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The Problem With Alice: Toni Elias Speaks

In motorcycle racing, as in all endeavors in life, some people do better than others. And whenever one competitor does better than another, the search starts for just why that should be.

In a team sport - which MotoGP is, despite the overriding importance of the ability of a single individual, the rider  - fingers are quck to be pointed at elements within a team, or even the team as a whole, when a team underperforms. Sometimes, such accusations are entirely justified, and there really is a single cause of the team's woes, but more often than not, when a team does not live up to expectations, the reality is a good deal more complicated than it might seem at first glance.

Two examples come to mind inside the MotoGP paddock. The first is the JiR Honda team, led by Luca Montiron. After JiR split from Pramac after the 2004 season, Makoto Tamada's results took a nosedive. What's more, a similar thing happened to Shinya Nakano when he joined the team, and the JiR team only saw success again after the team was effectively taken over by Team Scot once Andrea Dovizioso entered the MotoGP class. In this case, the cause seemed fairly straightforward: Montiron had talented riders and proven equipment, and yet the results were consistently mediocre at best. Once Montiron was pushed aside, the results saw a dramatic turnaround, justifying the conclusion that the problem was most likely to be Luca Montiron, and his ability to run a team.

The other example is what was this year the Alice Ducati team, owned by Pramac, and run for the first part of the year by Luis d'Antin. At first glance, conclusions about the team's poor performance could be put down to the same cause as JiR's: poor management. After all, Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli, two riders who had performed above expectations on other equipment, were suddenly struggling at the back of the field. Once Luis d'Antin was fired by the team, just prior to the Sachsenring MotoGP round in July, the results improved dramatically, Elias getting back-to-back podiums in Brno and Misano. But Elias' dismal performance in the final races of the year, as well as a closer examination of the history of the team paints a much more complicated picture than just poor management.

As a team manager, Luis d'Antin had been extremely successful in the past. His eponymous team won the Japanese Grand Prix in 2000, Norifumi Abe taking victory at Suzuka. And in the years that followed, the d'Antin bikes could be found in the first half of the field. D'Antin's fortunes took a downturn when he switched from Yamaha to Ducati in 2004, and neither the 2003 World Superbike champion Neil Hodgson nor his team mate, and WSBK runner up Ruben Xaus got the results they had shown they were capable of in World Superbikes.

Since then, d'Antin's relationship with Ducati has often been troubled. The team itself suffered many financial problems, with rumors of unpaid hotel bills and bills for parts dogging d'Antin right up until he left the paddock this year. But there was more to the team's problems than just financial mismanagement, as an interview with Toni Elias on makes amply clear.

In the interview, Elias accuses Ducati of not supplying the team with the parts it needed to be competitive until after Luis d'Antin's departure at the Sachsenring. "When we finally received [the new parts] we made a leap in performance, and we got back in the top ten, so for me Germany is when the second part of the season began."

And to underline Ducati's role in all this. Elias points to what happened after he told the team that he would be leaving to join Gresini Honda at the end of the year. "I told Ducati what my plans were for 2009 in Motegi, and from that moment on the parts disappeared. From then on it was back to the lower half of the standings." After two podiums on improved equipment, Elias didn't finish in the top 10 again for the rest of the season.

So it seems that Ducati, and possibly Pramac, were engaged in a political powerplay, aimed at increasing Ducati's control over their satellite team. Ducati - in the person of Livio Suppo - have stated publicly several times that they are trying to turn the satellite team into a true junior team, much as they have in World Superbikes, following the lead set in Formula 1. It seems fair to assume that in order to achieve that goal, Ducati were not afraid to use whatever influence they had over the team to ensure that they achieved their long-term goals, even if it was to the detriment of short-term results.

Evidence of this strategy can be seen in what happened to the team members after the end of the 2008 season. The mechanics and engineers have spread out through various world championship paddocks, with members going on to join the Yamaha and Aprilia World Superbike efforts, Kawasaki's World Supersport team, and  Sete Gibernau's return to MotoGP with Onde2000. The parts and logistics engineer Liam Shubert, in a post over on his excellent blog, explained that the atmosphere and sense of togetherness so vital for running a team had disappeared over the last year, causing him to decide to leave the MotoGP paddock and return to the US.

These were all changes that had little to do with the way that Luis d'Antin ran the team, but were perhaps more to do with the shift of power which had accompanied the takeover of the team by the Pramac group, after purchasing the team from Luis d'Antin prior to the 2007 season. With the team management engaged in a slow struggle for control, is it any wonder that a team with clearly talented riders and the fastest bike on the grid - as proven by Casey Stoner - should find it so very hard to compete?

Aprilia Unveils Official Livery

We had already posted pictures of the brand new Aprilia RSV4 World Superbike machine from the test which took place at Portimao, after the final round of WSBK (pictures here). But now, Aprilia have unveiled the official livery that Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano will be running next year. The color scheme is Aprilia's traditional red and black, but this time, without any of the white which was used on the old RSV Mille bike. Italian site has the scoop, but here's a taster:

Aprilia RSV4 Superbike

See all of the pictures over at


The Thin End Of The Wedge - Electronics Next Target For Ezpeleta

One of the main arguments heard against the introduction of a single tire manufacturer was that any move to standardize tires would turn out to be just the first of a range of rule changes aimed at making the racing closer. Once Carmelo Ezpeleta got the tire rule through, ran the argument, then after that, he would try to introduce rules on traction control, electronic suspension, a standard ECU, until he finally achieved his goal of close racing, like we had in 2006, the final season of the 990s.

It didn't take very long for the naysayers to be proved right. In an interview with the Italian Motosprint magazine, Dorna CEO Ezpeleta revealed that he has already started talks with the manufacturers on limiting the role of electronics in MotoGP. "We need to discuss it, as it's been done in every motor racing series," Ezpeleta said. No changes were planned for 2009, but Ezpeleta stated that he believed regulating electronics would be "the next step."

Ezpeleta has been here before, having suggested that MotoGP needs a standardized ECU at the end of 2007. The Dorna chief was forced to withdraw that proposal, after unsurprisingly encountering stiff resistance from the manufacturers, who regard MotoGP as a technological showcase. But after having won a victory over the single tire rule, he may well be feeling confident he can push through further restrictions with much less resistance.

While making his arguments in favor of limited electronics, he also let slip the real reason for the move to a single tire. The move was ostensibly to reduce costs and improve safety by reducing corner speed, but Ezpeleta told Motosprint that he also expected to see the single tire rule "improve the spectacle." "I have lots of confidence in the control tire, also to see the riders closer to each other and to see races with more passing." No mention was made of the safety aspect of the rule, which is bearing ever more resemblance to the "safety" arguments used to reduce engine capacity from 990cc to 800cc.

Skeptics might argue that Ezpeleta's logic is flawed. While any attempt to reduce costs should be applauded, and each of the regulations being introduced seem at first glance to be a cheaper option, the problem is that rule changes are by their very nature expensive, and tend to increase, rather than decrease costs. 

Firstly, every rule change means that manufacturers often find themselves confronted with the need to throw away what they were doing previously and start all over again. This was obviously the case for the engine capacity reduction, but a similar thing is happening with the single tire. Manufacturers can no longer rely on finding tires to work with their bikes, they now have to change the bike around to work with the tires. For several manufacturers, that will mean throwing away their old swing arms, suspension and chassis, and starting again from scratch.

And instead of leveling the field, this merely strengthens the hand of the strongest teams. The tires provided by Bridgestone are based on the tires used by Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi this year, and so both Ducati and Yamaha already have bikes that work with the tires. Kawasaki and, to a lesser extent, Suzuki, however, can't get their bikes to work with the current tires, and where using a different carcass construction. With this option gone, Kawasaki and Suzuki will have to redesign their bikes to work with the new tires, further increasing their deficit on the top two.

As for limiting electronics, the lessons from the AMA are worrying. In the period that traction control was banned in that series, Yoshimura Suzuki used a sophisticated engine management package from Bazzaz Performance that cut back power delivery based on factors such as engine speed, throttle position, rate of acceleration and several others. It was a de facto TC system, but one that fell well within the letter of the law, while blatantly violating the spirit of the law. In the end, the AMA was forced to allow traction control, as it had become impossible to police. Perhaps even more worryingly, allowing the other teams to use TC as well changed nothing in the results: Ben Spies and Mat Mladin continued to utterly dominate that series, exactly as they had done before.

The only serious option for a rules body wishing to ban traction control is to get rid of electronics altogether. What this would mean is that, like in NASCAR, fuel injection systems would have to be replaced by carburettors, and to make absolutely certain, electronic ignition would have to be replaced by mechanical points.

The chances of the manufacturers accepting any such suggestion are absolutely zero, and so some other way will have to be found to limit the role rider aids play. And it also opens the question of what the point of MotoGP is. Currently, MotoGP defines itself in the rule book as a prototype racing series, but if the bikes on the road feature more and more sophisticated electronics than the bikes racing in MotoGP, that prototype label would start to look like too much of a pretense. If the aim of MotoGP is to attract the best riders and provide the closest racing, then fielding technologically inferior bikes will make it hard to attract those very riders to the series.

MotoGP has enjoyed a golden age since the introduction of the four-strokes, becoming once again the undisputed premier series. While no one would question that the series still houses most of the world's best riders, the arrival of BMW and Aprilia in the World Superbikes paddock means that MotoGP's main rival series will see 7 manufacturers competing, with an 8th (KTM) likely to join soon after. MotoGP's prominence is starting to look uncertain, and the continual tweaking of the rulebook is far from certain to fix this situation.

While having two strong series may be good for race fans in the short term, having two equally strong and competing series may damage both series in the long run. Sponsors will be confused and uncertain about which series they should be investing in, and both series could end up confusing casual spectators, and eating into each other's market share, instead of expanding the audiences for all forms of motorcycle racing. In today's harsh economic climate, and a recession, or at least very weak growth, expected to last for the next couple of years at least, that is a danger which needs to be avoided at all costs.

Want To Be A Race Mechanic? Ten Kate Are Hiring!

Everyone - well, almost everyone who reads this site regularly - dreams of one day perhaps making into the paddock of either MotoGP or World Superbikes, and being able to earn their living surrounded by the most exciting racing motorcycles in the world. The opportunities to make that leap are few and far between, and when they do come along, they are often surrounded by uncertainty.

So when an opportunity does arise, it is a pleasure to be able to alert eager readers to their chance to make it into the world of elite motorcycle racing. And now, just such a chance has come up.

The Ten Kate Racing team are looking for a race mechanic, to join their team of 28 who work on Ten Kate's World Superbike and World Supersport race efforts. The requirements are relatively straightforward: Ten Kate are looking for mechanics with some form of technical training, relevant experience working on motorcycles, and a car and motorcycle license. Experience in motorcycle racing would be an advantage. As the position is based in Holland, some knowledge of Dutch would also be an advantage, or at least the ability and willingness to learn it. 

The job of a race mechanic entails preparing the Ten Kate team's CBR600RR and CBR1000RR race bikes at their base in Nieuwleusen, The Netherlands, and preparing and repairing the bikes at the test tracks and race events during the World Superbike season. The job requires dedication, skill, passion, and a will to win, while still functioning well within a team. On offer is a contract for a year, which could be extended to a permanent contract if you perform well during that first year.

If you're interested, send your resume and a letter of application to Ronald ten Kate. You can find the e-mail and postal details over on the Ten Kate website, on this page (in Dutch). And if you do get the job, make sure you keep us up to date here at!

Thanks to Marien at MOTO73 for the tip.

The Motorcycle Racing Calendar Goes On Sale!

As promised, the 2009 Racing Calendar is finally available for purchase! At either US$15 for residents of the USA and Canada, or EUR15 for the rest of the world (both plus shipping and handling), the calendar is a must-have for any motorcycle racing fan, and is the perfect gift or stocking filler for lovers of bikes and great photography. It is also an indispensable aid in planning your life so you don't miss out on any of the great motorcycle racing we expect to see in 2009.

Each month features one of Scott Jones' beautiful photographs, as an 8.5 inch by 11 inch (Letter size, or about the same size as A4) print, above an 8.5x11 page containing a grid of the month, including a list of all of the MotoGP and World Superbike weekends, and a listing of the birthdays of the big names from MotoGP, the 250 and 125cc classes, and World Superbikes and World Supersport. There's also a brief description of the state of racing for that month. 2009 motorcycle racing calendar

The calendar has been produced using an 4-color ink offset printing process, and is folded and saddle-stitched, with a hole drilled for hanging it on the wall. As a bonus, there is a double-page poster of the 2008 World Champion, Valentino Rossi, so there's no need to take it off the wall once 2009 is over.

Here's the pricing in full:

Country Price (US Dollars) Shipping &
US* 14.95 6 20.95
Canada 14.95 11 25.95

 * California residents must add 8.75% sales tax.

Country Price (Euros) Shipping &
European Union 14.95 4.55 19.50
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa 14.95 7 21.95


Shipping in the US and Canada is by Priority Mail, which should take 3 days to anywhere within the continental US, or 5 days to Canada.

Shipping in the European Union is by Priority Mail, which should take 1-4 days, depending on the destination. Shipping to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is also by Priority Mail, which should take 6-10 working days.

Other shipping options are available, and pricing of both shipping and calendars may vary for orders of more than one calendar. Send an e-mail with your requirements to For all other countries, please send an e-mail about the price and availability of shipping.

We are still working on a more efficient ordering system, but for the moment, we will be taking orders via a standard Paypal payment. Select the correct payment option below: 

Ordering 1 calendar

US & Canada Orders
Orders for Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

Ordering 2 calendars

US & Canada Orders - 2 Calendars
Orders for Europe, Australia, NZ and South Africa - 2 Calendar

PS: If you love the photos, Scott Jones will offer customers who buy a calendar a discount on full-size prints of any of the images from the calendar if you order them from his website,

Lorenzo To Rossi: "Tear Down This Wall"

Valentino Rossi has always been something of a trendsetter, but some of the fashions he has introduced have been more welcome than others. One of his less attractive innovations has been the introduction of a dividing wall between his own pit garage and that of his team mates, a trend which was followed before the year was out by Dani Pedrosa.

The dividing wall was ostensibly meant to separate not the riders, but the tire technicians, to ensure that Rossi's Bridgestone engineers could have no contact with the Michelin technicians working with Jorge Lorenzo, and keep the data from the two team members and tire brands strictly apart. But since the announcement that MotoGP will be switching to a single tire supplier, namely Bridgestone, in 2009, the wall is no longer necessary for that purpose and could - in theory at least - be removed. 

Theory, however, is foundering on the rocky shores of Valentino Rossi's will. The Doctor has been very public about his desire to keep the wall in place next year, leaving him and his team to focus on the job of defending his 2008 world title. 

His Fiat Yamaha team mate, Jorge Lorenzo, disagrees. Both men were attending the Monza Rally Show at Milan's legendary Monza circuit in Italy, and while there, Lorenzo was asked what he thought of the wall dividing the two pit boxes. "It's Vale's choice, not mine," he told Italian site "Now that we're both on Bridgestones, we don't need it any more, there are no secrets to keep. Rossi's attitude looks like a sign of weakness towards me, but he has won 6 MotoGP titles, I haven't won any. I don't understand."

Rossi's reply was fast, and clear. "There are two riders who both want to win the world championship at Yamaha," Rossi said. "The wall improves the harmony in the team, and it worked well this year. Why change?" 

But The Doctor was willing to offer some concessions to Lorenzo, however ironic: "I'll only keep the wall on my side," he joked, "But Jorge can pull down the one on his side!"

Adding insult to injury, Rossi finished the Monza rally in 2nd place, while Lorenzo managed only a 38th place.

Rossi: "WRC A Possibility After I Retire"

It is perhaps a little strange to be discussing the future of a rider who has just signed a contract to ride for another two years, but as the rider in question is Valentino Rossi, speculation about what he will do when he stops racing motorcycles is likely to continue up until the day that he finally announces his plans.

It all started, of course, with the Italian superstar's plans to switch to Formula 1 at the end of the 2006 season. The difficulties he experienced during that year, and the realization that the intense publicity under which he is forced to live his life would only be intensified in Formula 1, eventually led Rossi to change his mind, and to sign for Yamaha for another two years.

But Rossi's passion for four wheels continues. The Doctor is scheduled to test the Ferrari F1 car at Mugello on the 20th and 21st of November, and will be competing in the Wales Rally GB WRC event in December. Despite intense speculation, Rossi has already made it clear that he will not be moving to Formula 1 after his contract expires, as, in his own words, "31 is too old to enter F1."

And so WRC - the World Rally Championship - is his most likely destination. Rally driving has been his second passion after motorcycles for a long time, and Rossi has a long history of competing. Now, Rossi has confirmed to the Italian sports daily Gazzetto dello Sport that he is actively considering jumping to rally cars after he hangs up his leathers.

"I like rallies very much," he said. "I think I could make the switch when I'm finished with motorcycles. I don't know, I haven't decided yet. Anyway, I have a contract (with Yamaha) for two more years. After that, we will see."

There is one other, more intriguing, if rather unlikely, possibility. Michael Scott, writing in GPWeek, the online racing magazine, revealed that Valentino Rossi had tried to find a way to compete in the final round of World Superbikes at Portimao in Portugal two weeks ago. His motivation was cited as being "to enjoy some close racing again."

As it happens, Troy Bayliss was in no mood to engage in close racing, running away with both wins to end his stellar career on a high, so The Doctor may have come away disappointed, even if it had turned out to be possible for him to take part in the race. However, as Rossi is one of the most vocal critics of the role of electronics in MotoGP, and often bemoans the lack of close racing in MotoGP which he believes is the result, it is entirely conceivable that Rossi may instead turn his hand to World Superbikes instead.

There's no shortage of close-quarters combat in that series, with the bikes much more evenly matched, and while electronics are steadily encroaching, their role is much less prominent than in MotoGP. Once Rossi has achieved the goals he has set out for himself in MotoGP, his mind may well turn to World Superbikes, and the goal of being the first man to ever win both the MotoGP and WSBK title. Rossi's place in MotoGP history is already assured, but his sensibility of his own place in motorcycling history is well-known. And if there is one rider who could do it, who is obviously capable of winning a title in both championships, it is Valentino Rossi.

For now, any thoughts about Rossi's future are nothing more than speculation. But with a man as famous as Valentino Rossi is, the speculation is unlikely ever to end.

Pedrosa On Lorenzo: "There Can Be Only One"

When it was announced last year that Jorge Lorenzo had signed to ride for Fiat Yamaha, lovers of gossip and scandal around the planet rubbed their hands in glee at having two of the largest egos on the planet sharing the confines of a single pit garage. The widespread expectation was that we would see more fireworks between the two Yamaha heroes than during a Chinese New Year celebration.

So many people have been surprised by the air of if not quite harmony, then perhaps quiet acceptance of each other that has permeated the factory Yamaha team. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have rubbed along fairly quietly, without rubbing each other up the wrong way, much to the disappointment of the more sensationalist Italian press.

Fortunately for the Spanish press, however, Lorenzo has been reunited with a different rival, and one with whom that rivalry runs deeper and more darkly than any new-found dislike. For now, Lorenzo is pitted against his old enemy Dani Pedrosa, in a clash which goes back to 2005, and Lorenzo's first season in 250s.

The rivalry runs deep, in part because Jorge Lorenzo styled his on-track and media persona to a large degree around Pedrosa. Seeing the central role Pedrosa was starting to play in the eyes of the Spanish media, Lorenzo set himself up to be the anti-Pedrosa, and be everything Pedrosa is not. Where Pedrosa is quiet, focused and restrained, Lorenzo would be loud, brash and over the top. Fortunately for Lorenzo, he also had the talent to back it up.

In keeping with his character, Pedrosa rarely wastes words on Lorenzo, or any of his rivals for the title. But in an interview with the Spanish press agency EFE, Pedrosa broke his self-enforced silence. "We both want the same objective," he said, "and there can be only one winner."

Pedrosa was less forthcoming on his expectations for next season. It was "too early" to start thinking about who his main rivals were likely to be. "There are new riders on the grid, and others who have changed bikes," Pedrosa told EFE. "So there's still a long way to go, and a lot of preseason testing left." His own objective is clear: "To be more consistent." It was just such consistency that gave Pedrosa the championship lead prior to his disastrous crash at the Sachsenring, and a lack of consistency that saw him slump to 3rd in the title race by the end of the year. If Pedrosa can repeat his early-season form, he will be a factor in 2009.


Coming Soon - The Motorcycle Racing Calendar

The 2008 motorcycle racing season may have finally ended - barring a few formalities such as testing - but the die-hard racing fan's mind is already on the 2009 season. A new season opens a new world of opportunity, and with so many changes, new faces on new bikes, as well as old faces on new bikes, we have all winter to spend thinking about what will happen next year.

But any such speculation requires proper planning, and proper planning requires that you keep up-to-date with what is going on in the world of motorcycle racing. To help you plan your life, and your vacation days next year, we at have prepared a racing calendar, charting the 2009 schedules of both MotoGP and World Superbikes, as well as marking the birthdays of the main protagonists of both series.

Each month features one of Scott Jones' beautiful photographs, as well as a listing of birthdays and race rounds. A short note also keeps you up-to-date on the events to be expected that month. It is the ultimate gift for the motorcycle racing fan who already has everything, or else an acceptable replacement if your budget won't quite run to that 1098R he or she asked for.


Month layout

Back cover.


Pricing is to be announced shortly. Calendars will be shipped to the US & Canada, the European Union, and Australia and New Zealand. You will be able to order your copy of the sometime in the coming week, with shipping taking place shortly afterwards. Send any enquiries to

World Superbike Post-Portimao Test Times

Testing after the final round of World Superbikes at Portimao threw up a few interesting surprises. The first is that Shane Byrne was quick right off the bat, but as Shakey won the British Superbike championship aboard a very similar bike this year, he might be regarded as having a head start. The second surprise was that Ben Spies was so fast. Spies has changed bikes and tires, and so setting such a fast time after just two days of testing is fairly impressive.

Perhaps the most interesting time was the one set by Max Biaggi aboard the Aprilia. The RSV4 is a brand new bike, and the difference between the drawing board and the track can be monumental, as so many factories have found to their peril. So far, it looks like Aprilia have got it right.

The next round of testing for the World Superbike riders is to take place at Kyalami, South Africa, from 10th to the 12th of December. 

1. Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1'43.6

2. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1'43.9

3. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1'44.1

4. Tom Sykes (Yamaha) 1'44.5

5. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha) 1'44.5

6. Alex Polita (Ducati) 1'44.6

7. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1'44.6

8. Roberto Rolfo (Honda) 1'45.0

9. Regis Laconi (Honda) 1'45.4

10. Lorenzo Lanzi (Honda) 1'46.3

Fastest lap during the race:  Troy Bayliss - 1'43.787