The Motomatters.com 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar is still available, and has been reduced to clear! The calendar features one of Scott Jones' fantastic photos above every month, with the month grid below containing birthdays for most of the leading riders in the MotoGP, World Superbike, Moto2, World Supersport and 125cc classes, as well as every MotoGP and World Superbike round highlighted for easy reference. The center pages are a double-page close-up spread of the 2009 MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi.
This year's calendar is larger than last year (12" x 9.25", or 30.5cm x 23.5cm), and the production quality is better too, with an additional high gloss finish to make Scott Jones' pictures shine. Full details of the calendar are shown below. Best of all, the calendar has been produced in partnership with Riders for Health, and 10% of the proceeds will go towards helping provide health care in remote regions of the world. Riders for Health was set up by former 500cc star Randy Mamola together with Barry and Andrea Coleman, and has been a cause that Motomatters.com has supported for a number of years now. We are proud to be able to help Riders through our calendar.
New Reduced Price!
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.
There are a lot of badly kept secrets in the paddock, and one of the very worst kept was the fact that Marco Melandri would be making a return to the Gresini Honda team next season. Since the rumors started to emerge - at about the same time as Marco Simoncelli announced his signing for the Gresini team at Assen - Melandri has tried to play them down, quipping that although journalists were writing that he'd been signed by Gresini, nobody had told him.
But to paraphrase the bard, the rider did protest too much. For today, Fausto Gresini officially announced that Melandri will be joining the Gresini team for 2009. The deal has been on the cards since it became clear that Kawasaki's backing for Hayate would be a one-year affair, and Melandri has seized the opportunity with fantastic aplomb, getting far more out of the barely developed ZX-RR than anyone thought it had in it. His ability and strength of will has been rewarded with the Gresini ride, with team boss Fausto Gresini acknowledging the long history the two parties share: "Melandri is a huge part of the Gresini story and we have had great results together," Gresini said in a press release.
The tricky problem of the single factory-spec RC212V which Gresini have at their disposal has been settled in Melandri's favor. Speaking yesterday to the press, HRC president Tetsuo Suzuki made it clear that Simoncelli would get a satellite-spec machine, but that Honda's aim is for the satellite machines to be just one or two races behind the factory bikes. That has quite obviously not been the case over the past two and a half seasons, but with Honda now starting to catch Yamaha and Ducati in the development race, a return to Honda's former policy looks increasingly feasible.
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.
The biggest dependency in the MotoGP Silly Season so far was touched upon yesterday. Jorge Lorenzo is the juggernaut stopped at the crossroads, holding up the traffic behind him, deciding whether to take the fork to Honda or to continue on along the road with Yamaha. The news emerging from various sources in the media and the paddock is that Lorenzo is most likely to stay the course with Yamaha and demonstrate that he can beat Valentino Rossi on equal machinery.
If, as we expect, Lorenzo stays, then this will precipitate a host of changes through the rest of the field. The most significant of these, as we covered yesterday, will be Dani Pedrosa. With the option of a move to Yamaha effectively blocked - Yamaha could neither afford nor would they want three of the top four riders in the world, as they have their hands full already just handling two of them - Pedrosa will most likely remain at Repsol Honda, perhaps with some extra guarantees of performance from HRC extracted with some extra pressure from Repsol, who grow tired of pouring many millions of euros into the factory Honda squad without seeing the desired return (a Spanish MotoGP champion) on their investment.
Andrea Dovizioso is likely to retain his seat alongside Dani Pedrosa, his hand having been strengthened by his victory at Donington Park just a couple of weeks ago. But as HRC is quietly accumulating talent in the background, with Marco Simoncelli already signed for Gresini next year and one or two other names already popping up on the HRC radar, Dovi will most likely be given another one year contract for just the 2010 season, so that HRC can reshuffle its cards at the end of next year. HRC's hands are also tied by the limited options available. Yamaha has successfully corner a sizable chunk of the talent market, and the only rider eligible and qualified to move up to the Repsol ride would be Marco Melandri, who has proved again this year that he can still ride, just as long as what he's riding wasn't built in Bologna.
If you enjoyed the previous instalments of photos from the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, you'll love the final collection from Scott Jones. If you want more after that, you'll have to wait until Donington, like the rest of us.
After a dismal year in 2008, where he struggled woefully with the Ducati Desmosedici, Marco Melandri has taken last year's Kawasaki and turned in some remarkable results. MotoGPMatters.com caught up with Melandri at Laguna Seca, to ask about the year so far, and what he expects for the future.
MGPM: After your difficult year in 2007, you've exceeded everyone's expectations this season with Hayate. Do you feel you're once again showing people what Marco Melandri is capable of?
Melandri: Yes, it has been a very tough 2008, and for sure I signed up for a difficult challenge with Kawasaki. After the winter we knew we would have a very tough season, but then we had some very good races, which no one expected, including me. I expected to have some good races, actually, but not to do as well as we've done. After that we had some difficult races, and I had a small injury in Barcelona, but now that's getting better. I'm quite happy with the season so far.
Testing has started in the first of the extremely restricted test programs, the amount of testing having been slashed for cost-cutting purposes over the winter. Dani Pedrosa is sitting out the test, preferring to rest in the hope that his injured femur will recover in time for Assen, while the Tech 3 team are also absent.
Andrea Dovizioso is testing the new chassis for HRC, while Ducati is testing a new rear shock, the carbon fiber swingarm and some electronics updates, as well as a revised tail section which lifts the seat higher.
Yamaha has little to test, and so Jorge Lorenzo is mainly working on refining setup. According to MCN, Valentino Rossi is due test a revised version of the M1 engine, designed to last for two races, ready for the new regulations which come into effect after Brno. From then, the riders will have 5 engines to last 7 races, and Yamaha need to ensure that the new engine has not sacrificed performance for durability. As of 1pm, Rossi had yet to take to the track, though. Rossi is notorious for his hatred of early mornings, and will probably wait until the afternoon to make an appearance.
Update - Valentino Rossi took to the track during the afternoon session, run between 2pm and 6pm, but is without Jerry Burgess, who is headed back to Australia for the funeral of his mother, who died on Saturday. One incident of note was the consequences of a crash by Pramac Ducati's Niccolo Canepa: The Italian had crashed going very slowly (about 40 km/h, according to GPONe.com) while testing the carbon fiber swingarm. As a result of that crash, the swingarm cracked, underlining the risks of using CF as a structural material. However, both Canepa and Kallio were about half a second quicker with the new CF swingarm than they were on the aluminium one yesterday, so its benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Final times (courtesy of GPOne.com)
Qualifying for Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix took place in intense heat, making the conditions difficult for both riders and bikes. The riders were thankful that this was the first outing for Bridgestone's asymmetric dual compound tires, for the combination of very high track temperatures and the Barcelona track's endless right handers made a very hard compound necessary on the right-hand side of the tire, but a relatively softer compound on the left-hand side.
The heat meant that the early running was made by the riders on the hardest of the tires available, the extra-hard rear and the hard front, the compounds the teams are almost certain to be using in the race tomorrow. It was Jorge Lorenzo who took practice for the race to the greatest extreme, the Spaniard starting out the session with a monster run of 17 laps, over two thirds of race distance.
It wasn't just a long run, however, Lorenzo also demonstrated he was on race pace, taking the top spot after just a couple of laps, briefly ceding it to Andrea Dovizioso, then snatching it back, the first rider to lap under 1'43, with a time of 1'42.990. A lap later, Lorenzo took another two tenths off his time, setting out a marker of where race pace will be, and following it up with a long string of laps in the high 1'42s and low 1'43s.
The only person capable of following was Lorenzo's Fiat Yamaha team mate, Valentino Rossi. Rossi too ran low 1'43s, taking a provisional 2nd place on the grid with a quarter of the session gone. The other candidates for victory tomorrow were all running mid-1'43s, a couple of tenths off Rossi's pace.
Qualifying for the MotoGP class at Mugello took place under a hot Tuscan sun, the weekend continuing as it started yesterday. And just like yesterday afternoon, it was Valentino Rossi taking an early lead, cracking under the race lap record and into the 1'49s on just his 3rd lap. Rossi had been goaded into action after the morning session in which Casey Stoner once again did what he does best, which is to start fast and never let up, the Australian setting an astonishing 1'49.323 in the second session of free practice. So by laying down the law early in qualifying, Valentino Rossi set out his stall, making it clear to all what it would take to beat him.
For the first half of qualifying, the only man capable of getting close to Rossi was his team mate Jorge Lorenzo. Both Fiat Yamaha men spent the first 30 minutes doing long runs and race simulations, the pair of them putting in terrifyingly consistent runs in the mid to high 1'49s, setting the pace that will be needed for victory at Mugello on Sunday. Only Colin Edwards looked capable of approaching the pace of the Fiat Yamahas, the Texan demonstrating that the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha is very close to the factory bikes in performance.
The halfway point of the session came and went, and the wait began for the first real challenge to Rossi's dominance. The expectation was that it would come from Casey Stoner, as Stoner's time from the morning session was still nearly half a second quicker than Rossi's provisional pole session, but the Australian was having problems with the Ducati, spending time diving in and out of the pits to adjust the bike, and get the machine to turn.
After rain had cut short both of the first sessions of free practice, now restored to a full hour for the first time this season, the qualifying practice session for MotoGP looked set to run without any interruptions from the weather. The track had just about dried out after the morning rain, the 125cc bikes having cleared most of the water from the track.
As the riders hit the track to work on both their setup and their grid position, one man was missing: Sete Gibernau, who had had a big highside in the morning session of free practice, was on a plane home to Barcelona for treatment on the fractured collarbone he had suffered in the incident. Gibernau was examined and found to have a single fracture, rather than the double fracture that was feared, and the Spaniard is due to have a titanium plate fitted to stabilize the bone, just 6 months after having the previous one removed.
Of the remaining 17 riders to try their luck, it was Andrea Dovizioso who set the first serious time, breaking into the 1'35s with less than 10 minutes of the session gone. Dovi's time was quickly bettered by Casey Stoner, then Mika Kallio and Valentino Rossi taking turns at chipping away at the time, before Stoner took to the track once more and sliced over half a second off the best time so far with a lap of 1'35.183.
Le Mans is a Yamaha track, though, and a couple of minutes later, with well over half the session left, Colin Edwards set about demonstrating this point quite forcefully, setting a string of fast laps to take the provisional pole time down to 1'34.636, rapidly approaching the lap record set with race tires. The Tech 3 Yamaha rider's times made him the only man to break the 1'35 barrier, and giving him a clear lead for some time to come, while Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Chris Vermeulen all tried, but came up short.
Going into Saturday afternoon's MotoGP qualifying session at Jerez, it was unusually hard to say who was likely to take pole. At Qatar, Casey Stoner had destroyed all-comers, and had also dominated the IRTA test here a month ago. But after two sessions of free practice, any of five men looked possible candidates for pole position. Valentino Rossi had utterly dominated Friday's free practice session, with Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner some way behind, but Saturday morning was a different kettle of fish. In FP2, it was local heroes Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo who blasted the opposition, with Casey Stoner once again forced to settle for 3rd.
And as the green lights went and the riders rolled out of pit lane and onto the track, it was the two Spaniards who quickly made the early running. Lorenzo took the first shot at pole, but Dani Pedrosa soon took it away from the Mallorcan with a much more serious attempt in the low 1'40 bracket. With times in free practice regularly hitting the mid 1'39s, it was clear that there was plenty left to go.
With so much of practice already scrapped as part of the cost savings measures, the first half of qualifying was set further refining race setup, the teams looking for settings that will work with the hard tires they expect to use in the race. But as the clock ticked down past the 20 minutes to go mark, riders started to sling on the softer of the two compounds available and chase grid positions for the race on Sunday.
As a reminder of what we lost when we lost the special qualifying tires, Randy de Puniet made some of the early running, quickly getting up into 2nd, and then losing out in the final section after registering blazing times through the first three parts of the track. But it wasn't until the 15 minutes to go mark had passed that qualifying began in earnest.
When the announcement came that the former Kawasaki team was to continue, with Marco Melandri riding, many people in the paddock - including MotoGPMatters.com - thought that the project was doomed to failure. So far, though, the doubters have been proven wrong: the Hayate team, as it is now called, has been performing well above expectations, with Marco Melandri close to the top ten, rather than at the back of the field. MotoGPMatters.com spoke to Marco Melandri about the situation before the start of the 250cc race.
MGPM: We’ve been wondering how you were going to get along on the Hayate considering Kawasaki’s withdrawal from MotoGP, and you’re doing great so far.
Melandri: Yes, I’m pretty happy, because after the first test we were more than three seconds behind everyone, so we’re getting closer. The bike is pretty good. We still have to improve a lot, but we’re working well. The team is very motivated, and I feel confident and comfortable with them. So it’s good. I can be happy now.
Changing the way that Qualifying works is apparently the latest fashion in motorcycle racing. The World Superbike series did it by dropping the old single-lap Superpole format, and adopting a series of three knockout sessions, shameless copied from Formula One. MotoGP would protest that it has changed its qualifying format - though cost-cutting measures have reduced the length of qualifying from an hour to just 45 minutes - but the adoption of the single tire rule and the disappearance of full-on one-lap qualifying tires left MotoGP followers wondering just how this would affect the way the teams and riders approached Qualifying.
As the session started, at least one thing remained unchanged. Within a few minutes of the green lights, and on his first couple of laps out of the pits, Casey Stoner was laying down a blistering pace. The 2007 World Champion had cracked into the 1'56 bracket, and by his fourth lap, came within 0.009 of equaling the fastest time of the weekend, set by none other than Casey Stoner. The Marlboro Ducati rider was setting the bar for the rest of the field.
Though no one could directly challenge Stoner, he did not enjoy his huge (over a second) advantage for long. Within a few minutes, Valentino Rossi had jumped up to second fastest, just over 3/10ths of a second behind the Australian. Stoner did not wait long to respond: Six minutes later, the Australian was back out on track and cracking another barrier, into the 1'55s, extending his lead to over a second again with a lap of 1'55.504.
Behind Rossi, the fight for third was hotting up, with first Loris Capirossi taking the last front row spot, then Colin Edwards, before Andrea Dovizioso also got involved. Dovi held the spot for five more minutes, before Jorge Lorenzo confirmed his strong form at Qatar by blitzing a lap just short of Rossi's second place time.
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!
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.