for 2009

By the middle of the season, it was clear that Niccolo Canepa would be racing a Ducati next year. The only question was, which one, and in which series? For a while, Canepa looked like moving up to the Xerox Ducati World Superbike squad, but after impressing Ducati bosses during testing - and being the only man to get close to Casey Stoner's times around Mugello - Canepa has been signed to join the satellite Ducati team in MotoGP. A former FIM Superstock 1000 champion, Canepa could be the surprise of the 2009 season.

Team LCR
Randy de Puniet Contract for 2009 The most cash-stricken team in the paddock will be back next year, after renewing with Randy de Puniet. De Puniet keeps showing he is capable of being very fast, but then keeps ruining it by crashing. The Flying Frenchman may be back for 2009, but until he can stay on the bike, his future will continue to be uncertain.
Scot Honda
Yuki Takahashi 1 year contract for 2009

Being on a 250cc Honda may guarantee that you won't become world champion in the class, but so far, it does seem to guarantee that you will get a ride in MotoGP. Being forced to wring the last drop of performance from a clearly underpowered bike teaches a rider a lot about maintaining speed wherever possible, and makes a great showcase for riders prepared to try and outride the bike. It got Andrea Dovizioso his ride in the MotoGP class, and now, it has done the same for the man who took his seat, Yuki Takahashi. Takahashi is having a good year in 250s, despite being on the underpowered Honda, and with Dovi moving over to Repsol, the logical step was for the Scot Team's 250 rider to step and fill his boots.

Kawasaki - Withdrawn from MotoGP. The official withdrawal of factory support was announced on January 9th, 2009. On February 25th, the team announced they would be reforming as Hayate, with factory support
Marco Melandri Two-year deal for 2009 and 2010 - but who knows what that means?

After a disastrous year aboard the Ducati, Melandri had to get out. Released from his 2 year contract a year early, Melandri looked elsewhere, nearly went back to Gresini Honda, who would have welcomed him with open arms, but decided he needed to be on a factory bike, to ensure that he had some input into the bike. Kawasaki was the only manufacturer left with a seat open, and so Melandri ended up there. 

After Kawasaki pulled out, only Melandri was willing to ride the bike provided by Dorna essentially for nothing, and so Melandri will be riding the Hayate, although as of March 4th, nothing had been officially signed.

John Hopkins Contract through 2009, but not riding Hopkins was safe at Kawasaki for 2009, until the pullout. Since then, little has been seen or heard of Hopper, other than a few appearances at Supercross races as a spectator. Rumors continue that he could find a ride in AMA, or possibly World Superbikes, but he is out of MotoGP for 2009. And that means there must be doubts as to whether he will ever return.
Team JiR
   Out of MotoGP

JiR is the loser from the Team Scot / JIR divorce, and is almost certain to be out of MotoGP. HRC have favored Team Scot instead of the team that did rather poorly when Makoto Tamada and Shinya Nakano rode for them, awarding the RC212V which the joint team ran to Team Scot instead of JiR.

Despite team owner Luca Montiron insisting he had a sponsor and a contract for a bike, as well as a top rider to put on the bike, HRC came down in favor of Team Scot at Motegi. Montiron issued a polite, though bitter, press release announcing his split from Honda, and is likely to move to World Superbikes, to run the Aprilia team with Max Biaggi.

JiR was Ben Spies' last hope in MotoGP, and despite impressing almost everyone during his wildcard appearances, the triple AMA champion instead made the switch to ride a Yamaha in World Superbike. Spies is said to have imposed a condition that he would get promotion to MotoGP in 2010, stepping up to join the Tech 3 Yamaha team.

Aspar Kawasaki - Out of MotoGP
Alex Debon /  Shinya Nakano Out of MotoGP

First a Suzuki, then a Ducati, then maybe a Yamaha. Jorge Aspar Martinez has been round almost every manufacturer in his quest to field a team in MotoGP, but after being turned down by almost everyone, it seemed that he had finally reached an agreement with Kawasaki to field a third Kawasaki.

As for the rider, an argument blew up between Aspar and Kawasaki over who to sign. Kawasaki wanted Shinya Nakano to ride the bike, a rider with proven development skills, though with a rather patchy record over the past few years.

Aspar, though, wanted a Spaniard, as they had a Spanish title sponsor lined up to fund the project. At first, Alvaro Bautista looked like being the most likely candidate to join the team, but the Spaniard announced at Misano that he will be staying in 250s for one more season, to attempt to win the championship.

With most of the top Spanish talent already signed, that left Aspar with only the veteran 250 rider Alex Debon. When Kawasaki told Aspar that Debon was not acceptable, and Aspar retorted that if Kawasaki wanted Nakano, they'd have to fund half the project, then that was the end of the project.

There is still a very small chance that Kawasaki will expand the factory team to include Nakano on a third bike, but that would require funding from Dorna. That team, though, would have nothing to do with Aspar.

Onde 2000 Ducati
Sete Gibernau One year contract for 2009

After test riding for Ducati, Sete Gibernau looked certain to take Melandri's place until the end of the year, with maybe another year with the factory team to follow. But since the Hayden-Ducati deal has almost been finalized, Gibernau had reportedly been offered a ride on the satellite Alice team. The problem Gibernau had was one of money, a problem which is now supposedly solved, by the intervention of the Onde 2000 team. Onde 2000 currently run 2 bikes in the 125 class, but the owner of the construction company running the team has now stumped up the cash to run Sete Gibernau on a 5th bike. The team was presented officially on the eve of the Valencia Grand Prix.

 

Riders in bold have signed and confirmed contracts. 

 

Updated March 4th, 2009

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2008 Brno Qualifying Practice Report

At the end of the first day of practice at Brno, it was clear that there were two men a long way clear of the rest of the field. Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi were over half a second ahead of the man in 3rd, and the only riders capable of cracking into the 1'57s. The timing sheets seemed to tell a fairly clear-cut story of two fast men, a pack of riders all very close to each other, and another disastrous failure by Michelin. The grid seemed to be shaping up nicely.

The problem was, Saturday's weather threw not so much a fly as a whale into the ointment, after a storm front unleashed torrential rain over the Czech track, leaving the circuit completely drenched, though still ridable. With more rain coming in during the day, the grid was going to reflect a slightly different reality than Friday's practice had revealed, and confusing the picture even more, the forecast for Sunday is for the usual warm, bone dry conditions we have come to expect from Brno over the years.

During the morning's free practice session, Casey Stoner had already proved quite emphatically that he is probably the best wet-weather rider in the world, by stomping all over the competition. And as qualifying started in a light drizzle, he continued in the same vein. On just his 2nd flying lap, the Australian took a 5 second lead over the rest of the field, leaving his rivals gasping for breath.

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Ant West: I'd Sack Me If I Was Kawasaki

Despite the romance and the glamor, life in motorcycle racing's premier series is a merciless existence. Just how tough it is is revealed in an interview MCN's Matthew Birt did with Ant West, in which West reveals his exasperation at his own form. In the interview, West concedes that if he was in charge at Kawasaki, he would probably sack himself, given his run of poor form since the beginning of the season. Kawasaki are expected to announce soon that West's contract will not be renewed for next year.

But finding a replacement will not be easy. Riders are hardly lining up for a shot on the Kawasaki ZXRR, especially after having watched John Hopkins slip from potential podium positions aboard the Suzuki to struggling to get into the top 10 on the Kawasaki. The only thing capable of tempting riders is money, and money is not something in abundant supply at Team Green, despite the Monster Energy sponsorship.

So West may yet get to stay in MotoGP. His main advantage is the fact that he is cheap, and the alternative for Kawasaki would be hiring another rider prepared to ride for pin money, in MotoGP terms. Until Kawasaki can improve the bike and get it running closer to the front, Kawasaki and West could yet be condemned to stick together.

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Yet More Of Jules Cisek's Laguna Seca Photos

No need for an introduction this time, just straight into more of Jules Cisek's fabulous photographs from Laguna Seca.

Typical Californian weather: foggy and cold

Laguna Seca MotoGP

 

You know you're in trouble when you have to use intermediates in the dry

Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca on intermediates

 

Of course, if you had Bridgestones, the conditions didn't bother you

Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca 

Dean

Alex de Angelis, Qualifying, Laguna Seca

 

Laguna's front straight, not long, but still fast

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MotoGPMatters Desktop Images From Donington

In addition to the great photos from Laguna Seca, Scott Jones also provided us with some superb images from the British Grand Prix at Donington a few weeks earlier. Now, we've made some of his best pictures from that race available as desktop images as well. So far, the images are only available in one resolution, but check back for higher resolutions later.

Alex de Angelis at Donington

Alex de Angelis, not happy in the rain: 1024x768

Randy de Puniet at Donington

Randy de Puniet, equally fast looking both forward and back: 1024x768

Andrea Dovizioso at Donington

The most consistent of the rookies, Andrea Dovizioso: 1024x768

Colin Edwards at Donington

Colin Edwards, just short of the podium: 1024x768

 

Toni Elias at Donington

Toni Elias: 1024x768

 

Race Series: 

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2008 Sachsenring QP Report

After the damp morning practice, during which Dani Pedrosa finally pipped Casey Stoner to the post setting the fastest time in the dying seconds of the session, the big question in the afternoon was whether the Pedrosa could repeat this during qualifying, or whether Stoner would dominate as he had on Friday. It was a question Stoner seemed determined to answer in a hurry. He went straight to the top of the timesheets on his 2nd lap, and by lap 4, he was close to the previous pole record pace, with a time of 1'22.082, less than 7 minutes into the session.

Under normal circumstances, that time would have stood for most of qualifying, while the riders worked on their race setup, before breaking out the soft qualifiying rubber. But the possibility of showers disrupting practice meant that a number of riders took a very early qualifier, gambling that such a move could pay off if the rain started to fall for real. Alex de Angelis, Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards all took a very early qualifier, with Edwards taking provisional pole well before the halfway mark, with a lap of 1'21.794.

Worryingly for Edwards, that time was only 0.2 seconds faster than the 1'21.996 set by Casey Stoner, in the middle of a long run on race tires. Qualifiers can generally be relied on to take close to a second off of your best time, so Edwards' 0.2 second advantage was looking more like a 0.8 second deficit, once Stoner got serious.

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2008 Donington QP Report

The weather had been forecast to be poor for the 2nd day of practice, and boy, where the weather forecasters right. Both this morning's free practice and this afternoon's qualifying practice took place in full rain. And like the morning's session, the afternoon's qualifying saw the wet weather specialists leap straight to the top of the table. Within ten minutes of the session starting, the tables were headed by three Australians: Casey Stoner, Chris Vermeulen and Ant West. Vermeulen and West will be no surprise, both men being renowned specialists in the rain - Vermeulen's protests that he doesn't like the rain notwithstanding - and Stoner has always coped very well in the wet.

 

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