Latest News

The Pasini Mystery - Toth Denies Pasini's Bike Impounded By Aprilia

Mattia Pasini has had a few rough years recently, and things don't seem to be getting any better. His last year in the 125 championship with Polaris World was plagued by engine breakdowns and mechanical problems, producing the entertaining spectacle of the Italian administering a thorough kicking to his factory-spec Aprilia. Then at the end his debut 250 year, the Polaris World team folded as a result of the financial crisis, and the demand for holiday homes in Spain collapsed.

2009 was looking much more promising, especially after the Italian took victory at Mugello once Marco Simoncelli had taken both himself and Alvaro Bautista out of the equation. But at Catalunya, trouble emerged, in the shape of money problems. Rumors surfaced of unpaid bills to Aprilia by Team Toth, and that Aprilia would be demanding its Aprilia RSA back. At Assen, the prominent Italian site GPOne.com reported that Aprilia has impounded Pasini's Aprilia RSA over the unpaid fees, and that Pasini will not be riding here on Saturday.

Imre Toth, team manager of the eponymous team, has denied everything to the Hungarian press. His response to the Hungarian website Motogphirek.hu when confronted with the allegations was "Whaaaat!!!" Toth told the Hungarian website that he expected to start the races as normal this weekend.

But GPOne's sources seem to be reliable. The website shows a picture of Pasini's Aprilia sitting in the belly of the Aprilia race truck, rather than the Team Toth truck. And all day today, the Team Toth truck stayed stubbornly closed, as did both the front and back doors to their pit garage. While elsewhere up and down the pit lane teams worked on bikes, and the pits rang to the song of two-strokes and MotoGP bikes being warmed up and tested, not a sound emanated from the Toth garage. The hospitality unit was similarly deserted on the multiple occasions that we walked past it, though this has to be put down to coincidence.

The truth of story will emerge tomorrow afternoon, when the first session of free practice gets underway. Mattia Pasini is present and healthy, and if he doesn't roll onto the track on Thursday, then explanations will be demanded.

Back to top

FIM Announces Electric Motorcycle Racing Series

We at MotoGPMatters.com are very excited about electric motorcycle races, as we wrote just a couple of weeks ago on the subject of the TTXGP. Oil is an incredibly useful resource - almost every object in your home is made using at least some parts made from it - and burning the stuff seems like sacrilege, however satisfying the resulting noise and smell may be. The day is drawing near that oil will become too expensive to burn, and some form of alternative energy supply will have to be found. Racing, in the form of a motorcycle race for electric machines, can help bring that day closer.

Evidently, the FIM agrees. For today, the International Motorcycling Federation announced that they will sanction a race series for electric motorcycles in 2010. The move has been prompted by the success of the TTXGP race which took place during the week of the TT on the Isle of Man, where the winning entry lapped the historic Mountain course at an average of over 87 miles per hour, and three other entries lapped at over 70 miles per hour. 

The advent of a series for electric motorcycles was inevitable, as prototypes are only a few years away from hitting mass production. Once that happens, and if they manage to sell enough units, the subject of homolgation for the World Superbike series would have been raised, and the FIM would have been faced with the problem of working out how to compare them with the existing four-stroke Superbikes. By creating a separate series for electric bikes, that problem is neatly sidestepped. And if the rules are similar to those for the TTXGP, this could be the most open motorcycle racing class currently running, and a real hotbed of innovation.

If you are interested in seeing some of the designs which prompted the FIM to take such a radical step, then the TTXGP website has a gallery of all of the entrants to the race, which you can find here.

The text of the FIM press release follows:

 

The FIM creates a new Series for Electric Motorcycles in 2010

Following the success of the TTXGP race held on the Isle of Man on June 12, the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) has decided to create a FIM Series for electric bikes in 2010. This new FIM Series will be run inside the Road Racing Grand Prix Commission, a great and innovative project led by Mr Azhar Hussain a UK Entrepreneur founder of the TTXGP. The FIM Series for electric bikes will provide an international platform for the development of electric bikes and the technology behind them to be tested in an exciting and challenging way. It aims at driving low-carbon technological innovation forward, to demonstrate that clean-emission transport technologies have matured and can be fun, fast and exciting.

FIM President Vito Ippolito

“I am very happy to with this new Series, the future of the sport depends on our capacity as well as that of the manufacturers to innovate quickly. We are convinced that very shortly the motorcycle World Championships will be accessible to non-polluting engines as far as gas and sound emissions are concerned. Now that this important decision is taken, we have to work on rules and calendar to be ready to compete in 2010”

TTXGP Founder Azhar Hussain

“With the success of the TTXGP on the Isle of Man, we have shown that zero carbon technology is ready to deliver the thrills and passion for both spectators and riders. In partnership with the FIM, we are taking the next step and proud to be pushing new frontiers in motorsports technology both on and off the track. Competition improves the breed, so we hope this new championship will come to be seen as a milestone event in bringing new transportation technology to the world beyond motorcycling. We invite the best and the brightest in the world to join the global championship and be with us at the dawn of the next generation of motorsports”

 

Back to top

Marco Simoncelli Signs For Gresini Honda For 2010

The first part of the 2010 MotoGP rookie puzzle fell into place today at Assen. In a press conference, Fausto Gresini, owner of the eponymous MotoGP team announced that Marco Simoncelli had signed a one-year deal with the team for 2010. Gresini will have one factory RC212V again next year, and Marco Simoncelli must be the odds-on favorite to get that ride. But the competition will be fierce, as Gresini is also said to be pursuing Marco Melandri, while Spanish rider Hector Barbera is believed to be chasing the Gresini Honda rider.

While Simoncelli's talent is undeniable, the press release also highlighted another aspect of the young Italian. Simoncelli is highly marketable in Italy, and the Simoncelli deal was announced together with the extension of Gresini's deal with Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo, who will be staying with the team for 2010 as well. "Marco has shown over the past couple of years that he has the ability to be a major force in the premier class, as well as being a great communicator," Gresini said. Simoncelli's bubbly personality and outlandish hairdo make the Italian instantly recognizable and a huge hit with the fans.

Gresini also underlined that Honda also had a hand in the deal. "Honda rates Simoncelli highly, and believes he is a rider with great potential for the future, so Honda is very pleased that we are welcoming Simoncelli next season," Gresini said. With the so-called rookie rule preventing class newcomers from joining a factory team in their first year, the factories are having to find more indirect ways of securing the services of promising rookies.

The Simoncelli signing is the first indication of how this will work, with Honda supporting Gresini's bid for the rider. It also vindicates the reasoning behind the rule, with San Carlo quite explicit about their reasons for extending their sponsorship deal with Gresini: "Sponsorship decisions, besides the sports facts, are also about the people who make the team," Alberto Vitaloni of the San Carlo company said.

However, the danger remains that satellite teams will be forced to surrender at least some control to the factories as a result of the rule. The major manufacturers are likely to become ever more instrumental in signing riders to teams, and may even decide at some point that it's better to take control of the satellite teams entirely. The rookie rule will benefit the satellite teams in the short term, but it may prove to be a Faustian bargain in the long term.

Back to top

MotoGPMatters Roadtrip Fundraising Drive

Exciting times lie ahead for MotoGPMatters.com. We will be reporting live from the next four rounds of MotoGP, starting with Saturday's race at Assen. David Emmett (aka Kropotkin) will be bringing you news and reports from Assen, Sachsenring and Donington, while Scott Jones will be sending back reports and his magnificent photographs from Laguna Seca.

All this costs money. And money is in short supply at the moment, despite the support we receive from our sponsors Power Sport Dynamic (who still have tickets available for their Turn 5 Chalet at this year's US MotoGP race at Laguna Seca) and Pole Position Travel, who can take you to any of the MotoGP races on the calendar.

So we are turning to you, our readers. We need money to be able to bring you the news, and you can help us. The previous fundraising drive saw many of our readers send us financial contributions, so join them in helping us keep bringing you the best analysis and most beautiful photography of the world of motorcycle racing.

All you have to do is head over to our Donate page, fill in an amount and make your contribution via Paypal.

Alternatively, if you work for a company that would benefit from working with MotoGPMatters.com to gain exposure, and the opportunity to reach the nearly 200,000 unique visitors who visited MotoGPMatters.com over the past 12 months, drop us a line at advertising@motogpmatters.com and ask how we can work together.

Back to top

Ezpeleta Believes Single Bike Rule Unlikely To Be Adopted

The proposal to allow MotoGP riders just a single bike is close to being dropped, according to Carmelo Ezpeleta, head of Dorna. Under the proposal, each MotoGP rider would be allowed to have just one bike prepared and scrutineered for each weekend, instead of the current situation, in which they each have two bikes. Speaking to the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, he said "The idea of the single bike has just about been ruled out, mainly because of the success of the flag-to-flag rule, which we saw again at Le Mans and Mugello. I believe that the riders will have two bikes next season." But, he added, "It's not up to me."

The demise of the single bike proposal has been widely rumored over the past few months. The underlying premise of the idea was that the extra bikes which became available could be used to increase the size of the grid, but none of the manufacturers is inclined to increase their presence on the grid. Both Yamaha and Suzuki have flat out rejected any pressure on them to provide more machines, and Ducati is similarly inclined.

So far, only Honda has given any indication that it may provide more bikes for next season, with the fate of the Scot Honda team, where Yuki Takahashi and Gabor Talmacsi are currently sharing two bikes between them, likely to tip Honda's hand. Scot Honda team boss Cirano Mularoni is currently trying to squeeze at least one extra bike out of Honda for the rest of the season, and the response to his request will be indicative of Honda's attitude to provding more bikes.

The reason for the manufacturers' reluctance to provide more bikes if the single bike proposal were to be adopted is that for the factories, a large part of the costs of supplying bikes is in supplying the accompanying engineers to liaise between the teams and the factories. They may make savings on producing and maintaining extra parts, but these would likely be outweighed by the extra costs in personnel.

The flag-to-flag rule provides an extra complication. If the riders only had a single bike, then coming into the pits would require a change of wheels, brake pads and adjustments to suspension and engine management. The bikes would spend a long time in the pits, taking the action out of the race and heavily favoring the richer teams who could afford more mechanics and spend more time practicing with them. A proposal to solve this problem - obliging the teams to spend a fixed time in the pits, so as not to favor one team over another - has not found favor.

Back to top

Blake Young To Replace Neukirchner At Donington WSBK Round?

The success of Ben Spies in the World Superbike series has rekindled interest in American riders, after several years where the lack of cross-fertilization between the series left World Superbike and MotoGP teams wary of signing riders from the AMA. Since Spies' arrival, whe have had a spate of riders racing as replacements and wildcards in the World Superbike series: John Hopkins took the place of Roberto Rolfo, Jake Zemke filled in for Hopkins after his injury at Assen, Jamie Hacking is tearing up the track replacing Makoto Tamada at Kawasaki, and the Miller round saw a host of American and Canadian wildcards running in the World Supersport race.

Now, rising star Blake Young looks set to join their number. The 21-year-old Yoshimura Suzuki rider has been very impressive since becoming Mat Mladin's new team mate, and the veteran Australian AMA champion has tipped Young for success. Young is a protege of Kevin Schwantz, who still has excellent connections to Suzuki worldwide and in both the MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks. According to GPOne.com, it was Schwantz who persuaded Alstare Suzuki's Francis Batta to give Young the chance to replace the injured Max Neukirchner at Donington next weekend.

Fonsi Nieto is currently in for Neukirchner, but Batta is reportedly trying to build a team that could regain the World Championship for Suzuki which they last won in 2005 with Troy Corser. Batta is believed to have been talking to both James Toseland and Chris Vermeulen about a return to World Superbikes, though rumors currently place Toseland back in the Ten Kate garage rather than with Suzuki, and a switch to Alstare would make more sense for Vermeulen. But Batta could also be looking for another young rider capable of making a big impact in the series, and given Young's excellent results in the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series so far, Young could potentially be that man.

Back to top

Starting Line Incident Shakes Up Misano World Superbike Schedule

A starting line incident in the first race of the day at Misano has forced some minor rescheduling for the World Superbike Championship event. In the downpour currently playing over the Misano circuit, Italian rider Domenico Collucci stalled his Ducati 1098R off the line at the start of the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race, and one of the riders from the back of the grid came through and hit the hapless Italian, ripping his rear wheel off and spreading oil and debris all over the grid. The race was immediately red-flagged (fortunately for title contender Xavier Simeon, who had folded the front of his Ducati going into the Rio corner while leading), and efforts were started to clean the track.

The new schedule just announced sees the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race moved to the slot between the World Supersport race and race 2 of the World Superbike class, which is usually occupied by the European Superstock 600 class. The European Superstock 600 race will now be run after the second Superbike race. 

Here's the revised schedule:

12am: World Superbike race 1

1:25pm: World Supersport race

3:30pm: World Superbike race 2

4:40pm: FIM Superstock 1000 race

5:30pm: European Superstock 600 race

Back to top

MotoGP Rider Exodus Into WSBK For Next Year?

There's a host of talented rookies scratching at the gate of the MotoGP paddock, and the veterans are getting nervous. Ben Spies, Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista are all tipped to enter MotoGP next year, and with the number of available seats unlikely to increase much above the existing 18 (or 19, depending on how you count), the series' current crop of underperformers are looking around for fallback positions.

Right now, their prospects look brightest in the World Superbike paddock, and so the WSBK paddock will be welcoming a couple of extra guests this weekend, in the form of Carlo Pernat and Roger Burnett. Not names the casual fan may be all too familiar with, but key players in MotoGP nonetheless. Pernat manages a large stable of top Italian talent, including Loris Capirossi, Marco Simoncelli, Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, while Burnett is the personal manager of British rider James Toseland. While Capirossi looks relatively safe at Suzuki, and Simoncelli is a dead cert to move up to MotoGP, the prospects of Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa are far from certain, and Toseland has come in for a barrage of criticism after his dismal start to the season.

And so Pernat and Burnett are in Misano gauging interest for their riders in World Superbikes. Both Toseland and Canepa are familiar faces in the WSBK paddock, with Toseland having won 2 World Superbike titles, and Canepa having been FIM Superstock 1000 champion. And the interest for Toseland is already high. According to the Italian magazine Motosprint, Alstare Suzuki boss Francis Batta has been expressing his admiration for the Brit, and has been in Japan for the past few days talking about his 2010 plans. Batta already has Max Neurkirchner signed for 2010 (despite interest from the BMW team), and is believed to be keen to sign Toseland alongside the young German, in the hope of winning back the world title for Suzuki for the first time since 2005 with Troy Corser.

The pressure has eased a little on Toseland in the past couple of weeks, as Ben Spies has made it clear he is currently very happy in World Superbike, and less inclined to move over to MotoGP, while Marco Simoncelli has admitted that he has been talking to the Gresini Honda team as well as Tech 3 Yamaha. But of the two current Tech 3 Yamaha riders, Toseland is the most vulnerable. According to GPOne.com, Herve Poncharal is very keen to keep Colin Edwards in the team for next year, saying "If it was up to me to decide, I would re-sign with Colin Edwards today."

While the MotoGP stars are exploring options over in World Superbikes, there is also some interest coming from the other direction. John Hopkins - despite only having spent one and a half race weekends with Stiggy Honda - has reportedly been testing the waters with Tech 3 Yamaha, according to Motorcycle News' Matthew Birt. So far, his advances - made through the office of his personal manager, Bob Moore, who also played a key part in Tech 3's deal with Monster Energy - have been rebuffed. With Edwards and Toseland already on the books, and potential deals with Ben Spies and/or Marco Simoncelli, Herve Poncharal is in no hurry to fill seats at the team.

Back to top

Red Bull Honda, Repsol Yamaha?

The fact that Red Bull is a huge sponsor of all types of motorsports, adventure sports and other forms of extreme sports needs no explanation. So successful has their involvement been in fact, that a host of other energy drink companies have followed their example, and motorcycle racing paddocks all around the world are now awash with sweet sticky taurine-and-caffeine-based beverages.

As the original, Red Bull has always been the largest, and its involvement in MotoGP has traditionally reflected that. The company sponsors both the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca and the Indianapolis Grand Prix, riders including Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, the KTM 125cc team, and of course the Red Bull Rookies Cup, the feeder class for young talent riding identical 125cc KTMs.

But recently, Red Bull's supremacy has been challenged in the paddock. Their US-based rivals Monster have made a splash in MotoGP recently, sponsoring first John Hopkins, then the Kawasaki MotoGP team, and this year, the Tech 3 Yamaha team. The Californian energy drink company then pulled off the biggest coup of all, signing MotoGP superstar and marketing machine Valentino Rossi, reputedly paying over USD 3 million for the right to appear on the chin bar and side of Rossi's helmet, and on Rossi's cap.

Now, according to the ever well-informed Italian website GPOne.com, Red Bull are ready to strike back. The Austrian energy drinks company want to get into MotoGP more explicitly, and are looking for a team to sponsor. According to GPOne.com, Red Bull had been in talks with Ducati, first to sponsor the factory team, and when that failed, as sponsor of the satellite Pramac team, a deal which then fell through over the choice of manager.

Since then, Red Bull has switched its attention to Honda. The initial plan was to sponsor a satellite team, but this too fell through over Honda's reluctance to put more bikes on the grid for the riders which Red Bull had wanted to hand pick. But another alternative may be at hand.

Over the past few weeks, Honda has been making very public overtures to Dani Pedrosa, accepting much of the blame for the Spaniard's failure to win a MotoGP title, admitting the bikes they have been providing have not been up to scratch. HRC are very keen to sign Pedrosa to a new contract before his current deal expires at the end of the year.

One of the problems facing the deal is the role of Repsol. The Spanish oil giant is losing faith in Honda, after years of failure to deliver a World Champion - and most especially a Spanish World Champion - and is growing tired of waiting. Repsol and Honda are still in talks about a deal, the Spanish oil giant publicly saying they are in no hurry to renew, and their focus has been on improving the competitiveness of the bike.

Repsol's impatience may be Red Bull's opportunity. GPOne.com is saying that their could be a major sponsorship shakeup on the cards. Repsol may decide to desert Honda, leaving the path open for Red Bull to take their place. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa are both already Red Bull-sponsored athletes, so taking a larger role in the team is a natural step, and with Red Bull more globally focused than Repsol, there would be fewer restrictions on rider nationality in any future signings.

So where would Repsol go? Repsol's priority is to be World Champion, preferably with a Spanish rider, and right now, there best chance of achieving that is with Yamaha. Repsol could take over Petronas' role as subsidiary sponsor, and poised to take over the role of title sponsor after the Fiat deal with the factory team expires at the end of 2010.

There's still a long way to go before any deals are done, though. If the new chassis HRC has provided for the RC212V works as hoped, and Dani Pedrosa wins a couple of races, then everything could be blown wide open all over again. The heat of summer is upon the northern hemisphere, and that means that MotoGP silly season is about to shift up a gear. These look like some of the first moves on that merry-go-round.

Back to top

Only Four Yamahas On MotoGP Grid In 2010

Much has been said on the subject of the need for more machines on the MotoGP grid, but despite all the plans and hopes of the FIM and Dorna, the entry remains stubbornly close to the 18 bikes believed to be the minimum number guaranteed by Dorna as part of the deal with the FIM to organize the championship. Dorna has consistently pressured all of the manufacturers to provide more bikes, pressure which the manufacturers stubbornly continue to resist.

Recently, more hopeful noises had been emerging from the MotoGP paddock, with hints that Yamaha might be persuaded to up its involvement in MotoGP and put more bikes on the grid. The rumors gained some crediblity from the public pronouncements of Jorge Martinez of the Aspar team, who claimed that he would definitely be in MotoGP in 2010. Aspar has long been linked with the Yamaha team, an association that Martinez has hinted at previously.

Today, however, all such hopes were dashed. Fiat Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis told the British weekly Motorcycle News that Yamaha would only be providing 4 bikes in MotoGP for the foreseeable future. Jarvis admitted that discussions had taken place with Aspar about a 5th bike, and also that Dorna had put pressure on them to provide more machines, but Yamaha declined the opportunity.

The reasons are simple: The current economic climate does not allow Yamaha to field more than 4 bikes, Jarvis told MCN. A number, he added, that Yamaha had always felt was the "optimum number" in guaranteeing the quality of the bikes. And there is no mystery as to where those bikes are going. The factory Fiat Yamaha team will retain 2 bikes, for MotoGP's two hottest properties Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and the Tech 3 team will be given the other 2 bikes, as part of the contract Herve Poncharal has with Yamaha.

Jarvis' statements seem to also rule out any increase, even if the proposal to scrap the spare bike each rider has is adopted. Such a proposal would mean each rider would have only a single bike - as is currently the case in the Scot Honda garage, now that Gabor Talmacsi has joined Yuki Takahashi - potentially freeing up extra capacity to put more bikes on the grid.

But several factors make it unlikely that the proposal will be adopted. Firstly, a single bike for each rider would introduce a number of complications, not least in flag-to-flag races and in qualifying, both of which would be much more difficult with only a single bike. More importantly, however, in the current economic climate the factories would prefer to use any savings generated by having fewer machines on the grid to shore up the flagging financial positions, rather than spend it on more bikes. And having more bikes on the grid - even if there were fewer bikes in total in the paddock - would increase personnel costs, with the factories generally requiring at least one factory representative in each team to liaise between the team and the factory.

Back to top

Pages