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... And Max is Gone Again ...

Well, true to form, Max Biaggi manages to grab the headlines again. And what's more, he did it in style, grabbing the world's attention at a top-secret, low-profile test of the Alstare Corona Suzuki superbike. Rumors that Biaggi had signed a deal with the Kawasaki MotoGP team are starting to look less and less credible, now that pictures have emerged of Biaggi aboard the Suzuki GSXR 1000 superbike at Magny Cours. But with the Roman Emperor, you just never know ...

Full story over on the website of the Motorcycle News UK weekly.

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Biaggi Is Back

Eurosport TV has just reported that Max Biaggi, The Roman Emperor, is back in MotoGP for 2007. Kawasaki is reported to have signed the Roman for next season, despite Biaggi already having signed with the Alstare Corona Suzuki World Superbike team for next year. This is a double blow for Alstare Suzuki team manager Francis Batta, who also learned this weekend that Troy Corser, the man being demoted to a second string bike to make way for Biaggi, is leaving to join the Yamaha Italia Superbike team.

Biaggi's return will be welcomed by many MotoGP fans, as Biaggi has a huge fan following, especially in Italy. It will also likely be very welcome to Kawasaki, as Biaggi has always had very strong, and very generous, personal sponsors. There is a very good chance that Biaggi might be bringing in the JTI/ Camel money, as Biaggi has a long relationship with Camel, indeed, Honda's refusal to give Biaggi a bike for 2006 was instrumental in Camel withdrawing their sponsorship of Sito Pons' team for the 2006 season.

The question of how Biaggi will fare on the Kawasaki is another matter: Biaggi is known to be very hard on his teams, though equally hard on himself. Although undoubtedly very talented, he is a fractious personality to work with, and is not shy with his opinions of the machinery he is riding.

Biaggi's move to Kawasaki means that Shinya Nakano is almost certain to move to Konica Minolta Honda for next season.

UPDATED: The source of this story is said to be Colin Wright, team boss of the GSE Ducati British Superbikes team. Stay tuned ...

UPDATED AGAIN: The Dutch website Racesport.nl is running a story quoting people from FGSports and Alstare Corona flatly denying the story. Francis Batta is quoted as saying:
Max Biaggi has signed a contract to ride for our team in 2007, and the rumors that he also had a contract to ride in MotoGP are nothing more than a fairy tale.

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Finally: Marco Melandri Signs With Gresini Honda

At last, the Melandri Saga comes to a conclusion. Gresini Racing has finally announced that Marco Melandri has signed with Gresini for the 2007 season, to ride a Honda V4 800. No details of the deal have been announced, other than that both parties say they are very happy to be working together for next year. Reading between the lines, it seems like Honda has promised extra support for Melandri, the title runner up in 2005, and this is what finally swung the deal for him.

Gresini also stated that he was still looking for a team mate for Melandri next year, so that the team can compete at the very highest level. This does not bode well for Melandri's current team mate Toni Elias, who, after an outstanding debut season on the Yamaha, has struggled somewhat on the Honda.

There was also no mention of sponsorship. If the rumor that Melandri will be receiving € 3 million for his services next year, if Gresini will be receiving extensive support from HRC, and if Gresini hopes to hire another "top level" rider to partner Melandri, then this will require a sponsor with some pretty deep pockets. With the 2007 season rapidly approaching, Gresini had better hurry.

Melandri re-signing with Gresini now means that Sete Gibernau's seat at Ducati, which Ducati had offered to Melandri, looks much more secure, and Ducati is now rumored to be busy trying to re-sign Gibernau before he signs elsewhere. "Elsewhere" being Kawasaki, where he was rumored to be taking the place of Shinya Nakano, who is the firm favorite to replace the disappointing Makoto Tamada at Konica Minolta Honda.

With the rider merry-go-round starting to grind to a halt, as key riders such as Hayden and Melandri stick to their places like a spanner in the works, there are still a number of options open. The biggest question marks on the team side are the Kawasaki and d'Antin Ducati teams, who have no firm candidates, though plenty of names are being bandied about. Those names include several of the riders currently still on the open market, including Carlos Checa, Toni Elias, Alex de Angelis and Andrea Dovizioso. A few more weeks, and it will all become clear. But not just yet.

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Marco Melandri: The Saga Continues...

Well, where just a few days ago, it seemed certain that Marco Melandri would be going to the factory Ducati team, now it looks increasingly like last year's title runner up will be staying with Gresini on a Honda next year. Both MotoGrandPrix.it and Crash.net are reporting that Fausto Gresini has matched Ducati's reported offer of € 3 million for next season, an offer which would also include strong factory support from Honda, and, surprisingly, Bridgestone tires. The mystery for all this is where the money is supposed to be coming from, as Altadis, the brand behind Fortuna, are leaving MotoGP, taking their large sponsorship budget with them.

If the reports are true, it would put a halt to an expected round of rider shuffles, with Sete Gibernau, the man Melandri was expected to replace at Ducati, staying put and not going to Kawasaki, where he was set to take Shinya Nakano's place. This would then also leave Nakano the option at staying at Kawasaki, and leave the question of who Melandri's team mate will be open. Alex de Angelis is one name being bandied about, as is Carlos Checa, although Checa, who has been very impressive this year on the inferior Dunlop tires, has also been linked with Pramac d'Antin Ducati, who are expected to get Bridgestones for next year.

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MotoGP FAQ Just Started

After a friend asked me to explain the way the Manufacturers' Championship works, I decided to start a MotoGP FAQ, with answers to any questions I receive. The FAQ will be a growing and living thing, with regular updates, so keep an eye on it. If you have any questions you want answered, you can send them to me, and I'll do my best to answer them and add them to the FAQ.

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MotoGP Frequently Asked Questions

Since I started this website, I have received a number of general questions, and seen a number of questions come in via Google. So I thought it would be a good idea to start collecting these questions into a FAQ, for use as a reference. If you have any questions for the FAQ, you can send them to me...

We'll start off with a question from a friend of mine:
How are the standings calculated for the Manufacturer's Championship?

As I'm sure many of you will know, the Riders' Championship isn't the only title being disputed during a MotoGP season. Besides the Riders' title, there are two other official titles up for grabs:

  • The Manufacturers' Championship; and
  • The Team Championship.

The scoring for these titles is the same as for the Riders' Championship, but the way points are awarded is slightly different:

  • For the Manufacturers' Championship, the first motorcycle by a particular manufacturer to finish is awarded the points for that position. So, for example, at the 2006 Motegi round, Loris Capirossi finished first on a Ducati, so Ducati were awarded 25 points, then Rossi scored 20 points for Yamaha, and Marco Melandri scored 16 points for Honda. No other Ducati, Yamaha, or Honda scored points towards the Manufacturers' Championship. The title winner is the Manufacturer which has accumulated the most points according to this system throughout the season.
  • The Team Championship is scored slightly differently. For the Team Championship, all points scored by both riders in a team will awarded to the team in the Team Championship. So to take Motegi as an example again, Capirossi won, and Gibernau finished fourth, and together, they scored 38 points (25 + 13) for the Marlboro Ducati Team. If one of the riders is injured, then their replacement will still score points for the team. So, at Assen, for example, where Alex Hofmann substituted for Sete Gibernau, Hofmann's points were added to the team points for the Marlboro Ducati Team, and he did not score points for his own team, the Pramac d'Antin Ducati team. Wild card riders, such as Suzuki's Kousuke Akiyoshi at Motegi, do not score any points for their team.

Points are scored according to the following system:

Position Points
1st 25
2nd 20
3rd 16
4th 13
5th 11
6th 10
7th 9
8th 8
9th 7
10th 6
11th 5
12th 4
13th 3
14th 2
15th 1

You can find the official FIM MotoGP sporting rules and regulations here:
MotoGP Sporting Regulations.

Adam Haraszti from Hungary sent in the following question:

I have a question for you, about the changed schedules of Qatar (races on Saturday), Donington and Portugal (changed times for the 125cc races). About the Saturday races at Assen I know it's due to the fact that the track used to be much longer, and going through small villages where people used to go to the church on Sunday, but heard nothing about the others so far.

Well, Adam, you are absolutely right about the timing of the Assen race. Back in 1926, when racing first started around Assen, the many little villages south and east of Assen were very religious places, and would not allow any activity on a Sunday. So, racing was organized on the Saturday, and that has stayed the same very since.

The story of Qatar is similar: Qatar is a Muslim country, and the Muslim weekend is celebrated on Thursday and Friday, or Friday and Saturday. To have the race closer to the Muslim weekend, so that more people can attend the races, the Qatar MotoGP is run on the Saturday.

The revised schedules of Donington and Estoril have a more prosaic background. Both Donington in Britain and Estoril in Portugal are in the same time zone, which uses GMT during the winter and Western European Summer Time. But Dorna try to keep the MotoGP schedule as close as possible to Central European Time, so that television broadcasters (particularly in their major markets, Spain and Italy), can show the races at a consistent time. However, because both Donington and Estoril are further west, running the races at their usual times would push the warm up sessions (run on the morning of the race) back so early that the light could be quite bad, and the track could be very cold, making it much more dangerous for the riders in the warm up. So, but running the 125 cc races after the main MotoGP race, they can hold the warm ups later, making it safer for all concerned.

Wes Cupido wrote to ask
Is Troy Bayliss the oldest first-time winner in the premier class of MotoGP/ 500cc?

Well, I finally got round to researching this, which is surprisingly more difficult than you might think at first, as it's difficult to find data on some of the riders from the earliest era of the 500cc class of motorcycle Grand Prix racing. What I did find, however, is that by taking victory at Valencia in 2006, aged 37 years, 6 months and 29 days, Bayliss did not become the oldest first-time winner. During the very early years of Grand Prix racing, several riders were older, including the first World Champion, Leslie Graham, who was 80 days older than Troy Bayliss when he won his first race, the 1949 Swiss Grand Prix in Berne.

The record holder (at least according to my research so far), is Fergus Anderson, who also won the Swiss Grand Prix at Berne, on May 27, 1951. Anderson was born in 1909, making him 42 years old when he won his first Grand Prix.

Of course, this is not really a fair comparison, as Anderson, Graham and their contemporaries had been racing earlier, but the Grand Prix series didn't start until 1949, so riders who may have won races earlier in their career did not show up in the record books until the series started.

Bayliss' feat has not been seen since the 1950s, and as such, he holds a unique place in the modern era of MotoGP.

Albert wrote to ask:
How do the rider numbers work.?

That's a good question, Albert, and one which has both a simple answer and a complicated answer.

I'll start with the simple answer: The riders in MotoGP choose their numbers based on the order which they finished in during the championship in the previous year. Here's what the FIM rulebook has to say:
Each rider accepted for the Championship will be allocated a specific starting number which will be valid for the whole Championship. In general, the starting numbers will be based on the results of the team riders in the previous year's Championship or in other similar events.
So, for example, for 2008, this means that Casey Stoner has the right to display number 1, Dani Pedrosa has the right to display number 2, Valentino Rossi has the right to display number 3, John Hopkins has the right to display number 4, Marco Melandri has the right to display number 5, and so on down the list.

There are a few factors which make using this numbering scheme difficult to operate.

The first is that riders are superstitious. I'm sure you will have noticed that lots of riders have special rituals before they race, such as only getting on the bike from the left-hand side, or lucky colors. They also have lucky numbers, and so when given a choice, the always want to use a particular number. Valentino Rossi is the most famous of these, as he has always used the number 46, even when he was champion and allowed to carry the number 1 plate. But many others have similar superstitions: John Hopkins always wants to keep number 21, Marco Melandri wants number 33.

Of course, this causes problems when it comes to popular numbers, the most difficult of all being number 7, which is a lucky number in a lot of countries. Chris Vermeulen always had a 7 in his number, but really wanted number 7, both as a lucky number, and as a tribute to his friend and mentor Barry Sheene, whose number it used to be. But Carlos Checa had number 7, and so Vermeulen had to wait until Checa left MotoGP before he could take the number 7 plate.

In 2008, Casey Stoner took the number 1 plate, as he finished as champion. But Stoner only took the number after coming under pressure from Ducati, as he really wanted to keep the number he has always raced with, number 27. On the other hand, Dani Pedrosa swapped his regular number, 26, for the number 2 plate, to underline the fact that he finished 2nd in the championship in 2007.

The second reason is one of marketing. Riders become associated with numbers, and therefore all of their merchandising such as t-shirts, caps, badges, stickers, bags etc etc has their race number on, for their fans to identify with. It becomes so important to riders, their teams and their managers, that they are reluctant to take a different number.

There is also a difficulty for riders coming in from other series. In 2007, both Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland won the world championship in their respective series, and so both have a claim to a number 1 plate. But as they are not champions in MotoGP, and as the champion is already carrying the number 1 plate, they have had to revert to their previous favorite numbers, 48 for Lorenzo and 52 for Toseland.

Finally, one number has been retired and is no longer available. Number 34, which belongs to Kevin Schwantz has been retired, as a mark of respect for Schwantz by the FIM.

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Team KR To Field Just One Bike For 2007

Eurosport.com is reporting that Team KR will only have one bike for next year. The problem, as it is for so many MotoGP teams, is money. Team KR really need a major sponsor to be able to obtain two engines from Honda. Previously, Team KR had announced that they were hoping to field a full, two-rider team, but that plan has been shelved.

The 2007 bike will be based once again on a custom-built frame around a Honda 800 engine, and Kenny Roberts Jr is likely to remain as the rider for the team.

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Ilmor Confirmed As Wildcard In Portugal

MotoGP.com is reporting that Ilmor have confirmed their entry as a wildcard at Estoril in Portugal. They will be debuting their 800cc 70° V4 bike, dubbed "X3", at the Portuguese Grand Prix on October 15th, with Garry McCoy riding, using Michelin tires. McCoy has been testing the Ilmor at a number of tracks over the last couple of months, including Albacete and Jerez.

The importance of this appearance is that it will be the first time that the new generation of 800cc bikes will hit the track in a public, timed event, and set the mark against which the current manufacturers' bikes will be measured against. The Ilmor has already made an impression, regularly running faster than the Ducati 800 at one test session in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.

You can listen to an interview with Mario Illien in the latest MotoGP podcast.

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Carlos Checa To d'Antin Ducati?

The Spanish sports daily AS.com is reporting that Carlos Checa could move to Pramac d'Antin next season. Checa has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the Dunlop tires his current Tech 3 Yamaha team is using, and with d'Antin rumored to be running Bridgestone-shod Ducati GP7s next year, this may turn out to be Checa's most competitive option for 2007. Checa has not commented, but Luis d'Antin has confirmed that Checa is one of the riders he is talking to, but not the only one. Checa is d'Antin's highest priority, but d'Antin is also said to be talking to fellow Spaniard Toni Elias.

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