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Ducati Unveils Desmosedici RR Road Bike

Ducati has used their home GP to announce the Desmosedici RR, a roadgoing replica of their gorgeous Desmosedici racer. Specs are very impressive, with over 200 bhp claimed (with a 102 dB racing exhaust fitted) for the desmodromically operated 16 valve V4. No weight or price is given, but expect the former to be low, and the latter to be sky high. You'll also have to wait until July 2007 before you take delivery of your shiny new Duc. It will be exclusive, though, as only 400 are to be produced a year.

You can see a flashy version of the introduction over at the Ducati Website (click on the Desmosedici bar at the top of the page), or a more readable text-based version over at Mike Werner's Motorbiker.org blog.

One interesting question about this bike: The FIM rules for MotoGP state categorically that all bikes running must be prototypes:

Four stroke motorcycles participating in the Motogp class must be prototypes. Those that are not entered by a member of MSMA must be approved for participation by the Grand Prix Commission.

The question is whether the other MSMA manufacturers will refrain from submitting complaints about the racing Desmosedici if Ducati start winning a lot. So, if, for the sake of argument, Rossi went to Ducati in 2008, and won 8 Grand Prix, how would Honda, or Yamaha, react?

 

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New MotoGP Misano Round To Be Added To 2007 Calendar

Well, I touched upon this in my Mugello round preview, and I'm starting to think I might just be psychic. According Crash.net, Dorna has announced that the San Marino Grand Prix will be run at Misano in 2007. It's not clear whether one of the existing GPs will be dropped, or whether the season will have 18 races, but my money is on either Shanghai or Qatar being dropped to make way for Misano.

The race is to be run on a "heavily modified" version of the track, in the reverse direction.

~~~ UPDATED ~~~

Since I posted this story, Dorna have announced the official calendar for next year. You can find it here.

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Valentino Rossi To Stay at Yamaha for 2007

After last week confirming that he would not move to Formula 1, Valentino Rossi has confirmed that he will be staying with Yamaha for 2007. This will be the first year of the new 800cc bikes, and Rossi is keen to stay with the team that has brought him so much success. You can find the official Yamaha Racing press release here.

Updated

Crash.net have an interesting quote from Rossi: 

"In the future I'm sure that I will do car racing, but maybe not Formula 1."
The other car which Rossi tested this winter was a works WRC Subaru. My money is on The Doctor going to WRC Rallying in 2009.

 

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2006 Le Mans Qualifying Practice - Return of the Young Challenger

The rain clouds which had caused problems during this morning's free practice session had disappeared by this afternoon, allowing the track to dry out and warm up a little. The strong winds, which had earlier blown a temporary commentary unit over, complete with worried journalists, remained, however. With everyone worried about the possibility of the rain returning later in the session, all 19 riders took off as soon as the green flag dropped, reasoning that a half-decent time might turn into a pole if the track got wet. After the first ten minutes, John Hopkins topped the timesheets with a respectable 1:36.22, with Sete Gibernau in second. The Yamahas and Kawasakis were prominent in the times, including Frenchman Randy de Puniet. De Puniet has plenty to live up to, having scored podiums at Le Mans for the last four races in a row, albeit in the 250 class. Aboard the Kawaski, in his first season of MotoGP, he faces a much tougher task this year.

But he wasn't showing much sign of that pressure, as he set the fastest time so far with 43 minutes of the session to go. His top time wasn't to last long, though, as most of the riders were out on the track, and putting in the next set of fast times. Valentino Rossi was the first rider to take de Puniet's lead from him, followed quickly by Loris Capirossi on the Ducati, whose time of 1:35.257 was getting closer to the times set during yesterday's free practice sessions. Capirossi's time also wasn't to last, though with first Colin Edwards, and then team mate Rossi, taking back fastest time for Yamaha. The Doctor's time was faster than Friday's free practice sessions, just a few hundredths over 1:35.

With 35 minutes to go, the session had gone quiet, most of the riders in the pits examining the setup to use for their fast laps later. Few riders were out improving their times, though first Gibernau and then Nakano moved up to fourth place. Most worrying for HRC was that neither Nicky Hayden, who is suffering with some kind of flu, nor Dani Pedrosa, had set a decent time, both riders a long way down on the time sheets. This was not a situation which could be allowed to stand. But it would take a while.

With 20 minutes left in the session, the pace started hotting up, and the grid was starting to look more and more interesting. Shinya Nakano was the first rider to break the 1:35 barrier, setting a 1:34.954, and the Bridgestone riders were looking more and more dominant. With 14 minutes to go, Capirossi jumped to second spot, and two minutes later, Hopkins took over first place with a 1:34.795. Nakano was not going to take this lying down, however, and retook first place within a couple of minutes. The prospect of an all Bridgestone front row, with no Hondas or Yamahas, seemed ever more likely.

The last ten minutes of qualifying practice turned intense, as they always are. Nakano's pole time, while constantly under threat, seemed safe for the moment. The Honda riders started to get into shape, with Marco Melandri moving into fifth with 8 minutes to go, only to have Dani Pedrosa shoot past him into third place a minute later, Hayden climbing to fourth another minute later. The Yamaha riders, who had been at the top of the timesheets for most of the session, were starting a downwards slide. With four minutes to go, Nakano proved that he, at least, was capable of improving his own pole time, taking nearly half a second off to 1:34.201.

With three minutes to go, everyone was out on the track. The electronic timesheet was flurry of blue, almost everyone on a personal fastest time, but no one could maintain the red numbers, indicating fastest overall. Capirossi tried, but stranded in 3rd, then Melandri tried, but only managed second. The one man constantly keeping red times after his name, was Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda. After failing on his first attempt at taking pole, when he was baulked by Carlos Checa on the Tech 3 Yamaha, who was also on a fast lap, he wasn't to be thwarted next time around. With an astonishing 1:33.990, the tiny Spaniard took his second pole in succession, in only his first season in the premier division.

No one else could match either Pedrosa's fantastic time, or Nakano's similarly impressive performance. John Hopkins put in a final fast lap on his Suzuki to take the last spot on the front row, and Randy de Puniet delighted his home crowd by taking his Kawasaki to fourth. Marco Melandri will be next to de Puniet tomorrow, with Loris Capirossi being the first Ducati and last bike on the second row of the grid. Bridgestone certainly seem to have good tires for this track, one of the tracks they use for testing, as four of the top six riders are on Bridgestones. Valentino Rossi slips to seventh place on the M1 with the new chassis, team mate Colin Edwards on the old bike in 9th, and Sete Gibernau on the other Ducati sandwiched between them.

Although Nicky Hayden is only tenth on the grid, the Kentucky Kid surely won't be too disappointed, as the difference between fourth and tenth is less than 2/10ths of a second. Casey Stoner is likely to be disappointed with his eleventh place, after topping the timesheet this morning. Hopper's Suzuki team mate Chris Vermeulen earned a respectable 12th place on the grid, not bad considering this is his first race at Le Mans. Behind Vermeulen, Makoto Tamada must have expected to do better than 13th, after being much further forward yesterday. Carlos Checa put up a good fight on the disappointing Dunlops, finishing in 14th, with Kenny Roberts Junior a lot further down the timesheets than expected, in 15th place. Toni Elias is perhaps the biggest loser in qualifying, a lowly 16th well below what he is capable of. Ellison, Hofmann and Cardoso once again bring up the rear.

So, the results of yesterday's practice are turned upside down. Pedrosa put in a fantastic performance to take pole, where he was struggling yesterday, and the Yamahas, so dominant the day before, slipped some today. Bridgestone is really challenging Michelin's dominance at Le Mans, ironically a French track, despite the testing which former Dutch GP rider Jurgen van den Goorbergh has been doing on Rossi's Michelin-shod Yamaha at Mugello. With the weather uncertain for tomorrow, we are sure of a spectacle, come rain or shine.

Official results at MotoGP.com

 

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2006 Le Mans Day 2 Free Practice Session 3

As expected, the last free practice session before this afternoon's official qualifying practice was dogged by rain and difficult conditions. With the rain expected to continue this afternoon, the result looks interesting. Accomplished rain riders had a mixed morning, some doing well, others doing surprisingly dismally. Kenny Roberts Junior, after starting the session slowly, shot to the top of the standings with 10 minutes to go, putting in a series of consistently fast laps, over a second ahead of the rest, only to have his time beaten by a great lap by Casey Stoner aboard the LCR Honda. In third place is Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano, another rider who was at the front for much of the session.

Where yesterday the Yamaha's dominated, today they were much less in evidence, Valentino Rossi only entering the top three with less than five minutes to go, finally pushed into fourth by Stoner's fast lap. And where yesterday the Fortuna Hondas were languishing in the lower ranks of the field, this morning they finished in fifth and sixth, Spaniard Toni Elias ahead of his team mate Marco Melandri. Behind them, Ducati's Loris Capirossi and Suzuki's John Hopkins sit within 5/100ths of each other, after both being nearer the top of the lap times earlier in the session. Cold-stricken Nicky Hayden on the Repsol Honda is in ninth spot, followed by an improving Chris Vermeulen on the other Suzuki. Hayden's team mate Dani Pedrosa, who won here last year in the 250 race, but doesn't like the rain, follows in 11th. Local boy Randy de Puniet, the man beaten by Pedrosa last year, has so far failed to take advantage of local knowledge, ending the session behind his former 250 rival. Spanish rider Carlos Checa, on the Tech 3 Yamaha, finished a commendable 13th, and looks like being the only Dunlop rider capable of challenging. A big surprise to see one of the best rain riders in the world, Ducati's Sete Gibernau, way down in 14th, followed by Makoto Tamada on the Konica Minolta Honda. We can only assume that Sete is keeping his powder dry for this afternoon. Behind Tamada is Texas Tornado Colin Edwards in 16th, a long way down from his first and second spots yesterday. Ellison, Hofmann and Cardoso complete the sheet, with Cardoso being over 11 seconds slower than Stoner.

All in all, a little of what we expected to see, with a few surprises thrown in just to keep things interesting. Qualifying this afternoon should be a fascinating spectacle.

Official results from MotoGP.com

 

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New DVD About The 2005 US GP at Laguna Seca

I'm sure many of you will have seen the fantastic film Faster, the story of the last year of the 500 cc two-strokes, and the first year of the MotoGP bikes. It's a sumptuously filmed and directed documentary, the restrained style of the commentary beautifully juxtaposing the white-knuckle action of onboard and trackside footage. For those of you who haven't seen it, you really are missing one of the best sports documentaries ever made.

Now the director of that great movie has made another film about MotoGP:
The Doctor, The Tornado And The Kentucky Kid
This film is about the 2005 US MotoGP round at Laguna Seca, a fantastic race won in a superb showing by Nicky Hayden, the race which turned Nicky, who had been struggling to be consistent until then, into a contender. Laguna is a fantastic track, with one of the most demanding and frightening sections in the world, as the riders crest a blind left-hander, travelling fast, before swooping down into the sweeping Corkscrew, heeled hard over with the suspension gone light from the crest, riding a fine line between glory and disaster. If Faster is anything to go by, this can only be a great movie. Check it out.

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2006 Le Mans Day 1 Free Practice Session 2

Either Yamaha have found a solution to their problems, or the cold weather is reducing grip enough for the Yamaha not to suffer its usual chatter. This afternoon's session was another Yamaha 1-2, this time with Texan Tornado Colin Edwards taking top spot after leading throughout the session, followed closely by team mate Valentino Rossi. 2/10ths behind Rossi we have Nakano on the Kawasaki and Hopkins on the Rizla Suzuki. Le Mans is the Kawasaki's home test track, so it's no real surprise to see Harald Eckl's Green Machine doing well here. Hopkins is obviously on a roll, from his excellent fourth place in Shanghai.

Young Australian Casey Stoner is the first Honda on the sheet, an unleashed Makoto Tamada not far behind. Interesting that two client RC211Vs should be the top Hondas. Three thousandths behind Tamada, in seventh spot, is Sete Gibernau, in a Ducati 1-2 with team mate Loris Capirossi. Pedrosa, Melandri and Hayden follow on the HRC supported Hondas, followed by Randy de Puniet on the other Kawasaki. Kenny Roberts Junior is down in 15th, with Chris Vermeulen behind him on the second Suzuki. Vermeulen is at another new track this weekend, and it will be interesting to see how fast he learns, having shaved over a second off his time from this morning's session.

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2006 Le Mans Free Practice Day 1

In my race preview, I ventured that poor weather would favor rain riders, the Yamahas and the Suzukis. I was part right, as today's first Free Practice session, held in cold and cloudy conditions, were dominated by the Yamahas, Valentino Rossi being over a second quicker than everyone else for most of the session. With Edwards second fastest, it's still unclear whether these fast times are down to the new Yamaha M1 chassis, or the reduced grip induced by the cool conditions.

The two Yamahas were followed by Loris Capirossi on the Ducati, John Hopkins on the Suzuki, Casey Stoner on the LCR Honda, and Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano. Sete Gibernau was next, with Tamada, Hayden and Pedrosa all within a couple of tenths of each other, followed by local boy Randy de Puniet on the Kawasaki, and Kenny Roberts Jr on his new Team KR. The Fortuna Honda riders are way down, Melandri in 13th, Elias in 15th, with Checa sandwiched between them in a good showing.

We will see if this afternoon brings better weather and a different outcome.

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Rossi Gets New Chassis For Le Mans

After struggling to cure the chronic chatter problems which have plagued the 2006 Yamaha M1, it looks like the engineers have finally admitted defeat. Valentino Rossi will be riding a bike fitted with a new chassis, based on the chassis of his championship winning 2005 Yamaha. It's a big gamble to take, as Rossi's pit crew, led by Jeremy Burgess, will have to work flat out to find a setup which works with the new frame, but with The Doctor trailing by 32 points in the championship, they cannot afford to lose any more points, especially after chatter helped to destroy his front Michelin in Shanghai.

The full story can be found on Crash.net

 

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