Dani Pedrosa

Honda - Is Its MotoGP Program In Trouble Or Not?

Ever since Honda dropped a bombshell on the world of car racing by announcing that it would be pulling out of Formula One and selling its F1 team, speculation has been rife that the fall out from the global financial crisis must surely have an effect on Honda's efforts in motorcycle racing. And since that moment, a stream of news articles has appeared on the subject.

The trouble is, the news has been confusing, if not downright contradictory. Spokespeople for Honda are saying the company's F1 withdrawal will not affect Honda's MotoGP efforts one minute, only for other parts of the company to tell the press that of course they are considering all of their options. It's difficult to follow, and hard to know just what effect the decline in Honda's financial fortunes will have.

To help clear up the confusion - or perhaps to add to it, here's a summary of the news so far:

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Jerez November MotoGP Test - Day 2 Times

Testing continued today at Jerez, and despite the damp track in the morning and the continuing cool weather, lap records continued to be shattered. Once again, the battle was between Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, and while Pedrosa was quickest for a good part of the day, in the end it was The Doctor who finished the day on the top of the timesheets, with a time 1/10th of a second quicker than Pedrosa's time from yesterday, and 7/10ths faster than the lap record here.

The two title hopefuls were also a second quicker than the rest of the field, just as they were yesterday, with Dani Pedrosa setting the 3rd fastest time, a tenth off his own fastest practice time here in March. There was little separating the group behind Pedrosa, with 6/10ths covering 10 riders.

The good news in that group was for the men who had been slow yesterday: Sete Gibernau took 2 seconds off his time from yesterday, and Nicky Hayden slashed a second and a half off his lap times, putting Gibernau up to 10th place, and Hayden up to 6th, just 0.04 seconds off Jorge Lorenzo's 3rd fastest time.

What is already clear is that this is shaping up to be a two-speed championship. Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are a cut above the rest of the field, with Casey Stoner likely to join that elite group once he returns to action. Behind the front runners, the new tire regulations may have closed the field up, with times closer together than they were last year. But with at least three riders so far ahead, the racing may once again come down to a procession for the podium, followed by some great action fighting over 4th or 5th place.

Testing now ceases, apart from the last day of testing in Phillip Island for Suzuki and Kawasaki on Friday, and the riders and teams all head off for a well-earned break during the winter test ban, which lasts from December 1st to January 20th, though the riders won't be back on the track again until February 5th in Sepang. But though the riders will be able to relax a little, the teams, and especially the R&D departments, will be working flat out on improving the bikes, and getting them ready for the new season. There's still a lot to be done.

Times from Thursday's test: 

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All 2009 Hondas To Run Pneumatic Valve Springs

Interesting news from HRC, and a sign of just how seriously they are taking the 2009 season. Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that HRC has decided that every Honda RC212V on the grid next year will be equipped with an engine which uses pneumatic valve springs. This reverses a previous decision that the satellite bikes would all be running the former Pedrosa-spec engine, which utilized conventional steel-spring valves, but HRC has decided that running single type of valve return actuation in all of the bikes they run is the more efficient option.

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Jerez November MotoGP Test - Day 1 Times

So much for the safety argument. On the first day of testing at Jerez under the new tire regime, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 0.6 seconds off his existing lap record at the Andalucian circuit. It's almost impossible to stand in the way of progress, no matter how hard you try, it seems.

Pedrosa set his time while riding only a relatively few number of laps. Weather conditions this morning were cold, despite the sunshine, and the riders didn't really get under way until early in the afternoon. But while Pedrosa was fastest, the Yamahas are looking strongest, as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Colin Edwards were 2nd, 3rd and 4th fastest respectively.

The gaps are large, though, with Pedrosa 6/10ths faster than Rossi, who is in turn over a second quicker than Lorenzo, the rest of the field bunched up, until we get to the Ducatis.

And the Ducatis are clearly the slowest bikes at the test, with only MotoGP rookie Yuki Takahashi in last place. Former Ducati test rider and now Pramac rider Niccolo Canepa was the quickest of the Bologna bikes, a fraction faster than Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden. Hayden is nearly 2 seconds behind Rossi, and 2.5 behind his former Repsol Honda team mate, though the Kentucky Kid is still getting used to the bike and the Bridgestone tires.

The man who could make the biggest difference to the standings has been watching from pit lane. Casey Stoner was present at the test, but unable to take part. The official Ducati press release stated that Stoner's wrist injury was healing well, and he hopes to begin training on a bicycle again soon.

Testing continues again tomorrow.

Times:

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More Payment Options Available For MotoGPMatters.com 2009 Racing Calendar

The MotoGPMatters.com 2009 racing calendar is proving to be a very popular item, with piles of calendars being shipped out of MotoGPMatters.com HQ to MotoGP fans around the world on a daily basis. But as popular as the calendar is, not everyone is happy with paying by Paypal, and some people have requested other forms of payment.

Now, we are pleased to say, we have added another way to pay: It is now possible to pay for your MotoGPMatters.com calendar using Moneybookers, an established and well-respected money transfer service. With Moneybookers, you can transfer funds using your credit card, by direct debit from your bank, or by debiting your Moneybookers account.

So with the gift-giving season - and the start of 2009 - rapidly approaching, now is the time to put in your order for the beautiful and extremely useful 2009 MotoGPMatters.com racing calendar. Each month features one of Scott Jones' beautiful photographs, as an 8.5 inch by 11 inch (Letter size, or about the same size as A4) print, above an 8.5x11 page containing a grid of the month, including a list of all of the MotoGP and World Superbike weekends, and a listing of the birthdays of the big names from MotoGP, the 250 and 125cc classes, and World Superbikes and World Supersport. There's also a brief description of the state of racing for that month.

A sample month layout looks like this:

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The MotoGPMatters.com Motorcycle Racing Calendar Goes On Sale!

As promised, the MotoGPMatters.com 2009 Racing Calendar is finally available for purchase! At either US$15 for residents of the USA and Canada, or EUR15 for the rest of the world (both plus shipping and handling), the calendar is a must-have for any motorcycle racing fan, and is the perfect gift or stocking filler for lovers of bikes and great photography. It is also an indispensable aid in planning your life so you don't miss out on any of the great motorcycle racing we expect to see in 2009.

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Pedrosa On Lorenzo: "There Can Be Only One"

When it was announced last year that Jorge Lorenzo had signed to ride for Fiat Yamaha, lovers of gossip and scandal around the planet rubbed their hands in glee at having two of the largest egos on the planet sharing the confines of a single pit garage. The widespread expectation was that we would see more fireworks between the two Yamaha heroes than during a Chinese New Year celebration.

So many people have been surprised by the air of if not quite harmony, then perhaps quiet acceptance of each other that has permeated the factory Yamaha team. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have rubbed along fairly quietly, without rubbing each other up the wrong way, much to the disappointment of the more sensationalist Italian press.

Fortunately for the Spanish press, however, Lorenzo has been reunited with a different rival, and one with whom that rivalry runs deeper and more darkly than any new-found dislike. For now, Lorenzo is pitted against his old enemy Dani Pedrosa, in a clash which goes back to 2005, and Lorenzo's first season in 250s.

The rivalry runs deep, in part because Jorge Lorenzo styled his on-track and media persona to a large degree around Pedrosa. Seeing the central role Pedrosa was starting to play in the eyes of the Spanish media, Lorenzo set himself up to be the anti-Pedrosa, and be everything Pedrosa is not. Where Pedrosa is quiet, focused and restrained, Lorenzo would be loud, brash and over the top. Fortunately for Lorenzo, he also had the talent to back it up.

In keeping with his character, Pedrosa rarely wastes words on Lorenzo, or any of his rivals for the title. But in an interview with the Spanish press agency EFE, Pedrosa broke his self-enforced silence. "We both want the same objective," he said, "and there can be only one winner."

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MotoGP 2008 Valencia Test Times Day 1 - Finalized

Times from the first day of testing at Valencia. These will be updated as soon as official times are available. All times were set using the new standard tires provided by Bridgestone, with a choice of either a soft or a hard compound available. For comparison, see the fastest lap each rider set during the race on Sunday.

Times courtesy of GPOne.com and Motociclismo.es

Times at 5pm, the end of the test:

1Casey StonerDucati1'32.46431 / 54
2Dani PedrosaHonda1'32.67224 / 60
3Valentino RossiYamaha1'32.92120 / 34
4Chris VermeulenSuzuki1'33.14241 / 67
5Loris CapirossiSuzuki1'33.32537 / 75
6Alex de AngelisHonda1'33.37535 / 77
7Jorge LorenzoYamaha1'33.55041 / 44
8Andrea DoviziosoHonda1'33.67538 / 57
9John HopkinsKawasaki1'33.76044 / 74
10Marco MelandriKawasaki1'33.78247 / 75
11Randy de PunietHonda1'33.83239 / 80
12Nicky HaydenDucati1'33.96074 / 79
13Toni EliasHonda1'34.12978 / 81
14Sete GibernauDucati1'34.45121 / 52
15Mika KallioDucati1'34.79357 / 60
16Olivier JacqueKawasaki1'34.92548 / 71
17Niccolo CanepaDucati1'34.99559 / 62
18Yuki TakahashiHonda1'35.20372 / 73
19Gabor TalmacsiAprilia1'38.47255 / 57

 

Fastest lap of each rider during the race on Sunday:

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
11Casey STONERDUCATI1'32.582  
22Dani PEDROSAHONDA1'32.7960.2140.214
346Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'33.0750.4930.279
44Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA1'33.3130.7310.238
569Nicky HAYDENHONDA1'33.3930.8110.080
65Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'33.3990.8170.006
756Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'33.5500.9680.151
865Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'33.6261.0440.076
915Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'33.8391.2570.213
1048Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA1'33.8841.3020.045
1121John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'34.0351.4530.151
1233Marco MELANDRIDUCATI1'34.1171.5350.082
1352James TOSELANDYAMAHA1'34.1501.5680.033
1414Randy DE PUNIETHONDA1'34.2251.6430.075
1550Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI1'34.4621.8800.237
167Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'34.5952.0130.133
1724Toni ELIASDUCATI1'34.6342.0520.039
1813Anthony WESTKAWASAKI1'34.7152.1330.081

 

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2008 Sepang MotoGP Qualifying Report

The qualifying practice session at the Sepang MotoGP round was to be the penultimate time that the MotoGP riders were to experience the exhilarating and terrifying levels of grip provided by qualifying tires, scheduled to disappear once the single tire rule was introduced. But at the start of the session, it didn't look like they would get to use them at all, the rain appearing between the morning and afternoon sessions having soaked the track.

Two riders had made sure that they would use qualifying rubber, as Kawasaki had decided to send both its riders out on soft tires at the end of FP3. The team had seen the weather forecasts, and mindful of 2006, when the grid was set on the basis of the results in free practice, Ant West and John Hopkins had used one of their qualifiers gambling on the official qualifying session being rained out.

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The Gathering Storm Over Tires

There's an old saying, that goes "Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it." Ever since the introduction of the restrictions on tires - introduced rather foolishly at the same time as the 800cc rule, breaking the engineer's golden rule of only changing one variable at a time - complaining about how tires have come to dominate racing has taken on epic proportions. Fans complained that the racing had become boring, riders complained that they were left powerless to compete if they were given the wrong tires or the tire companies got it wrong, and sponsors muttered that they were unhappy pouring money into teams who would be invisible all weekend because of a simple hoop of not-so-sticky rubber.

After a false start last year, the baying crowd were finally given what they wanted three weeks ago at Motegi: Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta announced that in 2009, the MotoGP series would have only a single tire manufacturer, and that he was open to bids for the contract from tire companies.

What happened next completely altered the balance of power: Michelin, knowing that it stood no chance of actually getting the contract, as any result other than Bridgestone would have caused a bombshell of tactical nuclear warhead proportions to go off in the paddock, threw Dorna a curve ball, and decided not to submit a bid. With Bridgestone the only company to have submitted a proposal, the deal was theirs.

But this leaves Dorna with a problem. They too knew that realistically, Bridgestone was the only option, but had hoped to use the bid from Michelin as a stick to beat Bridgestone with to get more favorable conditions. With Michelin declining to play ball, Dorna is now stuck, forced to accept whatever deal Bridgestone offers them, their leverage removed by Michelin's very clever, and very spiteful move.

The Bells! The Bells!

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