Hector Barbera was the fastest man on track for the 250cc class at Phillip Island, but the Spaniard paid a heavy price for his efforts, falling heavily on his back and badly bruising it. Barbera finished over half a second ahead of 2nd place man Raffaele de Rosa, the Scot Honda rider carrying on the strong form he showed at Estoril. Both Jules Cluzel in 3rd and Mike di Meglio in 4th did much the same, setting times very close to De Rosa's.
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Results and summary of the 250cc race at Estoril:
Marco Simoncelli took a comfortable victory in the first race of the day here at Estoril, breaking away after taking the lead early in the race. Simoncelli had started poorly, but fought his way forward from 6th to catch the group containing Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera and Alex Debon who had got away at the start.
Marco Simoncelli was fastest in this morning's warm up session for the 250cc class, powering through the morning's sea mist to lead by half a second. Hiroshi Aoyama is in good form in 4th, while his title rival Alvaro Bautista had a more troubled session, ending the warm up in 17th spot.
Results of 250cc qualifying:
Hector Barbera will start Sunday's 250cc race at Estoril from pole position, after a close-fought battle for supremacy. Barbera came out just ahead of Alvaro Bautista, the Mapfre Aspar Aprilia rider making strong progress during the weekend. The same can be said for the 3rd and 4th place men, Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama. Both Simoncelli and Aoyama have languished down the order so far this weekend, but they found a little something to propel them onto the front row of the grid.
Hector Barbera continues to lead the way in the 250cc class at Estoril, but only by a hair's breadth. The Spaniard is three hundredths ahead of the remarkable Ratthapark Wilairot, who is in turn four hundredths ahead of Mike di Meglio. The Frenchman is a similar distance ahead of his Mapfre Aspar team mate and title contender Alvaro Bautista, while the man that Bautista is trying to beat in the title race, Hiroshi Aoyama, was 6th fastest, an improvement from yesterday's practice.
Yesterday, news broke that Aprilia had once again pulled the plug on Team Toth, refusing to hand over the ECUs of their leased RSA 250s over payments which have not been made. This left Mattia Pasini sitting helpless in the pits, while Imre Toth Jr went out on a completely uncompetitive 2001 spec Aprilia which the team still owns. But Pasini's season may have been rescued by the Caffe Latte team, which runs Swiss rider Thomas Luthi. Pasini is currently out circulating on a bike fielded by Caffe Latte, but currently without any stickers. The sponsor's colors are due to be added before qualifying, the deal only just having been cemented. And according GPOne.com, Daniel Epp, owner of the Caffe Latte team, has picked up Pasini's contract, and could field the Mugello race winner for the rest of the season, with equipment support from Aprilia.
Hector Barbera leads the way in the 250 class at Estoril, putting over half a second on 2nd place man Alex Debon. The Frenchman Mike di Meglio was 3rd fastest, while Karel Abraham once again surprised the field with a strong 4th place. The two men in the title race had a less successful start to the weekend, with Alvaro Bautista getting the best of it with the 6th fastest time, just behind Marco Simoncelli. Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama struggled, ending the session four tenths behind Bautista and nearly a second and a half off Barbera's time.
The 250 riders are out for their first session of free practice at Estoril, and once again, they are doing so without Mattia Pasini. Pasini's Team Toth have fallen behind for the umpteenth time on their lease payments to Aprilia for the factory-spec RSA's they are using, and Aprilia have pulled the plug, refusing to hand over the control units that allow the bikes to function.
Unless Team Toth come up with the money, Pasini's weekend - and perhaps his season - is over. According to GPOne.com, the team is waiting for "a knight in shining armor" to ride to their rescue. In the meantime, the team's second rider, Imre Toth Jr, is out on a 2001-spec Aprilia, which team boss Toth Sr. owns outright. Such an old bike is completely uncompetitive, however, and Pasini is unlikely to be willing to go out and fight for 22nd spot.
In the pursuit of radical cost-cutting measures, testing has been one of the main targets of all parties involved in the MotoGP series. Post-race testing has already been cut back to what many perceive to be the bare minimum, with one-day tests after the Barcelona and Brno MotoGP rounds, but the cuts to winter testing have been nothing short of radical. Instead of six or seven multi-day tests, as was the case in 2007 and 2008, winter tests have been cut back to just three true winter tests, plus testing after the final race of the season at Valencia.
The testing season kicks off on the Tuesday and Wednesday after Valencia - traditionally the time at which riders switching teams get their first shot at their new bikes. There will then be a three-month layoff during which no testing will be done at all, before the teams head out to Malaysia for a couple of two-day sessions, starting on the 4th and 21st of February. Three weeks later, the teams return to Qatar for another two-day test from March 14th, in preparation for the season opener four weeks later.
The new test schedule sees a break with tradition and the end of a pre-season aperitif: Apart from the traditional post-race tests at Valencia, no testing will be done in Europe during the off-season. What this also means is an end to the official IRTA tests in Spain, which had turned into something of a crowd pleaser over the past few years, with upwards of 35,000 fans turning up to watch the single one-hour qualifying session shootout for a BMW M coupe, referred to by the fans as "Grand Prix Zero". As yet, it is unclear whether the shootout for the BMW will take place at the final test at Qatar or not, but all the signs are that this, too, has been consigned to history.