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Lorenzo Postpones Yamaha Decision A Few Weeks

Silly season for the MotoGP class is in a strange, almost schizophrenic state. The paddock is swirling with rumors - though admittedly, this is its usual state -  yet few moves or announcements are forthcoming. Normally, we would be in the middle of rider announcements, but one man has been holding up all progress in the annual rider merry-go-round.

Jorge Lorenzo's contract with Yamaha is up at the end of the 2009 season, and the Spanish sensation is dragging his feet over a contract renewal and trawling the market to test his value. He has an offer on the table from Yamaha, but has been openly flirting with Honda, with talk of the Repsol Honda team being divided into two separate teams, along similar lines to the Fiat Yamaha garage now.

Jorge Lorenzo at Donington

First, though, Lorenzo must decide whether his future lies with Yamaha or not. The Spaniard had a meeting with senior Yamaha executives Lin Jarvis and Masao Furusawa at Donington last night, where Yamaha and Lorenzo, together with his manager Marcos Hirsch, discussed the situation at great length.

According to the Spanish sports daily AS.com, the main outcome of the meeting was that both sides should go away and consider the situation carefully. However, the good news for Yamaha is that Lorenzo seems to be more inclined to stay with the Japanese factory than to go elsewhere. "The best option for Lorenzo continues to be that he renews his contract with Yamaha, and for the manufacturer, to continue with Jorge in their garage."

The news will come as a frustration and a relief to the rest of the paddock. The relief will be felt most keenly for Dani Pedrosa and his manager Alberto Puig. AS says it has been told that if Lorenzo joins Repsol Honda, Pedrosa will leave, and with the Honda just starting to come good, that would be a less attractive option. The frustration will be felt most keenly among the rest of the riders; Lorenzo is the key to the rest of the rider reshuffle, once Lorenzo decides where his future lies, then the rest of the pieces can be rearranged accordingly.

And so Yamaha, the riders, MotoGP fans and especially the Spanish press are left to wait, for several more weeks. This story, as they say, is set to run and run.

 

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Riders Complain About Lack Of Grip At Donington

Sunday is MotoGP's swansong at Donington, the last time that the world's premier racing series will ever visit the classic Leicestershire track. You would think that the circuit owners would want to make an extra effort, to make the final MotoGP meeting here go with a bang.

This is not the impression the riders got. Grip levels were low, according to several riders, with Valentino Rossi complaining the track was as slippery as it has ever been. "Usually when you go to a track, on the kerbs you have the paint, the asphalt is green, it is ready for the start," he told reporters. "Here it looks like they clean a little bit, say it's OK, go for the last time and on Monday, they start the work for the Formula 1."

The weather was also a factor, but the condition of the track made riding very difficult. "Also rain-sun-rain-sun, this year the grip is very bad." Rossi said. "Also in the wet, compared to the Sachsenring, at the Sachsenring it is possible to touch the knee, ride, make good angle, here is very very tricky to ride the bike." The condition of the track had Rossi concerned about lasting the distance on Sunday: "If I have to make 30 laps under this condition, in the wet, is very difficult. So we have to stay calm and concentrate for 30 laps, take the rhythm and go."

When asked about Rossi's comments, Nicky Hayden agreed, saying "Especially in the left handers, yeah, it feels really slippery to me, from mid-corner to exit." In reply to questions about the amount of preparation which had gone into the track, Hayden was candid: "You know, when I went around the track on Thursday, I couldn't believe how dirty it was, especially up into Turn 7. You could see where the water had been sitting, it was just filthy." Hayden was also none too complimentary about the state of the kerbs, adding "When they were painting the kerbs, they were painting right over mud. They were painting dirt, instead of I guess cleaning those and then painting them."

Casey Stoner even put this morning's crash down to the slipperiness of the track. "This morning's [crash] was ridiculous," Stoner said. "I was off the front brake, everything showed on the telemetry I had no front brake on and it just, whoosh, down it went. The front tire was already scrubbed in, there was no reason for it."

Construction work has been going on at the track, building a new tunnel for access to the infield in preparation for the new paddock to be built for the Formula 1 series. Whether this construction work has anything to do with the apparently poor state of the track is unknown.

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Saturday Photos From Donington Park


Donington Park is still beautiful in the summer


Casey Stoner had a tough day on Saturday


Bradley Smith - a very popular pole sitter

 


Sergio Gadea - On the other end of the grid to team mate Bradley


The soft rear worked for Rossi, the hard rear didn't


The Pramac Ducati team


Guy Coulon has many fans


Jorge Lorenzo - fast on the hard tire


An American In Leicestershire


Danny Webb struggled around the Melbourne Loop


Andrea Dovizioso is just one of many riders waiting to hear what Jorge Lorenzo is doing next year

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FIM Clarifies "Rookie Rule" - Less Than 9 Races Make A Rookie

Words are tricky things. Immediately after the announcement of the so-called rookie rule, debate immediately broke out over the meaning of the words "rookie" and "factory team." The response of Dorna and the FIM has been a little too akin to that of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass, insisting that when they use a word, it means exactly what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

Of course, this was not going to be a tenable situation for long. Speculation was rife in the press that factory teams could consider signing promising young stars such as Marco Simoncelli, Alvaro Bautista or Ben Spies for the last few races once they'd secured (or failed to secure) their current championships, then claim that because they'd been under contract in 2009, they should no longer be regarded as "rookies" and could go straight to factory teams for 2010.

So MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, has acted to prevent this and issued a definition of the term "rookie." The definition basically means that any rider who hasn't taken part in 9 races in the previous season must be considered a rookie, and will therefore not be eligible to race for a factory team. The definition is clearly designed to preempt any attempt at getting around the ban on rookies, as riders will basically have to compete for half a season before they are no longer rookies.

The definition issued by the FIM follows below:

Definition of a "contracted rider" and a "Rookie" rider.

A contracted rider is a rider who has participated in nine or more events during one season.

A "Rookie" is a rider nominated by a participating team for participation in the entire season, who has not been a contracted rider as defined above in the same class in any previous season.

For the purpose of this clause, the 500cc class and the MotoGP class are considered to be the same, as are the 250cc class and the Moto2 class. 

The press release containing the rule changes, as well as other alterations to the rules limiting engine life, can be found on the FIM website (PDF format).

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Aspar Team Announces Ducati MotoGP Deal

Some news isn't really news. So it is with the announcement, made official today, that the Aspar team will be joining the MotoGP class in 2010, and that they will be running a Ducati.

Jorge Martinez, boss of the Aspar team, has been trying for the past 3 years to get into the MotoGP class, but his problem has always been securing machinery. Deals were mooted with Suzuki and Kawasaki, the Kawasaki deal falling through after a disagreement with the Japanese factory over the choice of rider. After Yamaha refused to supply extra bikes for Aspar, there were even hotly denied rumors that Aspar would be taking over the bikes of the Tech 3 team, which turned out to be based more on wishful thinking than on actual fact. 

Aspar's luck finally changed after Sete Gibernau's went sour. Once the controversial Spanish property millionaire Francisco Hernando pulled out of sponsoring the eponymous team fielding Sete Gibernau, the bike used by the team became vacant. Aspar had been widely tipped to take over the bike after news of the GFH team's pull out broke, and today's announcement is just confirmation of what had been widely trailed before. 

Under the terms of the deal, the Aspar team will receive a single bike for 2010, with the possibility of a second bike in 2011. The exact wording of the press release is that there is "the intention to add a further member to the Aspar lineup for 2011." This is not quite a cast-iron guarantee of a second bike for 2011, but with changes expected for that season to reduce the cost of racing and make more bikes (or perhaps just engines) available, the chances of expansion are good for the team which has dominated the 125cc and 250cc classes for so long.

Jorge Martinez now has one half of the puzzle sorted, but he now faces an equally difficult task to secure the other half. Martinez has been keen to sign Alvaro Bautista to move up to the MotoGP class, but the Spanish sensation has been very wary of the Ducati, having seen rather too many riders struggle on the bike. And Bautista is not alone, prior to his signing with the Gresini Honda team, Marco Simoncelli displayed a similar reluctance to ride a Ducati, despite being closely courted by Ducati.

The announcement today contained no details of a rider, but the team stated that they hoped to announce the rider at the following round of MotoGP in Brno, after the summer break.

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They Keep On Coming - Scott Jones' Photos From Friday At Donington


Captain Scarlet


So, you want to race motorcycles, hey?


Sting in the tail


Julian Simon, coming in out of the rain


It did


Rossi's puppies


Hiroshi Aoyama - Japanese superstar


Badge of honor


Now that's what I call a wildcard


No need to tell Alvaro Bautista


Alex de Angelis knows all about moody

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Donington Saturday Morning Notes

It's saturday morning here at Donington Park, and the sun is out. The skies are beautiful, big fluffy cumulonimbus tearing across the sky doing their best cotton wool impression, rather than dumping their contents all over the rolling Leicestershire countryside. The MotoGP bikes are out on track and doing their best to outdo the planes taking off from East Midlands airport in terms of deafening noise. So far, the bikes are winning, but only just.

Traffic is as chaotic as ever. The rolling hills may be beautiful, and the winding country lanes may be charming, but the traffic was already horrendous at 9am, so what it will be like tomorrow we can only imagine. At least large numbers of people are turning up on bikes, improving traffic flow considerably. The thought of the massed hordes of Formula One fans turning up in their cars doesn't bear thinking about. Spectators will be waiting to get in after the race has finished, probably.

Results, reports and photos will be coming in all day, so stay tuned.

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More Of Scott Jones' Donington Friday Photos

Earlier today, we posted a bunch of photos that Scott Jones took at Donington. There's plenty more where those came from.


Alvaro Bautista, against a stunning backdrop


Rain or shine, Valentino Rossi is always fast


Thomas Luthi likes his coffee cold


Now that's what I call intense


Bradley's bike ...


And Bradley on his way towards it


Honda - Japanese for Engineering


Tech 3: Home of Shiny Things


There are those that assert that the 2 looks more like an S than an E

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Scott Jones' Donington Friday Photos

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.


Mike di Meglio demonstrates the meaning of the word "elevation"


Colin Edwards, nosediver


That green button is likely to seem some action on Sunday


Marco Melandri, the reason the Hayate squad are all so cheerful in the paddock


Gabor Talmacsi: Still learning, but learning quickly


James Toseland & Dani Pedrosa - two men who know what a garage feud looks like


Unstoppable Stoner


Karel Abraham: you'd be happy too if your dad owned the Brno circuit


Derbi: about as Catalunyan as you can get


Still crazy after all these years


For some reason, Hector Barbera believes he fell in a cauldron of magic potion as a kid


Toni Elias, finally the results are coming

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Decision On MotoGP Engine Leasing Expected At Indianapolis GP

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.

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