Latest MotoGP News
MotoGP fans around the world - and to an even greater extent, everyone involved in MotoGP - have been waiting for a calendar for the 2011 season for a long time now. The problem has been that MotoGP has an informal agreement with Formula One to avoid scheduling conflicts between the two series, and thereby force TV companies to choose between one or the other.
In practice, this means that Formula One dictates the MotoGP calendar, and this is exactly what appears to have happened to the provisional 2011 MotoGP calendar. An early version was leaked two weeks ago, a version that looked to be fairly reliable, but rescheduling by Formula One - shuffling some of the 20 races which it has on its calendar - meant that too many MotoGP races would conflict with F1 events.
As a result, the FIM has finally managed to produce a provisional version of the 2011 MotoGP calendar, which has seen a surprising amount of reshuffling of events happen. The season starts in Qatar on March 20th, as previously announced, and the season night race is expected to be spread over four days instead of the usual three, to allow the race to be run earlier at night, avoiding the drastic temperature drops that can happen between 11pm and midnight in the desert. It also means the season starts some three weeks earlier than in 2010, seizing back some of the ground MotoGP had ceded to the World Superbike series.
The press release issued earlier today by the Alstare Suzuki team came as no surprise: Alstare boss Francis Batta merely formalized the news that the team had released Leon Haslam from the second year of his two-year contract that Haslam had with the Alstare squad. The reasons given were obvious: A lack of sponsorship combined with a lack of support from Suzuki's Hamamatsu headquarters, despite Haslam coming perilously close to securing the 2010 World Superbike title. The Englishman is now free to finalize the switch to BMW which has been so widely leaked.
Ever since the announcement by the Grand Prix Commission that MotoGP would be going back to 1000cc, a low-intensity battle has been going on between the World Superbike and MotoGP series, with WSBK accusing MotoGP of encroaching on its territory. That encroachment is more imaginary than real, but the criticism masks a fundamental fear on the part of Infront Motor Sports, the company which runs World Superbikes.
For the main difference between WSBK and MotoGP is the wealth of manufacturers which have chosen to enter the World Superbike series. WSBK has seven to MotoGP's four, and one of those four is hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Infront's greatest fear is that the manufacturers currently competing in World Superbikes - and especically BMW and Aprilia - will switch their focus from WSBK to MotoGP, pouring money into the new 1000cc MotoGP formula taken from their WSBK budgets. Given the rumors concerning potential interest from Aprilia, and BMW being linked to the Suter CRT bike for 2012, those fears would appear to be justified.
With the Grand Prix Commission meeting what feels like every race weekend nowadays, it's hardly surprising that readers of the press releases issued get a sense of déjà vu from time to time. Today's FIM press release detailing the latest decision of the Grand Prix Commission is no exception. MotoGP's rule-making body - consisting of the organizers (Dorna), the teams (IRTA), the sanctioning body (FIM) and the manufacturers (MSMA) - introduced new restrictions on fuel pressure, limiting the pressure in fuel lines to a maximum of 10 Bar. If that had a familiar ring to it, it is because exactly the same rule was introduced for 2010 at a previous meeting of the GP Commission back in December of 2009, a rule that was quietly dropped before the start of the 2010 season.
As reported this weekend, the four-practice schedule used at Aragon was a huge hit with the teams and riders. The general consensus was that the chance to try out big changes between sessions more than outweighed the shorter time during the session to make changes. As a result, the teams asked for a return to the four-practice schedule (FP1 and FP2 on Friday, then FP3 and QP on Saturday), preferring four 45-minute sessions to three sessions of 1 hour. Saturday's meeting of the Grand Prix Commission rubber-stamped the change, and so at the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril and the Grand Prix of Valencia, four sessions of practice will be run, with the same schedule likely to return for the whole of next year.
If Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati was one of the worst-kept secrets in the MotoGP paddock, whether Rossi's crew chief Jeremy Burgess would follow him is undoubtedly the best-kept secret. Burgess, together with entire Australian crew that has surrounded Rossi since he entered the premier class in 2000, has maintained a sphinx-like silence about the question, handily dodging the question whenever it was put to them.
For a long time, this was not a pose. While Rossi had decided to switch to Ducati as early as mid-June, Burgess was still completely undecided at Brno two months later. Such was Burgess and crew's indecision that Yamaha gave them a deadline, to allow the team to start making plans to replace them should they decide to leave. That deadline came and went at Misano, but still no word seeped out from Burgess and crew about whether they were off to Ducati along with their rider.
The question of who would be partnering Cal Crutchlow at Herve Poncharal's Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad next season has been exercising several minds, not least that of Poncharal himself. As was demonstrated so vividly during the search for a replacement for Valentino Rossi during his absence through injury, there are worryingly few candidates to come into MotoGP and be competitive quickly. With Cal Crutchlow joining the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team for 2011 as a rookie from World Superbikes, having someone who knows both the tracks and preferably the bikes is imperative for Poncharal's team.
So it comes as no surprise to learn that Colin Edwards has renewed his deal with the Tech 3 team for one more year. Edwards had earlier been linked to a Xerox Ducati ride in World Superbikes, but after the factory Ducati decided to pull out of WSBK for next season, Edwards' options were quickly limited. Interests collided, leaving Edwards and Tech 3 as each other's best options for 2011. Below is the text of the press release announcing the deal, for what is likely to be Colin Edwards' last season in MotoGP:
Colin Edwards signs 2011 Monster Yamaha Tech3 contract
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team is delighted to announce that Colin Edwards has signed a new one-year contract to ride for the French-based squad in the 2011 MotoGP world championship.
When Valentino Rossi spoke to the press after struggling to a 6th place finish in the MotoGP race at Motorland Aragon, he revealed just how bad his shoulder problem has been. The Italian injured his shoulder in a training accident back in April, and since then has struggled with a painful and weak shoulder. Rossi's problems have been disguised in part by his broken leg, which he suffered so spectacularly at Mugello, and which caused the Italian to miss races for the first time in his professional career.
Rossi had hoped that the injury would improve sufficiently to see out the 2010 season, but after the race at Aragon, he told the press that he was seriously considering having surgery to correct the problem, and miss the last two races of the season at Estoril and Valencia. Rossi said he would first test his fitness at the next three flyaway rounds at Motegi, Sepang, and Phillip Island in October, before making a final decision on having surgery.
Here's what Rossi had to say to the press:
Question: How much of what we saw today was down to the shoulder?
After the dramatic events of Misano, which saw Shoya Tomizawa lose his life after crashing during the Moto2 race, attendance at the Safety Commission meeting at Aragon - the first convened after Misano - was very strong. Everyone had come to hear Race Direction explain their actions, and give their reasons for not red-flagging the Moto2 race, and a long discussion ensued over the pros and cons of having astroturf on the outside of corners.
All of the riders who attended described the meeting as very positive, and the atmosphere as very open. The riders said that Race Direction was very open to the ideas of the riders, and everyone in the room was looking for lessons that could be learned from the incident involving Tomizawa, Scott Redding and Alex de Angelis.
Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso were three of the riders present at the meeting. Here's what they had to say about the meeting afterwards.
On the opinion of the riders on astroturf:
It's mixed. I think that astroturf's good but it's too grippy, you know, it don't scare anybody. Especially 125 and Moto2 riders, people don't even slow down for it. They get their tires onto it. I think they need astroturf but more slippery. So when you get onto it, you have to slow down.
Organizing a MotoGP event at a brand new facility has given the series a chance to experiment, and the organizers seized that opportunity with both hands. Dorna and IRTA, in charge of the day-to-day practicalities of running an event, made two changes to the schedule at Aragon, reintroducing four practice sessions and moving the order that the classes were run in. Instead of three 1 hour sessions, Aragon saw the advent of four lots of 45 minute practice sessions, giving the same amount of time on the track, while allowing the teams a little more time to experiment.
The experiment has been an immediate success, and Dorna have just announced that it will continue at Estoril and Valencia, the last two MotoGP events of the season. There will once again be two free practice sessions on Friday, morning and afternoon, as well as a free practice session on Saturday morning, followed by qualifying in the afternoon. The return of FP3 has been universally welcomed by the riders, with the only complaint being that the qualifying is now too short. Valentino Rossi called for qualifying practice to be returned to 1 hour instead of 45 minutes, but the factories remain opposed to any further extension of practice.
Since Cal Crutchlow announced that he will be moving to MotoGP for 2011, to race with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the old question of whether World Superbike riders can be fast on a MotoGP bike has raised its head. Ben Spies has certainly shown that he has been capable of being competitive since switching to MotoGP, but many people believe that this is down to Spies' exceptional talent, which he so clearly demonstrated by winning the World Superbike title at his first attempt, racing on tracks he had never seen before.
The comparisons with Spies are inevitable, as Crutchlow struggles on the bike that Spies was so dominant on, with both fans and parts of the media voicing their belief that Crutchlow has not yet shown that he deserves a shot in MotoGP. Crutchlow's former manager, and the man who helped him win the World Supersport title at his first attempt, disagrees.
Wilco Zeelenberg, currently managing Jorge Lorenzo to his first MotoGP World Championship, told MotoMatters.com that he believes Crutchlow will do just as well in MotoGP as Ben Spies has done. "I think Cal can be just as good as Ben," Zeelenberg said. The Dutchman said that what had impressed him most about Crutchlow was his temperament. "Cal has the right attitude," Zeelenberg told us, "He's a real racer."
Dorna have just announced that Shoya Tomizawa is to receive a very special tribute from the MotoGP paddock. The Moto2 rider, who was killed in a tragic accident at Misano two weeks' ago, is to have his number retired from the Moto2 championship and has been posthumously awarded the Michel Metraux trophy for the best Moto2 rider of the year. Below is the official press release:
MotoGP honours Shoya Tomizawa's memory
The MotoGP paddock was hit hard by Shoya Tomizawa's tragic death during the Moto2 race at Misano, and here in Aragon, everyone seems to be saluting the fallen Japanese rider in one form or another. Every bike on the grid is carrying a #48 sticker in honor of Tomizawa, with some carrying his number on their leathers or helmet, while others have stickers on the front mudguard (for an example, see Neil Spalding's photo from his Twitter page). Japanese rider Yuki Takahashi is wearing a black armband to commemorate his friend and compatriot.
With the paddock reconvened at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Alcañiz, Shoya Tomizawa's tragic death at the last race in Misano is still very much at the forefront of everybody's minds. During the traditional pre-event press conference, Gresini Moto2 rider Toni Elias proposed a fitting tribute to the fallen Technomag CIP rider. The Spaniard suggested that Tomizawa be posthumously awarded the Michel Metraux trophy, presented to the best privateer of the season, in recognition of his achievements and as a mark of respect.
Elias' proposal has been made possible by a recent change in the system for awarding the trophy, which previously went to the best-placed privateer in the 250cc class. With all of the Moto2 riders now officially privateers, the system has been changed to peer selection system, with all of the riders in the Moto2 class choosing their best rider of the year at the end of the season.
"I would like to ask all my fellow riders in Moto2 to vote for Shoya and dedicate this award to him," Elias told the press conference, a request that was met with a round of applause from the assembled press. Also attending the press conference to back up Elias call were all of the Japanese riders in the paddock, including Hiroshi Aoyama, Tomoyoshi Koyama and Yuki Takahashi.
Another piece of the MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place, and once again, it's hardly earth-shattering news. Honda have just announced that Dani Pedrosa has signed a new two-year deal with HRC, and will be a factory Honda rider for 2011 and 2012.
The move had been expected for a while, as Pedrosa and HRC had been closing in on a deal for the past couple of months. Pedrosa's outstanding results since Laguna have helped the Spaniard's cause immensely, especially breaking through his own personal barrier of winning more than 2 races in a season.
Pedrosa's signing leaves two questions unanswered, or rather, leaves them half-answered. The first of those questions is the matter of sponsorship, with Repsol's contract with Honda coming to an end after the 2010 season is over. Repsol are widely expected to sign up for another year, something that Pedrosa's renewal with HRC makes significantly more likely. But Repsol have remained ambivalent about their involvement with Honda over the past couple of years, signing up for a one-year deal for the 2010 season. The length of the contract for 2011 will give a better insight into their intentions for the future.