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Pasini To Swap Places With Talmacsi?

With Gabor Talmacsi having severed his contract with the Aspar team, speculation is flying about where the Hungarian will end up. Reports at the start of the weekend suggested Talmacsi could join Team Scot in MotoGP, bringing much needed sponsorship to the team. Under this arrangement, Talmacsi would get one of Yuki Takahashi's two bikes, a move which may be looked on favorably by Dorna, as it not only fills out the grid, but also allows the organization to test out the concept of a single bike for each rider, as proposed for next year.

The other option now being discussed is Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando bike. With Gibernau out for at least one and probably two races with a broken collarbone, Talmacsi would be a prime candidate to sit in for the Spanish veteran. Indeed, Gibernau's injury - a fracture in his left collarbone, Gibernau's weak spot and an injury which has already caused him to retire once - could well make the Spaniard reflect on his decision to return to racing, and consider whether he is truly physically capable of racing at this level. If Gibernau does withdraw, then Talmacsi could conceivably slot right into the Spanish veteran's seat, though Talmacsi's alliance with a rival Spanish construction firm may well rule this out. The most likely rider to fill Gibernau's boots though is Fonsi Nieto, who is both Spanish - a factor of cardinal importance for the team's Spanish sponsor - and related to the Pablo and Gelete Nieto who run the team.

But Talmacsi could also remain in the 250 class. Speculation that Talmacsi will stay in 250s is being fueled by the goings on in the Team Toth hospitality unit on Saturday night. According to the Spanish website, Jorge Martinez was seen in the Toth hospitality engaged in deep discussion with Imre Toth, head of Team Toth, Aspar Sporting Director Gino Borsoi, and Stefano Favaro, Gabor Talmacsi's manager. The signicance of this is that Mattia Pasini, currently riding for Team Toth, is not happy with the team, and would welcome a way out. Pasini's manager is currently the coordinator for Talmacsi's Balatonring team, and Imre Toth is Hungarian like Talmacsi, and the team is based in Hungary.

This unusual gathering prompts the suggestion for a simple solution to the problems which Aspar and Talmacsi face: A straight rider swap between Team Toth and Aspar's Balatonring team. The swap faces very few practical obstacles: both Talmacsi and Pasini have factory-spec Aprilia RSA equipment, so no negotiations about material would be needed. Pasini has experience with Aspar, having ridden for the team in 2006, and for Team Toth to have a Hungarian rider of Talmacsi's stature - Talmacsi is one of Hungary's most popular sportsmen, and is widely recognized outside of motorcycle racing circles - would boost their status enormously.

There would only be the small matter of sponsorship. Both teams already have sponsorship, but the question remains over whether the Balatonring circuit would want to continue sponsoring the Aspar team if they have an Italian rider. The construction company behind the project - Grupo Milton - is based in Spain, and so benefits from the link with one of Spain's premier motorcycle racing teams, but the Balatonring track may benefit more by being associated with a Hungarian rider.

Of course, this is currently nothing more than speculation and rumor, and so any discussion of how sponsorship may be divided is incredibly premature. But the simplicity of the solution, swapping Talmacsi and Pasini, is very tempting indeed.

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Regis Laconi's Condition Slowly Improving

The good news from South Africa is that Regis Laconi's condition is slowly improving. He has been brought out of the medically-induced coma, and can move all his limbs independently. The team issued the following press release this morning at 9am, which stated the following:

Regis Laconi’s medical status has improved slightly. The French rider, having fallen on entering a fast left-hand curve in the first minutes of the free practice session on Friday morning, is now in intensive care in Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg. The process of slowly awakening the rider from his drug-induced coma went well and Regis is able to move his arms and legs without assistance. This positive news means that surgery will now go ahead to insert a plate to support the two fractured vertebrae. After the operation, which will take place on Tuesday 19th May, there will follow two weeks of bed rest in the same hospital. If all goes to plan, at the end of the month and with the help of Europe Assistance, Regis should fly to Paris where he will continue his recovery. The other neurological problems that he suffered as a result of the impact are also being treated with positive results. Daniele Carlo (Team Manager), Lucio Gomez (Technical Director) and the rest of the DFX Corse Team want to once again thank all of those people whose professionalism has helped during this difficult time. Thanks also to the staff of the Clinica Mobile, to the medical personnel of the Kyalami circuit and to the team of doctors at the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg for everything they have done.

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2009 Le Mans MotoGP Qualifying Report

After rain had cut short both of the first sessions of free practice, now restored to a full hour for the first time this season, the qualifying practice session for MotoGP looked set to run without any interruptions from the weather. The track had just about dried out after the morning rain, the 125cc bikes having cleared most of the water from the track.

As the riders hit the track to work on both their setup and their grid position, one man was missing: Sete Gibernau, who had had a big highside in the morning session of free practice, was on a plane home to Barcelona for treatment on the fractured collarbone he had suffered in the incident. Gibernau was examined and found to have a single fracture, rather than the double fracture that was feared, and the Spaniard is due to have a titanium plate fitted to stabilize the bone, just 6 months after having the previous one removed.

Of the remaining 17 riders to try their luck, it was Andrea Dovizioso who set the first serious time, breaking into the 1'35s with less than 10 minutes of the session gone. Dovi's time was quickly bettered by Casey Stoner, then Mika Kallio and Valentino Rossi taking turns at chipping away at the time, before Stoner took to the track once more and sliced over half a second off the best time so far with a lap of 1'35.183.

Le Mans is a Yamaha track, though, and a couple of minutes later, with well over half the session left, Colin Edwards set about demonstrating this point quite forcefully, setting a string of fast laps to take the provisional pole time down to 1'34.636, rapidly approaching the lap record set with race tires. The Tech 3 Yamaha rider's times made him the only man to break the 1'35 barrier, and giving him a clear lead for some time to come, while Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Chris Vermeulen all tried, but came up short.

Lorenzo was the first man to join Edwards in the 1'34s, but with 20 minutes to, the pace started hotting up, and Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen soon joined them. At first, Edwards still held an advantage of over 0.3 seconds over the chasing pack, but Casey Stoner had other ideas. The Marlboro Ducati man picked up his pace again and took back provisional pole with a lap of 1'34.300, three tenths faster than Edwards and just under one tenth slower than the race record.

With 10 minutes to go, the action started getting a little more frenetic. The riders were expecting to be using the softer of the two compounds Bridgestone had brought as their race tires, and so for the first time, there was no softer tire to use as a qualifier, but the teams still had a few setup tricks up their sleeve to find a couple more tenths at the expense of tire wear.

Shortly after Stoner had recaptured pole, Jorge Lorenzo put in a faster lap, taking pole from the Australian with a lap of 1'34.141. Behind Lorenzo, the battle for position opened in earnest, the fight for pole and the front row quickly turning into a fight between five men. Lorenzo held pole, but a couple of minutes later, Casey Stoner got with five thousandths of a second of the Spaniard's time, while Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Colin Edwards kept slashing their times and closing on Lorenzo.

Lap after lap, Rossi, Pedrosa, Edwards, Lorenzo and Stoner would open quickly, ahead of pole time in the first sector, then the second sector, but each time, they just came up short. With less than 2 minutes to go, Casey Stoner finally cracked it, taking 0.1 off Lorenzo's time and putting himself back on pole, but the battle wasn't done yet. Lorenzo improved his time, but was still short of Stoner's pole time, and both Rossi and Pedrosa were flying, but coming up short.

As the flag dropped for the end of the session, Casey Stoner looked like he had the pole in the bag, but Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were still out on track. Both men were fast, but didn't look to be within reach of Stoner's time in the first half of the track. But as they hared through the Chemin aux Boeufs and headed into Le Mans' tortuous final section, both men found another tenth, and Jorge Lorenzo, first to cross the line, cracked the 1'34 barrier with a lap of 1'33.979, surely good enough for pole. Behind Lorenzo, Rossi improved his best time once more, but could not improve beyond 4th place.

On his final lap, Dani Pedrosa, at first out of reach of Jorge Lorenzo's time, closed the gap then took the lead, streaking across the line in a time of 1'33.974, just five thousandths of a second faster than Lorenzo, but more than enough to earn him pole position. Lorenzo was frustrated, but there was nothing he could do but settle for 2nd, the gap absolutely minimal.

Casey Stoner completes the front row in 3rd, still just 0.075 off Pedrosa's pole time, while Valentino Rossi starts from 4th, only 0.132 down on Pedrosa. Rossi is joined on the second row by Andrea Dovizioso and Colin Edwards, both 0.3 seconds off Pedrosa's pace.

The gap back to 7th is larger, Chris Vermeulen 0.7 behind in 7th, his Rizla Suzuki team mate Loris Capirossi 0.865 slower than Pedrosa, while Marco Melandri fills the final spot on the third row over a second off Pedrosa. Randy de Puniet rounds out the top 10.

The gaps at the front are minimal, and all the indications are there is nothing to choose between this year's Fantastic Four. Any one of Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner or Valentino Rossi could win this race, and Colin Edwards believes he can find the extra couple of tenths need to run with the front men.

The problem for the Yamaha men, however, is that both Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner start from the front of the grid. Both men have rocket starts, and a previous history of running away from the front. The run into the Dunlop chicane on the first lap is likely to be very hectic indeed, and if Stoner and Pedrosa can get in each other's way, we could see a close race. At Le Mans, nobody has any great advantage, a fact the fans are likely to be grateful for.

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Jamie Hacking To Replace Makoto Tamada At Miller WSBK Round

The World Superbike paddock has been welcoming an increasing number of Americans this year, with several riders following where Ben Spies has led. John Hopkins ousted Roby Rolfo at Stiggy Honda earlier this year, and after Hopper suffered a serious leg injury for the second year running at Assen, he was replaced by another American, Jake Zemke at Monza.

After the first corner pile up at Monza took out Brendan Roberts, Troy Corser, Max Neukirchner and Makoto Tamada, the need for replacement riders has become pressing, and yet more opportunities are being opened to American riders, especially with the US round of World Superbikes due to take place at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah two weeks from now. Jake Zemke looks to be almost certain to take the place of John Hopkins again, Zemke only missing from Kyalami because of a calendar clash with the AMA at Infineon Raceway this weekend.

Zemke and WSBK regular Ben Spies are to be joined by another American at Miller Motorsports Park: According to sources close to the PBM Kawasaki team, Jamie Hacking will replace Makoto Tamada in Utah, as the Japanese rider is still recovering from having a metal plate inserted in his hand after sustaining a wrist fracture at Monza. Hacking already has international experience, having replaced John Hopkins at Kawasaki during the 2008 USGP at Laguna Seca. More significantly, he is one of the very few riders on the planet capable of making the Kawasaki ZX-10R competitive, having campaigned it with relative success against Mat Mladin and Ben Spies in AMA Superbike last year. Elsewhere, the bike has had huge problems just scoring points, completely outclassed by the other bikes from both Japan and Italy.

The news that Hacking is to replace Tamada has not been made official yet, though Hacking hinted at it when questioned about it by Roadracing World at Infineon, saying "there's a possibility I might do it."

The news will also come as a disappointment to the many South African fans of Sheridan Morais, the reigning South African Superbike champion currently filling in for Tamada at Kyalami. Like Hacking, Morais is also one of a handful of riders capable of making the Kawasaki go, as he has proved so eloquently at Kyalami, easily making it into Superpole 2, and coming just a tenth of a second short of making it all the way into the final qualifying session. Morais could well get Kawasaki's best result of the year on Sunday, but with Hacking being both a known quantity on the Kawasaki and intimately familiar with the track at Miller, the American is likely to get the nod.

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Gibernau Breaks Collarbone, Will Miss Le Mans Race

Sete Gibernau's race weekend is already at an end. With 15 minutes of the second session of free practice remaining, the Spanish veteran highsided at the Dunlop Chicane. He immediately grabbed at his shoulder, and upon examination at the Clinica Mobile, was found to have a double fracture of his left collarbone. The injury means Gibernau will play no further part in the proceedings, and will not race at Le Mans.

The break is bad news for Gibernau, who has a long and painful history of collarbone fractures. Gibernau still has pain from previous shoulder problems, having broken his collarbone at Estoril and in the huge first corner crash at Barcelona back in 2006. Gibernau is scheduled to return to Barcelona as soon as possible, where he will meet with Dr. Ginebra of the Dexeus Institute to evaluate whether the injury will require yet more surgery, or whether it will heal with just rest.

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Regis Laconi "Serious, But Stable"

Regis Laconi's horrific crash at Kyalami's frightening Mineshaft corner (a fast left downhill kink) left the French DFX Corse rider seriously injured. Immediately after the incident, he was admitted to the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, where he was diagnosed with fractured vertebrae and cranial trauma.

After further checks last night, the team issued an update to his condition. Laconi has broken two cervical vertebrae (C3 and C5, the bones supporting the head), severe concussion and a contusion of the lung, and is being kept in a medically-induced coma. Initially, he was scheduled to have surgery to fix the vertebrae, but Dr. Maurizio Zorzi, a senior South African neuro-surgeon decided to postpone any surgery for a few days.

The Frenchman will have to remain completely immobilized for the next three weeks before a clearer picture of his condition can be obtained. A new medical update is expected sometime on Saturday.

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Talmacsi Vs Aspar: The State Of Play So Far

Two separate press conferences in two different countries gave two differing views on the conflict which has split the Aspar-backed Balatonring Team in two. In the Hungarian capital Budapest, Gabor Talmacsi spoke to the mainly Hungarian press to explain the circumstances which had led him to take the radical decision to split with his team. At around the same time, Jorge Martinez, boss of the Aspar team, held an impromptu press conference in the Aspar pit garage to explain his side of the story, and how he views the situation. Unsurprisingly, two completely different accounts emerged.

Hungarian journalist Ádám Haraszti and friend of was present at the Talmacsi press conference, and reported that Talmacsi appeared without his management, but had with him a lawyer who explained the contractual situation: as of Monday, 11 am CET, there is no official contract between Talmacsi and Team Aspar; Talmacsi's management had the right to cancel it.

Talmacsi said that he was pressured to accept contractual changes regarding media rights, sometimes even as he was about to get out on the racetrack. "For example on the first day of the Qatar GP, half an hour before the first session I was told if I don't sign the papers, I won't race at the weekend. I was very upset indeed. I rode FP1 in anger, I think that's why I won that. But I can't allow myself to ride under such influence. I'm going over 200 kph, I risk my life in every moment, I can't let such things happen," Talmacsi told reporters.

The bike should have been present in Jerez, but rumors emanating from Aprilia are that the factory and Aspar haven't even signed an agreement about the bike yet. According to Motorsport Aktuell, the last 250cc Aprilia was given to Russian rider Vladimir Leonov, the factory having ceased production now that the Moto2 class is approaching; As a consequence, there don't even appear to be any bikes left for the Hungarian. The Aspar team contend that there is now a second bike in the Balatonring pit box at Le Mans, but the mechanics say that the bike is nowhere near a 2009 RSA-spec Aprilia, as Talmacsi's first bike is.

In response to Aspar claims that Martinez wants to speak to Talmacsi directly, instead of through his manager, Stefano Favaro, Talmacsi was very clear: "What Stefano thinks is what I think, what he says is what I say. I love to speak with Mr. Martinez about racing, because he was a magnificient rider and has a lot of experience. But I don't care about business, everything related to that is done by Stefano. If he wants to re-sign me, he must speak with Stefano. But anyway, my mobile phone is still turned on at the moment, and Mr. Martinez hasn't called me so far, I haven't even received a single SMS." Talmacsi reiterated that Favaro is not just his manager, but also his closest friend.

Speaking of his future, Talmacsi said his first preference is still to ride for the Aspar team in the 250s. Talmasci said that he had had no problems with the team in the last two years, and his 125cc World Championship was evidence of the quality of their work. When asked about rumors that Favaro was speaking to Scot Honda team owner Cirano Mularoni about a ride in MotoGP, Talmacsi refused to comment, saying only "Stefano is working in Le Mans now to get me back to racing as soon as possible. I don't know anything about any offers yet."

Over in Le Mans, Aspar team boss Jorge Martinez had a different story to tell. "The truth is that I never expected a reaction like this," Martinez said in a statement to the press. " This year, we created a team just for Talmacsi. It has been difficult keeping the project moving forward, but we have continued to work tirelessly to give Gabor the best equipment and support possible. I'm enormously disappointed to find myself caught up in this situation, and I hope that once all this has past, Gabor will think about just how much we have done to support him. I completely disagree with his statements, and if we can't come to an amicable agreement, we will defend our interests with all means necessary. In 28 years in this world, I have never been in a situation like this, and it makes me very sad." Martinez also pointed to Talmacsi's excellent results (10th in Qatar, 4th at Motegi and 7th at Jerez) as proof that Talmacsi was not being provided with substandard equipment.

Martinez also said that he believed Talmacsi was making a serious mistake. "Everyone in their professional life can do what they feel is right. Gabor is a great rider, as shown by his results, but I think that he has made a big mistake and it is a huge pity not to have him at this race," he told reporters. Martinez said he intended to fly to Budapest next week to try and sort out the situation with Talmacsi directly, but he warned that as far as he was concerned, Talmacsi was still under contract to Aspar. "Clearly, Gabor cannot join a new team. We have his rights for this year, and we are going to continue with the Balatonring Team project," Martinez said.

The situation has gotten so far out of hand that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has been brought in to mediate between the two. Hungary has been a huge growth market for MotoGP, and Dorna will be keen to keep a figure as popular as Talmacsi in the series. Some kind of resolution will surely be found for the situation. 


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Regis Laconi Receives Head And Back Injuries In Kyalami Crash

Regis Laconi has been seriously injured in a crash at Kyalami. The Frenchman, riding for the DFX Corse team, had just taken to the track when he crashed in a fast left hander, suffering injuries to his head and torso. It was immediately clear that Laconi was badly hurt, and after the medics had stabilized his condition, he was taken first to the trackside medical center, where it was decided to fly him to the nearby Sunninghill Hospital in Sandton for further examination.

At the hospital, they found suspected fractures in 5 vertebrae, fortunately without any damage to the spinal cord, and a CAT scan showed a severe cranial trauma, though it appears that were no neurological complications. Regis Laconi was moving his limbs, and is currently being kept in a clinically induced coma, and for this reason he has been placed on the danger list. He is due to be operated on early this evening to have two plates inserted to support his cracked vertebrae.

In a press release, the team wished him a speedy recovery, to which we add our own best wishes. Laconi had started the season very strongly, taking three fourth places at Phillip Island and Valencia, and looked capable of improvement. Hopefully, he will be back riding soon.

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Bayliss Sets A 1'51.2 At Mugello Private Test

Troy Bayliss concluded the three-day test at Mugello today, and the question on everybody's lips has finally been answered: How fast would Bayliss go? 1'51.2 is the answer.

Of course, 1'51.2 is fairly meaningless without any context. Bayliss' lap was faster than regular Ducati test rider Vito Guareschi, who improved his own lap record with a time of 1'51.4, but beating a test rider, while impressive, is not that significant. More important is to compare it to the times set during the dry sessions here last year:

Rider Session Time
Marco Melandri FP3 1'52.419
Marco Melandri WUP 1'51.014
Marco Melandri Race 1'51.181
Toni Elias FP3 1'51.969
Toni Elias WUP 1'50.805
Toni Elias Race 1'51.793
Sylvain Guintoli FP3 1'51.086
Sylvain Guintoli WUP 1'50.971
Sylvain Guintoli Race 1'51.830
Casey Stoner FP3 1'50.364 
Casey Stoner WUP 1'50.030
Casey Stoner Race 1'50.003

A whole range of factors make it very hard to compare times from a race weekend to times set during testing: Troy Bayliss has not ridden a motorcycle since the launch of the 1198 at Portimao last year; Bayliss has not ridden the 800cc Ducati before; And Bayliss hasn't ridden at Mugello for a while. On the plus side, Bayliss gets three full days aboard the Ducati on a relatively empty track, and a chance to put a significant number of laps on the bike.

Despite the difficulties, there are still some clear indications from the times show above, and Bayliss' time of 1'51.2. The most obvious is that in 2008, only Casey Stoner was capable of making the Ducati fly. But it is also clear that Bayliss is some way off the pace on the GP9. Bayliss' time was around the same as Melandri's fastest race lap, which would put him in 14th place in the rankings. As a comparison, Valentino Rossi's fastest race lap (2nd fastest) was 1'50.034, Pedrosa's (3rd) 1'50.131, Jorge Lorenzo (7th) 1'50.518, Nicky Hayden (11th) 1'50.909.

It would appear that the Ducati remains a very difficult bike to go fast on. We can do little else but speculate, but it seems plausible to suggest that Bayliss should have been closer to the fastest race times if he had been on an easier bike to ride.

After the test, Bayliss did consign any speculation that he might make a return to racing to the garbage can. "I've had three good days during which I've felt like a rider again. It didn't take long to get back into it but, before anyone gets any ideas, I will also say that I'm happy to be heading back to the airport and towards Australia and home this evening: I have no intention of returning to racing!"

Filippo Preziosi had some interesting comments to make about what the team had worked on at Mugello. "Working with Troy has been useful because he has a very different riding style to Vittoriano, and so it's been interesting and beneficial to hear his impressions of the GP9 also. We worked on chassis set-ups that are pretty different from those which we usually use and the results were promising although we need to look at this further."

Bayliss will be back testing the Ducati again, but not until June or July. Times from those tests will be even more interesting.

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Talmasci Splits With Aspar, Won't Race At Le Mans

In the world of 125 and 250 racing, there is one team that is the nearest thing to a guarantee of a world title on offer: The Aspar team, run by Jorge Martinez. Hungarian veteran Gabor Talmacsi has been with Aspar since 2007, and has reaped the rewards, taking the 125cc world championship for the team in 2007.

So it must considered a truly remarkable step that the Hungarian has decided to sever his relationship with the team that helped win him the title. In a statement on his personal website, Gabor Talmacsi announced that has split from the team, and that he won't be riding at Le Mans. Talmacsi also explained the reasons for the split:

  • The main reason is that Talmacsi currently only has one bike, despite assurances that he would be getting a second bike. Before the season started, Martinez told Talmacsi that he could only afford a single bike for the Hungarian due to financial constraints, but if Talmacsi could find more sponsorship money, they get him a second bike as a backup. Talmacsi turned to his sponsors - Grupo Milton, Logistics Land - for more cash, which they put forward. After paying Martinez, the agreement was that Talmacsi would have a second bike from Jerez, but as the bike didn't appear in Spain, and wouldn't be appearing in France, Talmacsi felt he had no option but to withdraw.
  • This problem came on top of a dispute over media rights. Aspar altered the agreement over media rights for Talmacsi unilaterally, without first obtaining consent from the Hungarian's management. Talmasci and his management believe that this constitutes a breach of his contract, and despite attempts to get the decision reversed, Aspar refuses to do so.
  • Aspar then issued their usual pre-race press release, stating that Talmacsi would be racing at Le Mans. Talmacsi states that Aspar already knew that he would not be racing at Le Mans, and that he did not give the quotes reported in the press release.

At this moment, Talmacsi is still in Hungary, while negotiations are continuing between his management and the Aspar team. Talmacsi is due to give a press conference in Budapest on Friday morning to further clarify the situation. The disagreement will have to be resolved very quickly, however, if Talmacsi is to race in Le Mans.

Thanks to Ádám Haraszti for the tip.

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