Marco Simoncelli

2009 Estoril 125 And 250 Test - Day 1 - Simoncelli And Simon Fastest Again

The first day of testing at the penultimate test for the 250 and 125 classes saw a fairly full field take to the track, particularly in the 250 class. For Marco Simoncelli, it was the first time to get a good look at the competition he will be facing this year, and going solely by the timesheets, he would seem to have the measure of them.

As ever, though, things are not quite that simple. Alvaro Bautista, down there in a lowly 10th spot, spent much of the day lapping without a transponder, and so his times are at best unreliable. But what is clear is that Simoncelli's first day times are respectable, already faster than the fastest race lap set in 2008, though still three quarters of a second off the race record. Hector Barbera was only a fraction slower, while new boy Mike di Meglio showed just how quickly he is getting up to speed by setting the third fastest time. Simoncelli crashed during the session, but walked away unhurt.

In the 125 class, Julian Simon continued his strong showing in testing, leading the way once again by half a second over Sandro Cortese. Bradley Smith was third quickest, three quarters of a second slower than his Aspar team mate Simon. The big surprise for the 125 boys were the large gaps between the riders, with three seconds difference between Simon and British rider Scott Redding in 10th, who also has a factory spec RSA Aprilia at his disposal.

One place ahead of Redding was the Italian and European 125 champion Lorenzo Savadori. The 15-year-old Italian has made terrific progress during testing, and is definitely a rider to watch for the future. Savadori finished just behind Danny Webb, the De Graaf Grand Prix rider who is entering his third season of 125 GPs, and will also have an RSA spec Aprilia this season.

Testing continues on Monday and Tuesday.

250 cc

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2009 2nd Valencia 125 And 250 Test - Day 2 - It's That Man Again

The second and final day of testing at Valencia for the 125s and 250s saw Marco Simoncelli dominate once again. The reigning 250 World Champion put in a huge number of laps to finish the day with a comfortable lead over his Gilera team mate Roberto Locatelli. The Gileras finished the day ahead of the Hondas of Hector Faubel and Thai rider Rathapark Wilairot.

The 125 class was a much more worrying affair. Yesterday's leader, Efren Vazquez had a huge crash, which saw him trap his leg in the wheel, ending with the Spaniard being rushed to hospital in Valencia with a deep cut that partially severed achilles tendon. Vazquez wasn't the only rider to fall, being joined in the gravel by his team mate Pol Espargaro, as well as former Red Bull Rookies Johann Zarco and Matthew Hoyle.

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2009 2nd Valencia 125 And 250 Test - Day 1 - Simoncelli Rules The Roost

The second batch of 125 and 250 riders are out at Valencia, testing in preparation for the 2009 season. But though the location might be the same, the names are mostly different. This time, it's Marco Simoncelli who tops the 250s, though none of the Aspar big guns are on track to face the reigning champion. Simoncelli's time as quicker than that set by Alvaro Bautista two weeks ago, but it has to be said that the weather conditions are infinitely better. In comparison, Alex Baldolini improved his time by a second, while Hector Faubel took nearly 2 seconds off his fastest time of the previous tests.

In the 125 class, it was Efren Vazquez who was quickest on the factory Derbi, though the Spaniard also managed to crash in a fairly serious way at the end of the day. But the surprise of the day was the 2nd fastest time for Lorenzo Savadori, an Italian rookie who was European 125 champion last year, and hotly tipped for success. To be 2nd fastest on his first test is fairly impressive, and promises more to come.

The other news of interest was the arrival of the Maxtras, the Chinese bike designed by former Aprilia guru Jan Witteveen and Britain's Harris Performance, and run by John Surtees. The Maxtra still has some work to be done, though, as Michael Ranseder was the fastest of the two team mates, beating British rookie Matt Hoyle by two seconds, but still four seconds down on the time of Vazquez.

Testing continues tomorrow.

250 cc

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FIM Announces New Tire Regulations For MotoGP And Other Changes

The FIM released a set of rule changes on Friday, for both the MotoGP and World Superbike series. For World Superbikes, the biggest change was the abolition - or rather, the change of format - of Superpole, switching to a Formula 1 style knock-out qualifying format. The bulk of the rule changes in MotoGP were of course the new tire regulations, but there were also a number of changes to the sporting regulations, to be applied to both series.

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FIM Releases MotoGP Entry List: 19 In MotoGP, 22 In 250s, 29 In 125s

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 

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Simoncelli: "I Turned Down A Million Dollar MotoGP Contract"

As the MotoGP silly season hit full swing around July, the one name that was on everyone's lips was that of Marco Simoncelli, the man who went on to win the 250cc title. Rumors were rife about who had offered the young Italian a contract, and great was the surprise when Simoncelli announced that he would be staying in 250s for next year. Since then, speculation has abounded about just who was offering what to Simoncelli to move up to MotoGP.

In the latest issue of the Italian Riders magazine, Simoncelli reveals just what was on offer. The Tech 3 Yamaha team were the first to approach Simoncelli, Carlo Pernat, the Italian's manager, told the magazine. "Then came an offer from Ducati, for either the factory or for the satellite team. And finally, both Honda Gresini and Suzuki were interested," Pernat said. The salary he turned down? One million dollars.

"I don't want to serve another apprenticeship year," Simoncelli stated, in explanation of why he turned down the offers. "If I keep on going as fast again next year, the offers will still be there."

Simoncelli also revealed where his nickname - Super Sic - came from, and with it, a clue to the improvement in his form in 2008. "Sic isn't an abbreviation of Simoncelli," Aligi Deganello, his crew chief revealed. "It's an acronym for Sbattersene I Coglioni (an extremely anatomical Italian phrase translated very loosely as taking it to the limit - Ed.) We decided, after two bad years, we had to roll up our sleeves, silence the critics and open the gas."

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Aprilia Testing, Day 2: Superbike, 125 and 250 Riders Times From Valencia

Aprilia's test continued today at Valencia, with the main attraction being Marco Simoncelli being given a run on Aprilia's RSV4 World Superbike machine. The Italian was immediately quick, and matched the time set yesterday by Shinya Nakano. But Nakano was even quicker, taking a second off the time he set yesterday, and matching the fastest lap set during the World Superbike round held here in April of this year.

In the 250 class, Alvaro Bautista was fastest again today, although Gabor Talmacsi equaled the Spaniard's time. Meanwhile, in the 125 class, it was Julian Simon who was quickest, over half a second ahead of his Aspar team mate Bradley Smith. Smith was also slower than Andrea Iannone.

The smaller classes will now pack up and go home for the winter break, as the test ban starts on December 1st. But before that, the MotoGP riders will take to the track in Jerez and Phillip Island.

Superbike
1Shinya NakanoAprilia1'35.3
2Marco SimoncelliAprilia1'36.3
3Alex HofmannAprilia1'37.3
250 cc
1Alvaro BautistaAprilia1'38.1
2Gabor TalmacsiAprilia1'38.1
3Mike di MeglioAprilia1'38.6
125 cc
1Julian SimonAprilia1'40.5
2Andrea IannoneAprilia1'41.0
3Bradley SmithAprilia1'41.1
4Sergio GadeaAprilia1'42.0

 

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Who's Going Where In MotoGP In 2009? Silly Season Roundup

MotoGP State of the Silly Season 2008 - FINALIZED
Fiat Yamaha
Valentino Rossi Contract through 2010 Rossi will be staying until he decides to retire from the sport
Jorge Lorenzo Contract through 2009 Lorenzo is Yamaha's future, and like Rossi, will be staying until he decides he's had enough.
Tech 3 Yamaha
Colin Edwards 1 year contract through 2009 Edwards is signed for '09, but is unlikely to stay for too much longer. Much depends on what happens in the AMA.
James Toseland Took up option to stay through 2009 Toseland started brilliantly, but has stagnated a little. Will need to show a return to form if he is to stay after 2009.
Repsol Honda
Dani Pedrosa In 1st year of 2 year contract, signed for 2009.

Pedrosa and his manager Alberto Puig have firm grip on the Repsol Honda garage. Pedrosa has been drafted in by Honda to win back the MotoGP title, and Puig has taken advantage to ensure that he controls events inside the team. Pedrosa and Puig are rumored to be demanding  a wall separating the two sides of the Repsol Honda pits, and will have a very strong say in who will replace Nicky Hayden in 2009. Unfortunately, Pedrosa doesn't really want anyone as a team mate, so any such quest will be very difficult.

The news from Misano that Pedrosa will be running on Bridgestones from the Indianapolis race onwards will potentially make things even more complicated. The question is whether both Repsol Hondas will be on Bridgestones, or just Dani Pedrosa, with the garage split in the same way as the Fiat Yamaha garage.

Andrea Dovizioso 1 year contract for 2009

Andrea Dovizioso was officially announced as Nicky Hayden's replacement at Repsol Honda at Motegi, and with it came some interesting guarantees. These included being offered equal treatment, at least until one of the two Repsol riders gains a significant lead in the 2009 title race. But HRC President Hamane also stated that he would prefer to have both riders on the same tires, and pledged that there would be no dividing wall in the Repsol Honda garage.

Whether the Dovizioso / Pedrosa pairing will work better than Hayden / Pedrosa remains to be seen. Much will depend on how the internal power struggle between sponsor and each side of the garage plays out.

Ducati
Casey Stoner Contract through 2010, option extended last year Casey Stoner, like Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, can stay at Ducati as long as he likes. He has already brought the factory one title, and looks likely to repeat that feat, if not this year, then sometime in the very near future.
Nicky Hayden Contract for 2009
Hayden's rumored contract was finally announced formally on the Monday after Indianapolis. Hayden has been with Honda since he was a teenager, and so the move is a big step for the Kentuckian. The Ducati has shown to be a tough bike to ride for everyone except Stoner, though things have improved over the past few races. The question is, can Hayden tame the bike like Stoner can? One thing is for sure: it won't be for lack of effort on Hayden's part.
Suzuki
Loris Capirossi Contract through 2009

Suzuki announced that they have renewed Capirossi's contract after the Misano round. The deal is just for one year, which makes sense, as the Italian veteran's age and long list of injuries has got to make you wonder just how much longer MotoGP's longest-serving son can continue. Retirement beckons, but whether that's in '10, or '11, or via the friendly side route of World Superbikes remains to be seen.

Chris Vermeulen Contract through 2009

Chris Vermeulen's position at Suzuki was looking decidedly shaky, at least until two podiums in a row put some firm ground under his feet. But with one of those podiums coming in the wet and the other at Laguna Seca, his best track by a long way, a prolongation with Suzuki was not entirely certain. Vermeulen reportedly fell short of a performance clause at Laguna Seca which would have brought him an automatic extension, and since Laguna, he has been engaged in haggling between himself, the team and Suzuki, about the size of his wage packet.

The deal was finally done after Misano, and announced after the Misano MotoGP round, together with Capirossi's deal being announced. Like Capirossi's deal, Vermeulen's was just for one year. Vermeulen was praised for his development and progress, and this will have to continue if Vermeulen is to remain in MotoGP for another year.

Gresini Honda
Toni Elias 1 year contract for 2009

The remaining seat at Gresini Honda was finally wrapped up at Phillip Island, with Toni Elias being formally announced as partnering Alex de Angelis. More intriguingly, it was also announced that Elias would be given a factory-spec RC212V, making it the third factory Honda on the grid.

This is the package that Vermeulen rejected when he decided to stick with Suzuki. Just how smart Vermeulen's move was remains to be seen, although with the single tire contract going to Bridgestone, and the Japanese tire maker talking about drastically standardizing production and reducing the numbers of tires available, Elias, who requires a special front tire to suit his extraordinary style, could well suffer badly, opening the door again for Vermeulen at the end of the year.

Despite earlier reports linking him to Gresini, Marco Simoncelli will be staying in the 250 class.

Alex de Angelis One-year deal for 2009

Alex de Angelis has already signed a one-year deal with Gresini, as he has the double advantage of being both fast and Italian, helping in finding sponsors. Doubts remain about his propensity to head into the gravel at every opportunity, however, and the man from San Marino will have to fall off a lot less next year if he is to stay in MotoGP much longer.

Alice Ducati
Mika Kallio Contract for 2009
Although Alvaro Bautista may have been the 250 world champion in waiting before the start of the season, he has long been overtaken by two other young chargers. The Italian Marco Simoncelli, currently leading the championship, and the Fin Mika Kallio have both been made offers by Livio Suppo of Ducati to ride for the satellite Alice Ducati team, which is being transformed into the Junior Ducati team, a feat that Ducati have learned from Ferrari. Simoncelli will be staying in the 250 class, for another year, and so has been ruled out of contention. Kallio is willing, and as KTM have decided to withdraw from the 250 class, stepping up to MotoGP is his best career move.
Niccolo Canepa Contract for 2009

By the middle of the season, it was clear that Niccolo Canepa would be racing a Ducati next year. The only question was, which one, and in which series? For a while, Canepa looked like moving up to the Xerox Ducati World Superbike squad, but after impressing Ducati bosses during testing - and being the only man to get close to Casey Stoner's times around Mugello - Canepa has been signed to join the satellite Ducati team in MotoGP. A former FIM Superstock 1000 champion, Canepa could be the surprise of the 2009 season.

Team LCR
Randy de Puniet Contract for 2009 The most cash-stricken team in the paddock will be back next year, after renewing with Randy de Puniet. De Puniet keeps showing he is capable of being very fast, but then keeps ruining it by crashing. The Flying Frenchman may be back for 2009, but until he can stay on the bike, his future will continue to be uncertain.
Scot Honda
Yuki Takahashi 1 year contract for 2009

Being on a 250cc Honda may guarantee that you won't become world champion in the class, but so far, it does seem to guarantee that you will get a ride in MotoGP. Being forced to wring the last drop of performance from a clearly underpowered bike teaches a rider a lot about maintaining speed wherever possible, and makes a great showcase for riders prepared to try and outride the bike. It got Andrea Dovizioso his ride in the MotoGP class, and now, it has done the same for the man who took his seat, Yuki Takahashi. Takahashi is having a good year in 250s, despite being on the underpowered Honda, and with Dovi moving over to Repsol, the logical step was for the Scot Team's 250 rider to step and fill his boots.

Kawasaki - Withdrawn from MotoGP. The official withdrawal of factory support was announced on January 9th, 2009. On February 25th, the team announced they would be reforming as Hayate, with factory support
Marco Melandri Two-year deal for 2009 and 2010 - but who knows what that means?

After a disastrous year aboard the Ducati, Melandri had to get out. Released from his 2 year contract a year early, Melandri looked elsewhere, nearly went back to Gresini Honda, who would have welcomed him with open arms, but decided he needed to be on a factory bike, to ensure that he had some input into the bike. Kawasaki was the only manufacturer left with a seat open, and so Melandri ended up there. 

After Kawasaki pulled out, only Melandri was willing to ride the bike provided by Dorna essentially for nothing, and so Melandri will be riding the Hayate, although as of March 4th, nothing had been officially signed.

John Hopkins Contract through 2009, but not riding Hopkins was safe at Kawasaki for 2009, until the pullout. Since then, little has been seen or heard of Hopper, other than a few appearances at Supercross races as a spectator. Rumors continue that he could find a ride in AMA, or possibly World Superbikes, but he is out of MotoGP for 2009. And that means there must be doubts as to whether he will ever return.
Team JiR
   Out of MotoGP

JiR is the loser from the Team Scot / JIR divorce, and is almost certain to be out of MotoGP. HRC have favored Team Scot instead of the team that did rather poorly when Makoto Tamada and Shinya Nakano rode for them, awarding the RC212V which the joint team ran to Team Scot instead of JiR.

Despite team owner Luca Montiron insisting he had a sponsor and a contract for a bike, as well as a top rider to put on the bike, HRC came down in favor of Team Scot at Motegi. Montiron issued a polite, though bitter, press release announcing his split from Honda, and is likely to move to World Superbikes, to run the Aprilia team with Max Biaggi.

JiR was Ben Spies' last hope in MotoGP, and despite impressing almost everyone during his wildcard appearances, the triple AMA champion instead made the switch to ride a Yamaha in World Superbike. Spies is said to have imposed a condition that he would get promotion to MotoGP in 2010, stepping up to join the Tech 3 Yamaha team.

Aspar Kawasaki - Out of MotoGP
Alex Debon /  Shinya Nakano Out of MotoGP

First a Suzuki, then a Ducati, then maybe a Yamaha. Jorge Aspar Martinez has been round almost every manufacturer in his quest to field a team in MotoGP, but after being turned down by almost everyone, it seemed that he had finally reached an agreement with Kawasaki to field a third Kawasaki.

As for the rider, an argument blew up between Aspar and Kawasaki over who to sign. Kawasaki wanted Shinya Nakano to ride the bike, a rider with proven development skills, though with a rather patchy record over the past few years.

Aspar, though, wanted a Spaniard, as they had a Spanish title sponsor lined up to fund the project. At first, Alvaro Bautista looked like being the most likely candidate to join the team, but the Spaniard announced at Misano that he will be staying in 250s for one more season, to attempt to win the championship.

With most of the top Spanish talent already signed, that left Aspar with only the veteran 250 rider Alex Debon. When Kawasaki told Aspar that Debon was not acceptable, and Aspar retorted that if Kawasaki wanted Nakano, they'd have to fund half the project, then that was the end of the project.

There is still a very small chance that Kawasaki will expand the factory team to include Nakano on a third bike, but that would require funding from Dorna. That team, though, would have nothing to do with Aspar.

Onde 2000 Ducati
Sete Gibernau One year contract for 2009

After test riding for Ducati, Sete Gibernau looked certain to take Melandri's place until the end of the year, with maybe another year with the factory team to follow. But since the Hayden-Ducati deal has almost been finalized, Gibernau had reportedly been offered a ride on the satellite Alice team. The problem Gibernau had was one of money, a problem which is now supposedly solved, by the intervention of the Onde 2000 team. Onde 2000 currently run 2 bikes in the 125 class, but the owner of the construction company running the team has now stumped up the cash to run Sete Gibernau on a 5th bike. The team was presented officially on the eve of the Valencia Grand Prix.

 

Riders in bold have signed and confirmed contracts. 

 

Updated March 4th, 2009

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Ducati - Hayden Deal Close, Pramac Offers For Canepa And Simoncelli

By now, the only MotoGP fans who might have missed the fact that Nicky Hayden is likely to sign for Ducati for next year can only have been stuck in the depths of the Amazon jungle for the past 6 months. But the chasm that yawns between the probable and the actual remains as wide as ever, and until the official announcement is made, the deal cannot be taken as done.

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