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2006 Donington MotoGP Round - Qualifying Practice

Dani Pedrosa confirmed his dominance at Donington after qualifying on pole for Sunday's race. Pedrosa's name was near the top of the standings for over half of the qualifying session, first behind fellow 250 rookie Casey Stoner, before taking over the lead with 15 minutes to go. With just over a minute to go of qualifying, the diminutive Spaniard then smashed Valentino Rossi's lap record by over 2/10ths of a second.

The session initially looked like being dominated by Casey Stoner, the young Australian putting in a string of fast laps in the first half of the session, with Kenny Roberts Jr being the rider closest to Stoner's times. The timesheets stayed relatively unchanged for a long time, before the first run of faster times with 30 minutes to go. Pedrosa was the only rider to get close, with John Hopkins and Randy de Puniet also putting in fast times.

With 20 minutes of the session to go, the qualifiers started coming out. Chris Vermeulen, Colin Edwards and Randy de Puniet all put in fast times, but none of them could beat Stoner's 1:28.447. This is all the more remarkable as Stoner's fast time was set with race tires, yet the riders with qualifiers couldn't seem to match him. Not until Dani Pedrosa put in a 1:28.152, that is, taking pole from Stoner.

With 10 minutes left in the session, the scramble for a fast lap began in deadly earnest. The psychological warfare between Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards, who was still smarting from last Saturday's loss at Assen to his fellow American, was on full display, the Yamaha rider following Hayden around the track, and pointedly pulling across in front of him in the pits at one point. Not that it did either of the protagonists any good, both the Yamaha rider and the Honda rider finishing way down in the standings, to start from the fourth row of the grid.

John Hopkins put in a quick time to move up to 4th, but a couple of minutes later, Nicky Hayden raced past to push him down a place. With 5 minutes to go, while Rossi seemed incapable of putting together a really fast lap, with only a 12th time, the other two hospital cases flashed through to put in some top times, Marco Melandri putting in a 2nd fastest time, Loris Capirossi's time taking him to 3rd. But there was still plenty more to come. A minute later, Hopkins flew past to take 3rd again, Shinya Nakano putting in a 5th place time just a minute later. Hopkins' Suzuki team mate Chris Vermeulen outshone the other two Bridgestone riders with a lap of 1:28.158, good enough for second, the spot he will line up at for the race tomorrow. Finally, with just over a minute to go, Dani Pedrosa reaffirmed his right to pole position, smashing the lap record with a time of 1:27.676, an astonishingly fast lap on the Repsol Honda.

So tomorrow, Pedrosa will get to start from pole position for the third time this year. Beside him sits Chris Vermeulen, on the front row of the grid for the 2nd time this year, after his pole in Turkey. Completing the front row is wonder boy Marco Melandri, surprisingly fast for a man who was so badly hurt just two weeks ago. The second row of the grid is headed up by Vermeulen's Suzuki team mate John Hopkins, with another courageous crash victim Loris Capirossi on the Ducati in 5th, and the Kawasaki of Randy de Puniet in 6th. Heading the third row is fellow Kawasaki rider Shinya Nakano, reinforcing the strength of the Bridgestone showing here at Donington: 5 of the top 7 riders are on Bridgestones, the only Bridgestone rider missing from the front being Alex Hofmann, who is substituting for Sete Gibernau. Casey Stoner, the rider who led the session on his LCR Honda for so long, drops to a rather disappointing 8th, with Kenny Roberts Jr also likely to be disappointed to only be down in ninth.

The fourth row of the grid sees last week's two protagonists way down the starting order. Colin Edwards won the war of nerves from Nicky Hayden, in what is surely a pyrrhic victory. If Colin wants to get the win he denied himself last week in Holland, 10th spot is not a good place to start from. Valentino Rossi, the man who has won 5 of the last 6 races here, will not be happy in 12th position, but will at least be comforted that the man he has to beat for the title is on the same row of the grid. Rossi is the first rider to be outside of a second of Pedrosa's pole time.

Carlos Checa heads up the fifth row, with a strong 13th place for the Dunlop-shod Yamaha man. Only 1.6 seconds behind the pole sitter, the Dunlops are getting more competitive at every outing. Besides Checa sits Makoto Tamada, in yet another poor showing, the end of his ride on the Konica Minolta rapidly approaching. And Alex Hofmann will have to ride the tires off his temporary Marlboro Ducati from 15th place, if he is to keep the bike for his home Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in two weeks time. British rider James Ellison will not be happy with his 16th place, though he continues to improve, while Hofmann's substitute Ivan Silva heads up the Pramac d'Antin Ducati tail enders, ahead of team mate Jose Luis Cardoso.

The qualifying session threw up a surprise line up at the front of the grid. Dani Pedrosa definitely deserves his fantastic pole, and has been consistently fast during qualifying, stringing together long runs of fast laps. The only question mark is whether he can cope with 30 long laps of manhandling the bike down through Craner. Both Pedrosa and Stoner, the two lightest riders on the grid, have been fastest through the rear three sections of the track all weekend, but they are both slow through the first part, which needs physical strength to flick the bike from side to side. If Pedrosa can get a good start, he must be capable of getting away and running ahead of the pack. The only rider with the consistently fast lap times to match Pedrosa is Casey Stoner. Stoner will find it harder to fight his way to the front from 8th.

The riders with momentum from Assen, Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards, seem to have spent it all in badmouthing each other in the press this week. They will have a tough fight to get to the front to be able to mix it for the win, and are likely to be trying to get in each other's way. This will be very much to the advantage of Valentino Rossi. 12th is a long way down the grid, but at least now, all he has to do is concentrate on staying ahead of Nicky. That's going to be tough, for the last section of track, through the Esses, up the Melbourne Loop and back down round Goddards, is all hard braking, which is tough on a broken wrist. This is going to be equally hard on Loris Capirossi and Marco Melandri. Melandri has the advantage of starting from the front row, but is worried about his collarbone and hand holding up over the full length of the race.

With all those Bridgestone riders out front, it could be another surprising podium. Hopkins knows and loves this track, living just a few minutes away from it, and is desperate to get on the box. Vermeulen put in an outstanding lap at the track he last rode at in 2001, on a 600 Supersport, which must feel like a sensible commuter compared to the fire-breathing MotoGP bikes. And the Kawasakis look good, despite the last part of the circuit suiting the bike less well. It's going to be a great race.


1 26 Dani PEDROSA SPA HONDA 1'27.676     279
2 71 Chris VERMEULEN AUS SUZUKI 1'28.158 0.482 0.482 277.5
3 33 Marco MELANDRI ITA HONDA 1'28.205 0.529 0.047 277.4
4 21 John HOPKINS USA SUZUKI 1'28.252 0.576 0.047 276.7
5 65 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA DUCATI 1'28.394 0.718 0.142 275.1
6 17 Randy DE PUNIET FRA KAWASAKI 1'28.428 0.752 0.034 274.1
7 56 Shinya NAKANO JPN KAWASAKI 1'28.431 0.755 0.003 275.9
8 27 Casey STONER AUS HONDA 1'28.447 0.771 0.016 278.7
9 10 Kenny ROBERTS JR KR211V 1'28.473 0.797 0.026 277.7
10 5 Colin EDWARDS USA YAMAHA 1'28.481 0.805 0.008 278.9
11 69 Nicky HAYDEN USA HONDA 1'28.509 0.833 0.028 277.1
12 46 Valentino ROSSI ITA YAMAHA 1'28.808 1.132 0.299 277.9
13 7 Carlos CHECA SPA YAMAHA 1'29.294 1.618 0.486 270.7
14 6 Makoto TAMADA JPN HONDA 1'29.362 1.686 0.068 275.8
15 66 Alex HOFMANN GER DUCATI 1'29.479 1.803 0.117 272.9
16 77 James ELLISON GBR YAMAHA 1'30.382 2.706 0.903 270.8
17 22 Ivan SILVA SPA DUCATI 1'31.838 4.162 1.456 270
18 30 Jose Luis CARDOSO SPA DUCATI 1'32.252 4.576 0.414 268.1


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Michel Fabrizio Breaks Collarbone at Donington

Michel Fabrizio, replacement rider for Toni Elias at Fortuna Honda, has broken his collarbone during the third Free Practice session at Donington, meaning he won't be able to take place in the race. Fabrizio was to partner the already injury-plagued Marco Melandri. The team may need another replacement rider for the German GP at the Sachsenring in 2 weeks time.

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2006 FP1 and FP2 Donington Round

Dani Pedrosa dominated both of Friday's free practice sessions at Donington. His last run during FP2 was particulary impressive, going out for ten laps and setting consistent low 1:29s. The only person to be able to match that kind of consistency was his former 250 rival Casey Stoner.
In injury news, Marco Melandri seems to have staged a near full recovery, as his times were also consistently fast, while Valentino Rossi is obviously a lot more comfortable than last week, but is still suffering a little, and may find it hard to ride a full race. Loris Capirossi went out during the morning session, but did not appear during the afternoon's session, as he was experiencing too much pain from the internal injuries sustained at Catalunya.
As for times, Pedrosa dominated, John Hopkins put in a couple of good laps to come second, with Stoner third. Checa put in a surprising display, setting the 11th time on the Dunlops which have been so poor so far this season. The times are also pretty close, as the top 12 are covered by less than a second.

1. Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team 1min 28.970 secs
2. John Hopkins USA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1min 29.025 secs
3. Casey Stoner AUS Honda LCR 1min 29.064 secs
4. Marco Melandri ITA Fortuna Honda 1min 29.196 secs
5. Shinya Nakano JPN Kawasaki Racing Team 1min 29.275 secs
6. Colin Edwards USA Camel Yamaha Team 1min 29.379 secs
7. Valentino Rossi ITA Camel Yamaha Team 1min 29.416 secs
8. Kenny Roberts Jr USA Team Roberts 1min 29.544 secs
9. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda Team 1min 29.557 secs
10. Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1min 29.798 secs*
11. Makoto Tamada JPN Konica Minolta Honda 1min 29.806 secs
12. Carlos Checa SPA Tech 3 Yamaha 1min 29.842 secs
13. Chris Vermulen AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1min 29.941 secs
14. Randy de Puniet FRA Kawasaki Racing Team 1min 30.342 secs
15. Alex Hofmann GER Ducati Marlboro Team 1min 30.387 secs
16. Michel Fabrizio ITA Fortuna Honda 1min 30.762 secs
17. James Ellison GBR Tech 3 Yamaha 1min 31.306 secs
18. Ivan Silva SPA Pramac d'Antin MotoGP 1min 32.524 secs
19. Jose Luis Cardoso SPA Pramac d'Antin MotoGP 1min 32.576 secs

* Capirossi's time was set during the first session in the morning.

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WCM To Return To MotoGP in 2007

In another stroke of synchronicity, in the weekend that former WCM rider Michel Fabrizio is to return to MotoGP for a race, his former team, WCM, have announced that they will once again return to MotoGP in 2007, with a two bike team. For more details, see the BBC news item. No news on what bikes they will be riding, but with a possible shortage of bikes on the grid as a result of the move to 800 cc next year, this can only be good news for MotoGP.

UPDATE has more on this story. WCM are once again developing their own 800cc prototype to run in the 2007 MotoGP series. We can only hope that it will be more successful than the ill-starred 990 cc project.

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Michel Fabrizio To Replace Elias At Donington

DFX Honda World Superbike rider Michel Fabrizio is to replace Toni Elias, who was injured in a fall at Assen last week, on the Fortuna Honda for this weekend's Donington Grand Prix. Fabrizio is no stranger to MotoGP, having run last year on the WCM Harris bike as team mate to James Ellison. The Honda RC 211V is a different proposition to last year's WCM bike, which was loosely based on a Yamaha R1 engine, before being totally rebuilt under pressure from the MSMA. Fabrizio's ride will only be for one Grand Prix, as Elias is expected to return for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring on July 16th.

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2006 Assen Pre-race Speculation: Rossi To Ride, Capirossi To Sit It Out?

Just watched the MotoGP warm-up, and from watching the responses after the session finished, it looked like Rossi will be riding, but Capirossi will miss out. Rossi was slow, but faster by nearly half a second faster than qualifying yesterday. His wrist was strapped.

Capirossi got off the bike looking about 90. He could be seen shaking his head when talking to his team, and it seems very unlikely he could last race distance with the chest injuries he is suffering. Capirossi is having problems breathing and tensing his stomach muscles, making it very difficult to brace himself while braking and accelerating.

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F1's John Barnard to Run MotoGP Team? is reporting that leading Formula 1 designer John Barnard is teaming up with Ricardo plc, "one of the world's leading powertrain, driveline and transmission technology providers", to build a bike to run in MotoGP. Barnard is no newcomer to MotoGP as he was previously involved in the Team KR project with Kenny Roberts in the period that they were trying to build their own V5 engine, which never became truly competitive.

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2006 Assen Qualifying Practice - Brief Summary

The question on everybody at Assen's lips, whether Valentino Rossi was fit enough for qualifying, has been answered, and the answer is: just. Rossi was only out for 2 sessions, and did 13 laps, but he qualified, with an almost respectable 1:40.298. Respectable for a man who complained that he couldn't brake or get on the gas, that is.

Rossi's time puts him at the back of the grid, nearly 4 seconds behind surprising pole sitter John Hopkins. The Suzukis have been reasonably fast all weekend, but not this fast. Suzuki will be pleased, as Assen is the home grand prix of their sponsor, Rizla, and an excellent place to get the second pole of the season. The pole time was just as the Ohlins engineers predicted, 1:36.411. Shinya Nakano is in second spot, making it a Bridgestone 1-2 in Qualifying. Colin Edwards was also fast, but was baulked by Nicky Hayden during his last fast lap, wrecking his shot at pole. Hayden himself is in fourth, beside team mate Dani Pedrosa, and the second Suzuki of Chris Vermeulen.

The third row has some pretty big surprises: Marco Melandri is in 7th position, not bad considering the terrible crash he suffered last week. But the real surprises are Carlos Checa in 8th, a long way up the grid from where the Dunlop riders usually are; and another Dunlop rider (though this time on Bridgestones) Alex Hofmann in 9th, riding Sete Gibernau's Ducati. Kenny Roberts Jr, who had been at the front during the Free Practice sessions, is way down in 10th.

A disappointing performance from Loris Capirossi in 15th and Casey Stoner in 12th. Capirossi has an excuse, as he is still suffering the after effects of his crash in Barcelona, but Stoner doesn't. Less than 1 second covers the top 9.

1.  Hopkins
2.  Nakano
3.  Edwards
4.  Hayden
5.  Pedrosa
6.  Vermeulen
7.  Melandri
8.  Checa
9.  Hofmann
10. Roberts Jr
11. de Puniet
12. Stoner
13. Tamada
14. Ellison
15. Capirossi
16. Cardoso
17. Silva
18. Rossi

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2006 Assen Free Practice 3 - Rossi Missing In Action?

Valentino Rossi seems to be suffering from the injuries sustained during his crash in the 1st Free Practice session yesterday. He did not emerge onto the track until 20 minutes into the session, where he rode 3 laps before returning. He came out once more, towards the end of the session very briefly, apparently returning straight back to the pits. Most disturbing of all for the Italian world champion must be his lap times: his fastest lap time was a 1:58.614. That's 21 seconds slower than the fastest lap this session.

That the Yamaha wasn't to blame was shown by Colin Edwards, who set that fastest lap, a 1:37.215, the fastest time set at the new Assen track so far. This is getting very close to the time of 1:36 which the Ohlins engineers predicted the MotoGP bikes should be capable of at Assen. The finish order:

1. Edwards
2. Hayden
3. De Puniet
4. Stoner
5. Nakano
6. Pedrosa
7. Tamada
8. Hopkins
10. Vermeulen
11. Melandri
12. Checa
13. Ellison
14. Hofmann
15. Capirossi
16. Cardoso
17. Silva
18. Rossi

No Elias as he returned to Spain yesterday. Less than 1 second covers the first 9, and less than 1.6 seconds covers Edwards to Hofmann.

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Riders Respond To The Track Changes At Assen

In a previous item, I discussed the changes that have been made to the track at Assen, especially the changes to the North Loop. Thursday was the first day that the riders got to ride the track in anger, and to learn what the new Circuit Van Drenthe at Assen is really like. Here's a compilation of rider comments on the changed layout at Assen, taken from interviews from


  • Shinya Nakano: "I like the new track. More technical, and I like it."
  • The ever-discrete Casey Stoner: "Disgusting. This track was one of the greatest tracks in the world, but they've completely destroyed it over the last couple of years. I don't even think anyone enjoys racing here any more."
  • The similarly discrete Colin Edwards: "It's crap. The track was the best '95, '96, when I first started coming here, and every year they keep screwing it up piece by piece. ... It's still gonna be some good racing, but the temple of the Dutch TT is a little bit diminished with what we have now."
  • Valentino Rossi: "For sure, it's not the old Assen, but anyway, it's not so bad."
  • Dani Pedrosa: "Assen is now like a go-kart track."

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