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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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2006 Assen Free Practice 2 - Leader Board

In this afternoon's Free Practice session, Texas Tornado Colin Edwards was fastest, setting a 1:38.144. Carlos Checa was in an outstanding second place, 0.115 behind, ahead of Casey Stoner, Kenny Roberts Jr, Randy de Puniet, John Hopkins, Chris Vermeulen, Makoto Tamada, Shinya Nakano and Nicky Hayden, in tenth spot. Dani Pedrosa is 11th, ahead of Valentino Rossi. Marco Melandri is in 14th, with Loris Capirossi down in 16th, behind temporary team mate Alex Hofmann. Less than 1 second covers the top ten.

Based on data from the World Endurance Championship races run at Assen earlier this year, Ohlins engineers calculated that the MotoGP bikes should be able to lap Assen in 1:36. So there's plenty of room for improvement.

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2006 Assen Injury Update - Elias Returns to Barcelona

Toni Elias is flying back to Barcelona today, after injuring his shoulder in a fall during the first free practice session. A bone chip was found in his shoulder at the hospital, and he has suffered some ligament damage.

So now we have two teams consisting entirely of injured riders: Fortuna Honda, with Marco Melandri injured but riding, and Elias gone home; and Marlboro Ducati, with Loris Capirossi injured but riding, and Sete Gibernau back in Barcelona, his place taken by Alex Hofmann. With Rossi also injured, but riding, this season is really taking its toll of the MotoGP paddock.

For news of Elias' 2007 crash at Assen, see this story.

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