Latest News

Team KR To Field Just One Bike For 2007

Eurosport.com is reporting that Team KR will only have one bike for next year. The problem, as it is for so many MotoGP teams, is money. Team KR really need a major sponsor to be able to obtain two engines from Honda. Previously, Team KR had announced that they were hoping to field a full, two-rider team, but that plan has been shelved.

The 2007 bike will be based once again on a custom-built frame around a Honda 800 engine, and Kenny Roberts Jr is likely to remain as the rider for the team.

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Ilmor Confirmed As Wildcard In Portugal

MotoGP.com is reporting that Ilmor have confirmed their entry as a wildcard at Estoril in Portugal. They will be debuting their 800cc 70° V4 bike, dubbed "X3", at the Portuguese Grand Prix on October 15th, with Garry McCoy riding, using Michelin tires. McCoy has been testing the Ilmor at a number of tracks over the last couple of months, including Albacete and Jerez.

The importance of this appearance is that it will be the first time that the new generation of 800cc bikes will hit the track in a public, timed event, and set the mark against which the current manufacturers' bikes will be measured against. The Ilmor has already made an impression, regularly running faster than the Ducati 800 at one test session in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.

You can listen to an interview with Mario Illien in the latest MotoGP podcast.

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Carlos Checa To d'Antin Ducati?

The Spanish sports daily AS.com is reporting that Carlos Checa could move to Pramac d'Antin next season. Checa has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the Dunlop tires his current Tech 3 Yamaha team is using, and with d'Antin rumored to be running Bridgestone-shod Ducati GP7s next year, this may turn out to be Checa's most competitive option for 2007. Checa has not commented, but Luis d'Antin has confirmed that Checa is one of the riders he is talking to, but not the only one. Checa is d'Antin's highest priority, but d'Antin is also said to be talking to fellow Spaniard Toni Elias.

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FIM To Examine Yellow Flag Procedures After Phillip Island Incident

As a result of the yellow flag controversy at Phillip Island, the FIM has announced it will be reviewing procedures for dealing with yellow flags during the race (PDF file). This will include investigating the use of "new technology" to respond to incidents.

At the heart of the affair is Valentino Rossi's pass of Casey Stoner while a yellow flag was being waved during the Phillip Island race. Carlos Checa had run off the track, and parked his bike at trackside. The yellow flag was still being waved on the inside of the right hander, as Valentino Rossi passed Casey Stoner round the outside of the previous left hander. Coming out of the right hander (where the yellow flag was being waved), Stoner then just pressed his wheel level with, or possibly just ahead of, Rossi, before Rossi finally made the pass stick. The race directors did not see the incident, and after the race, both Rossi and Stoner denied seeing the yellow flag. Nicky Hayden, however, did, and hesitated for a while, waiting for the race directors to take action against Rossi before continuing to chase the reigning world champion down. Rossi finished the race two spots ahead of Hayden, gaining valuable points on Hayden in his chase to retain his world crown.

After the race, the race stewards apologized to Hayden for not seeing the incident, which was difficult to see on the live TV coverage, which the race directors use to monitor the race for infractions. Honda later wrote an official letter of compaint to the FIM, and the incident has spawned some pretty vitriolic coverage in the US press.

The statement issued by the FIM is show below:

The Grand Prix Commission composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Claude Danis (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Mr Paul Butler (Secretary), in an extraordinary meeting held yesterday at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, unanimously decided to issue the following statement:

Following full and frank discussions by all the parties involved in the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (FIM, MSMA, IRTA, Dorna) addressing the issues arising from the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island which took place on September 17th, 2006, it was the consensus of all the parties to closely examine the regulations and procedures in order to avoid in future the incorrect application of the rules forbidding passing under yellow flags.
Immediate action includes a letter sent by the Race Direction to the Australian organisation pointing out the failings of their officials that caused the controversy.
In addition an in-depth study will be made of new technology to facilitate a more immediate response to incidents around a circuit.

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Melandri Decision On Ducati Move Expected Today

Italian website MotoGrandPrix.it is reporting that Marco Melandri will be deciding whether or not to move to Ducati today. With both seats at HRC's factory Repsol Honda team filled, Ducati is Melandri's best hope of a full factory ride. Melandri has reportedly been promised a factory-supported V4 800 for next season by Honda, allowing him some input on the development of the bike, but this is not as strong a position as a seat in a full factory team.

Alberto Vergani, Melandri's manager, is said to have agreed a 2-year, $3 million-a-year deal with Ducati. Melandri's name has also been linked with Yamaha, but so far, no word on this has been forthcoming.

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New Tire Regulations For 2007 MotoGP Season

The FIM has announced new tire regulations to be used for the 2007 season.

Two points in the rules stand out:

2.9.3   Teams that are supplied by a tyre manufacturer that has achieved at least two MotoGP race wins in dry conditions since the first race of the 2005 season will be restricted in the quantity of slick tyres that each of the teams riders may use at a single event as follows:

During all practice sessions, warm up and the race a maximum of 31 slick tyres, specifically -
Front tyres: 14
Rear tyres: 17

When a tyre manufacturer, not subject to the limitation at the beginning of the season, achieves two MotoGP wins in dry conditions during the current season, it will become subject to the restrictions at the third event after the one where the second win was achieved.

2.9.4   Between 12.00 hrs. and 17.00 hrs. on the day prior to the start of official practice, the Technical Director will mark the tyres available to each entered rider.

This basically means two things:

  1. All slick tires to be used for a race must be inside the parc fermé by 5pm on the Thursday before a race weekend (or Wednesday at Assen and Qatar);
  2. Teams will have to be much more careful about using tires during qualifying. If you're only allowed 17 rears, then using up 2 qualifiers on Friday and 3 on Saturday takes a big chunk out of your tire choice for the race.

The other interesting exemption is for Dunlop (being the only manufacturer not having won 2 Grand Prix since the start of the 2005 season). This measure must give them a real chance to catch up with Bridgestone and Michelin in the development of their tires. It will be interesting to see if the other manufacturers cry foul over the fact that one of the signatures to the new rule change is Hervé Poncharal, team manager for the Dunlop-shod Tech 3 Yamaha team, in his capacity of IRTA representative.

These moves will make racing cheaper for the non-factory teams, but will also make tire choice even more critical. Expect to see the first few races of the 2007 season decided by poor tire choice. Whether this will be good for fans or not remains to be seen, but it will certainly add even more uncertainty into the mix.

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Why Spain Is A Great Vacation Destination For Motorcycle Racing Fans

When I left to travel to Spain for my vacation, I was mildly annoyed that I would be missing three weekends of racing, through some fairly catastrophic vacation planning. To add to my MotoGP misery, I was planning a camping holiday, and so wouldn't even have access to TV. So I comforted myself with the thought that at least I would able to follow the racing in the extensive coverage found in the Spanish mainstream press. I needn't have worried. There would be so much more than this.

My first happy discovery was finding that the Spanish motorcycle magazine Motociclismo was a weekly publication. This meant that on the Tuesday after the Sepang race, I could luxuriate in 30+ pages of coverage of the thriller in Malaysia, including a lot of commentary about Valentino Rossi's little piece of chair-based theater on the podium. Was it meant as a gibe at Dani Pedrosa, who had been forced to use a chair after suffering injuries to both legs during a crash in Friday's practice session, or was it, as Rossi claimed, a light-hearted jest about how tiring his battle had been with Loris Capirossi? Opinion was divided, but the slice giving Rossi the benefit of the doubt was pretty thin.

It was to get even better, though. On the Saturday of the Australian GP, we decided to go hiking in the east of the Picos de Europa mountains. We drove from our campsite in Turieno to a tiny village called viñón, a hamlet consisting of some thirty-odd houses and a restaurant. We parked the rental car in the restaurant car park (the only sizable flat surface available), and went inside for a coffee, to give us a boost before heading up into the hills. Coming out of the bright late summer sunshine into the darkness of the bar, the first thing to greet us was the roar of the ubiquitous TV set which stands in pride of place in every Spanish bar. As I glanced up, I saw to my delight that they were showing a full-length repeat of that morning's 250 qualifying session at Phillip Island. Hoping that whoever had put the 250 qualifying on would know who had got the MotoGP pole, I waited for the bar staff to appear. I was less hopeful when a young girl of 19 entered, but decided to ask anyway. Now, where I live in Holland, the chances of a 19 year old woman knowing anything about motorcycle racing are virtually zero. But Spain is different. The waitress immediately told me that Hayden had grabbed the pole, filled me in on where Rossi, and Pedrosa had placed, and affirmed her conviction that Rossi would yet clinch the title before the end of the year. I was delighted, both at finding out who was on pole, and at meeting a young woman so knowledgeable about MotoGP. After our coffee, we went off for a walk through the fantastic scenery.

On Sunday, we decided to go for a drive around the Picos, to visit a couple of villages which we'd been told were beautiful. We stopped in the small town of Arenas de Cabrales, to have a look around and buy some of the strong blue cheese the town is famous for, and as is our habit, stopped at a bar for a coffee and a bite to eat. I'd dismissed the idea of being able to see the race, thinking I would catch up with the result in the next day's papers. But again, as I entered the bar, the TV was showing the full-length repeat of the race (the Spanish are race fans, but even so, they don't like getting up at 6 in the morning to watch the race). I sat watching the second half of the race, swapping comments in my poor Spanish with a couple of the regulars. I didn't find out until the next day that I'd missed the pit chaos of MotoGP's first flag-to-flag race, but just being able to watch Melandri's outstanding win, Rossi's astonishing charge through the field, and Hayden's gutsy fight to hang on to Rossi was a real pleasure. As to the famous question of the yellow flag, I couldn't see it clearly, as I sat at an angle to the TV, but I'm sure I'll return to this in my discussion of the races, which will follow in a couple of days. After the race finished, we paid, left and continued our trip, happy to have caught most of the race.

So, if you find yourself in need of a vacation, but don't want to miss much of the racing, I can only recommend that choose Spain as your destination. Apart from the outstanding scenery, great weather, fantastic food and friendly people, you get to stay up-to-date with your favorite sport. What more could a MotoGP fan want?

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An Interview About The Ilmor/Suter Project

There's an in-depth interview with Mario Ilien and Eskil Suter over on the RoadRacerX website about their new MotoGP project. It's an interesting look at the perspective the team has about motorcycle racing, and that they are aware of the pitfalls of previous projects which tried to use Formula 1 car technology in MotoGP, such as the Aprilia RS3 Cube. The bike will use pneumatic valve springs, to be able to handle the very high rev ranges (up to 18,000 rpm) required to make a competitive engine. Suter and Ilien believe that they have a competitive chassis, but that they will have to gather a lot of data on setup, and that the engine will need some development before it is competitive. But they expect to be running at the front within three years of the project starting. The article is an interesting read.

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Toseland Won't Move To MotoGP

Well, one mystery has been solved. Crash.net is reporting that James Toseland has decided to stay in World Superbikes for next year. The option Toseland had been offered was a ride with the Pramac d'Antin Ducati team, on an unknown tire package, although Luis d'Antin has stated he'll be using Bridgestones next year. Toseland decided to stay with the Ten Kate Honda team for the 2007 World Superbike season, in the expectation that he will be offered a satellite Honda in MotoGP for the 2008 season.

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