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Marco Simoncelli Won't Race In Qatar

Marco Simoncelli's season got off to a bad start before it even began, when the reigning 250cc World Champion broke his wrist last Sunday riding a motocross bike. Determined to defend his title, he had the fractured scaphoid pinned in an operation on Tuesday, before flying out to take part in the first free practice session at the season opener at Qatar. It was a very short time for the wrist to heal, and was going to be an uphill struggle for Simoncelli to take part in the first race.

It was too much to ask. The Italian announced this evening that he wouldn't be trying to race at Qatar, and would be going home to concentrate on his recovery in time for the next race at Motegi in two weeks' time. Simoncelli had tried running fast laps at Qatar, and had put in respectable, if now world-shattering times, but after just a couple of laps, his wrist was becoming too painful to concentrate. Simoncelli took the wiser course, and withdrew.

Simoncelli's withdrawal leaves Alvaro Bautista in the ideal spot to gain maximum advantage in the 250cc title chase. To do that, of course, he'll have to win the race. And with a surprisingly strong Gabor Talmacsi, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Qualifying for the race is due to take place later tonight.

Scott Jones' Glorious Images From Qatar - Day 1

As you have surely already noticed, photographer Scott Jones is at Qatar (funded in part by your generous donations and the support of our carefully selected advertisers), sending back interviews and the fantastic photos which make him our favorite shooter. He's starting to send us some of his fantastic photos, which we have shared with you below. All images should link to high-res versions of the photos. Enjoy!

Mika Kallio at Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Mika Kallio testing his toesliders

Chris Vermeulen at Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Chris Vermeulen, being informed he needs to shift up a gear NOW!

Dani Pedrosa, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Dani Pedrosa - In pain, but still on the gas

Casey Stoner, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Casey Stoner demonstrating how to ride a Ducati GP9 really, really fast

Nicky Hayden, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Nicky Hayden trying to emulate his team mate

Alex de Angelis, Day 1, FP1

Alex de Angelis, Fastest Honda in FP1, but also first into the gravel

#99: Like #48, but faster

Danny Webb, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Danny Webb was struggling with new fork parts on his De Graaf Aprilia

Marco Simoncelli, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Break scaphoid Sunday, surgery Tuesday, practice Friday - A week in the life of Marco Simoncelli

Alvaro Bautista, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Alvaro Bautista will be hoping to capitalize on Simoncelli's misfortune

Mike di Meglio, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Mike di Meglio: 125 champion, 250 rookie

Marc Marquez, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Marc Marquez, one of the few people who can make a 125cc racing motorcycle look big

Mika Kallio, Pramac Ducati, commemorating the dead of Abruzzo at Qatar

The Pramac Ducatis are carrying mourning stickers for the dead of the L'Aquila earthquake earlier this week

Hayate, Qatar, FP1, Day 1

The bike formerly known as Kawasaki

Honda RC212V, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Honda have been in Grand Prix for 50 years this season. They badly want a title to mark the occasion.

Rossi: "Honda Would Be At Front With Me Or Casey On It"

One of the biggest mysteries of the past few years in MotoGP has been Honda's fall from grace. Throughout the 990 era, the Honda RC211V was the motorcycle to beat, with only Valentino Rossi capable of achieving that feat. Since the switch to the 800s - a move believed to have been made under pressure from Honda - HRC has struggled to produce a bike that is even competitive, the RC212V outclassed by Yamaha's 800cc M1 and Ducati's Desmosedici. This failure has had knowledgeable people both inside and outside scratching their heads in incomprehension. HRC has both the manpower and the brains to produce title-winning equipment, so where have they gone wrong?

Valentino Rossi believes he knows what's wrong with HRC - at least this season. In an interview on, Rossi stated his belief that the problem lay with the riders, rather than the bike. "It's a question of riders," Rossi said. "With me or Stoner in the saddle, HRC would be at the front."

However, Rossi was careful to point out that HRC's current riders could hardly be blamed for the situation. "Pedrosa, the lead rider, is injured; Dovizioso, with a little more experience, is a potential world champion. And on the track, he gives gas, believe me. But right now, he hasn't made the kilometers necessary to develop a bike."

Rossi also spoke about the new schedule for the weekend, and like almost everyone else, complained about the lack of practice time. "With practice like this, with less time, we need to follow a program," Rossi commented. "There's no down time; we are having to use some of our data we collected previously, relying on theory, and a bit less on trying something, then trying it again."

But despite problems on corner entry, the Italian believed he was on track to being competitive on Sunday. "Let's say we are between 92 and 100 percent," he said. Sunday will show whether that will be enough to close the third of a second gap Rossi has to the leader, Casey Stoner.

2009 Qatar MotoGP Day 1 Round Up - Stoner Firmly In Charge

The waiting really is over for MotoGP fans, as the MotoGP bikes finally took to the track at Qatar to compete in earnest. First blood in the 2009 campaign went to Casey Stoner on the Marlboro (and at Qatar, it really is a Marlboro) Ducati, a fact that shocked absolutely nobody. As ever, Stoner was fast from the moment he rolled out onto the track, getting down into 1'57 territory within ten minutes, and slashing a further 0.8 seconds off his time with 12 minutes of the session left. 

For a long time, Stoner's advantage seemed insurmountable, but in his final run, Valentino Rossi closed the gap from a second to get to within 0.4 of a second, with the potential for more if he hadn't run into traffic on a very fast lap. Though four tenths is a sizable gap, Rossi will feel he is at least in touch with Stoner, and with two more sessions to go, and no qualifying tires to distort the grid, the reigning world champion will be confident of staying with Stoner away from the line.

Third fastest man in the opening session of 2009 was Colin Edwards, the only other rider capable of getting within a second of Stoner, and looking as strong here as he looked last year during practice. Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo makes it three Yamahas in the top four, Lorenzo 1.2 seconds behind but with more likely to come.

The session threw up plenty of surprises. Such as Alex de Angelis in 5th, for example, but de Angelis also showed his Mr Hyde by running wide into the gravel during the session, a harbinger of what is to come, perhaps. An even bigger suprise was Mika Kallio finishing 7th, after having been as high as 5th earlier in the session. Though we've only had one 45 minute session of practice to judge him by, Kallio's single fast lap at the IRTA test at Jerez could possible be the rule rather than the exception.

Marco Melandri was another turn up for the books, the Italian finishing 9th fastest at the first time of asking. After the teams tested here just over a month ago, the Hai Karate bike was expected to be 9 places further back. And on his personal website, Melandri explained that he is realistically optimistic about the season so far, saying "I don't feel in any way related to the Marco of '08, but that's a debate I don't want to get into." If Melandri's happy, he'll punch above his weight.

Apart from Stoner, and the remarkable Kallio, the rest of the Ducatis are at the back of the field, as was to have been expected. Stoner's factory team mate Nicky Hayden is 13th fastest, over two seconds behind the Australian, and with plenty to do. While Sete Gibernau and Niccolo Canepa would be propping up the timesheet, if it weren't for the badly injured Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa put in two longish runs on Friday, presumably to test his fitness. He withstood them rather well, but is over four seconds off the pace. If he doesn't find a couple of seconds on Saturday, he may well choose not to risk racing on Sunday.

Overall, the times were slow, a couple of seconds off Stoner's lap record from last year, and 1.5 seconds slower than the times set here during testing in early March. Air and track temperatures were favorable, but the teams need a little time to get up to speed. The times tomorrow should be significantly quicker.

Results of MotoGP FP1

In the 250 class, another injury distorted the results, Marco Simoncelli's newly operated scaphoid leaving him down in 16th on the grid. But his arch rival Alvaro Bautista failed to capitalize on Simoncelli's misfortune, only managing to set the second fastest time, behind the Aspar-backed Gabor Talmasci. The 250 rookie and former 125cc World Champion was fast throughout the session, and finished ahead of semi team mate Bautista and Mattia Pasini on the Team Toth Aprilia.

A couple of Hondas were surprisingly close to the top three Aprilias, with Japanese veteran Hiroshi Aoyama finishing 4th, and Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot taking 6th. Wilairot has come along very well since last year, and is looking an increasingly serious challenger. 

Meanwhile, reigning 125cc Champion Mike di Meglio got off to a less auspicious start, finishing the first day down in 11th spot.

Results of 250cc FP1

The 125cc class result was as predictable as the MotoGP class. Julian Simon, the man who has swept all before him during testing, took the top time in the first free practice session of the 2009 season by just over a second, ahead of his team mate Bradley Smith. The lead of over a third of a second Smith had over the third man, Nico Terol, would have been small comfort for the British rider, who has set his sights on his the 125cc title this season.

The flyweight Marc Marquez came in 4th, the KTM still clearly competitive, while his American team mate and class rookie Cameron Beaubier could only manage the 22nd fastest time, 4 seconds behind Marquez. British GP winner Scott Redding finished in 11th, while German GP victor Stefan Bradl could manage only 8th. The other British rider, Danny Webb, finished down in 19th, struggling to get to grips with a new front fork for his RSA Aprilia.

Results of 125cc FP1

Practice continues tomorrow.

2009 World Superbike Test, Monza, Day 2 - Spies Strikes Back

Times from the second day of the World Superbike test at Monza: 

Pos Rider Bike Time
1 Ben Spies Yamaha 1'45.3
2 Noriyuki Haga Ducati 1'45.5
3 Michel Fabrizio Ducati 1'45.6
4 Max Neukirchner Suzuki 1'45.8
5 Tom Sykes Yamaha 1'45.8
6 Karl Muggeridge Suzuki 1'46.0
7 Yukio Kagayama Suzuki 1'46.3
8 Ruben Xaus BMW 1'46.8
9 Troy Corser BMW 1'47.1


In Serious Pain, Simoncelli Keeps 250 Grid Waiting

Marco Simoncelli arrived at Losail with a cast still on his right hand, and had it removed in the medical center just before he and was to report to the starting grid for the group photo.

The other 250 riders waited for several minutes with one spot open in the front row until Simoncelli appeared in the distance, walking slowly from the direction of the garages. He held his right hand carefully as he walked, still in apparent discomfort from his operation on Tuesday to repair the scaphoid bone he broke in a motocross crash on Sunday.

When he’d taken his seat in the front row, the skin discoloration from disinfectant was still clearly visible. At one point he answered questions from the pit wall with a wince and a careful cosi-cosi gesture with the recently liberated hand. 

Just how fit he will be to race remains to be seen. If he is anywhere close to his usually pace this weekend, it will be another testament to the superhuman toughness of top-level motorcycle racers.

Marco Simoncelli at Qatar group photo

Those 2009 MotoGP Bikes In Full Color

The talented Scott Jones,'s photographer, is out at Qatar covering the race for us, and is already sending back some fantastic photos, and more. But just to get the season off to a good start, here's his shots from the grid presentation earlier today. All of the pictures should link to larger, desktop-sized images.

Valentino Rossi's Fiat Yamaha M1

Rossi's 2009 Yamaha M1

Casey Stoner's Marlboro Ducati GP9

Casey Stoner's 2009 Marlboro Ducati GP9

Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda RC212V

Dani Pedrosa's 2009 Repsol Honda RC212V

Chris Vermeulen's Rizla Suzuki GSV-R

Chris Vermeulen's 2009 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R

Marco Melandri's Hayate Kawasaki

Marco Melandri's 2009 Hayate

Mika Kallio's Pramac Ducati GP9

Mika Kallio's 2009 Pramac Ducati

Colin Edwards' Monster Tech 3 Yamaha

Colin Edwards' 2009 Monster Tech 3 Yamaha

Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando Ducati GP9

Sete Gibernau's 2009 GFH Ducati, sponsored by an evil dictator

Toni Elias' San Carlo Gresini Honda RC212V

Toni Elias' 2009 Gresini Honda

Randy de Puniet's LCR Honda RC212V

Randy de Puniet's 2009 LCR Honda

Yuki Takahashi's Scot Honda RC212V

Yuki Takahashi's 2009 Team Scot Honda

2009 World Superbike Test, Monza, Day 1 - Ducati Lead Yamaha

Times from the first day of the World Superbike test at Monza

Pos Rider Bike Time
1 Michel Fabrizio Ducati Xerox 1'45.7
2 Noriyuki Haga Ducati Xerox 1'45.8
3 Ben Spies Yamaha World Superbike 1'45.9
4 Tom Sykes Yamaha World Superbike 1'45.9
5 Max Neukirchner Suzuki Alstare 1'46.3
6 Troy Corser BMW 1'46.3
7 Yukio Kagayama Suzuki Alstare 1'46.8
8 Karl Muggeridge Suzuki Celani 1'47.1
9 Ruben Xaus BMW 1'47.2.


And So It Begins

The 2009 MotoGP season got underway today in Losail as each team presented a bike to the media. Concerns about the weather for this weekend's race grew as we felt small drops of rain for a few moments out on the grid. The wind was more consistent than the rain drops, blowing over display ropes and photographers alike. In the distance, the Qatari sands swirled, turning the sky cloudy with dust, and causing worry about the condition of the track here at Losail. 

The 2009 bikes showed noticeable changes in fairings, vent size and design, and exhaust systems. Some of the new liveries have changed very little, while others have changed dramatically or are brand new. The Tech 3 color scheme is darker with its new Monster sponsorship than it was with Michelin blue, and DePuniet's Honda retains his distinctive 14 but looks much different with the Playboy black and white.

One bike made it clear that we are in Qatar, as the Marlboro logo makes a rare appearance on the factory Ducatis.

Final Night Test For 250s And 125s - Smith And Bautista Fastest Over Two Days

Results for the final test of the year for 125 and 250 classes, before the MotoGP series kicks off in earnest at Qatar on Friday night.

Qatar night test 250 results, day 2, Tuesday

Pos. Rider Time
1 Alvaro BAUTISTA 2'00.496
2 Hiroshi AOYAMA 2'00.873
3 Hector BARBERA 2'00.922
4 Mike DI MEGLIO 2'00.946
5 Roberto LOCATELLI 2'01.061
6 Karel ABRAHAM 2'01.094
7 Raffaele DE ROSA 2'01.129
8 Thomas LUTHI 2'01.152
9 Mattia PASINI 2'01.170
10 Ratthapark WILAIROT 2'01.222
11 Alex DEBON 2'01.563
12 Jules CLUZEL 2'01.719
13 Gabor TALMACSI 2'01.772
14 Lukas PESEK 2'01.797
15 Alex BALDOLINI 2'02.249
16 Hector FAUBEL 2'02.293
17 Shoya TOMIZAWA 2'02.781
18 Imre TOTH 2'03.733
19 Axel PONS 2'05.293
20 Vladimir LEONOV 2'06.892
21 Aitor RODRIGUEZ 2'08.559
22 Bastien CHESAUX 2'10.020

Qatar night test 125 results, day 2, Tuesday

Pos. Rider Time
1 Julian SIMON 2'06.808
2 Bradley SMITH 2'06.908
3 Andrea IANNONE 2'07.021
4 Sandro CORTESE 2'07.090
5 Stefan BRADL 2'07.104
6 Scott REDDING 2'07.464
7 Marc MARQUEZ 2'07.695
8 Jonas FOLGER 2'07.726
9 Joan OLIVE 2'07.923
10 Pol ESPARGARO 2'07.927
11 Lorenzo ZANETTI 2'08.034
12 Nicolas TEROL 2'08.042
13 Takaaki NAKAGAMI 2'08.108
14 Sergio GADEA 2'08.114
15 Danny WEBB 2'08.283
16 Johann ZARCO 2'08.607
17 Dominique AEGERTER 2'08.660
18 Randy KRUMMENACHER 2'08.679
19 Efren VAZQUEZ 2'08.693
20 Cameron BEAUBIER 2'08.792
21 Esteve RABAT 2'08.836
22 Simone CORSI 2'08.914
23 Lorenzo SAVADORI 2'10.260
24 Luca MARCONI 2'11.503
25 Tomoyoshi KOYAMA 2'11.526
26 Jasper IWEMA 2'11.599
27 Lukas SEMBERA 2'11.636
28 Michael RANSEDER 2'12.410
29 Alexis MASBOU 2'12.764
30 Matthew HOYLE 2'14.758
31 Luca VITALI 2'15.317

Qatar night test 250 results, day 1, Monday

Pos. Rider Time
1 Hector BARBERA 2'00.545
2 Alvaro BAUTISTA 2'01.121
3 Karel ABRAHAM 2'01.406
4 Hiroshi AOYAMA 2'01.685
5 Mattia PASINI 2'01.994
6 Thomas LUTHI 2'02.085
7 Roberto LOCATELLI 2'02.252
8 Gabor TALMACSI 2'02.278
9 Alex DEBON 2'02.442
10 Mike DI MEGLIO 2'02.469
11 Lukas PESEK 2'02.575
12 Ratthapark WILAIROT 2'02.580
13 Hector FAUBEL 2'02.991
14 Alex BALDOLINI 2'03.150
15 Raffaele DE ROSA 2'03.522
16 Jules CLUZEL 2'03.839
17 Imre TOTH 2'04.480
18 Shoya TOMIZAWA 2'05.051
19 Axel PONS 2'06.151
20 Bastien CHESAUX 2'08.172
21 Vladimir LEONOV 2'10.123
22 Aitor RODRIGUEZ 2'11.578

Qatar night test 125 results, day 1, Monday

Pos. Rider Time
1 Bradley SMITH 2'06.568
2 Andrea IANNONE 2'06.708
3 Julian SIMON 2'07.042
4 Sergio GADEA 2'07.843
5 Joan OLIVE 2'08.062
6 Jonas FOLGER 2'08.391
7 Sandro CORTESE 2'08.502
8 Pol ESPARGARO 2'08.531
9 Esteve RABAT 2'08.617
10 Randy KRUMMENACHER 2'08.783
11 Scott REDDING 2'08.985
12 Lorenzo ZANETTI 2'09.297
13 Takaaki NAKAGAMI 2'09.371
14 Efren VAZQUEZ 2'09.460
15 Johann ZARCO 2'10.098
16 Tomoyoshi KOYAMA 2'10.684
17 Jasper IWEMA 2'11.270
18 Lorenzo SAVADORI 2'11.496
19 Alexis MASBOU 2'12.256
20 Luca MARCONI 2'13.318
21 Michael RANSEDER 2'13.750
22 Lukas SEMBERA 2'14.153
23 Matthew HOYLE 2'17.277
24 Luca VITALI 2'18.415