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2009 Sepang Test - Day 1 Times - 4pm - Rossi Leads Stoner

Action is still underway in Malaysia, and the times are starting to come in. All day long, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have been swapping the lead, and at 4pm, it was Rossi's turn at the top of the timesheets. The big surprise of the day are the Suzukis, both Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen the only riders capable of getting anywhere near the two leaders.

More worrying will be the big gaps between the rest of the field: Dani Pedrosa is in 6th place, nearly a second behind Rossi, while Sete Gibernau in 10th is another second behind Pedrosa. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden is down in 14th, just behind James Toseland. Hayden's time will be a worrying sign that the Ducati is still a difficult bike to handle.

The rev limits imposed by Honda on the satellite spec bikes seem to be having the expected result. First satellite spec RC212V is Alex de Angelis down in 11th, over a second behind the fastest factory Honda of Dani Pedrosa. More times once the session is over. 

No.RiderBikeTimeFast LapTotal Laps
1Valentino RossiYamaha2'02.3242631
2Casey StonerDucati2'02.4062425
3Loris CapirossiSuzuki2'02.5652929
4Chris VermeulenSuzuki2'02.8034040
5Colin EdwardsYamaha2'03.2541534
6Dani PedrosaHonda2'03.3123344
7Andrea DoviziosoHonda2'03.4773740
8Toni EliasHonda2'03.6093838
9Jorge LorenzoYamaha2'03.8943156
10Sete GibernauDucati2'04.3051837
11Alex De AngelisHonda2'04.4633139
12Mika KallioDucati2'04.6143040
13James ToselandYamaha2'04.6321121
14Nicky HaydenDucati2'04.6393240
15Randy De PunietHonda2'04.8824646
16Norihiko FujiwaraYamaha2'05.1402033
17Yuki TakahashiHonda2'05.9854455
18Waturu YoshikawaYamaha2'06.2171642
19Niccolo CanepaDucati2'06.2252532

Lap record: 2007, Casey Stoner, 2'02.108

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Honda To Introduce Rev Limits - For The Satellite Teams

One of the cost-cutting proposals aimed at saving MotoGP currently under discussion is the introduction of rev limits. The idea is that the lower revving engines will stress the engines less, and make them last longer, cutting the amount of maintenance required. Whether this will work or not is open to debate, and ever the great innovator, Honda have taken the first step, in announcing that they will be placing a rev limit of 18,200 revs on RC212V engines.

Of course, Honda isn't foolish enough to sacrifice its chance of winning a title while imposing rev limits, so the only bikes these limits will be applied to will be the satellite spec RC212Vs. The factory-spec Hondas of Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso and - presumably - Toni Elias will continue unfettered by any such limits.

This is a hard blow on the satellite teams. Though aimed at extending engine life from the current 600km to 1200km - or about two race weekends - it will also most likely render the satellite spec bikes unable to compete with the much faster factory bikes. Coming after two years of - by HRC's very high standards - substandard equipment, another year of circulating at the back of the field will make it even harder for the satellite Honda teams to secure sponsorship.

The restriction is even more frustrating because it cancels out the benefits of having pneumatic valves. The satellite teams were looking forward to being able to compete once again, now that HRC had dropped its old steel spring valve engines and switched to the potentially more powerful pneumatic valve unit. But most of those benefits will be lost due to the rev ceiling.

Though the rev limits may save money in maintenance for the satellite teams in the short term, the measure is unlikely to be much use as a guide to how such a rule might work if it were applied across the board. HRC will be content to let the satellite teams fall behind the rest of the field, but if a rev-limited-by-regulation RC212V proved uncompetitive, history says they would spend whatever it would take to get back on top of the pile, leaving no stone unturned in the quest for power, torque, or whatever was necessary to lift another championship.

The rev limit for the satellite teams could however be used as a test of logistics for HRC should new rules on extended engine life be introduced in 2010. With the satellite bikes lasting for two race weekends, HRC can test its logistics to get it right for next season, when regulations could be introduced to make it compulsory for all engines to last two race weekends. Just how satellite teams will feel about being used as a testing bed for HRC remains to be seen.

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Manufacturers Meet In Sepang And Decide - Not Much

For ten long hours, in a hotel in Sepang, representatives from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati discussed a range of proposals to cut costs in MotoGP. And at the end of those ten long hours, they emerged with, well, very little indeed, according to GPOne.com.

Subject of the talks were the proposals which have been aired over the past couple of weeks, mostly aimed at reducing the amount of mileage that is put on the bikes in testing and practice. But the results of those almost endless talks were very little. The only agreed proposal to emerge was that in future, all members of the team would fly economy class, rather than first or business class, although that already produced rumblings of disapproval from the old hands in the paddock such as Jeremy Burgess, who don't take the travelling well.

As for the other proposals, it seems likely that practice sessions on race weekends will  be cut from one hour to 45 minutes, and the Sunday morning warmup will be cut from 25 to 10 minutes in length. The fate of the Friday practice sessions still hangs in the balance, with some talk of scrapping Friday altogether. But the proposals to ban testing on the Mondays after races caused the most problems. Suzuki, with only two riders, is keen to keep the tests, as they don't have the benefit of the extra data gathered by the four or more bikes which their competitors field.

The most bizarre proposal of all was to ban the team riders from testing on Monday, and allow only test riders. Just how this would save money is a bit of a mystery, as the mileage on the bikes would be only marginally reduced, while the test riders would have to be flown to all of the post-race tests, instead of leaving the team riders to do the testing for them.

Little came out of the manufacturer's meeting, and that is unlikely to change tomorrow, when the IRTA joins the talks. The outcome - if there is one - will go forward to a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission due to meet in mid-February, where Dorna and the FIM will join IRTA and the MSMA. If any changes are to be made at all, this is where the real business will be done.

 

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Kawasaki Not Present At Sepang

Kawasaki's MotoGP program looks another step closer to its demise today. On the eve of the first official MotoGP test at Sepang, various reports are appearing that the green bikes won't be present. After private testing at Eastern Creek and Phillip Island with Olivier Jacque, the Kawasakis have been packed up and most likely shipped back to Japan.

A Kawasaki absence at Sepang almost certainly means the attempts to keep their MotoGP program alive will have failed. Deadlines have come and gone with no official word on the outcome of the talks being held. Team boss Michael Bartholemy flew out to Japan for talks with Kawasaki bosses two weeks ago, and a decision was expected last Wednesday. Then, rumors emerged that the decision had been postponed until February 2nd, which came and went again with no word.

The latest rumors surrounding the situation are taken from Marco Melandri's Facebook status updates, suggesting that the Italian has a "big meeting" today, Wednesday, though the Italian was less forthcoming on what the meeting might be about. There has been talk that Melandri has been offered a buyout of his contract, which would allow him to ride another bike, and this could be related to the "meeting" Macio refers to on his Facebook page.

John Hopkins, meanwhile, is filling his days with a road trip across the US, according to MCN. The American has been spotted at an AMA Supercross event, but did not speak to reporters there. Earlier rumors that Hopper could be about to sign for Stiggy Motorsports in World Superbikes have been denied by the team boss, Johan Stigefelt.

If Kawasaki does not make an appearance on the grid, the next move will be for Carmelo Ezpeleta to make. The Dorna CEO has threatened to sue Kawasaki if they don't show up, for breaching a contract which committed them to MotoGP through 2011. But it is doubtful that Ezpeleta would go that far, as it would kill any chance of Kawasaki ever returning to the series while Dorna is still organizing it. It would also give the remaining manufacturers pause for thought, and while threats might keep them onboard until 2011, they would also make them more inclined to quit once they could step away from the series once the contract has expired. But with the Japanese economy being laid waste by the current economic crisis, at least one other Japanese maker may not even make it that far.

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Rossi Injures Hand Closing Curtains

Valentino Rossi's participation in the next official test session at Sepang is under threat, after the Italian tripped and fell at home while attempting to close the curtains. The Doctor needed stitches to cuts in his hand and foot, which he suffered after falling on a glass table. Yamaha expect Rossi to be able to ride in Malaysia, and his condition will be evaluated at the track.

 

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First Moto2 Prototype Officially Presented In Spain

Since the announcement that the 600cc four-stroke Moto2 class would be replacing the 250cc class as of 2011, controversy and debate has raged over just about every aspect of the class. Is it possible to produce a competitive engine within the 20,000 euro claiming fee posted? Will the 600s be as fast as the 250s? Is this a plot by the Japanese factories to take back the junior classes? Will the Flammini brothers and Infront Motor Sports, who own the rights to the World Superbike series, sue the FIM to prevent the series from happening?

Most of all, though, the debate has centered around who is going to build bikes to run in the series. Bimota have expressed an interest in providing rolling chassis for the bikes, Ilmor have expressed an interest in producing engines for the class, and Moriwaki have even exhibited a prototype at a motorcycle show in Japan. But genuine race bikes in full trim have yet to turn up.

Until now. Today, the BQR team (who run the Blusens Aprila squad in the 125cc championship, with riders Scott Redding and Esteve Rabat) presented their Moto2 machine, which they will be entering in the Spanish Moto2 CEV championship, the series where Dorna is testing out the new class. The bike is based on a Honda 600 engine, in a custom-made frame with the spec of chassis components you would expect of a top-level racing bike. The machine produces 140bhp and weighs 137kg ready to race. Pictures of the bike can be found on Motorsport-Total.com, and Motociclismo.es has a full set of specifications for the bike.

Most notable attendee at the launch was Dorna's CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, alongside the president of the Spanish motorcycling federation Joan Moreta. Ezpeleta's presence emphasizes the importance the organization places on the success of this formula, and he will be hoping that BQR's example will encourage other parties to step up and join in.

But the biggest question hanging over the launch of this bike is its powerplant. The team have used a modified Honda 600 engine, which is entirely within the rules of the new category. But its provenance from a production Honda road bike will have alarm bells ringing at the Flammini brothers' headquarters in Italy.

IMS - Infront Motor Sports, who bought out the Flammini brothers FGSport organization last year - has a contract with the FIM giving it the exclusive rights to organize a world championship for production motorcycles, and Paolo Flammini has made several public statements saying that they intend to defend those rights aggressively. As the BQR bike is aimed at the Spanish national championship, IMS will have no grounds to take action. But if a similar bike is entered into the Moto2 class when it debuts as the support class for MotoGP either in 2010 or 2011, IMS' response will be interesting to watch. The knives are almost certainly being sharpened in the background. But they may not be unsheathed until some time next year.

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KTM Testing KERS On 125s

Unless you are an avid Formula 1 fan, the acronym KERS won't mean very much to you. The Kinetic Energy Recovery System, to give it its full title, is a system that stores energy generated by braking (either in the form of electrical charge, or in the form of a spinning flywheel), to be used to give a power boost at a later point in the race. The system was conceived by the FIA as a sop to the environmentalists who have been a thorn in F1's side for many years.

Fitting such a system to cars is an interesting proposition, and should not be too difficult, given the fact that it would take up relatively little space and weight on a four-wheeled vehicle. Motorcycles, it was generally felt, were less in need of such a system, as the weight and space penalty would far outweigh the benefits in terms of free energy. Add to this the relatively excellent fuel efficiency of motorcycles, and KERS would seem to be complete overkill on a motorcycle.

And yet from the testing done by the 125cc class at Valencia earlier this week comes some fascinating news, and an insight into why racing motorcycles might be the perfect platform for such a KERS system. The Spanish magazine SoloMoto is reporting that KTM has been testing an electrical KERS system on their 125cc race bike for the past few months, even giving the system an outing at the final Grand Prix of 2008 at Valencia, where Japanese rider Tommy Koyama shot off the line from 15th on the grid gaining 8 or 9 places, before nearly crashing and losing them all back again. Koyama went on to finish 7th, the KERS system apparently boosting his top speed down Valencia's long front straight.

Last week at Valencia, Marc Marquez tested the system further. Bartol explained to SoloMoto how the system worked: "It's a hybrid system. Under braking, the system charges capacitors (we don't call them batteries, because a battery can't charge quickly enough during deceleration), and discharges the energy along the next straight. It gives us about 2kW extra, although we only use it when the bike is in third, fourth, fifth or sixth gear."

At first, fitting a system like KERS to something the size and weight of a 125cc GP machine seems madness (the combined weight of the rider and bike must be at least 136kg). But when you consider that 2kW is probably close to a 5% power boost for a 125 GP bike, KERS suddenly makes a lot of sense. The 125 single cylinder two-stroke engines have been raced for 30+ years now, and are pretty well developed. Horsepower gains are prohibitively expensive using basic tuning technology, so a 5% boost is a big jump.

The only downside is weight. But with a minimum combined bike and rider weight, putting it on the bike belonging to Marc Marquez, the 16 year old rider who makes Dani Pedrosa look like a giant (when Marquez debuted in the Spanish championship in 2007, he had to add 20kgs of weight to get up to the minimum combined of 136kg) means that any weight penalty will be effectively neutralized.

It will be interesting to see how - and if - the FIM responds to this development.

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That Yamaha M1 Launch In Full

As anyone with even a modicum of interest in MotoGP may have noticed, the brand new Yamaha YZR-M1 was launched today in what was billed as an "online launch". What this amounted to was the posting of a flood of press releases and videos on the Yamaha Racing website, rather than any ability to interact with Yamaha, but it offered a few interesting tidbits nonetheless. But instead of rehashing all of the press releases, as the rest of the Internet MotoGP press has decided to do, MotoGPMatters.com will just pick out a few highlights, and point you to the original materials so you can judge for yourself.

  • Valentino Rossi won't be racing in World Superbikes any time soon. Citing "problems with parts," both Rossi and his team boss Davide Brivio said it was unlikely that Rossi will be able to race this year. But Rossi said he is still keen on racing there one day.
  • Rossi made it clear once again that he won't be moving to Formula 1. He enjoyed the test, but he's made his choice.
  • He did hint once again that he will do more rally racing once he retires from motorcycle racing "in a few years time".
  • Rossi isn't after Giacomo Agostini's win total. But he is after more titles. Which means two more if he is to equal Ago's record, or three more if he is to beat it.
  • The wall between the garages is here to stay. Both sides of the Fiat Yamaha garage said it "worked very well".
  • Those worried that Rossi's new Monster sponsorship would end his famous helmet designs can rest easy. Monster's 2.5 million euros buys them a small space on the chin bar.
  • Jorge Lorenzo believes that Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and team mate Valentino Rossi are favorites for the title. His goal is to try to catch them.
  • Lorenzo is happy to have changed his number and his management, and is looking forward to the new season. The bike is also much more easy to spot than last year.
  • Interestingly, Yamaha as a factory was dead set against the single tire rule, while the team was all in favor of it.
  • Various people commented on the state of MotoGP, and came up with suggestions on how to deal with it. Most of those involved technical restrictions, such as rev ceilings and spec ECUs.
  • Of the online video interviews, the one with Lin Jarvis is by far the most interesting. Watch it here.

If you want to see the videos and read the interviews for yourself, then head on over to Yamaha's special YZR-M1 launch site. Here's what you'll find there:

 

 

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Rolfo And Stiggy Deny Rumors That Hopkins Will Take Rolfo's Ride

The rumors which emanated from the London Motorcycle show yesterday, that John Hopkins would be joining Leon Haslam at Stiggy Motorsports, have already provoked a reaction. Robby Rolfo - the man Hopkins was rumored to be replacing - has posted a message on his personal website, which would seem to rebut any such allegations.

The article is phrased very carefully, without mentioning any of the rumors directly, but Rolfo makes it perfectly clear that he expects to be riding once the World Superbike circus hits Phillip Island. Here's a translation of what he writes:

"Hi guys!

Over the past few days I've received a lot of mail about my injury, and first of all, I want to thank you all and let you know that your support has been really great! I was only able to do a few laps at Portimao, the injury is still too fresh; I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it was important for me to get on the track, to gain confidence in the bike and get used to the new team! I'm very happy, because the potential is really good! Now, there are only a few more days until the next in Australia, and I'm training hard to improve my shape and my motivation!

I spend every minute I can on getting better, in therapy, running, cycling, swimming, always with music: a special thank you to Diabo for the Canto del Loco songs!!! I'm using every day I can so I can arrive in Australia in top form for the next test!

Greetings, and as always, gaaassss!

Roby44"

It's clear that Rolfo believes his seat is still safe, and he is making a very public statement that he is doing all he can to be fit enough to be competitive. But as all of the medical advice he has received has been to the effect that he should have surgery to solve the instability in his shoulder, there is good reason to doubt that he will be able to race to his full potential. And Johan Stigefelt, boss of Stiggy Racing, will be thinking very much along the same lines.

UPDATED

The Dutch website Racesport spoke to Johan Stigefelt directly about this matter, and Stigefelt dismissed the story out of hand. "So far it looks like Roby will be completely recovered for the next test at Phillip Island. There is no reason to be looking for a replacement right now, and we haven't spoken to any of the riders whose names have been mentioned in the media. Roby will continue to be part of our Superbike team, alongside Leon," Stigefelt told Racesport.nl.

 

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Hopkins To Join Stiggy Motorsports In World Superbikes?

The MCN London Motorcycle Show at the ExCeL London exhibition center provides all the necessary ingredients for scandal and rumor: Over the course of four days, the motorcycling press, manufacturers, racers, teams and bikers are packed together with little more to do than gossip and gawp at bikes and biking celebrities.

So it is hardly surprising that along with the news emanating from the show comes the rumor that John Hopkins could be moving to World Superbikes. With the chances of a rescue package for Kawasaki in MotoGP fading every day, the American could end up riding a Honda alongside Leon Haslam for Stiggy Motorsports.

At the moment, that seat is held by Roberto Rolfo, but the Italian is still suffering from a fractured shoulder picked up early last year. Rolfo had decided not to have surgery to stabilize the shoulder, as any operation would have required a very lengthy period of physical rehabilitation, causing the Italian to miss most of the 2009 season. But after a difficult test at Portimao, where Rolfo didn't ride much, and only managed to finish second-from-last when he did, there is a good chance that he may be forced to change his mind about surgery.

This would leave the ride open for Hopkins, and as Rolfo brings with him a lot of personal sponsorship, any money that Hopper could bring would be more than welcomed by the Scandinavian team. With Hopkins' Monster sponsorship covering his salary, the American could effectively ride for Stiggy Motorsports for free. And with John Hopkins and Leon Haslam, both riders with proven talent, the team could well be a serious threat in the already crowded World Superbike championship.

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