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 similarly ailing Casey Stoner - and having completed everything else scheduled for his test regimen, this would seem to be a wise move.
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.
More worrying will be the big gaps between the rest of the field: Dani Pedrosa is in 6th place, nearly a second behind Rossi, while Sete Gibernau in 10th is another second behind Pedrosa. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden is down in 14th, just behind James Toseland. Hayden's time will be a worrying sign that the Ducati is still a difficult bike to handle.
Dorna has been notoriously careful with the video footage of its races, and has spent a lot of time and effort getting races and fragments of races taken off of Youtube and other video sharing websites. Indeed, when an online publication such as ours applies for media accreditation for MotoGP races, we are issued with instructions explicitly forbidding us to shoot and use any moving image footage of the race. This is entirely understandable, as the lion's share of Dorna's income is from television broadcasters, and they expect a good deal of protection for the large sums of money they pay for the broadcast rights.
One sign that things are starting to change a little at Dorna was the opening earlier last year of the official MotoGP.com Youtube channel, which hosted various snippets of video from the MotoGP.com website, including the excellent After The Flag official video podcast. It was a start - a careful one, but a start nonetheless.
Now, though, bigger changes are afoot. Perhaps having learned from the World Superbike website, which hosts live video of the races on its website for free in most countries, MotoGP.com is now starting to put some of the old races online. The first race to go up is the complete footage of the 2008 Jerez race, which went up online earlier today. Whether this is the first of many, or just a one-off experiment remains to be seen. At the very least, it is a promising step.
Christmas may have come and gone, but the new year hasn't started yet, and so there is still time to order the 2009 MotoGPMatters.com Motorcycle Racing Calendar. Any orders placed this weekend for shipping to the US and Europe should be received before the start of 2009, if the storms lashing parts of North America and some areas in Europe don't hold the post up too much.
Antipodean motorcycle racing fans may be enjoying the Southern Hemisphere summer, but may have to wait a little longer for orders to reach their shores. But though you may spend the first few days of 2009 without the beautiful photography of Scott Jones, you won't have missed out on a key feature of the calendar: the full schedule of MotoGP and World Superbike rounds, starting in March and finishing in November. It's a vital tool when planning vacations, trips to races and your life in general.
With a week to go until Christmas, time is running out for gift shopping. And not only is it running out for gift shopping, it's running out for anyone in the US wanting delivery of the gorgeous 2009 MotoGPMatters.com motorcycle racing calendar. Under normal circumstances, USPS Priority Mail shipping would mean that the calendar could be delivered to your door within 2-3 days, but with the postal rush for the Holiday Season, even that cannot be guaranteed.
So if you want to be sure of gladdening the heart of your favorite MotoGP fan on Christmas morning, you need to get your order for the 2009 MotoGPMatters.com motorcycle racing calendar in today, and we will rush down to the post office to ensure it hits the mail on time. And with stocks starting to run low, you need to decide sooner rather than later.
For readers based in Europe, they too need to hurry if they still want a calendar before Christmas, while readers in Australia and New Zealand will need to send an e-mail to email@example.com to enquire about the cost of express shipping.
Featuring a host of gorgeous photographs by Scott Jones, as well as a full listing of MotoGP and World Superbike weekends clearly marked on each month, it's the perfect schedule planner for motorcycle racing fans who don't want to miss the best racing on the planet. Printed using a four-color offset process, providing rich and beautiful photographs, the calendar measures 11" by 8.5", or 11" by 17" when folded out, with a photograph above a month grid.
Below is a sample month to give you an idea of the layout:
Honda's future in MotoGP has been an almost constant subject of debate since the announcement that the Japanese motoring giant was withdrawing from Formula One on December 5th this year. The situation was only made worse by American Honda's decision to withdraw from the AMA Superbike championship next year, announced exactly a week later. And now, it looks like there could be three "Black Fridays" in a row for Honda's involvement in racing.
For this Friday, December 19th, Honda CEO Takeo Fukui is due to deliver his end-of-year speech, and if reports from the Spanish press are to be believed, there is a real possibility that Fukui will announce the withdrawal of Honda from MotoGP. Both AS.com and Motociclismo.es have picked up a story by the weekly magazine Solo Moto, which quotes a spokesman from HRC as saying that "all of our projects are currently under consideration."
The problem, as you most likely guessed, is due to the global economic crisis. Honda's margins are under severe pressure, with sales slowing worldwide, a fact confirmed by a drop of nearly 27% in new car registrations in Western Europe. And as profits fall, Honda is coming under extreme pressure from investors to cut costs. Investors reacted positively to both Honda's F1 pullout, as well as their withdrawal from the AMA, despite the vast difference in budgets for the two activities, and Solo Moto believes that MotoGP is their next target.
The FIM today released the provisional entry list for the MotoGP series, encompassing the MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc classes. As expected, the MotoGP class has 19 entries, the single tire rule freeing up the equipment for Sete Gibernau's team.
Perhaps the best news is the entry list of 22 riders for the 250cc class. With KTM's withdrawal from the class earlier this year, it looked for a while like there could be fewer than the minimum of 15 entries required for a World Championship to be organized. Since then, a number of privateer teams have entered Aprilia LE's, and Aspar has found sponsorship from the new Balatonring circuit in Hungary to provide former 125cc World Champion Gabor Talmacsi with factory equipment.
FIM Provisional Entry List 2009