There's an in-depth interview with Mario Ilien and Eskil Suter over on the RoadRacerX website about their new MotoGP project. It's an interesting look at the perspective the team has about motorcycle racing, and that they are aware of the pitfalls of previous projects which tried to use Formula 1 car technology in MotoGP, such as the Aprilia RS3 Cube. The bike will use pneumatic valve springs, to be able to handle the very high rev ranges (up to 18,000 rpm) required to make a competitive engine. Suter and Ilien believe that they have a competitive chassis, but that they will have to gather a lot of data on setup, and that the engine will need some development before it is competitive. But they expect to be running at the front within three years of the project starting. The article is an interesting read.
Well, one mystery has been solved. Crash.net is reporting that James Toseland has decided to stay in World Superbikes for next year. The option Toseland had been offered was a ride with the Pramac d'Antin Ducati team, on an unknown tire package, although Luis d'Antin has stated he'll be using Bridgestones next year. Toseland decided to stay with the Ten Kate Honda team for the 2007 World Superbike season, in the expectation that he will be offered a satellite Honda in MotoGP for the 2008 season.
When I started this blog, I never expected that it would be quite as popular as it has proved to be. In fact, I booked my upcoming vacation shortly after I started writing this blog, without even a glance at the MotoGP calendar, thinking only of when the weather would be good in Northern Spain, and when the crowds would mostly have disappeared. I hardly spared a thought of whether I would be able to write race reports or not, thinking only that if there was a race, I would at the very least be able to read about it in the Spanish papers.
As a consequence, I'm about to take a two week break, right when the MotoGP circus have three subsequent weekends of racing. I won't have access to a computer (which my wife tells me will be good for me, something I'm sure she's right about, but I always need weaning off 24/7 online access), so I'm afraid that I won't be able to provide you with reports for what promises to be three decisive weekends of racing. I expect the championship race to look very different when I finally return, with a report on the race I enjoyed most, and at least a summary of the other two races. But that's going to be a long time from now. I will shortly be posting my preview of all three upcoming rounds, and I have to say, it's coming along nicely.
So, dear reader, if you were looking forward to my race reports, you have my most sincere apologies, and I would ask for your forbearance. Next year, I'll be planning my vacations more carefully.
One of the American teenagers taking part in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, a breeding ground for young talent, has documented his experiences so far. It's an interesting look at the event from a rider's perspective, and from a teenager's perspective. The selection event is being run at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, the same track the Valencia Grand Prix will be run at on October 29th. The riders who make it through the selection process will be invited to take part in the full Red Bull Rookies Cup series, which will see 20 riders face off in 7 races across Europe in 2007. The riders showing talent in the Red Bull Rookies Cup will be invited to take part in the MotoGP Academy, an initiative run by Dorna to promote young racing talent in MotoGP. This academy produced the young British rider Bradley Smith, currently racing his rookie year in the 125 class, and doing pretty well in what is perhaps the most competitive class in GP racing. So, if you want to find out about what it takes to get started in MotoGP, or want to know about the stars of the future, check it out.
The selection process is not without it's critics, however, as RoadRacing World has had a series of opinion pieces about the series. They believe the selection races are biased against the American (and all non-Spanish) riders, as the races are held at Valencia, a regular stop for the ultra-competitive Spanish 125 championship.
Our Italian friends over at MotoGrandprix.it are reporting that the Ilmor/Suter V4 bike is back in action. This time, it's Australian former GP star and King of Slide Garry McCoy riding the bike, currently running tests at the Albacete track in Spain. McCoy has several years experience on board MotoGP bikes, spending two seasons with Kawasaki, as well as substituting for Shane Byrne aboard the Aprilia. McCoy is, fittingly, currently riding a KTM in Supermoto, after two seasons in World Superbike, on board the Foggy Petronas bike and a satellite Ducati.
McCoy is the second active racer to be contracted to test the Ilmor V4, after Max Neukirchner rode it at Most in the Czech Republic. However, McCoy has a clear calendar for the end of the year, and so we could see a return to MotoGP, albeit briefly, as a wild card at Estoril and Valencia in October. McCoy and Eskil Suter, the bike's chassis designer, have a history together, as it was Suter who designed the chassis for the Kawasaki which McCoy raced.
Whether McCoy will remain in MotoGP remains to be seen. He is justly famous for his extremely sideways riding style, sliding the bike through the turns in an attempt to get on the gas earlier. While this gave him a huge advantage on the 500cc two-strokes, this style is not at all suited to MotoGP bikes, where electronics have removed the necessity to slide the rear, allowing the bike to be ridden more smoothly, and with greater lean angles, a style seen more often in the 250 and 125 classes. It would be great to see The King Of Slide return, but traction control is sure to cramp his trademark style.
The Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that Ducati have agreed terms with Loris Capirossi for 2007. Negotiations had been stuck for a long while, but Capirex' victory at Brno helped shift things along, and bought him a pay rise into the bargain. Ducati was said to be interested in Marco Melandri, but with Capirossi resigned, that interest has waned. The Italian factory is also said to be close to a deal with Sete Gibernau, retaining the pair for 2007.
James Toseland and Makoto Tamada could find themselves swapping series for 2007, according to Motograndprix.it. Toseland, currently riding the Winston Ten Kate Honda in World Superbikes, has stated his intention to move to MotoGP, but only if he can get competitive machinery. His name has been linked to the Pramac d'Antin Ducati team, and to Kenny Roberts Sr's Team KR project. Ten Kate boss Ronald ten Kate is rumored to have stated that Toseland won't be riding for the team in 2007, which leaves the young Brit's options open.
Tamada, who has had 2 poor seasons aboard the Konica Minolta Honda, is widely believed to be on his way out of MotoGP, and his name is being linked to Ten Kate Honda in World Superbikes. With Toseland's seat looking like it may be vacant, that would free up a ride for Tamada.
According to a story on the Italian site Motograndprix.it, Honda will announce its plans for 2007 at 5pm CET on October 29th, just 2 hours after the close of the 2006 MotoGP season. In its traditional post-season press conference, HRC will introduce its 800cc bike (expected to be called the RC212V), and announce which riders it will field next season. Dani Pedrosa is certain to be one of the names, and Motograndprix.it believes "with a probability of 99.9%" that Nicky Hayden will be the second rider. However, rumors still abound that Ducati are chasing Hayden, though these rumors are yet to be confirmed.
As we rapidly approach the high water mark of speculation about 2007, more rumors emerged about Casey Stoner. The Italian website Motograndprix.it is reporting that the young Aussie may be out of MotoGP next year. After being turned down by Yamaha, Stoner reportedly approached his current team boss Lucio Cecchinello with a demand for $2.5 million to resign with LCR for 2007, a demand which Cecchinello was unable, or unwilling, to meet. Similar approaches to Ducati have so far met with little reward, as the factory from Bologna are currently engaged in negotiations with Loris Capirossi for 2007, who is seeking a $4 million deal, similar to Sete Gibernau's contract, leaving Ducati with room for maneuver with Stoner.
This leaves Stoner without a ride for 2007 so far, and, by overplaying his hand so strongly in negotiatons, with little chance of a ride, unless he were to move to Kawasaki to replace Shinya Nakano, who is rumored to be moving to Konica Minolta Honda for next season. Stoner would have to moderate his wage demands a good deal to make that happen, though.
Stoner has shown huge promise during the early part of the season, taking a shock pole at the Qatar GP, followed by a 2nd place in Turkey. Since then, however, he has developed a fatal attraction to the gravel traps, falling in three races after making rider mistakes when being pushed hard (especially by his arch-rival Dani Pedrosa), and not starting in Germany after coming off during practice. In addition, Stoner has been very outspoken in his views on just about everything, including openly criticizing the bike and the team when he felt things weren't working properly. No one doubts Stoner's talent, but hiring the young Aussie is a high-risk strategy, and one which teams are seemingly loathe to take.
.... UPDATED ....
Well, it seems like Casey isn't out after all. For more details of where Casey Stoner will be riding next year, see this post on his future here.
Crash.net as a story with more details on the Ilmor 800 project. In short, they hope to enter MotoGP next season with their V4 800 with a two-rider team and a budget of $20 million. They also hope to contest the Portugal and Valencia GP rounds in October this year, with either Max Biaggi or Alex Barros riding the bike.