The Moto2 rider line-up for 2011 is slowly starting to take something resembling its final shape, with more and more riders signing contracts to ride next year. Kenan Sofuoglu's signing for the Technomag CIP squad provided one catalyst, provoking a spate of moves to secure the known quantities for next season at the Valencia test. The prime mover in that chase was the team that Sofuoglu turned down, with Gresini securing former Tech 3 rider Yuki Takahashi to take the place of the departing Moto2 champion Toni Elias, with Sofuoglu's former Ten Kate Honda World Supersport teammate Michele Pirro taking the second seat in the biggest team in Moto2.
As the New Year begins, we approach the final instalments of our trip down memory lane, and what a memory it was! The first lot of photos from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a truly remarkable facility, steeped in history unlike almost any other racetrack I have visited. Only Monza comes close, both places being haunted by racing's rich past. More to come tomorrow.
With the announcement at Estoril that Hiroshi Aoyama is to ascend to the MotoGP class aboard a Honda RC212V in a team run by Daniel Epp, the man behind the current Caffe Latte team in the 250 class, the number of Hondas on the grid for 2010 increased from six to seven. The team is to be sponsored in part by the Swiss iced coffee company Caffe Latte, but the effort is also to be heavily supported by Honda. HRC have a long tradition of keeping a Japanese rider in the MotoGP class and were keen to find a replacement for Yuki Takahashi, who was muscled out at Team Scot and replaced by Gabor Talmacsi, the Hungarian bringing a badly-needed injection of funds to the cash-strapped team. With Hiroshi Aoyama edging ever closer to becoming Japan's first World Champion since the much-lamented Daijiro Katoh in 2001, and doing so on board an aging Honda RS250RW, the Japanese rider seems not only the logical choice, but also a highly deserving one.
The MotoGP silly season is just about played out. With four races left in the season, the rider line up for 2010 is almost complete. As expected, once Jorge Lorenzo finally made up his mind, the remaining pieces in the puzzle fell into place, leaving just a few gaps to fill.
All of the factory seats are now full, and largely unchanged, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo back at Yamaha, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden at Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa (albeit reluctantly) re-signed with Repsol Honda, and Loris Capirossi joined at Suzuki by the only newcomer to the factory line up, Spanish rookie Alvaro Bautista. Though next year's seats are settled, plenty of excitement still remains over what will happen next year: Everyone but Andrea Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista is on a one year contract, which means that the Fantastic Four will all be on the market at the same time next year and looking to move, almost certainly precipitating a bidding war and making a mockery of all the cost-cutting measures already put in place.
Of the satellite teams, only the Gresini and LCR squads are completely set. Fausto Gresini got his Italian Dream Team with the two Marcos, Melandri and Simoncelli, and helping him extend the team's sponsorship contract with snack manufacturer San Carlo, while Lucio Cecchinello has re-upped with Randy de Puniet. But even among the remaining teams, the seats are largely taken. Mika Kallio is back with Pramac, and Colin Edwards returns to the Monster Tech 3 team, though reportedly taking a half million dollar pay cut for the privilege. No official word as yet from Team Scot, but as Gabor Talmacsi is the only person likely to be bringing significant funds into the team, the Hungarian must be a safe bet for that seat.
The rain brought proceedings to an early end at the final day of testing for the MotoGP class for this season. It started to rain shortly after lunchtime, and though it rained only briefly, by the time the track had started to dry out a fresh shower arrived to drench the track again. Only in the final hour did the riders venture back out onto the track again, and then, it was only Valentino Rossi who managed to improve his time.
So the riders did not get the testing done that they had hoped for. Jorge Lorenzo was once again the fastest rider on the track, ahead of the ever tardy Valentino Rossi, who did not roll out of the garage until after 11am, and Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda riders were due to test Ohlins suspension, but as Dovizioso was scheduled to run the Swedish suspension in the morning, and Dani Pedrosa only in the afternoon, Dovi did the bulk of the testing. Pedrosa did get out on the new forks, according to GPOne.com, but certainly wouldn't have given the new suspension the kind of workout he would have hoped for.
Julian Ryder, over at Superbikeplanet.com, reports that there was cloak-and-dagger atmosphere inside the Suzuki pits, where screens were being erected around bikes every time the fairings came off. Obviously, the factory brought more than just the minor tweaks that they gave to Loris Capirossi for the race on Sunday.
The first outing for a Moto2 bike at an official MotoGP event was not a roaring success. Spanish rider David de Gea crashed during the morning while testing tires for Dunlop, and was transported to a local hospital with a broken foot. De Gea was not the only faller. Both Gabor Talmacsi and Nicky Hayden hit the gravel, though neither man was seriously hurt.
Times at the end of the day, courtesy of GPOne.com
The bikes are out on track at the final test of the year at Brno, and the first times are starting to appear. The field is still a little empty, as Valentino Rossi is yet to emerge from his motorhome, while the Tech 3 Yamahas of Colin Edwards and James Toseland have been crated up ready for their journey to the next Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Randy de Puniet is giving his fractured ankle a rest.
The Hondas are out testing Ohlins suspension, in a move which could mirror their switch in World Superbikes, where the factory-backed Ten Kate team has made a similar switch to Ohlins. Now that Yamaha has sold the Swedish suspension firm back to its founder, Honda feels comfortable testing the shocks as possible replacements for the Showa units which are produced by a Honda subsidiary.
Yesterday, Dorna released a list of engines presented to MotoGP's Technical Director Mike Webb to be officially sealed. The seals are placed to comply with the engine limit which comes into effect at Brno, which stipulates that each rider is only allowed to use 5 engines until the end of the season. The teams only needed to submit 1, or at most 2 engines to be sealed before practice started, but instead most submitted 3 or even more. That demands some kind of explanation, and so we decided to take a closer look at the numbers.
Here's the full list:
In the final chapter of our summer break round up of the MotoGP season, we turn towards the unknown. After our discussions of the things we know for sure, and the things which are extremely probable, we stray from the path of solid research, head down the trail of the likely, making a left turn into the tangled brush and undergrowth of the possible and onwards to wishful thinking and the frankly bizarre. Once past the certain and the obvious, the options become more open, more varied and more improbable. Whereas you could have safely placed a small wager on the rider movements discussed yesterday, the options presented below are a pretty good way of losing your money.
Yesterday, we covered the things we know for sure about the MotoGP riders market in 2010. So today, we turn our attention to the known unknowns, the riders and teams that we are fairly sure are going to be in MotoGP but with no certainty as to how or where or with whom. Naturally, that lack of certainty means that what follows is partly speculation, but is based on information which has so far proven to be reliable for the most part. If you're fond of a flutter, it might be worth taking a shot on some of what follows, but I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on any of it.