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Portimao World Superbike Times - Day 1 Session 2 - Byrne Leads Again

Shane 'Shakey' Byrne topped the timesheets once again during the second session of testing at the Portimao circuit. The British rider was fastest in both the wet and the dry conditions on the first day of official testing in 2009, putting his satellite Sterilgarda  Ducati ahead of the factory machine of Michel Fabrizio. After sitting out the wet morning session, newcomer Ben Spies hit the track to set the third fastest time, some 4/10ths slower than Byrne.

Max Neukirchner was the top Suzuki rider in fourth, while Noriyuki Haga finished three places behind his young team mate in 5th. Leon Haslam was the fastest Honda man, just ahead of his compatriot Johnny Rea. Broc Parkes was fastest of the Kawasaki riders, finishing just ahead of the new bikes in the series, Troy Corser putting the BMW just ahead of Max Biaggi on the Aprilia, in 15th and 16th places respectively.

1 67 Byrne S. GBR Ducati 1098R 1'44.265
2 84 Fabrizio M. ITA Ducati 1098R 1'44.468
3 19 Spies B. USA Yamaha YZF R1 1'44.652
4 76 Neukirchner M. GER Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'44.931
5 41 Haga N. JPN Ducati 1098R 1'44.976
6 96 Smrz J. CZE Ducati 1098R 1'45.266
7 91 Haslam L. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'45.323
8 65 Rea J. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'45.329
9 7 Checa C. ESP Honda CBR1000RR 1'45.373
10 71 Kagayama Y. JPN Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'45.448
11 66 Sykes T. GBR Yamaha YZF R1 1'45.558
12 55 Laconi R. FRA Ducati 1098R 1'45.914
13 53 Polita A. ITA Ducati 1098R 1'46.110
14 23 Parkes B. AUS Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'46.121
15 11 Corser T. AUS BMW S1000 RR 1'46.261
16 3 Biaggi M. ITA Aprilia RSV4 1'46.440
17 9 Kiyonari R. JPN Honda CBR1000RR 1'46.586
18 36 Lavilla G. ESP Honda CBR1000RR 1'46.948
19 100 Tamada M. JPN Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'46.957
20 111 Xaus R. ESP BMW S1000 RR 1'47.340
21 33 Hill T. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'47.639
22 24 Roberts B. AUS Ducati 1098R 1'47.699
23 56 Nakano S. JPN Aprilia RSV4 1'48.269
24 25 Salom D. ESP Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'48.274
25 99 Scassa L. ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'49.800
26 77 Iannuzzo V. ITA Honda CBR1000RR 1'50.187
27 44 Rolfo R. ITA Honda CBR1000RR 1'53.550

Fastest lap during the race in November 2008: Troy Bayliss - 1'43.787

 

Portimao World Supersport Times - Day 1 Session 2 - Better Weather, Faster Times

The weather is improving in Portugal, and times are dropping considerably. In the second session of Supersport testing, it was Joan Lascorz who started off quickest, edging Cal Crutchlow by 1/10th of a second, with former WSS champion Kenan Sofuoglu setting the third fastest time. Dutchman Barry Veneman's fourth quickest times means that four different brands set the four fastest times for this session, a promising start to the 2009 season. Testing continues tomorrow.

1 26 Lascorz J. ESP Kawasaki ZX-6R 1'49.046
2 35 Crutchlow C. GBR Yamaha YZF R6 1'49.166
3 54 Sofuoglu K. TUR Honda CBR600RR 1'49.366
4 77 Veneman B. NED Suzuki GSX-R600 1'49.407
5 1 Pitt A. AUS Honda CBR600RR 1'49.592
6 117 Praia M. POR Honda CBR600RR 1'49.941
7 105 Vizziello G. ITA Honda CBR600RR 1'50.276
8 51 Pirro M. ITA Yamaha YZF R6 1'50.496
9 69 Nannelli G. ITA Triumph 675 1'50.499
10 24 McCoy G. AUS Triumph 675 1'51.067
11 14 Lagrive M. FRA Honda CBR600RR 1'51.142
12 21 Fujiwara K. JPN Kawasaki ZX-6R 1'51.553
13 13 West A. AUS Honda CBR600RR 1'51.572
14 55 Roccoli M. ITA Honda CBR600RR 1'51.759
15 8 Aitchison M. AUS Honda CBR600RR 1'52.024
16 50 Laverty E. IRL Honda CBR600RR 1'53.098
17 19 Szkopek P. POL Triumph 675 1'53.207
18 83 Holland R. AUS Honda CBR600RR 1'54.395
19 30 Günther J. GER Honda CBR600RR 1'55.419
20 99 Foret F. FRA Yamaha YZF R6 1'56.155
21 127 Harms R. DEN Honda CBR600RR 1'56.706
22 28 Vos A. NED Honda CBR600RR 1'56.738
23 32 Lai F. ITA Honda CBR600RR 1'56.831
24 7 Vostárek P. CZE Honda CBR600RR 1'57.141
25 9 Dell'Omo D. ITA Honda CBR600RR 2'00.266
26 5 Pradita Doni T. INA Yamaha YZF R6 2'01.302
27 88 Guerra Y. ESP Yamaha YZF R6 2'06.423

 

Aspar Confirm They Won't Run Private Kawasaki Team

Since the official announcement that Kawasaki has decided to pull out of MotoGP, a number of people - most notably, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta - have been working furiously on finding a way of keeping the bikes on the grid. The phone lines between Kawasaki's Akashi base, Dorna's Barcelona headquarters, the Kawasaki MotoGP team's base in Heerlen in the Netherlands, and Jorge Martinez in Spain have been positively humming.

For a long time, Jorge Martinez and the Aspar team looked like the most promising prospect for a continuation of Kawasaki's MotoGP efforts, but as negotiations dragged on, and disagreements started to emerge over the conditions under which Aspar would acquire the bikes, hopes began to fade. On Wednesday, Motorcycle News reported that Ezpeleta believed that Aspar would not take on the project, and today, confirmation comes from Jorge Martinez, boss of the Aspar team, himself.

Martinez confirmed to the Spanish magazine Motociclismo that he will not be running the Kawasakis in MotoGP this year. As expected, the deal fell through over the conditions imposed by Kawasaki: Martinez needed at least one Spanish rider if his sponsors were to be able to justify their investment in the project, a demand that Kawasaki could not agree to. In addition, Kawasaki would only provide the bikes for the 2009 season - a consequence of the deal offered to them by Dorna.

Kawasaki had committed themselves to compete in MotoGP through 2011, in a contract signed by the MSMA with Dorna. Dorna had offered to waive any fines or further litigation against Kawasaki if the Japanese factory was willing to provide bikes for the 2009 season. But Jorge Martinez and the Aspar team are keen to enter MotoGP on a long-term basis, and a one-year deal would be more likely to hinder their long-term plans than help them. Faced with these problems, Martinez decided to pull out of further attempts to negotiate a deal with Kawasaki.

This leaves only current Kawasaki team boss Michael Bartholemy in the running to try and keep the bikes on the grid. The Belgian is currently in Japan talking with Kawasaki's corporate bosses, trying to iron out a deal to race in 2009. Originally, there was talk of a French company providing technical assistance in bike maintenance and development, but recently, former MotoGP entry Ilmor have expressed an interest in taking up this role. In an email to MotoGPMatters.com, Steve Miller of Ilmor said "we have expressed a keen interest in assisting Kawasaki to run their engine on in MotoGP this season."

Though the British engineering firm have undoubted expertise in running, developing and building engines, the problem with the Kawasaki lies elsewhere. The 2008 ZX-RR Ninja made plenty of power - the bike regularly posted among the highest top speeds at a number of races - the problem was getting that power down onto the ground. Both John Hopkins and Ant West complained of a lack of rear wheel traction, as well as a lack of front-end feel, making it impossible to take advantage of the Kawasaki's potent engine. Unless Bartholemy can find someone to help him work on that, then any attempt at reviving the project may be doomed before it even gets off the ground.

Portimao World Superbike Times - Day 1 Session 1 - Brits Lead In The Rain

Rain continues along the Algarve coast, and as in the Supersport field, a number of riders have elected to stay dry and relatively warm in the Portimao circuit's capacious and comfortable garages. Of the brave souls who have ventured out, reigning British Superbike champion Shane Byrne is fastest, ahead of Ulsterman Johnny Rea, confirming every prejudice about the British weather. Michel Fabrizio is third fastest, on the factory Ducati.

Testing continues this afternoon.

1 67 Byrne S. GBR Ducati 1098R 1'59.151
2 65 Rea J. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 2'00.081
3 84 Fabrizio M. ITA Ducati 1098R 2'00.521
4 76 Neukirchner M. GER Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 2'01.437
5 96 Smrz J. CZE Ducati 1098R 2'01.487
6 24 Roberts B. AUS Ducati 1098R 2'01.499
7 41 Haga N. JPN Ducati 1098R 2'02.142
8 33 Hill T. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 2'02.190
9 71 Kagayama Y. JPN Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 2'02.206
10 7 Checa C. ESP Honda CBR1000RR 2'02.221
11 53 Polita A. ITA Ducati 1098R 2'02.255
12 11 Corser T. AUS BMW S1000 RR 2'02.291
13 66 Sykes T. GBR Yamaha YZF R1 2'03.913
14 99 Scassa L. ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'04.519
15 36 Lavilla G. ESP Honda CBR1000RR 2'04.604
16 23 Parkes B. AUS Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'05.292
17 55 Laconi R. FRA Ducati 1098R 2'05.626
18 25 Salom D. ESP Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'05.880
19 3 Biaggi M. ITA Aprilia RSV4 2'05.904
20 77 Iannuzzo V. ITA Honda CBR1000RR 2'06.198
21 100 Tamada M. JPN Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'06.459
22 111 Xaus R. ESP BMW S1000 RR 2'07.094
23 56 Nakano S. JPN Aprilia RSV4 2'13.713

Fastest lap during the race in November 2008:  Troy Bayliss - 1'43.787

 

Portimao World Supersport Times - Day 1 Session 1 - It's Wet

The first results are starting to come through from the first test of the season, and it was the World Supersport riders who had the dubious privilege of kicking off the year in sodden conditions. British rookie Cal Crutchlow is fastest of the bunch so far, but it's clear the conditions are wreaking havoc on the times.

1 35 Crutchlow C. GBR Yamaha YZF R6 2'05.219
2 117 Praia M. POR Honda CBR600RR 2'05.270
3 14 Lagrive M. FRA Honda CBR600RR 2'05.713
4 50 Laverty E. IRL Honda CBR600RR 2'06.243
5 8 Aitchison M. AUS Honda CBR600RR 2'12.833
6 69 Nannelli G. ITA Triumph 675 2'15.043
7 28 Vos A. NED Honda CBR600RR 2'15.353
8 5 Pradita Doni T. INA Yamaha YZF R6 2'18.856
9 99 Foret F. FRA Yamaha YZF R6 2'21.017

 

Honda To Miss Suzuka 8 Hours, But 'Won't Quit MotoGP'

Honda's withdrawal from Formula 1 earlier this year unleashed a wave of bad news - and a tsunami of speculation - about the fates of the teams in all forms of motorcycle racing. Despite all the speculation, the only real casualty - so far - has been Kawasaki. But after the Honda announcement of it's F1 exit, there were even stories that the Japanese motoring giant could pull out of MotoGP. The world awaited breathlessly as Honda CEO Takeo Fukui's press conference came and went, and gave a sigh of relief when no mention was made of MotoGP. Motorcyle racing was safe.

Or so it seemed. Yesterday, a Honda spokeswoman announced that they would be cutting back on their motorcycle racing program, including withdrawing their factory team from the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour race. This news is in itself remarkable, as this event is the high point of the Japanese motorcycle racing season, and a race at which the rivalry between the Japanese factories reaches its zenith. Winning the Suzuka 8 Hours is an absolute necessity, to all of the Japanese Big Four.

So important is the race that the factories always draft in their major stars from around the world to participate, often as a "reward" for outstanding performance. The riders don't always see racing at Suzuka as a reward - the race takes place in July, in the middle of the summer break for the world championship series, right after the busiest period of the year - but they take it as an honor to be invited. Most of the big names have raced their over the years, and the 2008 race was won by Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Honda's withdrawal does not mean that there will be no Hondas on the grid. Only the factory team won't race this year, but the Honda spokeswoman told the press that they would still help the remaining teams on Hondas: "We are continuing to supply machines to other teams," she told the press.

The one piece of good news from the announcement was confirmation of Honda's commitment to MotoGP. Honda "won't quit the MotoGP," she said, adding that though Honda would be scaling back its support for motorcycle racing in general, the one series this would not affect would be MotoGP.

2009 Motorcycle Racing Season Likely To Get Off To A Wet Start

If 2008 went into the history books as a rain-hit motorcycle racing season, 2009 looks like starting off in much the same vein. The full World Superbike paddock is gathering at Portugal's magnificent Portimao circuit, ready for a three-day test, but so far, it looks like they could be disappointed. A number of Formula 1 teams have been testing there for the past few days, and not much testing has been done, as torrential rain, mist and even hail dogged the sessions.

The weather forecast for the next three days only looks a little better. Rain is predicted for Friday and Sunday, with Saturday likely to be the only day with weather good enough to produce meaningful results.

Which is a terrible shame. For all seven factory teams are present in Portugal, and the first chance to see where the complex combinations of new and old riders aboard new and old bikes all stand relative to one another. But there is one minor upside to the dismal weather: conditions during the final round of the 2008 World Superbike championship at Portimao were similarly difficult, and so there is a good chance that the times from qualifying there may prove a decent guide to just how fast the new teams all are.

Both World Superbike and World Supersport classes are due to be testing this weekend, but as well as testing, the riders will also be trying out the new "knock out qualifying" superpole format. At the end of each day, the fastest 20 riders will try out the new qualifying format, to allow the InFront Motor Sports group - the renamed FGSport organization - to test how that format will be run.

But whatever the weather, the Portimao test marks a bright day in the life of motorcycle racing fans around the world. Racing motorcycles are about to take to the track in anger once again, and that means that competitive racing is not far behind.

MotoGP's Biggest Fan Base - Not Where You Think It Is

Here's an interesting question: If you had to guess which country had the most MotoGP fans, which one would you choose? The first countries that spring to mind in association with motorcycle racing are always Spain and Italy, and as Italy is the bigger country, and what's more, MotoGP is more popular than even soccer, a sport which drives the Italians into a frenzy, then the answer must be Italy, right?

Wrong. Though the Italians and Spanish are clearly MotoGP-mad, they're not the biggest fans. According to Google Trends, which maps searches and news items from Google searches from around the world, the country with the most MotoGP maniacs is Indonesia.

In its advantage, the population of the Southeast Asian republic is around 240 million, as opposed to 40 million in Spain and 60 million in Italy, but as these statistics are based on searches on Google, what is important is not population, but internet penetration. According to the Internet World Stats website, Indonesia has 25 million internet users, the same number as Spain, while Italy has some 33 million internet users. And according to the Google Trends statistics, Indonesians search for "motogp" approximately 3 times as often as Italians, and search for "moto gp" some 40% more often than Italians.

Italy finished second in the MotoGP search stakes, ahead of their eternal rivals Spain, while Hungary was the country with the fourth largest number of MotoGP-related searches - possibly a reflection of the growing popularity of the sport there and the success of former 125 champion Gabor Talmasci.

Australians were the biggest English-speaking MotoGP fans, coming in seventh ahead of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The United States doesn't appear in the top 10, despite having a staggering 220 million internet users, so clearly, there's a lot of work to do for Dorna to popularize the sport.

MotoGP's huge popularity in Indonesia may help explain why Dorna is so keen to keep staging rounds in Asia, which would seem to suggest that the Sepang round is safe for the time being. But a return to Sentul, the track some 20 miles south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta which hosted races in 1996 and 1997 may yet be a profitable option.

Preziosi: Rule Changes Forced Us To Push Up Costs

Since the global financial crisis struck home in MotoGP, and indeed all forms of motor racing, the dominant theme of all and any news about MotoGP has been about the need for the series to cut costs. There has been no shortage of ideas from team owners, journalists and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, all of which have included various proposals for rule changes, some more radical than the next.

The one group we hadn't heard from is perhaps the most important group, the engineers and bike designers. Fortunately, Motorcycle News' Matthew Birt had the bright idea of talking to Filippo Preziosi, the technical genius behind the Ducati Desmosedici bike which carried Casey Stoner to a championship in 2007 and 2nd place in 2008.

Preziosi's responses make absolutely clear the problems faced by anyone attempting to use the rulebook to cut costs: "Every modification to the rules pushed us to spend more money," he told MCN. He points out that every change to the rules forced the engineers to find ways to exploit the new rules as efficiently as possible, and try and get the most out of the new situation. All that R&D costs large amounts of money, and drastically pushes up costs.

The same holds true for any attempt to limit electronics, according to Preziosi. More money would be spent examining how to take advantage of a new rules package, and costs would go up. What's more, the Italian engineering genius points out, the rules would be almost impossible to police.

Preziosi's comments are interesting to us here at MotoGPMatters.com, because they fall in line with things we've been saying for several weeks now. As we pointed out in our series of articles on cost in MotoGP, the proposals being put forward by various commentators around the world would be more likely to increase costs rather than cut them.

And Preziosi's answer to controlling costs in MotoGP? Simple: "If we want to keep the costs under control the best thing to do is try and freeze the rules and have some stability," he told MCN. Rule changes are what got MotoGP into the parlous state it is in. More rule changes are only going to make things worse.

Pramac To Run Two Ducatis In 2009

The Kawasaki story isn't the only drama that is playing itself out in MotoGP at the moment. Though the factory Ducati team is able to raise extra money almost at will, the Pramac team has been suffering since the withdrawal of its title sponsor, the Italian telecoms company Alice.

Things were thought to be so bad that speculation mounted that Pramac would only be able to field a single bike for Mika Kallio. It was rumored that Niccolo Canepa would take the other bike to Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando team, as the Spanish property magnate has spoken openly of his willingness to pour money into the MotoGP team.

Now, the well-connected Ducati fan site DucatiCorseFriends.com is carrying a statement that this is not the case. Members of the Pramac team told DCF that Canepa would be staying with Pramac.

This does not necessarily mean that both Kallio and Canepa would be wearing the same colors. Team manager Paolo Campinoti has suggested on several occasions that the two riders could bear the logos of different sponsors. And there has been a good deal of speculation that Grupo Francisco Hernando could be one of the sponsors interested in appearing on a Pramac Ducati. The deal would allow GFH to get greater coverage for the African dictatorship where it is building the vacation resort the sponsorship is aimed at promoting, at a much reduced investment. 

 

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