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Ducati Receives More Sponsorship For MotoGP Program

So far this year, the news from MotoGP has been almost uniformly terrible. Kawasaki announced their pullout, the satellite teams managers have all chimed in on the need to cut costs, and the MSMA has met to discuss rule changes meant to reduce the expense of MotoGP. The air is full of doom and gloom, and and MotoGP commentators sound almost uniformly like Cassandra, predicting the imminent demise of the series.

So the announcement by Ducati that two of their sponsors have extended their deals comes as a breath of fresh air, a moment of cheer in these otherwise dark times. Italian energy giant Enel will continue the deal with Ducati which sees its logos displayed on the bikes, riders, and riders helmets of the factory team. Even better news is that Riello UPS, an Italian maker of UPS equipment, will be expanding its sponsorship of Ducati, in a program which has seen its investment in the team grow over the past three years.

Securing extra funding for a MotoGP team is always good news, but what makes it better is the fact that these are two companies from outside the motorcycle industry. If MotoGP is to survive in its current form, it is clear that what is required is more of this kind of outside sponsorship. Indeed, Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Corse, pointed out as much in his statement at Ducati's annual MotoGP press introduction at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. "There are also lots of other companies who promote their products through motorcycle racing with the Ducati Marlboro Team such as Alfa Romeo, Gatorade and Puma. Of course these are tough times but there are still plenty of ways to make sure that the MotoGP World Championship remains a leading promotional vehicle," he told the press there. If Ducati can seize these opportunities, then maybe the other teams can too.

32 Entries In World Superbikes, 31 In World Supersport

FIM Superbike World Championship Provisional list

No. Rider Nat. Bike Team
41 Noriyuki Haga JPN Ducati 1098R Ducati Xerox Team
84 Michel Fabrizio ITA Ducati 1098R Ducati Xerox Team
19 Ben Spies USA Yamaha YZF R1 Yamaha World Superbike
66 Tom Sykes GBR Yamaha YZF R1 Yamaha World Superbike
7 Carlos Checa ESP Honda CBR1000RR HANNspree Ten Kate Honda
65 Jonathan Rea GBR Honda CBR1000RR HANNspree Ten Kate Honda
53 Alessandro Polita ITA Ducati 1098R Sterilgarda
67 Shane Byrne GBR Ducati 1098R Sterilgarda
71 Yukio Kagayama JPN Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 Suzuki Alstare
76 Max Neukirchner GER Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 Suzuki Alstare
23 Broc Parkes AUS Kawasaki ZX 10R Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team
100 Makoto Tamada JPN Kawasaki ZX 10R Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team
24 Brendan Roberts AUS Ducati 1098R Guandalini Racing
96 Jakub Smrz CZE Ducati 1098R Guandalini Racing
15 Matteo Baiocco ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R PSG-1 Corse
86 Ayrton Badovini ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R PSG-1 Corse
55 Regis Laconi FRA Ducati 1098R DFX Corse
9 Ryuichi Kiyonari JPN Honda CBR1000RR Ten Kate Honda Racing
33 Tommy Hill GBR Honda CBR1000RR HANNspree Honda Althea
94 David Checa ESP Yamaha YZF R1 Yamaha France GMT 94 IPONE
25 David Salom ESP Kawasaki ZX 10R Team Pedercini
99 Luca Scassa ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R Team Pedercini
36 Gregorio Lavilla ESP Honda CBR1000RR Pro Ride World Superbike
3 Max Biaggi ITA Aprilia RSV4 Aprilia Racing
56 Shinya Nakano JPN Aprilia RSV4 Aprilia Racing
11 Troy Corser AUS BMW S1000 RR BMW Motorrad Team Alpha Racing
111 Ruben Xaus ESP BMW S1000 RR BMW Motorrad Team Alpha Racing
31 Karl Muggeridge AUS Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 Celani Race
77 Vittorio Iannuzzo ITA Honda CBR1000RR Squadra Corse Italia
44 Roberto Rolfo ITA Honda CBR1000RR Stiggy Motorsport AB
91 Leon Haslam GBR Honda CBR1000RR Stiggy Motorsport AB
88 Roland Resch AUT Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 TKR Suzuki Switzerland

FIM Supersport World Championship Provisional list

No. Rider Nat. Bike Team
1 Andrew Pitt AUS Honda CBR600RR HANNspree Ten Kate Honda
54 Kenan Sofuoglu TUR Honda CBR600RR HANNspree Ten Kate Honda
35 Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha YZF R6 Yamaha World Supersport Team
99 Fabien Foret FRA Yamaha YZF R6 Yamaha World Supersport Team
13 Anthony West AUS Honda CBR600RR Stiggy Motorsport AB
105 Gianluca Vizziello ITA Honda CBR600RR Stiggy Motorsport AB
50 Eugene Laverty IRL Honda CBR600RR Parkalgar Honda
117 Miguel Praia POR Honda CBR600RR Parkalgar Honda
77 Barry Veneman NED Suzuki GSX-R 600 Hoegee Suzuki Team
  TBA TBA Suzuki GSX-R 600 Hoegee Suzuki Team
21 Katsuaki Fujiwara JPN Kawasaki ZX-6R Kawasaki Provec
26 Joan Lascorz ESP Kawasaki ZX-6R Kawasaki Provec
8 Mark Aitchison AUS Honda CBR600RR HANNspree Honda Althea
14 Matthieu Lagrive FRA Honda CBR600RR HANNspree Honda Althea
24 Garry McCoy AUS Triumph 675 Triumph BE1 Racing
69 Gianluca Nannelli ITA Triumph 675 Triumph BE1 Racing
7 Patrick Vostarek CZE Honda CBR600RR Intermoto Czech
55 Massimo Roccoli ITA Honda CBR600RR Intermoto Czech
51 Michele Pirro ITA Yamaha YZF R6 Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni
28 Arie Vos NED Honda CBR600RR Veidec Racing RES Software
127 Robbin Harms DEN Honda CBR600RR Veidec Racing RES Software
32 Fabrizio Lai ITA Honda CBR600RR ECHO CRS Grand Prix
83 Russell Holland AUS Honda CBR600RR ECHO CRS Grand Prix
19 Pawel Szkopek POL Triumph 675 Factory Racing
96 Matej Smrz CZE Triumph 675 Factory Racing
71 Jose Carlos Morillas Cuenca ESP Yamaha YZF R6 Holiday Gym Racing
88 Yannick Guerra ESP Yamaha YZF R6 Holiday Gym Racing
9 Danilo Dell'Omo ITA Honda CBR600RR Kuja Racing
30 Jesco Günther GER Honda CBR600RR RES Software Veidec Racing
5 Doni Tata Pradita INA Yamaha YZF R6 YZF Yamaha



Suzuki To Follow Kawasaki? Exit Rumors Persist

To paraphrase a great Irish wit, to lose one manufacturer may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness. After the dramatic withdrawal of Kawasaki from MotoGP, rumors persist that Suzuki is to follow. has now been passed on this rumor from three independent sources, two of which are inside the Japanese motorcycle industry, and it is starting to look less and less far-fetched.

The problem is, all that we have heard so far are the five chilling words "Suzuki is out of MotoGP," without any further details being provided. As a result, it is hard to say just how much credence we should attach to this story, but there are good reasons to consider it within the realms of the possible.

Firstly, there has still been no confirmation of Rizla extending their contract with the MotoGP team. The Dutch manufacturer of cigarette papers has already announced that it won't be sponsoring the BSB Suzuki team, which is also managed by Paul Denning, the manager of the MotoGP team. Even if Rizla are still interested, the amount involved is - in MotoGP terms - negligible. Indeed, the Rizla deal angered many inside the MotoGP paddock, as the sum involved - low seven figures, to include sponsoring the BSB team - is only about 5% of what would be needed to run the entire program for a year. A title sponsor, so the argument ran, should cover a big chunk of the teams fees, as Repsol does for Honda, Marlboro does for Ducati and Fiat does for Yamaha.

What's more, the Suzuki corporation is in serious financial problems. The company was forced to buy back its own stock from General Motors, as the US giant battled to stave off bankruptcy. At the time, Suzuki CEO Osamu Suzuki said the buyback would have no impact on current projects, but US$230 million is a lot of money to spend for little return in times of financial crisis. The company has already announced its decision to pull of of the World Rally Championship for next season, citing the contraction of automotive sales.

Murmurs of a Suzuki withdrawal have surfaced several times over the past few weeks, and each time, they have been met by denial. Loris Capirossi's manager Carlo Pernat told Gazzetto dello Sport that it was "150% certain" that Capirossi would be racing with Suzuki in 2009, pointing to the fact that Capirex has a contract with Suzuki - just as John Hopkins and Marco Melandri did with Kawasaki.

And Suzuki's MotoGP team manager Paul Denning told Motorcycle News in December that he believed the team's future was secure in MotoGP, though the precise phrase he used was "At this time we have got no indication that there is any change to our programme for next year."

But the rumors of a Suzuki pullout remain just that, rumors. They could be the consequence of miscommunication or mixups, with the names of Kawasaki and Suzuki being accidentally interchanged in gossip during a business lunch. But the rumors are unpleasantly persistent.


When the Suzuki press office returned our calls, they told us that as far as they were concerned, they were expecting to go racing in 2009 as planned, with Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen. Asked about progress on the Rizla sponsorship deal, they also said that there was no news yet, but they were still in discussions with Rizla.

Ilmor "Interested In Moto2"

The decision of the Grand Prix Commission to kill off the 250cc class and replace it with a four-stroke formula was met with a great deal of scepticism by both fans and followers of motorcycle racing. Apart from the sadness at the loss of the two strokes, there was some doubt whether the bikes could be built as cheaply as the Grand Prix Commission hoped, negating the aims of making cheaper racing.

However, there is no doubt that there is real interest in the four-stroke 600cc series. Moriwaki have already exhibited a prototype at a couple of motor shows, and Ronald Ten Kate expressed an interest in the series in an interview with at Portimao last year.

Today, Ilmor said that they, too, are interested in the new class. Speaking to, Steve Miller, managing director of the British-based company said that they are watching developments closely. "We are very interested in the class," Miller said. "We would definitely like to be involved, if the series is run seriously and the organization behind it is good."

The framework of the new series - a 600 cc four-stroke engine with steel spring valves and a rev limit, fitted into a prototype chassis - would seem to suit Ilmor right down to the ground. The Northamptonshire-based engineering firm, founded around the engineering genius of Mario Illien, has built a reputation for building and developing racing engines over the years. Their last venture into MotoGP - the remarkable Ilmor X3 800cc bike - foundered on a lack of sponsorship. But the firm's prowess as an engine builder is beyond question, and there is no doubt they could design an engine to fit the new regulations.

And cost need not be an issue: "We think we can build a coil spring engine for that money," Miller replied, when asked whether Ilmor could build an engine within the 20,000 euro claiming rule budget, "But whether that would include a gearbox or not is debatable. Obviously, it would depend on what the competition were doing, and we'd have to see where they are first." Miller was not against a claiming rule, though he saw there could be problems. "We'll see whether it's effective. If they make it too cheap, then people will claim engines all the time, but if it's too expensive, then no one will ever use it, and there would be no point having the claiming rule."

Despite Ilmor's optimism about the class, Miller was not convinced that the new class would go ahead as planned. "We're not at every race any more, so we're out of the loop a little," Miller told, "But we're not even sure the series will go ahead. The latest we've heard is that the economic crisis has made everyone think again."


Official: Silverstone Gets British Grand Prix from 2010

As Visordown reported - and as we feared - yesterday, Donington's redevelopment plans to allow the track to host a Formula 1 race have proven fatal to their MotoGP round. Today, Dorna officially announced that Silverstone will be hosting the British Grand Prix from 2010. The agreement will last for 5 years, leaving Donington out in the cold until at least 2015.

Speculation on the reason for Dorna's switch from Donington to Silverstone has centered on the emphasis which the Derbyshire track had placed on Formula 1. It is believed that this was not well received at Dorna, and with Silverstone having lost the British Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2010, the Northamptonshire track needed an international motorsports meeting to replace the huge hole left by F1.

The decision will be met with mixed feelings by motorcycle racing fans. Donington - or at least, large parts of it - is one of the greatest tracks still on the calendar, with the rolling sweep of the Craner Curves one of the finest and most difficult section of corners the riders face. The facilities, on the other hands, were often dire, with overflowing toilet facilities, little in the way of refreshments, and parking chaos.

While the facilities at Silverstone are an improvement over those at Donington - though that's not really very difficult - the track is a real disappointment. Flat, uninspiring, and with a final chicane taken almost at walking pace, it is not a great place to ride a motorcycle round, despite having produced some great racing in World Superbikes.

And so MotoGP heads to Donington for one last time this summer. It will be worthwhile braving the erratic British weather, the terrifying Donington cuisine, and the ludicrous traffic situation to see the bikes roll past the spitfire once more.


Silverstone To Replace Donington In 2010?

When the management of the Donington Park circuit announced that it was planning major changes to the track, to entice Formula 1 to race there, after Silverstone lost the British F1 Grand Prix, speculation ran rife that if F1 did make the switch, MotoGP would leave Donington. And so far, that speculation looks like it could be correct: Visordown is reporting that inside sources have confirmed that this is going to happen, and from 2010, MotoGP will race at Silverstone rather than Donington.

The news came after Donington received planning permission from the local authorities for the proposed track changes and new buildings, which include a new location for the pits and paddock; a new super-fast front straight, and another rolling downhill section between what is now Goddards and Redgate corner. Once the track changes have been made, then the track would be long enough to host a Formula 1 race.

The fly in the ointment is the small matter of raising 40 million pounds sterling, the first part of a total 100 million pound package of redevelopment. With the financial crisis in full swing, and the British economy suffering badly after the implosion of the housing bubble, the prospect of trying to raise such vast quantities of cash is daunting, to say the very least.

Even if the changes are made - and new facilities are sorely needed, as the current buildings and organization are "the worst in Europe," according to one paddock insider - there's the small matter of getting all the fans into the circuit. Currently, getting in and out of Donington for the 60,000 or so MotoGP fans, many of whom are on congestion-busting motorcycles, is utter mayhem, and a task lasting many hours due to the fact that a large part of the roads leading from the motorway to the circuit are a single lane in either direction. What happens when double the number turn up, almost all in cars, is anyone's guess.

Silverstone already hosts a World Superbike round, and adding MotoGP would put it at the heart of international motorcycle racing in the UK. The tragedy is that while Donington has some of the most glorious sections of racetrack in Europe, Silverstone is flat, featureless, and prone to flooding. For US racing fans, the change would be akin to MotoGP dropping Laguna Seca in favor of Auto Club Speedway, affectionately known as "Fontucky." If MotoGP does make the switch from Donington to Silverstone, the biggest losers will be racing fans.

Rossi To Ride At Qatar - In World Superbikes?

Since the end of the 2008 season, Valentino Rossi has been very public about his admiration of the World Superbike series. So much so that the revealed he had tried to arrange to race in the final World Superbike round of 2008 at Portimao in Portugal. After that proved impossible to arrange, Rossi then spoke of his desire to race triple world champion Troy Bayliss aboard a World Superbike some time in 2009.

Bayliss may have turned down Rossi's offer - or perhaps we should call it a challenge - but Rossi remains undeterred. The Doctor continues to press for a chance to ride in World Superbikes.

Now, according to the British motorcycle racing website, it looks like he could get his chance. BSN's Edgar Jessop has revealed that Valentino Rossi hopes to line up at the second race of the World Superbike season at Qatar in March.

The report cites unnamed sources inside the Yamaha Motor Italia team, but despite there being no official statement, the chances of Rossi actually racing in World Superbikes are pretty good. Rossi's MotoGP team boss Davide Brivio has already stated publicly that he is prepared to support Rossi in his bid for a World Superbike wildcard, so The Doctor would appear to have Yamaha's official blessing.

The prospect of Rossi riding in World Superbikes must be have Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta in a cold sweat. This has already been a very bad week for MotoGP, and the chance of MotoGP losing the goose that lays Dorna's golden eggs would see MotoGP's status as the premier motorcycle racing class showing some serious cracks. The next few years promise to be interesting times for motorcycle racing fans.

No Kawasakis On The Grid In '09, Says Kawasaki

In the turbulent times which MotoGP is passing through, the first casualty is truth. Throughout the Kawasaki saga, rumors persisted  in the Italian press that any deal which kept Kawasaki bikes on the grid would leave them in the hands of Jorge Martinez, head of the Aspar team.

After Kawasaki announced its official withdrawal from MotoGP, speculation continued that Aspar would get the Kawasaki bikes, despite that deal looking much further from reality. Now, the Dutch website is reporting that Kawasaki have categorically denied the rumors that Aspar would field the former factory Kawasakis in a private team structure. What's more, Kawasaki say that there will be no Kawasakis at all in MotoGP in 2009.

"As soon as the economic situation improves, we definitely intend to return to the MotoGP arena, but for next season, there will be no Kawasakis in MotoGP. Consequently, there's no truth in the rumors that Martinez would be running our bikes," Kawasaki told Motorfreaks.

As for the fine for breach of contract which Kawasaki will incur by pulling out before their contract ends in 2011, the Akashi factory is still in talks with Dorna. "This won't affect our decision to withdraw from MotoGP, however," Kawasaki said.


Official: Kawasaki Out - But Bikes To Remain?

After weeks of speculation, finally an official announcement has been made. Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced that it was officially pulling out of MotoGP. All the rumors and hopes of Dorna somehow being able to put together a deal have come to nothing: the economic situation is too bleak, with no hope of relief in the immediate future, for Kawasaki to be able to justify the necessary investment.

But for those with a penchant for exegesis, the news is not quite as dark as it may seem. The official statement (shown below) says that Kawasaki will "suspend its factory MotoGP racing activities from 2009." The two key words there are "suspend" and "factory".

For it looks like there will still be 19 motorcycles on the MotoGP grid. The main speculation in the press is that Jorge Martinez is still looking to run the team for 2009, but there are good reasons to doubt this is the case. The Spanish manager of the Aspar team had previously told reporters that a commitment to developing the MotoGP bikes and a three-year deal were the minimum requirements if he was to get involved in running the team, and that is very clearly missing from this statement.

The Italian website is reporting that it will not be Martinez, but current manager Michael Bartholemy who will be running the team. Under the alleged deal, Bartholemy would be given the Kawasaki ZX-RRs, together with a guarantee of spare parts and a maintenance agreement which would mean that Kawasaki would rebuild the engines sent back to Akashi by the team. However, development on the bike would effectively cease, and as the bike in its current state is basically a slightly revamped version of the totally uncompetitive 2008 bike, the chances of it being a perennial backmarker are substantial.

Below is the official press release issued by Kawasaki:

09/01/2009 - For Immediate Release

Tokyo, January 9, 2009 -- Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. announced today that it has decided to suspend its factory MotoGP racing activities from 2009 season.

Amid quickly changing business environment, Kawasaki has been promptly taking countermeasures to cope with the situation. As the world economy is not likely to recover in a short period due to the major impact of the financial crisis, Kawasaki decided to suspend its MotoGP racing activities from 2009 season onward and reallocate management resources more efficiently.

Kawasaki will continue racing activities using mass-produced motorcycles as well as supporting general race-oriented customers.

Kawasaki would like to thank all the fans and all those who have forwarded us great help.

Mr.Yoshio Kawamura, the Managing Director of Kawasaki Motors Racing B.V. deeply appreciates the contribution and the dedication brought by staff members of the MotoGP team.

Kawasaki Back In, Announcement Soon

News is starting to filter out of Akashi, Japan, by way of Italy, that Kawasaki will not after all be pulling out of MotoGP. After long negotiation with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, the Japanese manufacturer has rolled back its decision to withdraw from the premier class, probably after Ezpeleta spelled out the financial consequences of withdrawal.

The exact details are as yet unknown, but it looks like Jorge Martinez will be given the Kawasaki team to run, while Michael Bartholemy will remain team manager. At least, that's what says, the Italian news site Mediaset believes that Martinez will be given the team to run as he seems fit. Martinez had earlier told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he was only interested if he could have a three year contract to run the team.

All this is still speculation, though. An official announcement with full details - including what will happen to the riders John Hopkins and Marco Melandri, one of whom will have to make way for a Spanish rider if Martinez gets to run the team - is expected sometime in the next few hours.