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Official IRTA Test At Jerez, Day 3, Morning Session

The day started foggy once again, leaving the riders stuck in the garages once again. Luckily, the mist started clearing later as the morning progressed, and the riders were able to get out and start running laps, in preparation for this afternoon's official qualifying session, where the fastest rider will win a BMW car.

The session was dominated by the Yamahas and Dani Pedrosa once again, with both Colin Edwards and Dani Pedrosa heading the timesheets for much of the session. Shortly before the session ended, the qualifiers went on, and the standings started shifting. By the end of the session, the Yamahas had confirmed their domination, Valentino Rossi eventually setting a 1'39.363, just 0.3 seconds off the pole record held by Loris Capirossi. Team mate Colin Edwards finally had to give up his first spot to Rossi, but remained the only other rider to lap under 1'40, with a 1'39.799. Ducati's Casey Stoner took 3rd, lapping fractionally above 1'40, ahead of his team mate Loris Capirossi.

Nicky Hayden seemed to have found a few answers in the morning session, setting the 5th fastest time on his Repsol Honda, though still nearly a second slower than Valentino Rossi. Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen was also much improved in 6th, ahead of Shinya Nakano and Hayden's team mate Dani Pedrosa. Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri finished up the top 10, with Melandri over 2 seconds slower than Rossi.

The action continues shortly after 2pm, when the official qualifying practice kicks off.

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Official IRTA Test At Jerez, Day 2

The weather managed to play havoc again at the second day of the official Irta test at Jerez, with much of this morning's session lost entirely to fog. Once again, Suzuki's Kousuke Akiyoshi was the only rider to brave the unwelcoming conditions, the rest of the teams choosing to remain in the safety of the garages, waiting for the weather to improve. That improvement started around lunchtime, and soon afterwards, everyone was out trying to make up for the time they had lost yesterday and today.

By the time the faster times were being set, it was the two riders most heavily tipped to win the 2007 championship who sat at the top of the timesheets, Yamaha's Valentino Rossi just holding an edge from Honda's Dani Pedrosa. It looked like the session might end that way too, until Marco Melandri repeated yesterday's feat of stealing the top spot, running a lap of 1'40.383. Rossi took second fastest, 0.025 seconds behind, but nearly 2/10ths ahead of Dani Pedrosa.

The biggest surprise was Alex Hofmann's 4th fastest time on the Pramac d'Antin Ducati, over a tenth behind Pedrosa, ahead of Melandri's team mate Toni Elias. Casey Stoner was the second fastest Ducati in 6th ahead of Carlos Checa and Randy de Puniet on the Kawasaki. Colin Edwards was down in 9th, ahead of Makoto Tamada, who has seemingly got the Dunlops working well, and Nicky Hayden, who must be very disappointed to be down in 11th spot. Shinya Nakano took 12th spot on the Konica Minolta Honda, ahead of Chris Vermeulen on the Suzuki, down in 13th, and the last rider to be within a second of Melandri's fastest time.

Loris Capirossi followed in 14th, ahead of Olivier Jacque and Kenny Roberts Jr. Alex Barros took 17th spot ahead of Sylvain Guintoli. The Ilmor's brought up the rear, 4 seconds behind Melandri, a long way behind, but getting closer each test.

Here's a list of who was on qualifiers and who wasn't for as far as I have been able to find out:
Marco Melandri - Qualifier
Valentino Rossi - unknown, but he insinuated he used a race tire
Dani Pedrosa - unknown, but probably a qualifier
Alex Hofmann - Qualifier
Toni Elias - Qualifier
Casey Stoner- Race tire
Carlos Checa - unknown, but probably a race tire
Randy de Puniet - Qualifier
Colin Edwards - Race tire
Makoto Tamada - unknown
Nicky Hayden - Race tire
Shinya Nakano- Race tire
Chris Vermeulen - Race tire
Loris Capirossi - Race tire
Olivier Jacque - Race tire
Kenny Roberts Jr. - unknown, but probably a race tire
Alex Barros - Race tire
Sylvain Guintoli - unknown
Shinichi Ito - unknown
Kousuke Akiyoshi - unknown, but probably a race tire
Vittoriano Guareschi - unknown
Jeremy McWilliams - Race tire
Andrew Pitt - Race tire


1 Marco Melandri Honda Gresini 1'40.383
2 Valentino Rossi Yamaha Factory Racing 1'40.408
3 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 1'40.581
4 Alex Hofmann Pramac d'Antin 1'40.748
5 Toni Elias Honda Gresini 1'40.952
6 Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro Team 1'41.071
7 Carlos Checa Honda LCR 1'41.096
8 Randy de Puniet Kawasaki Racing Team 1'41.151
9 Colin Edwards Yamaha Factory Racing 1'41.204
10 Makoto Tamada Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 1'41.234
11 Nicky Hayden Repsol Honda 1'41.259
12 Shinya Nakano Konica Minolta Honda 1'41.269
13 Chris Vermeulen Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'41.363
14 Loris Capirossi Ducati Marlboro Team 1'41.590
15 Olivier Jacque Kawasaki Racing Team 1'41.777
16 Kenny Roberts Jr. Team Roberts 1'41.783
17 Alex Barros Pramac d'Antin 1'41.845
18 Sylvain Guintoli Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 1'42.364
19 Shinichi Ito Ducati Marlboro 1'43.209
20 Kousuke Akiyoshi Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'43.610
21 Vittoriano Guareschi Ducati Marlboro 1'44.143
22 Jeremy McWilliams Ilmor GP 1'44.458
23 Andrew Pitt Ilmor GP 1'44.589

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Official IRTA Test At Jerez, Day 1

The first day of the official IRTA test, the last test before the season finally gets underway, started inauspiciously. The weather gods, who were so unkind to MotoGP last season, continued to display their fickle nature, with the morning's session almost unusable, with the track neither wet nor dry. The Jerez track has been fairly well drenched throughout the 250 and 125 tests which took place earlier in the week, and the track surface stubbornly refused to dry throughout the morning, yet not wet enough to run rain tires, leaving little to be learnt from such a changeable surface. Only the hard-working test riders, Ducati's Vittoriano Guareschi and Shinichi Ito, and John Hopkins' replacement at Suzuki, Kousuke Akiyoshi were out putting in the laps before lunchtime, the rest of the riders preferring to stay inside a warm garage.

Ironically, it was the first proper rain shower which brought the riders out on to the track, keen to learn from the properly wet conditions. The riders' appearance seemed to appease the entity in charge of the waterworks, as the rained eased, then stopped after an hour or so, and the Southern Spanish track started to dry out properly. But though the action picked up a little, it remained a pretty low key affair, until about an hour from the end of the session, at which point a frenzy akin to the last ten minutes of qualifying broke out, with everyone out running hot laps.

So, thought times were set and a pecking order established, the conditions were far too variable to be able to draw reliable conclusions from the day's results. Even Marco Melandri's fastest time is 2 seconds slower than Valentino Rossi's race lap record, and over 2.6 seconds slower than Dani Pedrosa's fastest time set the last time the MotoGP grid was here, back in November.

But Melandri, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were all fast, with Carlos Checa a little way behind, Alex Barros hot on the Spanish veteran's heels. The big surprises were further down the timesheet, with Valentino Rossi setting only the 13th fastest time, nearly 2 seconds behind Melandri, and reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden down in 19th, over 3.3 seconds slower. But conditions being the way they were, the times were all fairly meaningless.

The test continues tomorrow, with everyone hoping for better conditions.

1 Marco Melandri Honda Gresini 1'42.563
2 Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro Team 1'42.634
3 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 1'42.796
4 Carlos Checa Honda LCR 1'43.206
5 Alex Barros Pramac d'Antin 1'43.214
6 Randy de Puniet Kawasaki Racing Team 1'43.315
7 Loris Capirossi Ducati Marlboro Team 1'43.475
8 Alex Hofmann Pramac d'Antin 1'43.673
9 Toni Elias Honda Gresini 1'43.687
10 Shinya Nakano Konica Minolta Honda 1'43.817
11 Colin Edwards Yamaha Factory Racing 1'43.845
12 Chris Vermeulen Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'44.052
13 Valentino Rossi Yamaha Factory Racing Team 1'44.494
14 Olivier Jacque Kawasaki Racing Team 1'44.659
15 Makoto Tamada Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 1'45.081
16 Sylvain Guintoli Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 1'45.208
17 Vittoriano Guareschi Ducati Marlboro 1'45.603
18 Shinichi Ito Ducati Marlboro 1'45.826
19 Nicky Hayden Repsol Honda 1'45.901
20 Kousuke Akiyoshi Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'47.191
21 Kenny Roberts Jr. Team Roberts 1'45.937
22 Jeremy McWilliams Ilmor GP 1'47.191
23 Andrew Pitt Ilmor GP 1'49.365

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Akiyoshi To Replace Hopkins At Jerez IRTA Test

After John Hopkins nasty crash on the last day of testing in Qatar, in which he broke a bone in his wrist, it was patently obvious that Hopper would not be able to take part in the official IRTA test which starts on Friday at Jerez in Spain. And now, MotoGrandPrix.it has ended the speculation of whether Chris Vermeulen would be the sole Suzuki rider at Jerez with a report that Hopper is to be replaced by Kousuke Akiyoshi for the duration of the test. Akiyoshi is active in Japanese Superbikes, and put in a creditable performance when appearing as a wildcard rider at the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi last September, finishing 13th in the race, behind Chris Vermeulen, and qualifying in 12th spot, as fastest Suzuki.

Hopkins is expected to be fit enough to race at the season opener in Qatar on March 10th. After Qatar, he will have two more weeks to recover, giving his wrist a decent chance of recovery.

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Team KR: Does King Kenny Play Poker?

After Thursday's shock announcement that Kenny Roberts Sr may withdraw from the 2007 MotoGP season if a sponsor is forthcoming, questions are starting to be asked about Robert's sincerity. King Kenny is known to have a few sharp moves under his hat when it comes to negotiating tactics, and voices were raised almost immediately that this was just a negotiating tactic, to put pressure on either Dorna, or a potential sponsor, to speed up affairs.

It now seems that this reading of events may not be so far from the truth. Speculation on the internet and sources close to the paddock seem to suggest that Team KR already has a sponsorship contract signed and sealed, and that Roberts Sr's announcement was more about pressuring Dorna, and attracting attention to the perilous state of sponsorship in MotoGP, than an actual threat. With the season due to start in just 3 weeks time, we'll find out soon enough whether this was just a bluff, or whether Kenny really is holding an empty hand.

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Bombshell: Team KR May Withdraw From 2007 MotoGP Season

Superbikeplanet.com has an interview with Kenny Roberts Sr in which King Kenny states he may be forced to withdraw from the 2007 MotoGP season due to a lack of funds. This would be a remarkable failure, as the story of Team KR is one of the most interesting in the entire paddock.

What the story does highlight, however, is the chronic and frankly incomprehensible lack of funding for MotoGP. With 320 million fans worldwide, you would think that companies would be chomping at the bit to pour money into motorcycle racing, but nothing could be further from the truth. And the fact is, there are no easy answers why this should be the case. So, if you love MotoGP, want to help, and work for a large organization, drop your marketing department a line. If your company is interested in trying to do business in Southern Europe, there is no better investment for their marketing dollars. You've got nothing to lose but the five minutes or so it will take you to write the e-mail.

~~~ UPDATE ~~~

I just finished reading the article, and it's a great analysis of what's wrong with corporate sponsorship. Very soon, viewing figures for MotoGP will catch and then pass those of Formula 1. And yet Dutch bank ING have just poured $100 million dollars into Formula 1, an amount of money for which you could run nearly the entire MotoGP field. MotoGP is where the bang for the buck is. Write those e-mails tomorrow.

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Qatar IRTA Test Day 3 Update: Hopkins In Hospital

Just minutes after posting a blistering 1'55.825 lap, just 0.2 seconds off Casey Stoner's pole record at Qatar, John Hopkins crashed out of the test, and into a local hospital. According to Motorcyclenews.com, Hopkins suffered a major highside out of turn 13. He was immediately taken from the track to a local hospital. Although his situation is unclear, his hands had swollen after the crash, and it looks like he may have broken either a wrist, or possibly bones in both hands. He is out for the rest of the test, and is unlikely to be present at the next official IRTA test in Jerez next weekend. Suzuki are hopeful that Hopper will be back for the season opener at Qatar on March 10th.

Testing continues, with the teams starting to test qualifiers. It seems highly likely that Hopkins' fastest time of the day will be beaten by day's end.

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A Strange Sense Of Timing At MotoGP.com

Something curious is going on over at MotoGP.com, the official website of MotoGP. Right in the middle of the second-biggest pre-season test, as public interest is building towards the start of an eagerly-anticipated season, they have taken the site down for maintenance. They also seem to have switched IP addresses, which would suggest they are moving servers in the middle of an event.

This leaves visitors to the site staring at message apologizing for the maintenance currently under way. This is a pretty frustrating prospect for the more dedicated fans and followers. The only positive spin we can put on this is that it may be an attempt to address bandwidth issues which some users, particularly those based in the US, suffered at the end of last season. This may also be related to the high-bandwidth, high-quality video streams that MotoGP.com is offering to subscribers. If it means a better quality, more reliable service, most fans will be delighted.

The problem, though, is the timing. Halfway through a test, with the eyes of the public focused upon them is not a good time to go upgrading systems. We can only hope that it means the quality of service will be vastly improved over the remainder of the season.

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Updated Site Design

I've updated the design, to make the layout a little easier to use. I hope you all like it, and if it doesn't work for you, let me know, and I'll try and fix it.

~~~ UPDATED 13 FEB ~~~

I've reverted to the old layout for the moment. I shall try and fix the problems you've been having this evening (my time). It seems like it's Internet Explorer which is causing the biggest problems, but I'm going to have to add some padding in the content cell for everyone. But it does seem like everyone prefers the new layout. Now I just have to fix the color scheme.

Thanks for your feedback!

~~~ UPDATED AGAIN 13 FEB ~~~

Right, we're back with a revised color scheme. I've simplified the changes I've made, so your browsers shouldn't get into such a mess. If you have any problems, please let me know! And if you do like it or don't like it, also let me know...

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Rossi Prolongs With Yamaha - Stays In MotoGP For 2008 Season - Updated

Yamaha has announced that Valentino Rossi will be staying with them for the 2008 season as well as 2007. The contract was announced to put a premature end to speculation that Rossi could once again leave MotoGP to race four wheels, either in Formula 1, or, much more likely, in WRC Rallying.

~~~ UPDATED ~~~

Both Rossi and Lin Jarvis make explicit mention of "concentrating on racing" in the press release. This seems to me, and to most observers, to be an implicit admission that Rossi's flirt with Formula One last year was a contributory factor to the problems Yamaha suffered at the beginning of the season. After Rossi's appearance in the WRC Rally of New Zealand, speculation began once again that Rossi would leave MotoGP at the end of the year to go Rallying. This speculation has finally been put to rest.

Valentino Rossi being Valentino Rossi, that is, one of the biggest names in professional sports, speculation will, of course, continue. People as diverse as the head of Ferrari, the head of Formula One, and the head of WRC have all stated that Rossi would be more than welcome in their sport, in some cases even hinting that a deal was close to being made. Mostly, these statements have been made in the hope that some of Rossi's public charisma will rub off on their sports.

It is almost certain that Rossi will switch to WRC at the end of his MotoGP career. His annoucement that he will be entering the Rally Of Great Britain at the end of 2007, seems merely to confirm this move. Rallying is his second love, after motorcycle racing, and offers a viable new career path after he retires. But, fortunately for motorcycle racing fans, we still have at least two more years to enjoy his astonishing skills.

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