The Estoril MotoGP round saw the long-awaited announcement of the list of teams whose entries for Moto2 have been accepted. Among the expected candidates was a name which raised one or two eyebrows in the press room: The Hayate team, formerly the factory Kawasaki team, had been granted not one but two entries for the Moto2 class next season.
The FIM has announced the list of teams which will be granted start licenses for the Moto2 teams. The teams now have until November 2nd, 2009 (the weekend before the final Grand Prix at Valencia) to enter riders officially, though the names of the riders will be provisional. More information on teams and riders as we get it.
The FIM press release is shown below:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
- Moto2 class 2010 FIM World Championship announcement -
The Selection Committee comprising delegates of the FIM, Dorna and IRTA met on the 2nd October in Estoril to select the teams which will be invited to participate in 2010.
Teams comprising a total of 39 riders were accepted. Teams comprising a total of 10 riders were placed on a reserve list. A detailed list is reproduced below.
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.
One of the great privileges of working as a journalist inside the MotoGP paddock is that you get to speak to some of the great minds that work there. Speaking to people like Herve Poncharal of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, Lucio Cecchinello of the LCR Honda team and Pete Benson of Repsol Honda - to name just a few - is always a fascinating and thought-provoking experience. The only downside is that they have your number when you get it wrong.
So the ever-friendly Herve Poncharal phoned MotoMatters.com HQ today, to point out that we had got it wrong in our story on Jules Cluzel. Contrary to what we had reported, he told us, he did not say he had already signed Cluzel, but merely expressed the hope that the Tech 3 team would be able to sign the young Frenchman some time soon. In the interview - which was filmed for the official MotoGP.com website - Poncharal did say that "one of the riders will certainly be Jules Cluzel". This does not mean that a contract had been signed, however, as Poncharal was keen to point out to us.
So MotoMatters.com is guilty of exactly what we accused Poncharal of doing: jumping the gun. We have been hoist by our own petard, as the old saying has it.
Since being called up to take the place of Mika Kallio at Pramac Ducati, Aleix Espargaro has made a big impression. So good an impression has the Spanish former 250 rider made that Pramac are looking to keep the Spaniard, even though Kallio will be returning to the satellite Ducati squad now that Casey Stoner will - presumably - be returning to action at Estoril.
As predicted last week, Pramac have now made Espargaro an offer to ride for the squad at Estoril, in place of the disappointing Italian Niccolo Canepa. However, Canepa will not go quietly. According to GPOne.com, Canepa's manager Carlo Pernat met with team principal Paolo Campinoti to discuss the situation today, where Campinoti announced their intention of going with Espargaro at Estoril, an announcement that Pernat met with displeasure. Canepa and Pernat will be holding Pramac to the contract they have for the rest of the year, though that only means that Canepa can be sure of being paid, as the Pramac squad can decide to pay him and let him sit out. If Espargaro continues the strong form he showed at Indianapolis and Misano, the Spaniard could finish out the rest of the season in Canepa's place.
The two men could continue their dispute over seats at Pramac into next year. According to the Spanish news site Motocuatro.com, Canepa is trying to negotiate a Moto2 ride with the Pramac team for next year, but Espargaro could be in the frame for this seat as well. Until the official list of teams and riders is announced at Estoril, and we find out whether Pramac will be fielding one or two bikes in Moto2, speculation over who will get the ride will continue. So far, though, it is Espargaro who is holding the strongest cards.
The biggest surprise in the 250cc championship this year has been Hiroshi Aoyama. The Japanese rider has always been strong in the class, winning regularly, but never able to fight for a title. Heading into the 2009 season, the title race looked like being a straight fight between Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista, yet it is Aoyama who leads the championship. A feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Scot Honda team is fielding an outdated bike on a shoestring budget, and pitting themselves against the well-stocked war chests of two full factory challengers in Bautista and Simoncelli.
Intrigued by Aoyama's success so far, we caught up with the amiable Japanese rider on the Saturday before the Indianapolis Grand Prix, to ask about the season so far and his plans for the future. Here's what he had to say.
MotoMatters: Tell me about how how you arrived in this team.
Hiroshi Aoyama: OK, last year I used to ride a KTM and at the end of the season they decided to stop with this project. It's a pity, but the decision was already made at the last race or one or two races before.
So when we finished the season, normally you know what you are going to do next season, but I didn't know anything, because there was nothing available. It was too late, other teams had already decided, so it was quite difficult to find another team. But at the beginning of this year, we find this team, I was lucky, I had a lot of cooperation to find this team, Team Scot.
MM: Did Honda help you to find this team, or was it you and your manager?
The arrival of the Moto2 class to replace the much lamented 250cc bikes has generated a great deal of excitement, both inside and outside the MotoGP paddock, and as the official announcement of the full list of entrants in Moto2 at the Estoril Grand Prix draws nears, that excitement is reaching a crescendo. Many projects have already been announced (which we will cover in a separate story later), and many names have been linked to the series, but little concrete has been announced.
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.
Remarkable news surfaced at the German Grand Prix. According to knowledgable sources in the paddock, Aprilia is about to make an about turn on its previous resolution to walk away from the Moto2 class, and submit an entry. Work is apparently already underway, and the bike should be ready within the next month or so.
The news is little less than astonishing, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the introduction of four cylinder 600cc bikes as the Moto2 class, slated to replace the 250cc bikes at the start of next season, was taken against the express wishes of both Aprilia and KTM. KTM pulled out of the 250cc class a year early, stating their disgust at the way the decision had been forced through in the Grand Prix Commission as their main reason. The cynics in the paddock - of which there are plenty - pointed to KTM's failure to win a title in the 250cc class, and the severe financial constraints forced upon the Austrian factory by the global economic crisis.
Secondly, an Aprilia Moto2 entry would be powered by a Honda engine, the Japanese racing giant having been awarded the contract to produce and tune the engines. Just how Honda would feel if Aprilia starts winning races, claiming victory for the Noale factory while powered by a Honda lump, remains to be seen. The prospect of a Honda-powered Aprilia raised a myriad of questions about the prominence that Honda will be given on the bike, and just how that will fit in with the rest of the Moto2 team's sponsors. The thought of a bike with a huge Aprilia logo splashed across the fairing, and a tiny little sticker with Honda on, is both highly entertaining and deeply puzzling.