The rain returned to Valencia on Tuesday, and the track saw little action, most riders going home. Only 7 riders hit the track in the afternoon, and as a few days earlier, Nicky Hayden was quickest in the wet.
|1||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'48.287||20 / 20|
|2||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'48.296||17 / 18|
|3||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'48.786||23 / 26|
|4||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'49.917||24 / 25|
|5||Mika Kallio||Ducati||1'50.275||25 / 26|
|6||Toni Elias||Honda||1'54.057||14 / 16|
|7||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'57.322||6 / 7|
Times from the first day of testing at Valencia. These will be updated as soon as official times are available. All times were set using the new standard tires provided by Bridgestone, with a choice of either a soft or a hard compound available. For comparison, see the fastest lap each rider set during the race on Sunday.
Times at 5pm, the end of the test:
|1||Casey Stoner||Ducati||1'32.464||31 / 54|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||1'32.672||24 / 60|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||1'32.921||20 / 34|
|4||Chris Vermeulen||Suzuki||1'33.142||41 / 67|
|5||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'33.325||37 / 75|
|6||Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'33.375||35 / 77|
|7||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||1'33.550||41 / 44|
|8||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'33.675||38 / 57|
|9||John Hopkins||Kawasaki||1'33.760||44 / 74|
|10||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'33.782||47 / 75|
|11||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'33.832||39 / 80|
|12||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'33.960||74 / 79|
|13||Toni Elias||Honda||1'34.129||78 / 81|
|14||Sete Gibernau||Ducati||1'34.451||21 / 52|
|15||Mika Kallio||Ducati||1'34.793||57 / 60|
|16||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki||1'34.925||48 / 71|
|17||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'34.995||59 / 62|
|18||Yuki Takahashi||Honda||1'35.203||72 / 73|
|19||Gabor Talmacsi||Aprilia||1'38.472||55 / 57|
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|9||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'33.839||1.257||0.213|
|14||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'34.225||1.643||0.075|
Times at 4pm:
|1||Casey Stoner||Ducati||1'32.464||31 / 45|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||1'32.672||24 / 40|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||1'32.921||20 / 21|
|4||Chris Vermeulen||Suzuki||1'33.142||41 / 58|
|5||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'33.325||37 / 65|
|6||Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'33.375||35 / 65|
|7||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'33.676||38 / 39|
|8||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||1'33.722||6 / 24|
|9||John Hopkins||Kawasaki||1'33.760||44 / 59|
|10||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'33.782||47 / 59|
|11||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'33.832||39 / 59|
|12||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'34.128||40 / 56|
|13||Sete Gibernau||Ducati||1'34.451||21 / 36|
|14||Toni Elias||Honda||1'34.628||28 / 68|
|15||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki||1'34.925||48 / 56|
|16||Mika Kallio||Ducati||1'34.951||41 / 43|
|17||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'35.081||40 / 49|
|18||Yuki Takahashi||Honda||1'36.112||46 / 51|
|19||Gabor Talmacsi||Aprilia||1'39.011||32 / 44|
Times at 3pm:
|5||Alex De Angelis||Honda||1'33.375|
|8||Randy De Puniet||Honda||1'33.832|
Times at 2pm:
|1||Casey Stoner||Ducati||1'32.464||31 / 32|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||1'32.672||24 / 27|
|3||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'33.325||37 / 39|
|4||Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'33.375||35 / 38|
|5||Chris Vermeulen||Suzuki||1'33.565||19 / 35|
|6||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||1'33.722||6 / 13|
|7||John Hopkins||Kawasaki||1'33.760||44 / 45|
|8||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'33.832||39 / 42|
|9||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'34.128||40 / 41|
|10||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'34.152||32 / 37|
|11||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'34.340||18 / 21|
|12||Sete Gibernau||Ducati||1'34.451||21 / 21|
|13||Toni Elias||Honda||1'34.628||28 / 35|
|14||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki||1'35.013||38 / 40|
|15||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'35.459||27 / 29|
|16||Mika Kallio||Ducati||1'35.727||21 / 25|
|17||Yuki Takahashi||Honda||1'36.895||26 / 39|
|18||Gabor Talmacsi||Aprilia||1'39.702||250 cc|
Times at 1pm:
|2||Alex De Angelis||Honda||1'33.375|
|7||Randy De Puniet||Honda||1'34.090|
Gibernau's times were set after just two laps, while Talmasci is riding a 250.
Times around 12 noon:
|1||Casey Stoner||Ducati||1'32.858||12 / 19|
|2||Chris Vermeulen||Suzuki||1'33.565||19 / 25|
|3||Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'33.780||3 / 14|
|4||John Hopkins||Kawasaki||1'33.963||17 / 24|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||1'34.043||5 / 11|
|6||Andrea Dovizioso||Honda||1'34.479||10 / 10|
|7||Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'34.577||13 / 24|
|8||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'34.616||3 / 19|
|9||Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'34.710||18 / 19|
|10||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki||1'35.529||17 / 21|
|11||Toni Elias||Honda||1'35.567||13 / 13|
|12||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati||1'35.880||10 / 11|
|13||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'35.897||21 / 22|
|14||Yuki Takahashi||Honda||1'38.607||6 / 7|
Times at 11am:
|1 Casey Stoner||Ducati||1'32.858||8 laps|
|2 Chris Vermeulen||Suzuki||1'33.695||10|
|3 Loris Capirossi||Suzuki||1'33.780||3|
|4 John Hopkins||Kawasaki||1'34.254||11|
|5 Alex de Angelis||Honda||1'35.023||8|
|6 Marco Melandri||Kawasaki||1'35.319||9|
|7 Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki||1'36.978||7|
|8 Nicky Hayden||Ducati||1'39.244||7|
With the new tire regulations comes a severely reduced MotoGP testing schedule. Here's the testing schedule as it stands:
|October 27 - 28||Valencia||Spain|
|November 26 - 27||Jerez||Spain|
|February 5 - 7||Sepang||Malaysia|
|March 1 - 3||Losail||Qatar|
|March 28 - 29||IRTA Test, Jerez||Spain|
More details when they become available.
At the end of the season, Yamaha's top engineers usually give a presentation on the inner workings of their championship-winning M1. So it was earlier this week, but during that presentation, comments were made which were even more interesting than the notes on the MotoGP bike.
Shigeo Kitagawa, head of projects for Yamaha's racing department, told journalists that they could also be interested in supplying equipment for the new four-stroke class which is to replace the current 250s in 2011. "In the past, we had a near-monopoly in the 250 class with our TD 250 and TZ 250," Kitagawa said. "At the moment, we are engaged in MotoGP, but that doesn't mean to say that once the rules are clarified, Yamaha won't be interested in producing a low-cost machine, especially if it could also be used in national championships."
So far, the consensus has been that the 250 replacement class - due to consist of 600cc four strokes - will be Honda's plaything. But with Yamaha's long history in 250s, plus their failure to win a World Supersport title since 2000, there's every reason to assume that Yamaha have an interest in getting involved. Whether the 600s are as interesting as the 250s have been remains to be seen. But with more than one manufacturer involved, the class is starting to show potential.
Opinions about the proposal for a single tire manufacturer are still divided among the riders, but there is one thing that all of them agree on: They are going to miss the breathtaking sensation of pushing the astonishingly grippy qualifying tires to their very limits. Nicky Hayden has said the tires are so good, that "you get off the bike and you're shaking." For riders so used to being right on the edge to be shaking takes something quite remarkable.
So there was some disappointment when the weather on Saturday started off as gray and wet as it had been on Friday. It looked like the last chance to use qualifiers might be gone, but as the afternoon started, the rain stopped, and the track started to dry out.
The track filled quickly once qualifying started. With the race expected to be dry, teams and riders were anxious to find a race setting that might work on Sunday. After three drenched sessions of free practice, they had learned more than they needed to know about riding in the wet.
The track was still cool, and spotty in patches, so times came down slowly. It took 5 laps before the times even got into the 1'34s, Randy de Puniet the first to crack that barrier on his LCR Honda. De Puniet was joined seconds later by Loris Capirossi, then Shinya Nakano, the Japanese Gresini Honda rider taking half a second off the Frenchman's time, with a lap of 1'34.437.
Three minutes later, Nakano's time was beaten, Nicky Hayden taking over the top spot with a 1'34.351. The Kentucky Kid had been fastest in all three wet sessions, and was showing he was quick in the dry too. Hayden was on a strong run, going on to take 3/10ths off his time on the next lap, with a time of 1'34.009.
His team mate, with whom Hayden had been engaged in a war of words by proxy, was not about to let Hayden run away with the session, and with 15 minutes gone, set the 2nd fastest time with a lap of 1'34.195.
Work continued calmly on finding a dry setup, the qualifying tires waiting quietly for their turn to shine after the halfway mark. But with 38 minutes of the session to go, the weather decided the session needed shaking up, and a light drizzle began, causing the marshals to bring out the rain flag.
That flag certainly had the desired effect. Suddenly, the entire field dived into the pits to throw on their first qualifier, hoping to set a decent time before the rain slowed the whole show down. Once again it was Nicky Hayden who timed his run best, taking over three quarters of a second off his qualifying time, with a lap of 1'33.218. Still over 2 seconds off the current pole record, under the circumstances, this looked like a strong contender for pole.
The track was full of men on soft rubber. Over the next 10 minutes, rider after rider posted very fast times, with 2nd place changing hands almost every minute. But the only man capable of beating Hayden's time was the Kentucky Kid himself, posting a 1'32.468 just after the halfway mark.
This was not going to be good enough for pole, however. The weak sprinkling of light rain gradually faded away with half the session left, and most of the field went back to working on their race setup.
With 15 minutes to go, Hayden's dominance came under serious threat for the first time. Casey Stoner, who had been beavering away on race tires, was suddenly flying, and rounded the long left hander leading on to the straight to post a time of 1'31.930, taking the pole from Hayden, and the first man to get into the 1'31 bracket.
Hayden's response was strong, but not strong enough, falling a tenth short with a lap of 1'32.073, but consolidating his 2nd position. But Stoner was only just getting warmed up. Next time the Australian came around, he took 4/10ths off his own lap time, getting a firmer grasp on pole position with a lap of 1'31.502.
That time would take some beating. Hayden took one more shot with a couple of minutes left in the session, shaving another 3/10ths off his own best time with a 1'31.703, but even that wouldn't be good enough to hang on to 2nd. As the clock ticked down for the end of qualifying, Hayden's team mate Dani Pedrosa fired across the line in a scorching lap of 1'31.555, snatching 2nd place just a few hundredths behind polesitter Stoner.
Casey Stoner took his 9th pole of the season, equaling Valentino Rossi's MotoGP record, and setting himself up with a decent shot at winning here on Sunday. Stoner's injured scaphoid is not troubling the Australian too much at Valencia, and the reigning World Champion will want to part with his #1 plate in style. Looking at his times on race tires - consistent high 1'33s, and even a high 1'32 in the final seconds of the session, Stoner has to be the favorite to win on Sunday, but questions remain about whether he can last the full distance of the race at full speed.
With the two Repsol Hondas starting on the front row - Dani Pedrosa ahead of Nicky Hayden, much to Hayden's chagrin - that puts the three fastest starters on the front row of the grid. The run into the first corner should be interesting, with all three men very quick off the line. As for race pace, neither Hayden nor Pedrosa can match Stoner's pace, but Hayden is probably closest, by a couple of tenths.
There are a few other men who are quick on race tires - Valentino Rossi, Chris Vermeulen, Sylvain Guintoli - but all of them are starting from way down the grid. Rossi's Valencia jinx is still fully operational, The Doctor timing his qualifying runs completely wrongly. But at least he hasn't been spat off and left to deal with bruised and broken bones this year. Vermeulen and Guintoli are even further behind in 12th and 13th, and on a tight track like Valencia, it's hard to make up that many positions. Even if they do, by the time they get to the front, the speed of Hayden, Pedrosa and Stoner means that they will be long gone, leaving the others too far behind to chase.
The race is shaping up to be interesting. Under normal circumstances, Casey Stoner would pull away from the start, and lead from start to finish. But with a weakened wrist, he may not last the distance, opening the door to Hayden and Pedrosa. The two Repsol men will not be giving yielding an inch. With Sunday Hayden's last day at Repsol Honda, and Pedrosa determined to win in front of his home fans neither man is prepared to countenance the other being ahead for very long. The battle is likely to be hard, and may even be viscious, with another "friendly fire" incident not beyond the realms of possibility. Old scores may yet be settled at Valencia on Sunday.
Central European Summer Time ends at 3am Sunday morning, and while that means an extra hour in bed for most Europeans, it could end up confusing the many MotoGP fans who live elsewhere. For with the clocks going back an hour in Europe, that could throw the schedules of fans based in the US or Australia into disarray.
The final round of MotoGP in Valencia, Spain, is due to start at the regular race start time of 2pm. But that is 2pm CET, or Central European Time, rather than CEST, Central European Summer Time. Clocks in the US and most of Australia aren't due to change for another week, so for fans there, the race may be an hour later than they thought it would.
It goes beyond the scope of this website to list the race start time in every possible time zone - the official MotoGP.com website has a nifty time zone checker for that - but by using the invaluable tools on the Time And Date website at http://www.timeanddate.com/, we can calculate that the race will start at 9am EDT or 6am PDT in the US, and midnight at EDT in Australia, for fans in Sydney.
If you want to see what time the race will start in your time zone, then check this page on the Time And Date website.
Two things dominated the first day of practice at the final MotoGP round in Valencia: Rain, and Nicky Hayden. Rain has lashed the circuit all day, turning the adjacent campsite into a mudbath, and making the going treacherous around the circuit.
Added to the rain was the cold, temperatures hovering around 14 degrees Celsius, or the high 50s Fahrenheit. So not only is the rain causing grip problems, but the chill conditions are reducing grip even further. As a consequence, and rather unsurprisingly, a lot of people have been off into the gravel.
Casey Stoner got away with just a scare. Though his crash in FP1 looked scary, coming as it did at a fair speed round Turn 13, the Australian landed luckily, and didn't injure himself. Valentino Rossi also came away unscathed from a lowside in Turn 14. One of the slowest corners on the track, Rossi almost managed to catch the rear as it went away from him, but couldn't quite lever the bike back up onto the fat part of the tire.
Unluckiest team of the day were the Alice Ducati men. Toni Elias came off after a semi-highside, and has had a generally miserable day, finishing bottom of the pile and 6 seconds off the pace. But while Elias was relatively unharmed, Sylvain Guintoli is battered and bruised, after banging his knee and his behind in a big highside during FP2.
The other constant factor was Nicky Hayden. The American was fastest in both morning and afternoon sessions, and was clearly at home both on the track and in the rain. Hayden is just a few hundredths faster than his team mate Dani Pedrosa, but he was unlucky not to be much further ahead. Coming round on a very quick lap with a few minutes to go, Hayden nearly overcooked Turn 12, and pulled into the pits for new tires, after having been half a second up at the third intermediate checkpoint.
Pedrosa started slowly, and improved during the day, strong as ever at the track he won at last year. The Spaniard's learning curve on Bridgestone rain tires has been steep, but this result suggests that Pedrosa has learned quickly. Pedrosa's rival for the affections of the home crowd came in 3rd, Jorge Lorenzo having transformed from being nowhere in the rain to being a master at Indianapolis.
Valentino Rossi finished the day 4th, highly motivated and pretty quick. Casey Stoner could only manage 5th fastest, despite dominating the early part of proceedings. The Australian is struggling with grip issues, but fortunately, is not having too many problems with his hand.
Practice continues tomorrow morning, and the forecast is for more rain. It is quite possible that we will not get to see the qualifiers at Valencia, if the track does not dry out enough to make use of the soft rubber, and the extraordinary sight of motorcycle racers heading into corners 20mph faster than they have any right to will be consigned to the garbage heap of history without a chance to say goodbye.
More worrying is the fact that Sunday looks like being dry. There is a good chance that the riders will have 4 wet practice sessions, with only a 25 minute warm-up session on Sunday morning to find a race tire that works. The final round of the 2008 MotoGP season looks like it could be a complete gamble. Which could be interesting.
The FIM announced a minor change to the 2009 MotoGP calendar today. The Misano round of MotoGP will be held a week earlier than previously scheduled, moving it to the week after the Indianapolis MotoGP round.
|May 17th||France||Le Mans|
|July 5th***||United States||Laguna Seca|
|July 26th||Great Britain||Donington Park|
|August 16th||Czech Republic||Brno|
|September 6th||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Misano|
|October 18th||Australia||Phillip Island|
|November 8th||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo - Valencia|
* Evening race
** Saturday race
*** Only MotoGP class
The news that Sete Gibernau would be making a return to MotoGP aboard a Ducati run by the Onde 2000 team has been so long in coming that it barely figures as news at all. Gibernau's return had been mooted as early as June, after the Spaniard started testing the Ducati at Mugello. That news triggered a wave of speculation that Gibernau could make an early return to the series, with rumors that Marco Melandri was being retained on a race-by-race basis.
That switch never materialized. Many explanations were posited: Ducati were afraid that if they let Melandri go, he'd do better on a Kawasaki than he did on the Ducati, possibly even beating Gibernau; Gibernau's times, though good, were not good enough to take the risk; or that the Spaniard had simply made too many demands in terms of salary, and a guarantee of a contract for the factory ride in 2009. The official announcement that Nicky Hayden would be joining Casey Stoner at Ducati for 2009 finally killed any remaining speculation about Gibernau's return to the factory Marlboro Ducati squad.
But by then, most of the details of Gibernau's new project had been finalized. And on Thursday night, the Onde 2000 team, currently active in the 125 class, presented their MotoGP program for 2009. To the surprise of nobody, Sete Gibernau was introduced as the rider, while Pablo Nieto, the 26 year-old 125 racer who announced his retirement from racing at the end of the season at Sepang, will take on a management role alongside his brother, Gelete.
The team was expected to be sponsored by Onde 2000, a Spanish construction company owned by Fernando "Paco El Pocero" Hernandez. But at the team introduction, the team was introduced as the Grupo Fernando Hernandez Onde 2000 Guinea Ecuatorial team. Which suggests that Fernando Hernandez is putting his own money into the project, rather than funding it through Onde 2000. This is hardly a surprising step, as the Spanish construction industry, once one of the main pillars of the Spanish economy, is in a tailspin, suffering from both the implosion caused by the financial crisis, and the collapse of the Spanish housing bubble, which had grown to almost Herculean proportions over the past 10 years.
The question is, why did Gibernau come back? The Spaniard was widely believed to be mentally broken by Valentino Rossi during the 2005 season, Gibernau never winning another race after being bumped off track on the final lap of the Jerez season opener. Then, a string of injuries during 2006, aggravating a collar bone injury suffered previously, prompted Gibernau to retire.
But two years out of competitive racing have left Gibernau feeling refreshed and ready for a new challenge. The Spaniard's times in testing were very good, but fast testing laps are not necessarily an indicator of good results in races.
As for Gibernau's erstwhile nemesis, Valentino Rossi welcomed the Spaniard's return: "I'm very pleased to hear the news. I'm very glad that Sete is coming back, and I think he will be a rider who will be very competitive. I enjoyed racing him very much in the past, and I haven't forgotten the great battles we had together."
Whether Rossi is right, and just how competitive Gibernau can be, we shall see on Monday.
Just when we thought the soap opera over the third Kawasaki was finished, after Jorge Martinez and Kawasaki agreed to drop the project over the choice of riders, rumors are emerging that the project is back from the dead. The Aspar project was killed off officially at Sepang, after Aspar's Spanish sponsors insisted on a Spanish rider, while Kawasaki demanded that Shinya Nakano be given the ride.
Martinez faced a choice of either a rider but no money, or money but no bike. With Kawasaki demanding 3 million euros for a factory machine, Martinez decided that he simply could not afford to run the team Kawasaki wanted without financial support from the factory as well.
Kawasaki, however, appear to have warmed to the idea of having a third bike on the grid. Recognizing that they are in a very deep hole with the current iteration of the ZX-RR Ninja, a bike recently slated by Ant West in an interview with the Italian magazine Motosprint, the factory were pushing hard to have Shinya Nakano join the team to speed development along. But once Aspar pulled out, they were left empty-handed.
Now, rumors are emerging from Italy that Kawasaki have changed tack. According to the RacerGP.com website, unnamed sources supplying the factory team have received orders for extra parts, sufficient to field a third factory bike, the site concludes. No details are known about who would run the team, but with Aspar reportedly talking to Suzuki again for 2010, the factory Kawasaki Racing team could well include a third bike in their program, run from a separate garage and without the Monster Energy branding.
With Kawasaki calling the shots, Shinya Nakano would be back in the frame for the ride and helping develop the bike. That would leave just the delicate matter of funding. With Carmelo Ezpeleta keen to see more bikes on the grid, Dorna could well stump up extra cash to help run the team, much as they do with other teams.
So far, this is all very much rumor and hearsay, based on signals from a parts supplier that are at best open to multiple interpretation. But putting the pieces together, a logical pattern seems to appear. Though with the project being killed and resuscitated so many times in the past few months, one has to wonder if that pattern isn't in the shape of Dr. Frankenstein's creature.