Latest News

Eckl And Kawasaki Split

Though it can hardly be unexpected, as rumors had resounded round the paddock for a long time, Kawasaki have announced that they are ending their collaboration with Harald Eckl to run their MotoGP racing team for 2007. The Japanese factory will take over running the team themselves for 2007, basing their team in either France or The Netherlands. The split with Eckl will have no consequences for the rider line up, but it is likely that most of the team personnel will be replaced.

Whether this means the end of MotoGP for Harald Eckl is unknown. It is widely believed that he will move to Ilmor, as he has a history with Eskil Suter, who was involved in the inception of the Kawasaki MotoGP team. His experience in running a MotoGP team would be a logical and welcome addition to the British-based team's MotoGP challenge.

Read more about this on the Dutch racing site racesport.nl.

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MotoGP Winter Testing Schedule

Although the season is over, there's no rest for the riders just yet. They have a full schedule of testing to prepare themselves and the bikes for the 2007 season, starting March 10, in Qatar. So if you're near one of these circuits over the winter, drop by and see the future take shape.

Dates Circuit Country
November 15, 2006 - November 17, 2006 Sepang Malaysia
November 28, 2006 - November 30, 2006 Jerez Spain
December 1, 2006 - January 20, 2007 Winter Testing ban: No testing is allowed to take place during this period, giving the riders the nearest thing they have to a vacation.
January 22, 2007 - January 24, 2007 Sepang Malaysia
January 30, 2007 - February 1, 2007 Phillip Island Australia
February 5, 2007 - February 7, 2007 Sepang Malaysia
February 13, 2007 - February 15, 2007 Losail Qatar
February 23, 2007 - February 25, 2007 Official Irta test, Jerez Spain

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MotoGP Winter Testing Schedule

Although the season is over, there's no rest for the riders just yet. They have a full schedule of testing to prepare themselves and the bikes for the 2007 season, starting March 10, in Qatar. So if you're near one of these circuits over the winter, drop by and see the future take shape.

Dates Circuit Country
November 15, 2006 - November 17, 2006 Sepang Malaysia
November 28, 2006 - November 30, 2006 Jerez Spain
December 1, 2006 - January 20, 2007 Winter Testing ban: No testing is allowed to take place during this period, giving the riders the nearest thing they have to a vacation.
January 22, 2007 - January 24, 2007 Sepang Malaysia
January 30, 2007 - February 1, 2007 Phillip Island Australia
February 5, 2007 - February 7, 2007 Sepang Malaysia
February 13, 2007 - February 15, 2007 Losail Qatar
February 23, 2007 - February 25, 2007 Official Irta test, Jerez Spain

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It's Official: Gibernau Retires

As everybody expected, Sete Gibernau officially announced his retirement from the highest level of motorcycle racing. "Racing doesn't make me happy any more, and I don't need to do it for the money," the Spaniard said at an emotional press conference in Barcelona. Gibernau will be 34 in December, and had suffered a series of injuries and operations this year. He has been racing in the MotoGP series since 1996, and finished MotoGP championship runner up in 2003 and 2004. An interesting detail is that Gibernau specifically mentioned retiring from the "highest level" of motorcycle racing, leaving the option open to return to some other form of racing at some point in the future.

~~~ UPDATE ~~~

Roadracerx.com have a transcript of Gibernau's press conference. Well worth reading.

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Sete Gibernau To Announce Future On Wednesday Morning

Since losing his ride at Ducati, there has been much speculation about just what Sete Gibernau will be doing next year. As the final seats have disappeared over the course of the past few weeks, Gibernau's options have become ever more limited. With only the Ilmor seats now left open, rumors that the Spanish rider is to retire are growing louder.

But now, the speculation is due to come to an end, as according to MotoGP.com, Sete Gibernau has called a press conference for Wednesday morning. He has stated that he will announce his plans in Barcelona on Wednesday.

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The 800s - The First Day Of Testing

Well, official times are coming from Valencia, and times have dropped since the reports I heard in the afternoon. Fastest time of the day was set by Valentino Rossi, who put in a 1:33.1 on one of the 43 laps he rode. Surprisingly, Rossi also put in 27 laps on the 990, clocking a fastest time of 1:32.7. The second fastest on the track was Loris Capirossi on the Ducati, and the two Suzukis of John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen, who put in a 1:33.14 and 1:33.17 respectively. Dani Pedrosa on the new RC212V was next fastest, followed by Casey Stoner and freshly-crowned world champion Nicky Hayden, on his first outing on the 800. The times are pretty phenomenal, all very close to the lap times set in the race, with Rossi coming within a whisker of breaking the previous lap record set by Marco Melandri in 2005.

It has to be said that the highly twisty nature of the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste, Valencia suits the 800, which have a higher corner speed than the 990s, as a result of the lower gyroscopic effect of the mass of internal moving parts. At faster tracks, the time differential will be bigger. But so far, MotoGP watchers are agog at just how fast they were.

Valentino Rossi wasn't the only person out on the 990. The Gresini team, with Marco Melandri and Toni Elias were out trying out the new Bridgestone tires, as was MotoGP returnee Alex Barros. Barros, on his first outing on the d'Antin Ducati, put in a time of 1:33.6, 1.5 seconds faster than either of the d'Antin riders put in on Sunday on the same bikes, but with Dunlop rubber.

The season has started, and it's already shaping up to be outstanding. See MotoGrandPrix.it for more details.

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How Fast Are The New 800s?

Today marked the unofficial opening of the 2007 MotoGP season, just 3 days after the 2006 season ended. For today, the new 800 cc MotoGP bikes hit the track in earnest, after the 990s were retired on Sunday. The question in everyone's minds is, of course, just how fast the new 800s are. Although no official times have been released so far, sources close to the Valencia track are reporting that the Honda and Ducati 800s are running in the mid 1:33s. To put this into perspective, the fastest race lap on Sunday was 1:32.924, just 0.6 seconds faster. Whether the 800s were running qualifiers or race tires is as yet unknown, but either way, the times are just plain fast. If you compare the times of the only 800 for which we have actual data, the Ilmor, they are well ahead of the British firm. It's looking increasingly like it won't be long before lap records start tumbling once again ...

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Andrew Pitt The Latest Name Linked With Ilmor

Many names have been already linked with Ilmor, but the latest rider to be spotted hanging around the British manufacturer's pit box is former Yamaha World Superbike racer Andrew Pitt. Pitt was dropped unexpectedly this year by Yamaha, to make room for Troy Corser who was unceremoniously dumped by Corona Suzuki at the end of the year. There can be no doubt that Pitt has talent: he is a former World Supersport champion, and has improved during each of the 3 seasons he has spent in World Superbike. What's more, he is a good deal younger than either of the other names currently being linked with Ilmor, the 34 year old Garry McCoy, or the 41(!) year old Jeremy McWilliams.

More details on this, and the rest of the first day's testing at Valencia, over on MotoGrandPrix.it

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The Final Seats - Guintoli To Tech 3, And McWilliams Rumored For Ilmor

French 250 cc rider Sylvain Guintoli has announced on his website that he will be riding for the Yamaha Tech 3 team next year. No official confirmation has been seen yet, but as Guintoli has tested with Tech 3 several times this year, it would be a logical step, despite Guintoli's mid-pack performances this year. Guintoli's addition to the grid will bring the total of French riders in MotoGP to 3.

In other news, the BBC is reporting that British veteran Jeremy McWilliams may join Ilmor next year. Although McWilliams is a very experienced development rider, which would benefit Ilmor enormously, he is already 41 in a sport dominated by the young. Whether he actually gets the ride next year remains to be seen.

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More Loose Ends - Nakano To Konica Minolta And Jacque To Kawasaki

What everyone already knew has finally been confirmed. Today, JIR finally announced officially that Shinya Nakano will ride the Konica Minolta Honda for the 2007 season. The one detail that wasn't expected was that Nakano will be on Michelins next year, as all of the rumors surrounding Nakano's move to Konica Minolta involved the team switching to Bridgestone tires. Nakano is widely considered to be a very strong rider, whose results have suffered due to being on inferior equipment, and the switch to what is widely expected to be the most competitive bike on the best tires should give the Japanese rider a chance to shine.

In contrast to Nakano's move, his replacement at Kawasaki is totally unexpected: Olivier Jacque will return from duties as a test rider to race with Kawasaki again in 2007. The move has some logic to it, as the 33-year-old has a long association with Kawasaki, including duty as a test rider and a season racing the green bike back in 2004. As official Kawasaki test rider, OJ is also one of the very few people who has seen Kawasaki's new 800 machine, due to be tested for the first time at Sepang in November. Jacque's pairing with Randy de Puniet means that Kawasaki will be fielding an entirely French team in 2007.

More on Nakano at MotoGP.com, Jacque announcement over at Soup.

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