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Kawasaki To Come Back Under Another Name?

The Kawasaki saga just refuses to lay down and die. As silence continues to envelop the project, and most parties regarding Kawasaki's participation in MotoGP as being consigned to the history books, fresh rumblings are starting to appear. The usually well-informed Italian site is reporting that the bikes will now be appearing on the grid, but without the Kawasaki name on their tanks.

The program would not be run by Michael Bartholemy, however. The Belgian had been in extensive talks with Kawasaki, and had come tantalisingly close to a deal. But though the Akashi factory had been supportive of Bartholemy's efforts, in the end, the deal fell through.

Instead, according to, it is Carmelo Ezpeleta himself who has picked up the gauntlet. The Spaniard is apparently working directly with the team to get the bikes back on the grid, though no details of riders, team personnel or any other information is available at the moment.

The likelihood is, however, that these rumblings are little more than wild fantasy. Ezpeleta has a vested interest in having the world believe that he will have a full grid (in the case of MotoGP, that would mean at least 18 bikes), and so leaks to the press about a rescue package should be taken with a pinch of salt. As for whether the Kawasakis (or whatever they get called in the end) actually line up at Qatar or not, we can only echo the words of GPOne's Alberto Cani: "We shall see..."

Head Of Suzuki Racing: "We Came Close To Pulling Out Of MotoGP"

Around the time that Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP, rumors persisted that Suzuki, too, was on the verge of pulling out. A number of sources inside Japan spoke of Suzuki withdrawing, as we reported earlier, but the Suzuki MotoGP team consistently denied the rumors, dismissing them as just talk.

But they were more than that, as an interview which is carrying with Shinichi Sahara, head of Suzuki's MotoGP team, makes clear. Sahara told "At around the same time that Kawasaki officially announced its withdrawal, Suzuki were also considering it as well. Why did we choose to stay? Because Hamamatsu is convinced that competition is in our DNA, and is important for our image. In the end, the final word was for our President, Osamu Suzuki."

Sahara said that contracts with Dorna played no part in the decision: "There were no contractual problems with Dorna," he told

But costs continue to be an important factor in Suzuki's MotoGP program. And costs mean that Suzuki is unlikely to be fielding extra bikes in the short term. "I can't see more than two Suzukis on the grid in the future. But the long term could be different, of course."

As for the cost-cutting measures put forward by the MSMA, Suzuki does not believe that all of the proposals have merit. Testing, especially, is a problem. "Think of the Monday tests after a Grand Prix, for example. These are the cheapest solution for development, but the proposals want to remove them. We'll adapt, if necessary, but having only two bikes on the grid means that we will suffer more than the others."

And there was bad news for Vito Ippolito's proposals for production racing motorcycles, as in the 80s and 90s, when the grid was filled with RG500s and YZ500s. Asked about the period, when bikes were sold, rather than leased, Sahara was forthright: "Unfortunately, that was in the past. It's impossible to consider selling the current MotoGP bikes."

Fonsi Nieto Could Replace Polita At Sterilgarda Ducati

After Sterilgarda Ducati announced that Alessandro Polita would not be present at the first two races of the season, leaving Shane Byrne as the sole representative of the team, further rumors are emerging that Polita could be replaced altogether. Both and sources inside Italy are reporting that Polita could lose his place altogether, after Polita's personal sponsors failed to find the promised cash to fund the Italian's season, and that Fonsi Nieto is waiting in the wings to take his place.

Nieto has no such money problems. The Spaniard, nephew of the legendary Angel Nieto, brings with him the Spanish cellphone provider Pepephone, which helped fund the Alstare Suzuki team last year. But though money may be no concern, there is still some doubt about the truth of these rumors. Nieto himself claims that he will be riding for Alstare Suzuki this season, despite his absence from the first World Superbike test at Portimao earlier this year.

Nieto's claims could well be more bargaining position than fact, given the deathly silence emanating from Francis Batta's Alstare Suzuki team. And if that silence continues, a move to Sterilgarda Ducati would be no bad option. But the loss of a ride for Polita due to sponsoring problems shows that World Superbike is not immune from the financial crisis currently hammering MotoGP.


2009 Sepang Test - Day 3 - Final Times - Stoner Smashes Lap Record Once More

Casey Stoner completed the three day test at Sepang exactly where he hoped to be: On top. Despite the continuing pain from his wrist, which prevented the factory Ducati rider from putting in any long runs, there was no stopping Stoner. His fastest lap, on the new spec tires which are capable of lasting much longer than the old soft qualifying tires, was over a second quicker than the current lap record he holds.

Second fastest was Valentino Rossi, another inmate of MotoGP's sick bay. The reigning World Champion got close - within a tenth of a second - but could not quite match Stoner's blistering pace. The Doctor kept Suzuki veteran Loris Capirossi behind him, Capirex consigned to third place, just over a tenth of a second behind Rossi. Capirossi has been the revelation of the test, the new Suzuki clearly improved, though the Sepang track also suiting the bikes handling very well.

Fourth fastest was Colin Edwards, the Texan showing both that the 2009 Yamaha M1 is an excellent package, and that he is one of the few Michelin riders to have adapted easily to the new Bridgestone tires, demonstrating just why Michelin kept him as their lead test rider for so long. The other former Michelin men are much further down the field, Jorge Lorenzo the first of them in 7th, three quarters of a second behind his team mate, ahead of Repsol Honda new boy Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi was left without a team mate, after Dani Pedrosa went home a day early with a painful knee, which is still not fully recovered from surgery in December.

Pedrosa's absence left Toni Elias the fastest Honda rider, surprising many who had thought that Elias would struggle with the new tires. The Spaniard had previously used a special custom front tire, of a much softer construction, but has adapted very well to the new, much stiffer tires being used.

Mika Kallio was the second Ducati rider in 9th, finding a big improvement from previous days, finishing ahead of Stoner's factory Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden. Hayden continues to improve, but remains consistently a second and a half behind his fellow former World Champion.

The teams will now leave Sepang, and get ready for the next test at Qatar in early March.

No. Rider Bike Time Fast Lap Total Laps
1 Casey Stoner Ducati 2'01.043 38 38
2 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2'01.137 42 43
3 Loris Capirossi Suzuki 2'01.262 10 57
4 Colin Edwards Yamaha 2'01.413 7 22
5 Toni Elias Honda 2'01.560 17 37
6 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 2'01.666 4 48
7 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2'01.907 21 61
8 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2'01.955 35 54
9 Mika Kallio Ducati 2'02.386 34 61
10 Nicky Hayden Ducati 2'02.497 23 62
11 Alex De Angelis Honda 2'02.523 19 32
12 Sete Gibernau Ducati 2'02.727 12 42
13 Randy De Puniet Honda 2'03.418 24 50
14 Yuki Takahashi Honda 2'03.474 17 58
15 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 2'03.915 26 41
16 James Toseland Yamaha 2'03.953 31 36
17 Norihiko Fujiwara Yamaha 2'04.328 14 38
18 Waturu Yoshikawa Yamaha 2'04.614 32 33

Lap record: 2007, Casey Stoner, 2'02.108

Dani Pedrosa leaves Sepang a day early.

Matthew Birt at MCN and the corporate MotoGP site are reporting that Dani Pedrosa has left the Sepang test a day early. Owing to surgery on his left knee in December, he has not recovered sufficient strength to complete race-distance simulations scheduled for Day 3. Considering that he rose to 4th on the time charts in Day 2 - within .4 sec of a similarly ailing Casey Stoner - and having completed everything else scheduled for his test regimen, this would seem to be a wise move.

It must be wondered if a similar conversation is taking place over in the Ducati garage for young Mr. Stoner’s condition, as well.


Byrne To Be Sole Sterilgarda Rider At First Two World Superbike Rounds

So  far, the global financial crisis has mainly affected MotoGP, leaving World Superbikes largely untouched. This is hardly surprising, as World Superbikes is a much cheaper series to compete in, and does not swallow money in the same way that developing the highly strung prototypes in MotoGP does.

But that does not mean that World Superbikes is immune. According to, the Sterilgarda Ducati team, in an attempt to cut costs, will only be fielding Shane Byrne at the first two rounds of the series, leaving their Italian rider, Alessandro Polita, making the step up from Superstock, at home. "I'm very sorry about the situation, which prevents us from taking Alex," team manager Marco Borciani said. "Unfortunately, business conditions have prevented some of the companies from providing the sponsorship we were expecting for 2009."

The choice to skip the first two rounds of World Superbikes is a logical one, as these are two of the most expensive of the series. The season opener is at Phillip Island in Australia, followed by Losail in Qatar. Leaving one rider at home allows the team to cut costs significantly, saving them the expense of shipping bikes, parts and team members half way around the world.

Polita is expected to be present at the third WSBK round at Valencia, at the beginning of April.


2009 Sepang Test - Day 2 - Final Times - Stoner Continues To Lead

Casey Stoner continued his dominance at Sepang today, on the second day of testing, though his wrist continues to trouble him, leaving the Australian incapable of putting in too many laps. But even a relatively small number of laps is enough to be the fastest man on the grid, which should give the competition pause for thought. 

Loris Capirossi continues his strong showing at Sepang, raising hopes that Suzuki might have a good season again in 2009. The Italian veteran is a fraction ahead of his compatriot Valentino Rossi, who was third fastest. Like Stoner, Rossi is also struggling with injury, though the stitches in his fingers and foot are nowhere near as serious as Stoner's healing scaphoid. But there is less than 2/10ths of a second covering the top three, so things are pretty close.

After a difficult first day, Dani Pedrosa is back up to speed, the Repsol Honda rider also cracking the 2'02 barrier. But Pedrosa is a quarter of a second behind Rossi, and nearly 0.4 behind Stoner. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden took a second off his time from yesterday, climbing to 9th. But the American is still over a second and a half behind his team mate.

James Toseland is the rider struggling the most. The Englishman didn't improve his time from yesterday, and is propping up the bottom of the timesheets. Not the start to the year Toseland will be hoping for.

Testing concludes tomorrow.

No. Rider Bike Time Fast Lap Total Laps
1 Casey Stoner Ducati 2'01.483 22 24
2 Loris Capirossi Suzuki 2'01.555 39 44
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2'01.626 25 40
4 Dani Pedrosa Honda 2'01.860 30 51
5 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 2'02.086 34 52
6 Toni Elias Honda 2'02.232 34 51
7 Colin Edwards Yamaha 2'02.241 8 37
8 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2'02.434 44 44
9 Nicky Hayden Ducati 2'03.034 8 44
10 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2'03.056 33 51
11 Sete Gibernau Ducati 2'03.308 5 34
12 Alex De Angelis Honda 2'03.518 33 40
13 Mika Kallio Ducati 2'03.774 49 55
14 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 2'04.021 45 45
15 Norihiko Fujiwara Yamaha 2'04.312 19 36
16 Yuki Takahashi Honda 2'04.332 52 65
17 Randy De Puniet Honda 2'04.507 7 48
18 Waturu Yoshikawa Yamaha 2'04.536 50 50
19 James Toseland Yamaha 2'04.597 30 36

Lap record: 2007, Casey Stoner, 2'02.108

Two Races Per Engine From Indy Onwards

The proposals on the table aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP are pretty well known now, and have been discussed here several times. It looks increasingly likely that practice and testing will be reduced this year, with more drastic measures, including engines having to last for at least two races and only allowing the riders to have one bike instead of two.

But it looks like the MSMA feels the situation is more desparate than at first thought. Motorcycle News is reporting that the regulations enforcing extended engine life will be introduced ahead of schedule, as early as the Indianapolis Grand Prix at the end of August. Other measures MCN is reporting to be adopted include the dropping of the Friday morning free practice session, the reduction of the other sessions to 45 minutes instead of an hour, and the dropping of most of the post-race tests in Europe.

One question mark hanging over the introduction of the extended engine life is the penalty for breaking it. Two suggestions had been put forward to deal with this: having points deducted or being put to the back of the grid. MCN does not report what punishment has been decided on, but both are problematic. Manufacturers seem unlikely to accept a points reduction, but being put to the back of the grid encourages gaming the system. If the power advantage is great enough for an engine lasting one race, then it might be worth taking the penalty and gambling on being able to fight your way forward through the field. Also, with only 17 bikes on the grid, if all of the factory bikes break the rule, then the rider who qualified fastest would find himself back on the 3rd row, instead of the back row.

And although extended engine life will allow savings on maintenance, something that will benefit the satellite teams, there will be a lot of pressure on racing departments inside the manufacturers to squeeze the same amount of horsepower out of an engine with greater reliability, which will inevitably involve an increase in R&D spending. The question of whether this will be more or less than the amount saved on maintenance remains unanswered.

One thing is clear, though. Big changes are coming to MotoGP. And with such big changes on hand, these measures have to succeed in actually cutting costs. If they don't then the next step - and the future of MotoGP - are anyone's guess.


2009 Sepang Test - Day 2 Times - 4pm - Stoner Back On Top

On day 2 of the Sepang test, the picture is similar to yesterday. Once again, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi are battling it out for supremacy, and a 4pm, it was the Australian who was on top. But unlike yesterday, the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was very close behind, and ready to join the front group. More times once testing finishes. 

No. Rider Bike Time Fast Lap Total Laps
1 Casey Stoner Ducati 2'01.483 22 24
2 Loris Capirossi Suzuki 2'01.555 39 42
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2'01.626 25 37
4 Dani Pedrosa Honda 2'01.860 30 45
5 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 2'02.086 34 41
6 Toni Elias Honda 2'02.232 34 39
7 Colin Edwards Yamaha 2'02.241 8 37
8 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2'02.719 23 31
9 Nicky Hayden Ducati 2'03.034 8 44
10 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2'03.056 33 42
11 Sete Gibernau Ducati 2'03.308 5 34
12 Alex De Angelis Honda 2'03.766 30 30
13 Mika Kallio Ducati 2'03.850 22 41
14 Norihiko Fujiwara Yamaha 2'04.312 19 31
15 Yuki Takahashi Honda 2'04.332 52 54
16 Randy De Puniet Honda 2'04.507 7 41
17 James Toseland Yamaha 2'04.597 30 31
18 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 2'04.619 19 39
19 Waturu Yoshikawa Yamaha 2'05.890 4 19

Lap record: 2007, Casey Stoner, 2'02.108

Melandri: "I Don't Want To Just Make Up The Numbers"

Until now, anyone wanting to know the mind of Marco Melandri had only the haiku-like utterances permitted by Facebook status updates. But today, Melandri has added an entry on his blog, finally telling his side of the story, and laying out what he expects. And for fans of the Italian, hoping to see him make the start of the season, the news is not good.

"The situation has got worse day by day," Melandri writes, "changing radically from one hour to the next without any explanation, and I have gone from being hopeful to having no certainty at all of riding in MotoGP in 2009."

And Kawasaki's withdrawal has changed the way he looks at life. "I am feeling calmer now, because I've started to think in a different way. I've realized I can't control everything that happens around me, and that I've done everything I could, and used every means at my disposal to handle the situation."

But the chances of Melandri racing are slim: "The one thing I'm sure about is that I will only race if I have the chance of doing well. I won't be in MotoGP just to make up the numbers." This is the lesson that Melandri has drawn from his difficult year with Ducati. "Another year like 2008 would kill me," he wrote.

Melandri is close to a decision on his 2009 season, however. "Now I have to wait until the end of February, but I really can't wait any longer than that to decide whether I will be racing or not," he wrote. It looks like he is ready, as Dean Adams of predicted with eerie clairvoyance, to sit out the season.