I received an e-mail from a guy called Roko in Austria, with an excellent and clear overview of who will be where for 2007, plus some pretty good guesses for the unsigned riders. If you want to see who is doing what, check out the link below:
As a result of the yellow flag controversy at Phillip Island, the FIM has announced it will be reviewing procedures for dealing with yellow flags during the race (PDF file). This will include investigating the use of "new technology" to respond to incidents.
At the heart of the affair is Valentino Rossi's pass of Casey Stoner while a yellow flag was being waved during the Phillip Island race. Carlos Checa had run off the track, and parked his bike at trackside. The yellow flag was still being waved on the inside of the right hander, as Valentino Rossi passed Casey Stoner round the outside of the previous left hander. Coming out of the right hander (where the yellow flag was being waved), Stoner then just pressed his wheel level with, or possibly just ahead of, Rossi, before Rossi finally made the pass stick. The race directors did not see the incident, and after the race, both Rossi and Stoner denied seeing the yellow flag. Nicky Hayden, however, did, and hesitated for a while, waiting for the race directors to take action against Rossi before continuing to chase the reigning world champion down. Rossi finished the race two spots ahead of Hayden, gaining valuable points on Hayden in his chase to retain his world crown.
After the race, the race stewards apologized to Hayden for not seeing the incident, which was difficult to see on the live TV coverage, which the race directors use to monitor the race for infractions. Honda later wrote an official letter of compaint to the FIM, and the incident has spawned some pretty vitriolic coverage in the US press.
The statement issued by the FIM is show below:
The Grand Prix Commission composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Claude Danis (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Mr Paul Butler (Secretary), in an extraordinary meeting held yesterday at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, unanimously decided to issue the following statement:
Following full and frank discussions by all the parties involved in the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (FIM, MSMA, IRTA, Dorna) addressing the issues arising from the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island which took place on September 17th, 2006, it was the consensus of all the parties to closely examine the regulations and procedures in order to avoid in future the incorrect application of the rules forbidding passing under yellow flags.
Immediate action includes a letter sent by the Race Direction to the Australian organisation pointing out the failings of their officials that caused the controversy.
In addition an in-depth study will be made of new technology to facilitate a more immediate response to incidents around a circuit.
Italian website MotoGrandPrix.it is reporting that Marco Melandri will be deciding whether or not to move to Ducati today. With both seats at HRC's factory Repsol Honda team filled, Ducati is Melandri's best hope of a full factory ride. Melandri has reportedly been promised a factory-supported V4 800 for next season by Honda, allowing him some input on the development of the bike, but this is not as strong a position as a seat in a full factory team.
Alberto Vergani, Melandri's manager, is said to have agreed a 2-year, $3 million-a-year deal with Ducati. Melandri's name has also been linked with Yamaha, but so far, no word on this has been forthcoming.
The FIM has announced new tire regulations to be used for the 2007 season.
Two points in the rules stand out:
2.9.3 Teams that are supplied by a tyre manufacturer that has achieved at least two MotoGP race wins in dry conditions since the first race of the 2005 season will be restricted in the quantity of slick tyres that each of the teams riders may use at a single event as follows:
During all practice sessions, warm up and the race a maximum of 31 slick tyres, specifically -
Front tyres: 14
Rear tyres: 17
When a tyre manufacturer, not subject to the limitation at the beginning of the season, achieves two MotoGP wins in dry conditions during the current season, it will become subject to the restrictions at the third event after the one where the second win was achieved.
2.9.4 Between 12.00 hrs. and 17.00 hrs. on the day prior to the start of official practice, the Technical Director will mark the tyres available to each entered rider.
This basically means two things:
- All slick tires to be used for a race must be inside the parc fermé by 5pm on the Thursday before a race weekend (or Wednesday at Assen and Qatar);
- Teams will have to be much more careful about using tires during qualifying. If you're only allowed 17 rears, then using up 2 qualifiers on Friday and 3 on Saturday takes a big chunk out of your tire choice for the race.
The other interesting exemption is for Dunlop (being the only manufacturer not having won 2 Grand Prix since the start of the 2005 season). This measure must give them a real chance to catch up with Bridgestone and Michelin in the development of their tires. It will be interesting to see if the other manufacturers cry foul over the fact that one of the signatures to the new rule change is Hervé Poncharal, team manager for the Dunlop-shod Tech 3 Yamaha team, in his capacity of IRTA representative.
These moves will make racing cheaper for the non-factory teams, but will also make tire choice even more critical. Expect to see the first few races of the 2007 season decided by poor tire choice. Whether this will be good for fans or not remains to be seen, but it will certainly add even more uncertainty into the mix.
When I left to travel to Spain for my vacation, I was mildly annoyed that I would be missing three weekends of racing, through some fairly catastrophic vacation planning. To add to my MotoGP misery, I was planning a camping holiday, and so wouldn't even have access to TV. So I comforted myself with the thought that at least I would able to follow the racing in the extensive coverage found in the Spanish mainstream press. I needn't have worried. There would be so much more than this.
My first happy discovery was finding that the Spanish motorcycle magazine Motociclismo was a weekly publication. This meant that on the Tuesday after the Sepang race, I could luxuriate in 30+ pages of coverage of the thriller in Malaysia, including a lot of commentary about Valentino Rossi's little piece of chair-based theater on the podium. Was it meant as a gibe at Dani Pedrosa, who had been forced to use a chair after suffering injuries to both legs during a crash in Friday's practice session, or was it, as Rossi claimed, a light-hearted jest about how tiring his battle had been with Loris Capirossi? Opinion was divided, but the slice giving Rossi the benefit of the doubt was pretty thin.
It was to get even better, though. On the Saturday of the Australian GP, we decided to go hiking in the east of the Picos de Europa mountains. We drove from our campsite in Turieno to a tiny village called viñón, a hamlet consisting of some thirty-odd houses and a restaurant. We parked the rental car in the restaurant car park (the only sizable flat surface available), and went inside for a coffee, to give us a boost before heading up into the hills. Coming out of the bright late summer sunshine into the darkness of the bar, the first thing to greet us was the roar of the ubiquitous TV set which stands in pride of place in every Spanish bar. As I glanced up, I saw to my delight that they were showing a full-length repeat of that morning's 250 qualifying session at Phillip Island. Hoping that whoever had put the 250 qualifying on would know who had got the MotoGP pole, I waited for the bar staff to appear. I was less hopeful when a young girl of 19 entered, but decided to ask anyway. Now, where I live in Holland, the chances of a 19 year old woman knowing anything about motorcycle racing are virtually zero. But Spain is different. The waitress immediately told me that Hayden had grabbed the pole, filled me in on where Rossi, and Pedrosa had placed, and affirmed her conviction that Rossi would yet clinch the title before the end of the year. I was delighted, both at finding out who was on pole, and at meeting a young woman so knowledgeable about MotoGP. After our coffee, we went off for a walk through the fantastic scenery.
On Sunday, we decided to go for a drive around the Picos, to visit a couple of villages which we'd been told were beautiful. We stopped in the small town of Arenas de Cabrales, to have a look around and buy some of the strong blue cheese the town is famous for, and as is our habit, stopped at a bar for a coffee and a bite to eat. I'd dismissed the idea of being able to see the race, thinking I would catch up with the result in the next day's papers. But again, as I entered the bar, the TV was showing the full-length repeat of the race (the Spanish are race fans, but even so, they don't like getting up at 6 in the morning to watch the race). I sat watching the second half of the race, swapping comments in my poor Spanish with a couple of the regulars. I didn't find out until the next day that I'd missed the pit chaos of MotoGP's first flag-to-flag race, but just being able to watch Melandri's outstanding win, Rossi's astonishing charge through the field, and Hayden's gutsy fight to hang on to Rossi was a real pleasure. As to the famous question of the yellow flag, I couldn't see it clearly, as I sat at an angle to the TV, but I'm sure I'll return to this in my discussion of the races, which will follow in a couple of days. After the race finished, we paid, left and continued our trip, happy to have caught most of the race.
So, if you find yourself in need of a vacation, but don't want to miss much of the racing, I can only recommend that choose Spain as your destination. Apart from the outstanding scenery, great weather, fantastic food and friendly people, you get to stay up-to-date with your favorite sport. What more could a MotoGP fan want?
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.