Valentino Rossi's second test after returning from injury has been completed, and judging by the times, Rossi is fit and ready to race. According to times posted by Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio on Twitter, the Italian lapped Brno in a time under the race lap record set by Cal Crutchlow a day previously, on exactly the same bike. Rossi's lap time was 1'59.135, while Crutchlow's race lap record is 1'59.291.
More encouraging for Rossi were the reports from Brivio that the Italian was suffering a lot less pain. Discussions while Rossi was in the pits were about the bike and set up, rather than about pain in his shoulder and leg, suggesting that Rossi's fitness has improved significantly even from the middle of last week.
No announcement has been made yet - the expected press conference did not materialize - but it seems almost certain that Rossi will decide to attempt to race at the Sachsenring in Germany next weekend. At the very least, the Italian could enter the weekend, test his Fiat Yamaha M1 during free practice on Friday and Saturday, and then decide whether to actually race after Saturday morning. If Rossi withdraws before that time, Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa could still take Rossi's place on the grid on Sunday, if he can post a qualifying time on Saturday afternoon. Given the shortness of the Sachsenring track, getting within 107% should not be a problem for the Japanese rider.
Valentino Rossi's return to racing looks increasingly likely to take place sooner rather than later. After testing a Yamaha R1 at Misano last Wednesday, the Italian is now scheduled to test James Toseland's World Superbike R1 at Brno on Monday afternoon. Rossi is due to fly in to Brno tomorrow, and prepare for the test in the afternoon.
The test will be interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, of course, it will be a measure of Rossi's fitness, who now seems to be pushing hard to return to racing at the Sachsenring next weekend, rather than Brno a month later. Rossi's return is being eagerly awaited by everyone in the MotoGP paddock - and especially by Dorna, who are struggling with falling TV ratings. Rossi will also be using Pirelli tires, rather than the Bridgestones he used at Misano, making a direct comparison between Rossi's times and those of the World Superbike riders much easier, though Rossi is still carrying an injury to his shoulder and is recovering from a broken tibia.
After months of secrecy, the announcement is finally out in the open. Ducati and Honda today officially announced the news that Casey Stoner is to leave Ducati and is heading to Honda. The move has been expected for a long time, ever since news leaked out after the Jerez round of MotoGP. Stoner's father and manager Colin accompanied his son to the Jerez race, and has not been seen at a race since.
The news is no real surprise: Stoner is known to have a very strong relationship with Livio Suppo, and when the former Ducati team boss left Borgo Panigale to join HRC, he reportedly told Ducati's management that his first target would be the young Australian, and that he intended to bring Stoner to Honda.
After Valentino Rossi completed 26 laps of Misano on Wednesday afternoon, to test his fitness after crashing heavily and breaking a tibia at Mugello just over a month ago, the Fiat Yamaha team issued the long-awaited press release reporting the results of that test. Rossi's times were relatively encouraging: a 1'38.2 (though the Italian press is reporting it was a 1'39.3) is not too far off of competitive World Superbike pace. Cal Crutchlow's lap record at Misano - set on exactly the same Yamaha YZF-R1, though with Bridgestone tires rather than Pirellis - was 1'36.546, while the MotoGP lap record, held by Rossi himself, is 1'34.746.
What is clear from the press release is that Rossi feels he is close to the pace, but is still uncertain as to how his leg will hold up under race conditions. What is also clear is that the Italian is utterly determined to race if at all possible. Here's the press release from the Fiat Yamaha team:
VALENTINO ROSSI COMPLETES TEST AT MISANO
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi today rode a motorcycle for the first time since breaking his right leg at Mugello on 5th June. He rode a total of 26 laps at Misano on a YZF-R1 WSB machine, provided by the Yamaha World Superbike Team, and recorded a best time of 1'38.200.
Valentino Rossi today completed 24 laps of the Misano Adriatico track today, in a test to evaluate how well the Italian has recovered from the broken tibia he suffered at Mugello a month ago. Rossi tested at the track aboard a World Superbike spec Yamaha YZF-R1, using the bike to evaluate his strength and his fitness.
While the world awaits the official word on whether Rossi has decided to race at the Sachsenring or wait until Brno, as originally scheduled, Rossi's team boss Davide Brivio has been keeping the world abreast of developments via his Twitter page. The final post by Brivio from the Misano track was generally positive, but gave no real hint of a decision, stating "Finished test.. 10 + 14 laps. Vale made a good job. Still some pain and now he knows more how to get better... Lap time was not so bad too!"
It would seem that Rossi's spells in a hyperbaric chamber have vastly accelerated the healing of his broken leg, but a decision to return could depend on more than just the condition of his tibia. The Italian is still struggling with a shoulder injury he suffered during motocross training, and Rossi's broken leg interfered with the rehabilitation work going on on his shoulder.
It is a truism that riders want to ride, regardless of whether it is a wise decision or not. The latest victim of this compulsion is none other than Valentino Rossi, who, according to various reports in the Italian media, is considering returning to racing as early as the Sachsenring, on July 18th. The Fiat Yamaha rider suffered a complex fracture of his right tibia in a vicious highside during practice at Mugello, and initial reports indicated Rossi could be out for three to four months.
However, surgery to insert a pin in his tibia was successful, with no signs of infection, and the official word from Yamaha was that the seven-times MotoGP champion was aiming to make his return at Brno on August 15th. This would allow Rossi to compete in the second half of the championship, with nine races left to find his racing form again.
That does not appear to be early enough for the Italian, though. Rumors surfaced at Barcelona that Rossi was considering making a return at the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in ten days' time, but were widely discounted as unlikely. More confirmation came earlier this week from Italy that Rossi is serious about racing at the Sachsenring. His recovery from injury is progressing extremely well, helped in no small part by spending time in a hyperbaric chamber to help his broken bones heal more quickly.
Hiroshi Aoyama came into MotoGP as the last ever 250cc World Champion. But the likable Japanese rider did not get long to savor his title, or just 24 hours later, Aoyama was out on track with a new challenge, learning to ride the Honda RC212V MotoGP bike with the Interwetten Honda team. MotoMatters.com wanted to hear just how hard that challenge has been, and so we caught up with Aoyama and his crew chief Tom Jojic on the Friday morning before FP1 at Silverstone. Interviewing both rider and crew chief together gave a fascinating perspective into the interaction between the two, on how much alike - and how different - they must approach the race, and the difficulties of entering MotoGP with so little testing and practice.
MotoMatters: I'd like to start with you, Hiroshi. The last time I interviewed you was at Indianapolis last year when you were still chasing the 250cc title, which you won later in the year. Then you come into MotoGP, and last year is completely gone. How is that? How is that change from fighting for the win every weekend, fighting for the championship, to focusing on just trying to learn and trying to grow as a MotoGP rider?
As usual after a MotoGP race weekend, the guys with OnTheThrottle catch up with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Ben Spies to talk about the weekend's events, and to evaluate with Spies how his race weekend went. In this latest episode, Spies and OTT's Dave Williams talk about how Spies' Yamaha M1 compares to the factory Yamahas, how his races at Assen and Catalunya went, and the differences between hard and soft tires. Here's the video:
Q: Can you explain what happened at Turn 1?
Casey Stoner: The air turbine basically just makes you go that much faster. Even when you're on the brakes you're still getting a slipstream, so I just wasn't able to stop fast enough, because both of them [Lorenzo and Dovizioso] were just a little bit offset, so I got a slipstream off both, and I got a little bit ahead of myself.
Q: Somebody said this is the second race that you are following the Honda because you are studying it...
CS: This should be coming from you! [Points at Italian journalist who has been badgering Stoner about whether he has signed for Honda, and the assembled press all laugh.]
But personally, I'd much rather beat it. The last race, I didn't have much chance to try to attack Dani because the arm pump came and I wasn't able even to be close enough. This race, I put my wheel in everywhere I could to try and pass Dani, but he just got the acceleration, he got good traction, and was good enough on the brakes to keep me off, and that was it. I mean, if you don't make a mistake, for me to get close enough was impossible. So this is the only reason, and it's not what everyone is thinking about me studying it! [Laughs]
Results and summary of the MotoGP race at Barcelona:
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was fastest during the morning warm up at Barcelona, the Spaniard finally putting an end to Jorge Lorenzo's streak of domination in the MotoGP class. Marlboro Ducati's Casey Stoner also ended ahead of the Fiat Yamaha rider, showing promising signs of being competitive during the race. But the significantly cooler track conditions may muddy the waters a little, making it difficult for the teams to judge which of the two tires to go with. They are sure that the harder compound may last the distance, but the softer option has also shown good endurance in the hot conditions, lasting because it is not spinning as much as the hard tire.
After reporting yesterday that a deal between Alex de Angelis and Interwetten Honda to replace Hiroshi Aoyama was near, events are moving quickly. Today, the Interwetten team announced the deal was done, and the Team Scot Moto2 rider will be filling in for Aoyama until the Japanese rider's return in September. De Angelis' experience in MotoGP and the strong relationship De Angelis still has with HRC made the deal relatively easy to put together. The replacement for De Angelis in Team Scot's Moto2 team is as yet unknown, but the names of Andrew Pitt and Lorenzo Savadori are currently doing the rounds.
Below is the press release issued by the Interwetten Team announcing the deal:
While finding a replacement for Valentino Rossi turned into a search of near epic proportions, taking nearly a month to finalize, a replacement for the unfortunate Hiroshi Aoyama was found within almost a day. The Japanese test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi was slotted into the Interwetten Honda team directly after Aoyama's crash during the Warm Up at Silverstone, and made his appearance on the RC212V at Assen. This was just to be a temporary measure, as was explained when the announcement was made, until a more permanent replacement for Aoyama can be found, who will be out for two or three months with a fractured T12 vertebra.
It appears that such a replacement may have been found. Various press sources are reporting that Alex de Angelis is to step back up to MotoGP and take Aoyama's place. The Italian would substitute for Aoyama for the next 4 to 6 races, depending on the duration of Aoyama's recovery, at which point he would return to the Scot Moto2 team.