Dani Pedrosa

Scott Jones' Glorious Images From Qatar - Day 1

As you have surely already noticed, MotoGPMatters.com photographer Scott Jones is at Qatar (funded in part by your generous donations and the support of our carefully selected advertisers), sending back interviews and the fantastic photos which make him our favorite shooter. He's starting to send us some of his fantastic photos, which we have shared with you below. All images should link to high-res versions of the photos. Enjoy!

Mika Kallio at Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Mika Kallio testing his toesliders

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Rossi: "Honda Would Be At Front With Me Or Casey On It"

One of the biggest mysteries of the past few years in MotoGP has been Honda's fall from grace. Throughout the 990 era, the Honda RC211V was the motorcycle to beat, with only Valentino Rossi capable of achieving that feat. Since the switch to the 800s - a move believed to have been made under pressure from Honda - HRC has struggled to produce a bike that is even competitive, the RC212V outclassed by Yamaha's 800cc M1 and Ducati's Desmosedici. This failure has had knowledgeable people both inside and outside scratching their heads in incomprehension. HRC has both the manpower and the brains to produce title-winning equipment, so where have they gone wrong?

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2009 Qatar MotoGP Day 1 Round Up - Stoner Firmly In Charge

The waiting really is over for MotoGP fans, as the MotoGP bikes finally took to the track at Qatar to compete in earnest. First blood in the 2009 campaign went to Casey Stoner on the Marlboro (and at Qatar, it really is a Marlboro) Ducati, a fact that shocked absolutely nobody. As ever, Stoner was fast from the moment he rolled out onto the track, getting down into 1'57 territory within ten minutes, and slashing a further 0.8 seconds off his time with 12 minutes of the session left. 

For a long time, Stoner's advantage seemed insurmountable, but in his final run, Valentino Rossi closed the gap from a second to get to within 0.4 of a second, with the potential for more if he hadn't run into traffic on a very fast lap. Though four tenths is a sizable gap, Rossi will feel he is at least in touch with Stoner, and with two more sessions to go, and no qualifying tires to distort the grid, the reigning world champion will be confident of staying with Stoner away from the line.

Third fastest man in the opening session of 2009 was Colin Edwards, the only other rider capable of getting within a second of Stoner, and looking as strong here as he looked last year during practice. Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo makes it three Yamahas in the top four, Lorenzo 1.2 seconds behind but with more likely to come.

The session threw up plenty of surprises. Such as Alex de Angelis in 5th, for example, but de Angelis also showed his Mr Hyde by running wide into the gravel during the session, a harbinger of what is to come, perhaps. An even bigger suprise was Mika Kallio finishing 7th, after having been as high as 5th earlier in the session. Though we've only had one 45 minute session of practice to judge him by, Kallio's single fast lap at the IRTA test at Jerez could possible be the rule rather than the exception.

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Those 2009 MotoGP Bikes In Full Color

The talented Scott Jones, MotoGPMatters.com's photographer, is out at Qatar covering the race for us, and is already sending back some fantastic photos, and more. But just to get the season off to a good start, here's his shots from the grid presentation earlier today. All of the pictures should link to larger, desktop-sized images.

Valentino Rossi's Fiat Yamaha M1

Rossi's 2009 Yamaha M1

Casey Stoner's Marlboro Ducati GP9

Casey Stoner's 2009 Marlboro Ducati GP9

Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda RC212V

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Pedrosa To Ride At Qatar

Ever since Dani Pedrosa's monster highside during the night tests at Qatar just over a month ago, his presence at the first race of the MotoGP season, up this weekend, has been in doubt. The Spaniard came down hard during testing when track temperatures cooled, but his real misfortune was to be speared by his bike as it landed. Pedrosa fractured a wrist and reopened an old knee injury he had just had surgery to fix over the winter, requiring a skin graft to fix.

The wrist injury was painful, but was unlikely to have prevented Pedrosa to have missed the IRTA Test at Jerez, let alone the first race at Qatar. But the knee problem was much worse. The surgery required to fix the problem meant that Pedrosa's knee had to be immobilized for four weeks, and that he would have to build up motion carefully and slowly after that, to ensure the wound does not open once again. The videos of Pedrosa limping about his flat, together with reports emanating from journalists who know Pedrosa personally seemed to suggest that racing at Qatar could well be an impossibility for Pedrosa, rather than just unwise.

The good news for Pedrosa and his fans is that the Spanish star has decided he will attempt to race at Qatar. In his personal blog on the Repsol website, Pedrosa announced that he felt he would be fit enough to race. He said that he was recovering well, but he would only just be fit in time: "The truth is that time has been very tight; when the practice was held in Jerez I could only bend the knee 90º. But over the last ten days it has been getting better and in the end, making use of the time right up to the last moment, we have decided to go to Qatar and race in the first round of the 2009 World Championship."

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Pedrosa Out For Qatar?

Ever since Dani Pedrosa broke his wrist and reopened an old wound on his knee, his participation at the first race in Qatar has been in doubt. The skin graft to his knee meant that the Spaniard's leg had to be completely immobilized for 4 weeks. There was little chance that he would ever make it to the IRTA Test at Jerez, but the Repsol Honda team had hoped to have Pedrosa back for the opening race at Qatar.

That was optimistic, and Pedrosa was never going to be at 100% for Qatar, but the possibility of even riding is looking ever more remote. The World Superbike paddock is not the first place you would expect news about MotoGP to surface, but as the series is currently in Valencia, there's a large contingent from the Spanish press present, and wherever the press gather, rumors persist.

The latest rumor among some of the well-informed sections of the Spanish press is that Pedrosa will not be riding at Qatar. His condition is not improving fast enough, and he will instead choose to sit the first MotoGP round out, in the hope of being in better shape to contest the rest of the season. The decision is a sensible one, as the night race at Qatar can prove treacherous, with temperatures dropping rapidly, making setup and grip unpredictable at best. Missing one race would leave Pedrosa at a distinct disadvantage in the championship race, but racing with the risk of crashing and making his injury worse could potentially rule the Spaniard out of title contention.

So far, no official word has been forthcoming from the team, and it is unlikely to emerge until shortly before the race itself. But we should learn soon enough whether this rumor is just that, or whether the MotoGP championship will start its opening round with just 17 riders.

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MotoGPMatters.com Live From Valencia

MotoGPMatters.com is coming to you live from Valencia this weekend (thanks in part to your generous donations, and our kind sponsors), to report on the third round of the World Superbike Championship. We arrived in the area yesterday, dropping off Spain's central Meseta to enter the coastal plain around the city of Valencia. On the drive up from Jerez, the weather had been getting gradually worse, with rain finally greeting us as we headed east from Madrid.

The weather here recently has been fairly dismal, with rain and even snow at higher altitudes in the east of the Iberian peninsula, but the sun is out, with only light cloud protecting the pasty occupants of the press room from serious sunburn. As always on Thursday, the paddock is a hive of activity, as teams assemble their hospitality suites and the late arrivals roll in.

The forecast for the rest of the weekend is good - comfortably warm, dry, yet with occasional clouds to keep off the worst of the sun, and there's every chance of a fascinating couple of races ahead. Will Ben Spies continue to close the gap on Noriyuki Haga, or will he struggle, as some of the European contingent believe he will now that the circus has hit Europe? Stay tuned for news and updates as they happen.

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Dani Pedrosa - Will He Or Won't He Be At Qatar?

Ask any well-informed race fan who has a shot at the MotoGP title this year, and just about every single one of them will give you three names: Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. In an ideal world, we would have been able to judge their relative strengths during testing, but all three have had injury problems of one kind or another, making comparison difficult. Casey Stoner had surgery to fix a broken scaphoid at the end of last year, and although he has been his usual blisteringly fast self, he has not yet run a race simulation with his newly fixed wrist. Valentino Rossi went to Qatar and Sepang with stitches in his foot, after falling over on a glass table, but his injuries have barely slowed him down.

The most unfortunate of the bunch so far has been Dani Pedrosa. After surgery over the winter to fix a problem with his knee, a horrific highside at Qatar saw him break a bone in his wrist and open a huge gash in his newly-operated knee. Pedrosa's wrist will fix quickly, but the knee problem caused the Spaniard to miss the crucial IRTA test at Jerez, and could even endanger the start of his season. Pedrosa's problem is that the skin graft required to close the gash in his knee means that his knee has had to be immobilized, the smallest movement threatening to reopen the wound, which would be both painful and potentially dangerous, with the threat of infection. The knee is continuing to heal, but recovery from such an injury is slow and difficult.

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KTM's KERS System Banned In 125s

The news that KTM was testing a KERS system for their 125cc race bikes was something of a eureka moment for those who follow any form of motorsport. If there is one place that a KERS system makes sense, it is on a small capacity motorcycle - the relatively small power gain available through KERS is of more use to a bike which starts off with relatively little power to begin with. It was obvious that KERS on a 125cc bike is an absolute no-brainer.

That very realization that KERS was a no-brainer has proven fateful for the system. In a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission held today, the body ruled that the KERS system as it was being used by KTM should be declared illegal under the current wording of the rules, which state that the bikes must be "propelled by an internal combustion engine." 

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Of Walls And Riders

They seem to be all the rage nowadays: Walls dividing pit garages in MotoGP teams. The fashion started in the FIAT Yamaha team garage, where a wall was supposedly fitted to prevent data sharing between Valentino Rossi's Bridgestone side of the garage, and Jorge Lorenzo's Michelin squad. The fashion soon spread to the Repsol Honda garage, where Dani Pedrosa's switch to Bridgestones necessitated similar measures. Or so we were told, though the walls were not removed along with their original rationale once the single tire rule meant everyone would be running on Bridgestones.

The wall erected this weekend in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha garage is perhaps a more honest one. Colin Edwards is still seething at James Toseland having kidnapped his crew chief, after Toseland had reportedly had communication problems with Guy Coulon all year. Since then, Edwards has not missed an opportunity to take a potshot at his team mate, despite being very happy to have Coulon as his new chief. The instigation of the wall at Edwards' bidding is just another shot in the war of attrition which is raging in the team. And we can look forward to more of the same as the season progresses.

The irony is that at Jerez, a wall also disappeared from a team garage. In the Repsol Honda garage, now only a workbench divides the two halves of the garage, the wall entirely gone. But then again, the injured Dani Pedrosa has been temporarily replaced by Kosuke Akiyoshi at the IRTA test, who will be riding the Spaniard's bike for the two day test. If I were a betting man, I would not put money on the wall not returning along with the Spanish title favorite.

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