At the same time as Marc Marquez was making his return to testing at Albacete, his teammates in Moto3, Miguel Oliveira and the highly-rated Alex Rins were testing their Moto3 bikes. Oliveira concentrated on testing the new Suter chassis the team will be using with the Honda NSF250R engine, while Rins focused on testing his injured shoulder. Below is the press release and a video of the test from Repsol:
The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for all three Grand Prix classes, and the grids are looking remarkably healthy. Some 21 riders will line up in the MotoGP class, the Moto2 grid has been shrunk to a more manageable 33 entries, and 32 riders will be at the start for the inaugural season of racing in the Moto3 class, the grid the same size as it was for last year's 125cc class, which Moto3 replaces.
The latest provisional entry list of Moto2 riders for the 2012 season:
With the weather greatly improved from Friday, our shooter-on-the-scene Andrew Gosling of TBGSport ventured beyond the confines of pitlane, and sent us back the following shots:
As if the Moto2 grid wasn't confusing enough already, the Misano round for the 40-strong Moto2 class features a host of replacement riders and wildcards. Making things even worse, some of the replacements and wildcards are riders who have left one team and gone on to ride for another. Here's a rundown of the Misano Moto2 Musical Chairs:
First of all, the absentees: Aeroport de Castello's Alex Debon is out after fracturing his collarbone yet again, the 4th time in 10 months, after falling at Indianapolis. HolidayGym's Fonsi Nieto is also missing, having cracked his heelbone in the Indy Moto2 mayhem. Nieto has been extraordinarily unlucky: not only did he fracture bones in his foot, but the Spaniard had problems during surgery on his foot which saw him suffer a respiratory arrest as a result of the anesthetics being used. So serious was the situation that Nieto was even in danger of having his foot amputated because of the complications.
When John Hopkins announced that he would be joining the Stiggy Racing Honda team, it was generally assumed that this would mean the American would be riding alongside the existing riders, Leon Haslam and Roberto Rolfo. Hopper, it was thought, would bring enough money along in sponsorship to allow the team to run a third bike, allowing the team to expand.
It seems we were wrong. Today, Rolfo announced on his website that he would be leaving Stiggy Racing, due to "reasons beyond his control." Those reasons, the Stiggy team made clear, were to do with sponsorship issues: Clearly, John Hopkins had established sponsorship in place, and offered funds which Roberto Rolfo simply couldn't match.
Added to this were health worries over Rolfo's condition - the Italian broke a shoulder at the end of last year, and was advised by doctors to have surgery to correct the problem, advice he chose to ignore, preferring to go racing in 2009 - though Rolfo himself was adamant that these had not played any part in the move. "This has nothing to do with my physical condition, which is perfect at the moment," Rolfo stated.
But if Rolfo's condition was "perfect", his results were anything but. The Italian had scored just three points from the four races so far this season, and was yet to look like posing a challenge for the podium. The move leaves Rolfo without a ride, and with little prospect of one for 2009.
Hopkins arrival at Stiggy Honda, and Rolfo's departure, may have been messy, and rather uncomfortable for all parties concerned, but it can hardly have come as a surprise. The World Superbike field may be healthy with some 31 entries, but the financial crisis has hardly left the field untouched. Even in the relatively affordable world of WSBK, if you can afford to pay the piper, then you get to pay the tune. From Valencia onwards, it's John Hopkins, rather than Roby Rolfo, calling the shots.
During the deluge of stories about the Kawasaki catastrophe and the fate of Marco Melandri with the Hai-Karate, sorry, Hayate bike, there was always one question left unanswered: What about Hopper? For though the news was full of the fate of Kawasaki, Michael Bartholemy, Marco Melandri, Jorge Martinez, Carmelo Ezpeleta and a host of other characters, the one name that seemed always to be missing was that of John Hopkins.
That was mystifying for more than one reason, but most of all, because of money. Though Melandri is a big name in Italy, it was unclear what the Italian's role was in bringing sponsorship to the Kawasaki project. As for Hopper, on the other hand, it was an open secret that the Monster Millions came to Kawasaki through the link to the American. Though it was also said that once you took Hopkins' salary away, there wasn't a whole lot left to fill Kawasaki's coffers. It seemed that the combination of the more marketable Melandri and Hopper's PR faux pas at Misano last year - where the American went missing for a day - had swung the scales in Melandri's favor, leaving Hopkins out in the cold.
Fortunately for Hopkins, he wasn't left entirely out in the cold. There was one rumor that emerged a couple of times, and that was that Hopper was about to make the switch to World Superbikes. There were rumblings that Hopkins would replace Makoto Tamada at Paul Bird's Kawaski WSBK team, but as this flew in the face of Kawasaki's traditional demand for a Japanese rider, this was widely disregarded. But the one rumor that proved more difficult to quell was talk of Hopkins' joining Stiggy Racing, to ride a Honda alongside Leon Haslam.
The brand new Superpole format adopted by World Superbikes for the 2009 season threw up a great many conundrums at Phillip Island on Saturday, as well as a few surprises. But perhaps most of all, it also threw up confirmation of what some had suspected, and many had hoped.
The format is relatively simple, and borrowed from Formula 1:
After MotoGP went four stroke, there was never any doubt about which was the premier class of motorcycle racing. Coinciding with the flight of the Japanese manufacturers from World Superbikes, the combination of Valentino Rossi's charisma and roaring, smoking, sliding 990cc bikes solidified the series' position as the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing which would brook no competition. But as the Japanese manufacturers started to slowly creep back into World Superbikes, and MotoGP switched to an 800cc capacity, the balance of power has started to shift.