Earlier today, we posted a bunch of photos that Scott Jones took at Donington. There's plenty more where those came from.
Scott Jones has been out and about, trolling the track and the pit lane for beautiful images. I think you'll agree that he's found them.
The radical drop in the size of the MotoGP grid has everyone inside MotoGP worried. First Kawasaki officially withdrew, leaving only Marco Melandri on the Hayate in the class, then Grupo Francisco Hernando pulled out of sponsoring Sete Gibernau's GFH team, dropping the number of entries from 18 to 17. Add to that the shenanigans surrounding Yuki Takahashi's replacement by Gabor Talmacsi, after Talmacsi was able to bring funds to the cash-strapped team, and the picture of a series in crisis is complete.
Clearly something has to be done, to reduce costs and to expand the number of bikes on the grid. Last week at the Sachsenring, the Grand Prix Commission met to discuss the situation, and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta launched the idea of a two-tier system, allowing bikes with prototype chassis with engines based on production bikes to race against the current generation of fully factory supported prototype 800s. The story was unearthed by Paolo Scalera of the Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, and senior MotoGP journalist Michael Scott in last week's issue of GPWeek opined that the move was probably a bullying tactic by Ezpeleta, aimed at forcing the factories into coming up with a counterproposal.
It seems the thought of racing against production-based engines has done exactly that. At Donington, Tech 3 boss and head of IRTA Herve Poncharal spoke extensively to MotoGPMatters.com, covering a wide range of subjects. One of the subjects he discussed at length was the cost-cutting proposals put forward by the MSMA to counter the exodus of teams from the premier class. He revealed that as Mike Scott had predicted, the MSMA had offered to lease engines only to MotoGP teams at a much more affordable price, allowing them to build their own prototype chassis around the engine.
Poncharal confirmed that Ezpeleta had launched the idea of using production engines at the Grand Prix Commission in Germany, saying, "Carmelo proposed [the idea]. Because of the Moto2 class, because it was a big success, then we were thinking 'what can we do to make it cheaper in the MotoGP class' and we thought 'OK, why can't we do Moto1 like the first Moto2 project?' Start from a production 1000cc engine, and have everything else full prototype, like in Moto2."
"So this idea we threw on the table, asking the MSMA 'What do you think?'. They came back with a proposal that they might be in the position from 2011 to supply engines only, 800cc prototype engines, at a really affordable cost."
When asked whether the Team KR bike was an example of this, Poncharal replied, "Exactly! But they are now thinking to do it, all of them, maybe not Suzuki, but all of the ones who are supplying the independent teams Ducati Honda and Yamaha, at an affordable cost. This is an idea, but they have been asking us to wait until Indianapolis to come with a real strong proposal."
The Grand Prix Commission is expected to meet here on Saturday, to discuss issues surrounding the number of sealed engines, but the big news, the news about the future of the MotoGP class, will have to wait until the end of August and the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
After a quick dash across Germany, then down to Calais and up the M1 to the East Midlands airport, MotoGPMatters.com is coming to you live once again from Donington Park for the British Grand Prix. It's Thursday afternoon, and Scott Jones is off shooting photos at the Day of Champions, the special event put on every year at Donington to raise money for Riders for Health, the excellent charity that provides the support to get first-line health care to the remote parts of Africa. You can find out more about their vital work on the Riders website.
Despite the very English weather - sunny and pleasant one moment, pouring down a couple of minutes later - the crowds are out in force, the paddock full of people taking advantage of the rare chance to wander through and gaze at the hospitality units and snag the occasional autograph. The turnout is encouraging, and the chances are good of a big attendance, as this will be the last time the MotoGP class visits Donington before the whole circus shifts over to Silverstone in 2010.
The move was occasioned by Donington's successful bid to host Formula 1, but the track has an awful lot to do if it is to get ready for the masses of fans and the level of facilities required by the world's premier four-wheeled series. Right now, the vibe at Donington is not one of upmarket luxury, which they have to come to expect from the brand new tracks in the Middle and Far East.
The mood so far is a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness at leaving the track behind - Except for the rather silly Melbourne Loop, Donington is still a fantastic track - and relief at not having to work in conditions more like the 1940s than the 21st century.
There's only so many compact flash cards that a photographer can carry, and the number of photos they can process is even fewer. So for now, here are the last of Scott Jones' Fab Photos frmm Germany
It should be obvious by now that MotoGPMatters.com's shooter Scott Jones has a nose for the right place to stand in. After capturing Mike di Meglio's practice crash in perfect detail, Scott also grabbed Bradley Smith's second lap pile up with Finnish wildcard rider Eeki Kuparinen. Here's how it went:
Bradley slides off inside Kuparinen
They both hit the gravel
Bradley hanging on to his Aprilia
Bradley still hanging on to his Aprilia in the hope of getting through this in one piece
Kuparinen, meanwhile, is tumbling
What do you think you're doing?
Now look what you've done!
Bradley being beckoned away by the marshals
Not a happy bunny
The reason for Bradley Smith's anger: he'd slid off on the first lap, and was charging through the field to catch up.
If you enjoyed the previous instalments of photos from the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, you'll love the final collection from Scott Jones. If you want more after that, you'll have to wait until Donington, like the rest of us.
Yet more photos from Scott Jones, this time of the rain-soaked qualifying session. The conditions may have been horrific, but this did not deter either our intrepid photographer or the subjects he was shooting.
Remarkable news surfaced at the German Grand Prix. According to knowledgable sources in the paddock, Aprilia is about to make an about turn on its previous resolution to walk away from the Moto2 class, and submit an entry. Work is apparently already underway, and the bike should be ready within the next month or so.
The news is little less than astonishing, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the introduction of four cylinder 600cc bikes as the Moto2 class, slated to replace the 250cc bikes at the start of next season, was taken against the express wishes of both Aprilia and KTM. KTM pulled out of the 250cc class a year early, stating their disgust at the way the decision had been forced through in the Grand Prix Commission as their main reason. The cynics in the paddock - of which there are plenty - pointed to KTM's failure to win a title in the 250cc class, and the severe financial constraints forced upon the Austrian factory by the global economic crisis.
Secondly, an Aprilia Moto2 entry would be powered by a Honda engine, the Japanese racing giant having been awarded the contract to produce and tune the engines. Just how Honda would feel if Aprilia starts winning races, claiming victory for the Noale factory while powered by a Honda lump, remains to be seen. The prospect of a Honda-powered Aprilia raised a myriad of questions about the prominence that Honda will be given on the bike, and just how that will fit in with the rest of the Moto2 team's sponsors. The thought of a bike with a huge Aprilia logo splashed across the fairing, and a tiny little sticker with Honda on, is both highly entertaining and deeply puzzling.
It also offers other small factories a chance of cheap publicity. Factories such as MV Agusta, Benelli, Derbi, Gilera Moto Morini and a host of other small manufacturers could launch Moto2 bids, using Honda power to promote their own engineering prowess. Honda may end up being less than thrilled with the prospect of an Aprilia standing on top of the podium, taking all the praise for the engine which HRC built.
Over the past few weeks, the motorcycle racing press has been set ablaze by the rumors of Jorge Lorenzo's future. The talented Mallorcan's contract with the Fiat Yamaha team runs out at the end of this year, and although Yamaha have offered Lorenzo a new contract - rumored to be around the 3.5 million euro mark - Lorenzo has been holding out for more. He has some very serious leverage to help his side of the argument: Lorenzo says that all of the current manufacturers have offered him a contract.
The only realistic prospect for Lorenzo is of course Honda - Ducati is too much of a risk, and the chances of Suzuki meeting Lorenzo's rumored 5 million euro salary demand are very slim indeed, given the somewhat parlous state of the factory's MotoGP program. The elephant - nay, the brontosaurus - in the room in any discussion of a Lorenzo move to Honda is of course the fate of Dani Pedrosa. The two Spanish title rivals have been bitter enemies since a series of incidents during the 2005 250cc Championship season, and the prospect of the two men on the same team has usually been seen as almost impossible.
Things were made a little easier between the two after Lorenzo fired his long-time manager Dani Amatriain at the end of last season, as the rivalry between Amatriain and Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig was even more intense than that between the two riders. But now, according to GPOne.com, a solution has been found by HRC which would help remove any last obstacles to securing the services of both Lorenzo and Pedrosa.
The idea would be for Jorge Lorenzo to join the Repsol Honda team, but to split the team into two separate parts, each with its own manager. Unsurprisingly, Alberto Puig would manage the Pedrosa half of the garage, but the big surprise comes in the name of person selected to manage Lorenzo's half of the team. GPOne is saying that Aprilia boss Giampiero Sacchi, currently manager of the Aprilia World Superbike racing team, is in talks with HRC to run Lorenzo, as part of a wider cooperation between the two factories. Sacchi and Lorenzo already know each other well, as Sacchi managed the Derbi team that Lorenzo made his debut in at the tender age of 15. With a name like Giampiero Sacchi at the helm, Lorenzo would have faith in receiving equitable treatment inside the team.
Speaking after the race at the Sachsenring, Lorenzo refused to be drawn on his future, saying only, "the most important thing is to be in a good team with a good bike." When asked about Yamaha, he told reporters, "I don't know what Yamaha wants. I know what I want." This saga still has some way to run yet.