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Bayliss To Test Ducati's MotoGP Bike

A remarkable press release from Italy. Ducati have just announced that Troy Bayliss is to test Ducati's Desmosedici GP9 at Mugello next week, at a private Ducati test from May 12th to May 14th. Bayliss is to test Ducati's MotoGP bike alongside regular tester Vittoriano Guareschi, in pursuit of improvements to the difficult Desmosedici. The press release puts it as follows: "The test has been planned for a while and will be repeated during the year at future official sessions of the Test Team. Ducati can thus count on the feedback of a three times world champion, whose talent and experience will contribute to the continuous development work carried out on the Desmosedici GP9 and GP10."

Rumors of Bayliss riding the GP9 had been floating around the internet for a couple of weeks, ever since spy shots of a set of leathers with MotoGP, Baylisstic and Marlboro Ducati logos surfaced on a couple of racer websites. The shots were allegedly taken by someone picking up a set of leathers from the Arlen Ness factory from their racing department, and had unsurprisingly generated a lot of speculation about the legendary Australian Superbike star making a return to racing. Bayliss is preparing to compete in Australia's V8 Supercars series, but is known to still have both close links to Ducati and and a hankering for motorcycle racing - despite an explicit veto by his wife.

The likelihood of Bayliss ever racing in MotoGP has to be fairly slim. After his victory in the final race of the 990 era, Bayliss proclaimed himself done with MotoGP, having gained the revenge on Ducati's MotoGP team that he had sought after being unceremoniously dumped by the squad at the end of the 2004 season. Together with his World Superbike pit crew, specially shipped in as a condition of Bayliss taking Gibernau's ride as a wildcard at the 2006 Valencia Grand Prix, he came in and took victory almost from the very first corner.

But Bayliss being called in to perform testing duty also points to Ducati having recognized that they are still having problems with the GP9. Despite the machine looking almost unbeatable in the hands of Casey Stoner, no one else seems to be capable of getting to grips with the fickle Ducati. The bike is notoriously difficult to set up, the engine mapping making the bike respond differently almost from corner to corner, disrupting the riders' concentration and robbing them of confidence. By bringing in a rider of unquestionable ability, Ducati may hope to find out whether the problem really is with the bike, or with the other riders. Given that three former world champions - Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden - all failed to get the hang of the Ducati (though fairness decrees that it is a little early to draw that conclusion for Hayden), it really does look like the problem is with the bike, and not the riders.

When asked by MotoGPMatters.com, a Ducati press officer said that the team would not be releasing times. "It will be behind closed doors, as every other test of the test team is. We may put out a final release." Of course, Bayliss' test puts Ducati in a difficult situation. If they do publish times, then this will unleash a tidal wave of speculation, either about the future of Nicky Hayden if the times are good, or about the state of the bike if the times are bad. And if they don't publish times, then this will generate even more speculation about why they didn't release the times. However, it will at least generate a lot of publicity for both the team and the sponsors.

 

Moto2 Bikes To Race In Spanish Formula Extreme Series

Now that the rules for the Moto2 series have been finalized - all except the small matter of actually producing the spec Honda engine, that is - the teams interested in the class can finally get on with developing the bikes. To this end, Dorna and the RFME (the Royal Motorcycling Federation of Spain) had initially announced that the class would be allowed to race in the Spanish CEV championship, partly to allow the teams to work on their bikes, and partly to monitor how the class would work out.

Unfortunately, due to the lateness of the announcement and confusion over the rules, only two teams entered the Spanish Moto2 championship, and so the separate races had to be scrapped. Instead, LaGlisse's Yamaha R6-based bike and the Blusens BQR Honda-based bike took part in qualifying for the CEV Formula Extreme championship, in which 1000cc bikes compete under rules which are similar to Superstock spec. The Moto2 bikes were not unsuccessful: The bikes qualified in 5th and 6th place, just over a second off of pole.

With the Moto2 rules now finalized, and new entries from teams such as Inmotec and FTR Moto on the cards, the RFME and Dorna have decided to allow the Moto2 bikes to race. As there will still not be enough entries to field a separate race, the Moto2 bikes will race alongside the Formula Extreme bikes, starting from the next round of the CEV at Jerez on June 6th and 7th. The bikes will not score points for the Formula Extreme championship, but will instead score points for a separate Moto2 championship, not unlike the separate privateer championship in the CEV's Formula Extreme class.

This announcement is likely to generate an upsurge in interest in the CEV, not least because the next round will be at Jerez, the track which has just held the last round of MotoGP. Racing the Moto2 bikes on the same track the 250s have just raced on will allow journalists and fans to finally get an idea of just how close the two classes really are, and whether teams wanting to compete next year - when the Moto2 bikes will race alongside the 250 class - would be better off going for a four-stroke Moto2 machine or sticking with an Aprilia for 2010. We shall keep you posted, and news and results will be available from the CEV championship website at http://www.cevbuckler.com/ (in Spanish).

Sterilgarda To Sponsor Yamaha's World Superbike Squad - But What About Byrne?

With the withdrawal of the Spanish Banco Santander as the sponsor of the Yamaha Motor Italia World Superbike squad last year - despite the relative health of the Spanish banking system - and the signing of the American Ben Spies, one of the major questions around the paddock was who would be funding what is obviously one of the best-run and most expensive World Superbike programs. Whoever decided to step in would surely be getting a return on their investment, given the fact that Ben Spies has won a race at each of the four World Superbike rounds held so far.

This fact has not been lost on Sterilgarda, as the Italian food giant has decided to step in to take a major sponsorship role for the Yamaha World Superbike team. Starting from Monza, the Sterilgarda brand will feature large on both the fairings of the Yamaha R1 race bikes, as well as the leathers of Tom Sykes and Ben Spies. In a press release, Yamaha boss Laurens Klein Koerkamp said "It's very positive to have such a well known brand in the paddock recognize how successful the Yamaha World Superbike Team is and want to be part of it. We're looking forward to working together and this being the start of a long term relationship," while Nando Sarzi, owner of Sterilgarda Alimenti said "We are really happy to be able to link our brand with The Yamaha World Superbike Team. We're really excited to be able share the racing emotions and success with the team, starting with Monza this weekend, the home race for both the team and our company."

While the signing of major sponsorship for the Yamaha team is to be applauded, the question which remains is where this leaves the current Sterilgarda Ducati team. The team has already had to cut down from two riders to just one, dropping Alex Polita to be able to retain Shane Byrne. And since Byrne's results have been frankly disappointing after his strong results during preseason testing, it must be feared that Sterilgarda's decision to sponsor Yamaha marks not so much an expansion of their program, and more a reallocation of their resources. The future of Borciani's team would look a good deal bleaker should Yamaha's Sterilgarda deal signal an end to the food giant's sponsorship of the Ducati squad.

But Byrne will be heading into the Monza round of World Superbikes with a little more hope than previously. At last weekend's round of the Italian championship, held at the Monza circuit, Byrne dominated the race, winning by over 16 seconds. If Byrne can be as good at Monza this weekend as he was last, Sterilgarda might just stick around the Ducati team.

Alstare Boss Batta Suggests Scrapping Two Qualifier Rule For WSBK Superpole

The new Superpole format introduced in World Superbikes - three sessions of 12 minutes, with 12 riders eliminated during the first two of those sessions - has generally been met with much enthusiasm. The sessions are much more exciting than the former single-fast-lap format, and have thrown up several surprises. Most of those surprises have been caused by the tire rules: In a twist to the format, the riders are only allowed to use two super-soft qualifying tires. With two tires to spread over three sessions, qualifying has been a bit of a gamble, with riders as prominent as Max Biaggi and Max Neukirchner finding themselves knocked out of the first session, and forced to start from the fifth row of the grid.

The qualifying tire rule has come in for a lot of criticism, from fans, teams and journalists alike, who point to the fact that slower riders have been able to get through the early superpole sessions by throwing in a qualifier at the start, while nominally faster riders who choose to save their qualifiers for an attempt at the front row are being knocked out.

As manager of the Alstare Brux Suzuki team, the flamboyant Francis Batta has also railed against the qualifying tire rule, and according to Motorsport Aktuell, he will be tabling a proposal to change this at Monza. "Superpole has been a lottery," Batta told MSA, who has also complained of the top riders being knocked out. "My proposal is this: the soft qualifying tires will only be given to the last eight riders in the third Superpole session. That way, the top riders will be able to fight with equal equipment."

Although Batta's proposal would save money - at least for Pirelli - it begs the question of why a qualifying tire should be used at all. If the riders are to be on equal tires in each of the sessions, then why not just scrap the qualifiers altogether?

Others have proposed that the riders should be given three qualifiers, to use as they see fit over the three Superpole sessions. The brave could save two tires for the final session, while those who are less sure of their times could attempt to use a qualifier to get them through the first knockout phase.

But all this begs the question of exactly what the qualifying sessions are meant to achieve. If the point is merely to reward the fastest riders, then the grid would look eerily similar at every race - as it has in MotoGP, since the qualifying tires have been scrapped. The top riders are the top riders, and without the breathtaking grip of a super-sticky qualifier and the mixture of foolhardiness and bravery required to get the most out of it, no qualifying specialists have been able to break their hegemony.

The beauty of World Superbike's knockout Superpole system - at least in this commentator's opinion - is precisely that it provides an element of chance into the proceedings. From a simple question of who can put in the fastest lap, the two-qualifiers-for-three-sessions rule turns the early sessions into a game of poker. If you know you're fast enough - Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga come to mind - then you don't need to use up your qualifiers to make it through the first cut from 20 riders down to 16. Only the riders who qualified in the bottom half in practice need to use a qualifier, which in turn forces the riders in 7th and 8th place to gamble on being fast enough on race tires, and save their qualifiers, or use up the first of the super-soft tires to ensure they get through to the second Superpole session.

This pattern is repeated in the second Superpole session, but the cut is much harsher, with half of the remaining 16 riders being excluded from the final 12 minute session. Again, the really fast guys will usually make it without using a qualifier, but the guys in 4th and 5th spot have to think twice about whether to gamble or to play it safe.

For the riders using qualifiers early to get through the first knockout sessions, they know their choices will leave with little chance of taking pole, but starting from the second row on the grid must surely be better than starting from the fourth or fifth row on the grid.

So the teams and riders are forced to work out how much extra time they believe the riders will get from a qualifier, and where that will leave them in the knockout sessions. It is not exactly rocket science, but it does need careful deliberation, and makes it impossible for the teams to exclude chance altogether. As the season progresses, they will get a better feel for the process, and understand when they should gamble and when to play it safe. By the end of the year, there should be fewer major shocks, but still a few surprises.

Only four rounds in is perhaps a little early to be drawing conclusions about the new Superpole format, but personally, I think it's a success. Complaints that it is a lottery should be taken for what they are, complaints by team bosses who want to ensure that their riders are on the front of the grid. After all, with Ben Spies taking pole position at all four race weekends so far, it's a pretty strange lottery that sees the same winner every week.

Jake Zemke To Replace John Hopkins At Monza

After Assen disrupted John Hopkins' career for the second year in succession, the Stiggy Racing team was left looking for a replacement for the man who had only just joined the team. Hopkins' injury - a dislocated hip with a fractured femur - leaves the American out of racing for at least two, and maybe three rounds.

First of these is magnificent Monza, a jewel of a track set in a huge park on the outskirts of Milan. At that legendary track, another American, Jake Zemke, will ride Hopkins' CBR1000RR. Zemke is the reigning AMA Formula Xtreme champion, a class that has now been replaced by the incomprehensible Daytona Sportbike class in the AMA Pro Racing Championship, and is currently riding for Erion Honda's Daytona Sportbike entry. Zemke previously rode a Honda CBR1000RR for American Honda in the AMA Superbike series alongside Miguel Duhamel.

This will be Zemke's second attempt at Monza. Previously, Zemke was scheduled to substitute for Roberto Rolfo aboard the Althea Honda here in 2008, but last-minute paperwork problems with the AMA prevented Zemke from taking part. This weekend, Zemke will be replacing Hopkins - who replaced Rolfo, though over results, not injury - at the Italian track. Hopkins will also be out at Kyalami in two weeks' time, but that event clashes with the next AMA round at Infineon Raceway, or Sears Point as it was known, ruling Zemke out there. Both Hopkins and Zemke share a manager, a contributing factor to Zemke's taking the ride, but like several American racers, Zemke has indicated an interest in joining the World Superbike paddock permanently.

The problem for Zemke, as for all Americans, will be money: In the World Superbike paddock, it is customary to pay for your ride by bringing in sponsorship, unless you are one of a handful of the very top riders who teams and factories are keen to pay. Unless Zemke can completely blow away the opposition, he is unlikely to be made a similar offer, and with a host of Italian riders and Italian teams turning up at Monza, that is a very tall order indeed.

More Moto2 Details - Spec Engine Will Be Heavily Modified CBR600 Unit

On Saturday, shortly before qualifying practice for the MotoGP class was about to kick off, the FIM and Dorna released a joint statement announcing that Honda had won the contract to supply the standard engine for Moto2. But the announcement from the Permanent Bureau, as the FIM / Dorna committee styles itself, was light on detail, saying only that Honda "offers high level performance engine," and that "the horse power will be over 150."

After the announcement, Shuhei Nakamoto, vice president of HRC, spoke to GPOne.com, revealing more information about the engine. The engine, which Motorcycle News reports has been under development for the past two years, will be based on the unit which powers Honda's roadgoing CBR600RR sports bike. The engine will have a wet clutch and unusually for a race bike will not feature a cassette-style gearbox. Cassette gearboxes allow the gear shafts to be extracted from the side of the bike, without having to remove the engine from the chassis.

Honda will provide an ECU for the engine, but it is unknown whether that ECU will have traction control capabilities. The current World Supersport machines are not using a great deal of traction control, but the extra power from the Moto2 engine may make it more of a necessity. The shape and size of the airbox will be unregulated, and up to the teams to get the most out of.

Cost of the unit will be around 24,000 euros, or 17,000 without a gearbox. Dorna will buy the engines from Honda, who will pass the engines on to the team. The engines will have a service life of around 2,000 km, meaning that the teams should only need 3 engines to last a season. The 150 horsepower rating is "obviously more powerful than the engine which is in the Supersport," according to Nakamoto. "We expect to be ready in October," Nakamoto said, "and the engines will be prepared by Honda R&D, as HRC doesn't have the capacity to produce them. But the two departments will collaborate very closely on this." Though the engines will only be ready in October, the teams are expected so receive CAD drawings which they can use to start designing a chassis around within the next few weeks.

With Nakamoto publicly admitting that the engine will be based on the CBR600 unit, the question is how will the Flammini brothers and Infront Motor Sports react. The Flamminis claim they have exclusive rights to production-based motorcycle racing, an agreement which the Moto2 unit could be said to violate, or at least that's what could be argued in the courts. We shall see how IMS responds in the next few days.

Lorenzo: "The First Idea Is To Stay With Yamaha"

Jorge Lorenzo is a wanted man. The Spaniard made a devastating entry into the MotoGP class in 2008, and his 2009 season is looking even stronger. Lorenzo leads the championship - though with only two races gone - and is on pole for his home Grand Prix. Alongside his indisputable talent, his showmanship and maturity also make him very popular with sponsors. Jorge Lorenzo certainly offers an outstanding return on investment.

So it is no surprise that Lorenzo is being pursued by a number of parties. First and foremost of those is his current team, the factory Fiat Yamaha outfit led by Lin Jarvis. Lorenzo today admitted to reporters that he has had talks this weekend about extending his contract, and that his first priority is to remain with the team. Lorenzo told reporters that both the bike and the atmosphere in the team were excellent, and offered him a chance to be competitive.

But Lorenzo also hinted that Yamaha was not his only option. "When you are fast, all the people want you," he said, seeming to substantiate rumors he has been approached by other teams. Rumors have emerged that Repsol is keen to sign Lorenzo with the factory Honda squad, as the Spanish oil giant is determined to find another Spanish World Champion to follow Alex Criville, who won the title in 1999. They are reported to be losing patience with current Repsol Honda front man Dani Pedrosa, after Pedrosa has failed to provide them with a title in the three seasons he has had with the factory team.

Pedrosa has declined to comment on his own future, though according to Autosport.com, he did let slip that "There may be other makes," should he ever leave Honda. Previously, Pedrosa has refused to speculate on a future outside Honda, and so these comments could possibly be regarded as the first tacit acknowledgement that his place at the Repsol team is no longer safe.

For Lorenzo to take Pedrosa's place at Honda would be a huge gamble, the Japanese giant having failed to dominate the class as they have done in its previous 500cc and 990cc incarnations. However, two factors may make it a considerably more palatable prospect: The first is money, and lots of it. Repsol would be willing to offer Lorenzo a multi-million euro base salary if the Spaniard were to sign with the Repsol Honda team, a good deal more than his current Yamaha deal is paying. And the second is influence: At Repsol Honda, Lorenzo would be the undisputed number one rider, and the bike and the team would be developed around his wishes. 

At Yamaha, the gargantuan figure of Valentino Rossi blocks both of these avenues for Lorenzo. Though the Spaniard's salary is likely to rise just as his stock in the paddock rises, as long as Rossi is on the Fiat Yamaha payroll, then the Italian will take the lion's share of the money Fiat pour into the team. And the same is true for Lorenzo's position within the team hierarchy: As long as Valentino Rossi, the man who has won three world championships for Yamaha, is on the factory squad, the bike and the team will revolve around Rossi's wishes. Lorenzo will not evict Rossi from the throne at Yamaha until he, too, has brought in at least one world title.

Of course, as one of the smartest riders in the paddock, Lorenzo will know exactly what his market value is to other teams. But he will also be all too aware that the Yamaha is by far the best bike in the paddock, and his best bet for becoming World Champion. Which means that the most likely explanation for his implicit flirtation with other teams is to increase the value of his bargaining chips with Lin Jarvis and Yamaha. Lorenzo is too smart to leave Yamaha, but he is also too smart to sell himself cheap.

Bautista In Talks With Suzuki For 2010, Simoncelli To Gresini?

Regardless of the outcome of this year's 250cc championship, that series' two biggest names will be leaving for greener pastures at the end of the year. Both Alvaro Bautista and Marco Simoncelli intend to step up a class for the 2010 season, though they seem set to go in quite different directions.

The man whose future seems clearest is Alvaro Bautista. For according to the Spanish website Motoworld.es, Bautista is in negotiations to join the Rizla Suzuki team in 2010. Motoworld.es is reporting that representatives for the Spanish 250 star have been talking to Paul Denning about joining Suzuki, as Bautista is determined to sign with a factory team, which leaves Suzuki as the only option. The Hamamatsu factory was given a dispensation from the so-called Rookie Rule which prevents riders eligible for the Rookie Of The Year award from going straight to a factory team, as Suzuki only fields two bikes and does not have a satellite squad which they can use to nurture newcomers to the class. 

According to Motoworld.es, Bautista is most likely to be replacing Chris Vermeulen at Suzuki, as the Australian has an offer from another team for next season, though the site does not say which team that might be. Like Bautista, Vermeulen is keen to remain on factory equipment, and at the moment, there are appear to be very few factory seats open.

Bautista was in talks with Suzuki last year about switching to MotoGP for this season, but the Man From La Mancha (Bautista is from Talavera de la Reina, in Spain's Castilla-La Mancha region) decided to stay on a year in the 250 class after losing the title to Marco Simoncelli. But Bautista is also a protege of Jorge Martinez, boss of the Aspar squad, and Martinez is keen to hang on to the Spaniard. To this end, Martinez is in talks with Yamaha about obtaining satellite M1 machines for the 2010 season, though the success of this approach will depend on whether the proposal to allow riders just one bike at each race actually makes more bikes available than the four that Yamaha currently fields.

As for Marco Simoncelli, it is an open secret that Aprilia want the Italian superstar to ride their RSV4 machine in World Superbikes next season, even offering Simoncelli a wildcard in World Superbikes earlier this year. Aprilia is furious with Dorna and the MSMA with the way decisions were made about the Moto2 class, the Italian factory's plans to field a V Twin thwarted by the class moving to a 600cc four cylinder engine, a configuration Aprilia has neither the experience nor the interest in building.

But Simoncelli is yet to be convinced. The Italian feels he is still young enough to take a chance in the MotoGP class, and Motoworld.es is linking Simoncelli to the Gresini Honda squad. Simoncelli shares his manager with Alex de Angelis, who will no doubt be talking to Fausto Gresini about Simoncelli's future. 

It remains to be seen how Simoncelli's close friendship with Valentino Rossi plays out. There is no doubt about Rossi's influence with Yamaha, and the internet is rife with rumors linking Simoncelli with Yamaha, and especially Herve Poncharal's Tech 3 Yamaha squad. So far, these are very much still rumors, and as virtual as the world which spawned them. Silly season has started very early in 2009.

2009 Jerez MotoGP Qualifying Report

Going into Saturday afternoon's MotoGP qualifying session at Jerez, it was unusually hard to say who was likely to take pole. At Qatar, Casey Stoner had destroyed all-comers, and had also dominated the IRTA test here a month ago. But after two sessions of free practice, any of five men looked possible candidates for pole position. Valentino Rossi had utterly dominated Friday's free practice session, with Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner some way behind, but Saturday morning was a different kettle of fish. In FP2, it was local heroes Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo who blasted the opposition, with Casey Stoner once again forced to settle for 3rd.

And as the green lights went and the riders rolled out of pit lane and onto the track, it was the two Spaniards who quickly made the early running. Lorenzo took the first shot at pole, but Dani Pedrosa soon took it away from the Mallorcan with a much more serious attempt in the low 1'40 bracket. With times in free practice regularly hitting the mid 1'39s, it was clear that there was plenty left to go.

With so much of practice already scrapped as part of the cost savings measures, the first half of qualifying was set further refining race setup, the teams looking for settings that will work with the hard tires they expect to use in the race. But as the clock ticked down past the 20 minutes to go mark, riders started to sling on the softer of the two compounds available and chase grid positions for the race on Sunday.

As a reminder of what we lost when we lost the special qualifying tires, Randy de Puniet made some of the early running, quickly getting up into 2nd, and then losing out in the final section after registering blazing times through the first three parts of the track. But it wasn't until the 15 minutes to go mark had passed that qualifying began in earnest.

Colin Edwards took the first shot at Pedrosa's low 1'40 time, and looked strong until the final section of the track, where the wind had been causing havoc all day, and lost the time he gained, finishing up 5th fastest. Then a couple of minutes later, Jorge Lorenzo took aim and shot true, the first man to crack the 1'40 barrier with a time of 1'30.675. Both Loris Capirossi and Valentino Rossi were hot on his heels, but again, both men lost out in the final section, and couldn't get near Lorenzo's time.

But the game was afoot, and Casey Stoner would be next to lay his cards upon the table. The Australian was fast, but with 12 minutes to go could not beat the Fiat Yamaha man, coming up short in 2nd. The fastest man in the morning session had more success, Dani Pedrosa shattering Lorenzo's time by half a second to take back provisional pole with 11 minutes to go.

But Pedrosa did not get to enjoy his position for long: Seconds later, Lorenzo was back, with another lap 2/10ths under Pedrosa's and back on the front of the grid. Loris Capirossi tried, but came up short, as did Casey Stoner, but no one was near enough to threaten. With 6 minutes left, Valentino Rossi gave it his best shot, but even the reigning World Champion could only get within half a second of his team mate with a provisional 3rd spot on the grid.

Lorenzo wasn't finished yet, though. A minute later, the Spaniard was back, and into the 1'38s. Again, Pedrosa responded, but again, the Repsol Honda man came up short, just 0.05 seconds off his fellow countryman's time. Casey Stoner had another go, but the Australian couldn't near Lorenzo either. His first attempt left him half a second off Lorenzo's time, his final lap only shaving a few hundredths off that deficit, Stoner could not improve on his 3rd spot.

His position was also under threat from tital rival Valentino Rossi. The Italian set a blistering pace in the first half of the track, losing out in the second half, then did exactly the same on the next lap, improving his time but not his position, still stuck in 4th. As the flag dropped, Jorge Lorenzo repeated his pole-winning performance of last year, taking the front spot on the grid.

Beside Lorenzo will sit Dani Pedrosa, and with both men setting long runs with good times earlier during practice, there is little to choose between the two. No doubt Pedrosa will get a rocket start, but if Lorenzo can get off the line well, he should be able to prevent his arch rival from repeating the disappearing trick he performed here last year. Pedrosa will also have to contend with Casey Stoner, who is struggling with the wind on the Ducati's big fairing.

Valentino Rossi has left himself with work to do, starting from the front of the second row. On Friday, he was utterly invincible, but in the cooler temperatures on Saturday morning, there was little left of his dominance. A change in setup failed to cure the problems he found in the morning, but some last minute experimentation on Sunday morning may yet provide the solutions he seeks, as it has done so many times before. Rossi told reporters that the problems he had been having centered around finding the right balance with the machine, and that Casey Stoner was having the same difficulty. The single tires have so far failed to play out to Rossi and Stoner's advantage, the Italian believes.

Randy de Puniet continued his good form here at Jerez with a solid 5th place, and is looking consistently fast for the race. Of course, de Puniet will have to not let the excitement go to his head, and throw his Playboy-sponsored LCR Honda into the dirt, but if he doesn't he could cause a couple of surprises. Suzuki's Loris Capirossi rounds out the second row of the grid, the Italian being fast all weekend, but still not quite capable of closing the gap to the front runners.

Colin Edwards heads up the third row with the 7th fastest time, and was disappointed to be so far back after strong showings in Qatar and - until the race - Motegi. Edwards has Andrea Dovizioso behind him, who has joined the general Honda complaints of a lack of grip, but the Italian was faster on race tires than the softer tires used to set a grid position. The other factory-spec RC212V, the Gresini Honda of Toni Elias, sits beside Dovizioso in 9th. Chris Vermeulen on the second Suzuki rounds out the top 10, while Marco Melandri just misses out in 11th.

Most worrying from Ducati's perspective is the dismal results of the remaining GP9 bikes. Sete Gibernau - the promotion of Africa's worst dictatorship now thankfully gone - is the best of the other Ducati riders in 12th, 1.5 seconds off Lorenzo and over a second slower than Casey Stoner, but the other three Ducatis, including Nicky Hayden on the other Factory bike, are at the bottom of the timesheets in 16th, 17th and 18th. Not even Mika Kallio has been able to put in a hot lap here to save the Bologna factory's honor. Once again, it really looks like there's only one man who can ride the bike.

With nothing to choose between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, and Rossi and Stoner both running similar times in race trim to the sparring Spaniards, tomorrow's race could be closer than last year. But to bet against there being a Spanish winner on Sunday would take a brave man, or a fool. We shall see when the flag drops.

Full results of MotoGP Qualifying Practice at Jerez.

Official: Honda To Be Moto2 Supplier, Practice Back To One Hour

The Grand Prix Commission met today at Jerez, to discuss a number of rule changes. Below is the press release issued by the GP Commission, more reaction to follow:

The Permanent Bureau composed of Messrs. Vito Ippolito (FIM President) and Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna CEO) in a meeting held on May 2 in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), unanimously decided to introduce the following amendment to the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations.

Application 2010

Moto2 class:

Amongst various offers received, it has been decided that the single engine supplier will be Honda who offers high level performance engine. The horse power will be over 150.

Next year only this category will also be open to the current 250cc motorcycles.

___________________________________________________________

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Claude Danis (FIM), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Messrs Vito Ippolito (FIM President), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Sport Director), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and M. Paul Butler (Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on May 2 in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), decided to introduce the following amendments to the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations.

Application from May 15, Le Mans Grand Prix.

1.13.1

On recommendation of the FIM Grand Prix Safety Commission, the event schedule has been modified as follows 

FRIDAY FREE PRACTICE
125cc: 12.40-13.40
MotoGP: 13.55-14.55
250cc: 15.10-16.10
SATURDAY FREE PRACTICE QUALIFYING PRACTICE
125cc: 09.00-09.40 13.00-13.40
MotoGP: 09.55-10.55 13.55-14.55
250cc: 11.10-12.10 15.10-15.55
SUNDAY WARM UP
125cc: 08.40-09.00
250cc: 09.10-09.30
MotoGP: 09.40-10.00

 

SUNDAY RACE
125cc: 11.00
250cc: 12.15
MotoGP: 14.00

 

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