Latest News

Another Sponsor Goes - Camel Leaves MotoGP

Italian site MotoGrandPrix.it is carrying an official Camel press release stating that they are withdrawing from MotoGP sponsorship, leaving the official Yamaha factory team without a name sponsor. After earlier tobacco withdrawals (such as Fortuna and Winston in World Superbikes), it seems that big tobacco is abandoning motorcycle racing as advertising bans become ever stricter around the world. The press release gives no reason for the withdrawal, merely stating their gratitude to all concerned.

This begs the question of who will be sponsoring Yamaha next year. With Valentino Rossi, one of the biggest names in professional sports, you would expect potential sponsors to be lining up in droves to fund Yamaha. But so far, few names have been thronging for the hand of Rossi, Burgess and Edwards. Should any names surface, I'll post them here.

~~~ UPDATE ~~~

Racesport.nl is reporting that Yamaha stated that there is a strong chance that Yamaha may run the factory team under their own flag, without an external sponsor.

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McWilliams Injury Update After Jerez Tests

Ilmor today issued a statement on the condition of Jeremy McWilliams, who broke his leg and possibly fractured his collarbone in a high speed tumble during the final day of MotoGP testing at Jerez. The timing of McWilliams' injury is fortunate, coming as it does on the last day of testing before the MotoGP test ban comes into effect, preventing riders from testing between December 1st and January 20th. With McWilliams due to be unable to train for 4-5 weeks, the 8 week layoff will give him time to recover in time for a possible role within the Ilmor SRT team. Ilmor is due to announce their rider lineup for 2007 after the Jerz test, which has just concluded. How McWilliams' injury will affect his chances is hard to say.

The Ilmor press release is below:

Jeremy McWilliams Update

London 01.12.06: Ilmor are pleased to report that following his unfortunate crash yesterday (Thursday 30th) test rider Jeremy McWilliams is already on the road to recovery. McWilliams suffered a fracture to his left femur and has a suspected fracture to his collarbone, however speaking from the hospital this morning he sounded upbeat and very positive.

Commenting on the crash McWilliams said: "It was very fast and I took a bit of a tumble. The doctors here in Jerez have been great and they tell me that my leg fracture is really clean, it should take four to five weeks to heal - then I’ll be walking and able to take exercise again. I need to have an operation to have it pinned so I’ll be having that as soon as they have time to fit me in. Apparently I also have a broken collarbone but it doesn’t feel like it to me. Oh and I will lose a part of one of my fingers but as I keep telling people, I broke that one before and it wasn’t much use to me anyway!"

McWilliams went out on turn 4 at the Jerez circuit early yesterday afternoon on the third and final day of the official test. Initial data reports from the X³ show nothing to suggest a mechanical error.

Team Owner Mario Illien said: "First and foremost I’m pleased that it seems there will be no lasting damage to Jeremy, of course we want to get to the nature of the cause of the incident as soon as possible and I know the team are analysing data and footage from the crash now. Prior to yesterday afternoon, both our test riders McWilliams and Pitt had done a sterling job providing us with superb feedback on the bike allowing the team to adjust the bike’s set up and improve on the overall performance. With the exception of yesterday’s accident it has been a good test for us, we’re making progress. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Jeremy a very speedy recovery and I’m delighted, if a little shocked to hear him say he’s looking forward to getting back out on the X3!"

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Jerez November Tests - Day 2

Testing continues today at Jerez, where the weather gods are looking much more kindly upon MotoGP than yesterday, when much of the session was ruined by rain. Testing didn't get underway properly until lunchtime, due to parts of the track still being fairly damp from yesterday's rain, but by 2pm, everyone was out and riding. Motogp.com released the top 10 times as of 2pm, which are shown below. These times are not really representative of the state of play, with most of the riders having only put in some 10 laps or so. By the end of today, most will have put in 40 or 50, with varying set-ups and on different tires, which should give us a clearer picture of the relative standings within the paddock.

The top 10, as of 2pm:
1. Tady Okada, HRC - 1:41.857 (13 laps)
2. John Hopkins, Rizla Suzuki - 1:41.932 (10)
3. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing - 1:42.381 (15)
4. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda - 1:42.794 (15)
5. Colin Edwards, Yamaha Factory Racing - 1:43.079 (6)
6. Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro - 1:43.100 (8)
7. Casey Stoner, Ducati Marlboro - 1:43.150 (14)
8. Chris Vermeulen, Rizla Suzuki - 1:43.650 (9)
9. Marco Melandri, Gresini Honda - 1:43.861 (18)
10. Shinya Nakano, Konica Minolta Honda - 1:43.930 (14)

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LCD TVs Replace Tobacco As Sponsor At Gresini

As widely expected, after Toni Elias appeared at Sepang with a large sticker on his screen, Gresini today announced a new sponsorship agreement with Taiwanese LCD manufacturer HANNspree. This is not HANNspree's first venture into motorcycle racing, as they earlier announced that they would be sponsoring the Ten Kate Honda team in World Superbikes, replacing another cigarette brand, Winston.

This agreement opens some interesting perspectives. First and foremost, it demonstrates that motorcycle racing is not as dependent upon tobacco sponsorship as it believes itself to be. Tobacco has always been an easy touch for motorsports in general, after being declared persona non grata by just about all other sports, and being banned from other forms of advertising. With more and more countries putting tobacco advertising bans in place for all sporting events, even motorsports are losing their attraction for tobacco sponsors. The one exception to this rule is currently Marlboro, who, because they have built a brand instantly recognizable by their colors alone, can afford to remove their brand name from sponsorship, and just carry their red and white colors.

The other noteworthy aspect of this agreement is the link with Ten Kate, the "official" Honda team in World Superbike. James Toseland's name has been linked very strongly with a move to MotoGP in the near future, and he was even in the frame for a ride with d'Antin Ducati for 2007, but he decided against moving to MotoGP for an uncompetitive ride. However, Dorna and the BBC would love to see the highly popular young Briton go to MotoGP, to enhance the series' popularity in the UK. And in lapping just over a second off MotoGP pace when he was given the opportunity to ride Dani Pedrosa's RC211V after the final Valencia MotoGP round, Toseland has shown that he is capable of being competive. With both Ten Kate and Gresini on bikes from the same manufacturer, funded by the same sponsor, a move to a competitive MotoGP ride just got a lot closer for Toseland.

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Jerez November Tests - Day 1

The first times are appearing for the first day of the final test of the year at Jerez. The session started rather messily, with Andrew Pitt being forced to return to the pits with mechanical problems on his Ilmor X3, and Ducati's test rider Vittoriano Guareschi suffering a crash, due to low track temperatures. After a break of about 30 minutes, everyone was back at work, though not for too long, as rain halted testing at around 1pm local time. Below are the times set so far:

1. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Team - 1:41.745
2. John Hopkins, Rizla Suzuki - 1:42.161
3. Colin Edwards, Yamaha Factory Team - 1:42.293
4. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda - 1:44.030
5. Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro - 1:44.307
6. Chris Vermeulen, Rizla Suzuki - 1:44.394
7. Marco Melandri, Gresini Honda - 1:44.876
8. Casey Stoner, Ducati Marlboro - 1:45.574
9. Shinya Nakano, Konica Minolta Honda - 1:46.200
10. Jeremy McWilliams, Ilmor SRT - 1:47.216
11. Andrew Pitt, Ilmor SRT - 1:48.518
12. Vittoriano Guareschi, Ducati Test Team - 1:50.653

Fastest race lap for each of the manufacturers from the 2006 Spanish GP in March:
Ducati: Loris Capirossi 1:41.248
Honda: Dani Pedrosa 1:41.297
Suzuki: John Hopkins 1:41.598
Kawasaki: Shinya Nakano 1:42.017
Yamaha: Carlos Checa 1:42.161

Lap record:
2005, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, 1.40.596

Pole record:
2006, Loris Capirossi, Ducati, 1:39.064

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Chaz Davies To Test For Ilmor

In remarkable news, Crash.net is reporting that British rider Chaz Davies is to test for Ilmor. Davies will be testing the Ilmor X3 at Jerez on Wednesday and Thursday, during the last two days of the three-day MotoGP testing session at the Spanish circuit. The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise, as Ilmor had previously announced that they would be testing with Andrew Pitt, Garry McCoy and Jeremy McWilliams at Jerez, and will be announcing their team line-up after the tests at Jerez. It was widely expected that the team would consist of two of those three riders, but Davies' appearance casts some doubt on that. Davies is currently signed to compete in AMA Formula Xtreme and Supersport in the US next season, but would undoubtedly leap at the chance of moving straight to MotoGP. This would also solve the BBC's requirement for a British rider, without having to sign a rider as old as McWilliams.

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Ilmor To Announce Riders After Jerez Test

The rider line-up for the 2007 MotoGP season is all but complete. Only two seats remain unclaimed: Ilmor, the newcomer to MotoGP, has yet to announce who will be riding the Illien/Suter-developed Ilmor X3 bike for next season. Many names have been linked to the project, and a gaggle of riders have already tested the bike, but Ilmor have now announced that they will finalize the team at the Jerez tests from 28-30 November.

Ilmor will be present at Jerez with three riders: Jeremy McWilliams, Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt. All three rode the bike during the tests at Valencia, and McCoy raced the X3 at the final two rounds of the 2006 season at Estoril and Valencia. So, who will it be?

McCoy seems to be the most obvious choice, as he has the most experience on the bike, and has already helped to develop it to its current state. He was previously involved in developing the Kawasaki, during the early stages of its existence, during which time he worked with Eskil Suter, as well as Harald Eckl, who is widely rumored to be joining Ilmor after being released by Kawasaki. The other rider to have worked with both Suter and Eckl is Andrew Pitt, who also spent a season aboard the Kawasaki, and showed a great deal of promise aboard the Yamaha R1 in World Superbikes, before being pushed aside to make way for Troy Corser. Jeremy McWilliams is the oldest and most experienced of the three, but his age could work against him. However, he has the advantage of being the only British rider, something which the BBC, which has the broadcast rights for MotoGP in the UK, is keen to see.

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Ilmor To Announce Riders After Jerez Test

The rider line-up for the 2007 MotoGP season is all but complete. Only two seats remain unclaimed: Ilmor, the newcomer to MotoGP, has yet to announce who will be riding the Illien/Suter-developed Ilmor X3 bike for next season. Many names have been linked to the project, and a gaggle of riders have already tested the bike, but Ilmor have now announced that they will finalize the team at the Jerez tests from 28-30 November.

Ilmor will be present at Jerez with three riders: Jeremy McWilliams, Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt. All three rode the bike during the tests at Valencia, and McCoy raced the X3 at the final two rounds of the 2006 season at Estoril and Valencia. So, who will it be?

McCoy seems to be the most obvious choice, as he has the most experience on the bike, and has already helped to develop it to its current state. He was previously involved in developing the Kawasaki, during the early stages of its existence, during which time he worked with Eskil Suter, as well as Harald Eckl, who is widely rumored to be joining Ilmor after being released by Kawasaki. The other rider to have worked with both Suter and Eckl is Andrew Pitt, who also spent a season aboard the Kawasaki, and showed a great deal of promise aboard the Yamaha R1 in World Superbikes, before being pushed aside to make way for Troy Corser. Jeremy McWilliams is the oldest and most experienced of the three, but his age could work against him. However, he has the advantage of being the only British rider, something which the BBC, which has the broadcast rights for MotoGP in the UK, is keen to see.

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Nicky Hayden To Miss Jerez Test Due To Injury

Nicky Hayden has announced that he won't be taking part in the final MotoGP test before the winter test ban, as a result of an injury suffered in his crash at Estoril. In this crash, Hayden injured his right shoulder, and also damaged a plate holding his collar bone together, fitted after an earlier accident. The Kentucky Kid attempted to keep his injury quiet in the run-up to the final Valencia race, so as not to give his opponents (a certain V. Rossi) any psychological advantage. This decision was later vindicated after Nicky Hayden became the first man to take the MotoGP championship from Valentino Rossi since the series began in 2002.

Each time news appears about crashes at Estoril, the layers of irony just run deeper and deeper. After becoming world champion, Hayden revealed that he had been carrying a shoulder injury from the crash caused by Dani Pedrosa. In 2005, Pedrosa announced that he had been carrying a shoulder injury, right after he became world 250 champion, in Phillip Island. That sound you hear is history repeating.

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