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Race day pictures from Brno, courtesy of Jules Cisek:
The debrief at the end of the Brno test was the first chance the press got to speak to Valentino Rossi after the official announcement that the Italian had signed with Ducati. So naturally, after discussing how testing had gone, the subject turned to Rossi's decision to leave Yamaha and join Ducati.
The main reason, the nine-time World Champion said, was because he felt his work at Yamaha was finished. The bike had been turned around completely, thanks to the relationship Rossi had built up with Masao Furusawa (head of Yamaha's MotoGP project). But with Furusawa about to take compulsory retirement at the end of the year, the Italian was worried about the direction of Yamaha's MotoGP project once he leaves.
That, and the outstanding relationship that he has built up with Ducati's Filippo Preziosi over the years, was enough to convince Rossi that a move to Ducati was the right thing to do. It was not about the money, Rossi was keen to emphasize. It was about his belief that he could build the same kind of working relationship with Preziosi that he had with Furusawa in the past.
Below is the full transcript of the debrief Rossi did with the English-speaking press.
The third and final installment of the worst-kept secret in racing is which team Valentino Rossi will be racing for in 2011. The completely unsurprising answer is of course Ducati. Rossi has signed a two-year deal, for 2011 and 2012. The official press release appears below:
VALENTINO ROSSI AND DUCATI TOGETHER FROM 2011
Brno (Czech Republic) August 15th 2010 - Ducati and Valentino Rossi have signed a two year agreement for the nine-times World Champion to race with the "Rossa" of Borgo Panigale in the Ducati Marlboro Team from 2011.
Along with the press release from Yamaha comes a separate quote from Valentino Rossi. The Italian wrote his leaving message by hand, and in a rather charming touch, Yamaha have reproduced the original handwritten letter. The quote follows below, with an image of the handwritten page below that.
Brno, Czech Republic
Sunday 15th August 2010
QUOTE FROM VALENTINO ROSSI
"It is very difficult to explain in just a few words what my relationship with Yamaha has been in these past seven years.
At last, official confirmation of MotoGP's worst kept secret is here. The first part is the Yamaha press release, confirming that Valentino Rossi is leaving. The press release is shown below, no commentary required at this moment.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team Press Release
Brno, Czech Republic
15th August 2010
YAMAHA AND VALENTINO TO PART COMPANY AT END OF 2010
While Scott Jones, MotoMatters.com's own photographer is back home in California, our friend Jules Cisek is here at Brno instead. And fortunately for us, Jules is a dab hand with the camera as well. Here's his photos from Saturday.
The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's ruling body, met at Brno today, and as expected, they finalized the demise of the two-stroke engine from Grand Prix racing. As of 2012, the 125cc class is to be replaced by Moto3, a 250cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine, with a maximum bore of 81mm.
Unlike Moto2, however, the class will not use a spec engine, but instead will use rules to help keep costs down. Any manufacturer building a Moto3 engine must sell it at 10,000 euros or less, and be prepared to supply at least 15 riders. The idea is to prevent factories from pouring large amounts of resources into engine development, and then making it available to only one or two teams, thus assuring themselves of the valuable publicity that a certain victory would provide. More than one manufacturer has already shown an interest in the class, though the requirement to supply at least 15 riders becomes a little difficult to enforce as more manufacturers get involved. After all, if there are 4 manufacturers and 32 riders on the grid, it is hard to test whether they are all willing to supply 15 riders if the interest in the engines is divided equally among the various teams.
Alvaro Bautista's rookie year in MotoGP has been incredibly tough. After breaking a shoulder in a training crash while riding a motocross bike in early May, the Rizla Suzuki rider has suffered further injury at Brno. Bautista fell heavily at Turn 3 during this morning's FP2 session, landing on his back and crawling away in pain. The Spaniard was taken immediately to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with a suspected fracture of the L1 vertebra, and then flown to Brno hospital for further medical examinations.
The circuit medical center has ruled Bautista unfit to take part in qualifying practice, and the Spaniard is almost certain to miss tomorrow's race. No news is as yet available on whether Bautista will be fit for the next round at Indianopolis. More updates as and when they become available.
Various sources are reporting that Bautista has been given the all clear by the Brno hospital. No fractures were found during the examination, but Bautista did suffer very heavy bruising on his back, which he will have treated using pain killers and physiotherapy. Bautista is currently on his way back to the circuit to attempt to take part in qualifying.
After Friday's first session of free practice for the MotoGP class in Brno, a small group of journalists attended Andrea Dovizioso's media debrief in the Repsol Honda hospitality. Dovizioso talked about a number of things, but the main topic of conversation was the state of his contract negotiations. Here's what Dovizioso had to say about the state of play.
Q: Do you have any idea about your contract for next year? You're still taking to Honda?
Andrea Dovizioso: Yes. We're still talking and nothing's fixed. Our target is to continue.
Q: To continue in the factory Repsol Honda team?
Valentino Rossi's desire to race in World Superbikes is well documented, the seven-time MotoGP champion saying as much at Laguna Seca three weeks ago. And upon his return to the circuit he tested Yamaha's YZF-R1 superbike, to assess his fitness to decide whether he would be fit enough to race at the Sachsenring or not, Rossi once again underlined that he would one day like to race in the series.
Rossi was responding to questions on whether it would be possible to race in two classes in the same season. Rossi said that right now, the Moto2 class held no interest for him, and so it was not a goal worth pursuing. "I think the Moto2 is a great show, and is a great opportunity for a lot of riders," Rossi said, "but is not an impressive bike to ride. When you ride a MotoGP, no meaning to ride a Moto2. Maybe it would have more meaning to ride a 250."
The paddock's response to the leniency of the punishment for Toni Elias and the Gresini Moto2 team has been one of puzzlement. After all, for testing during the summer break, a period during which all testing is prohibited, Elias was only punished by being excluded from a single session, and the team handed a 3000 euro fine. That, some said, was a pretty good price to pay: an affordable fine and the loss of 20 laps on a crowded track against some 90 uninterrupted laps on an empty circuit. Such a light penalty might set a precedent, and speculation has been rife that others could follow in Gresini's footsteps.
One of the first names to be suggested as likely to benefit from extra testing was the Rizla Suzuki squad of Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista. The Suzuki GSV-R is suffering from a serious lack of development this year, and could really benefit from extra testing time. Suzuki team boss Paul Denning has previously been rumored to be considering extra testing, and so MotoMatters.com caught up with the Suzuki boss to get his opinion of the punishment for Elias.
The silly season for the factory riders is just about over: Ducati will be announcing the signing of Valentino Rossi on Sunday night at Brno with Nicky Hayden a racing certainty to follow at Indianapolis, and Yamaha likely to announce its factory team lineup of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies immediately after the Rossi announcement. At Honda, the arrival of Casey Stoner has been officially confirmed, while Dani Pedrosa is sure to follow in the next few weeks.
But while Yamaha and Ducati are all more or less done, the Honda lineup has a few more loose ends to tie up. Stoner's contract is done and dusted, but the situation for Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso is a little more complex. As discussed previously, Dovizioso's situation is complicated by the fact that the hoped-for sponsorship deal with Red Bull never materialized, but according to a Honda spokesperson, the Italian's contract should be finalized some time around Misano. The spokesperson had no comment on which team Dovizioso would end up with.
Moto2 championship leader Toni Elias' weekend at Brno has gotten off to a rather poor start. The Gresini Moto2 rider has been punished for testing the Moriwaki Moto2 bike at Misano last weekend. Race Direction has ruled that the test was against the rules - as it was a private test at a circuit on the calendar during the official summer break - and has handed the team a 3000 euro fine, and banned the Spaniard from taking part in Friday's first session of free practice at Brno.
The Gresini team did not lodge an appeal, accepting full responsibility for a clear error of judgement. The team had not read the rules carefully enough, and had not thought about the possible ramifications of the test. With Elias sitting on a comfortable 42-point lead over 2nd place man Thomas Luthi, Elias will be happy to accept just a fine and being forced to miss a single session of practice.
The news that Kevin Schwantz is to make a return to the MotoGP paddock has cheered the spirits of many motorcycle racing fans. The American legend is to run the American Honda wildcard effort which is due to field Roger Lee Hayden at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, where Hayden Jr. will be riding a Moriwaki MD600, together with the Erion Honda team. Naturally, the guys from OnTheThrottle wanted to find out more, and so David Williams spoke to Schwantz at Laguna Seca about the project, and about Roger Lee Hayden's replacement ride on the LCR Honda. Here's what Schwantz had to say:
While the world's gaze has been on the medical miracles that are Valentino Rossi and Randy de Puniet, Interwetten Honda's Hiroshi Aoyama has been proceeding with his recovery in the same way as he has gone about the business of learning to ride a MotoGP bike: quietly and determinedly. The Japanese rider fractured a vertebra during the warm up at Silverstone, and has been out of action ever since.
After consulting with medical specialists, Aoyama decided against having surgery to fix his vertebra, preferring to allow the bone to heal naturally. His recovery has gone so well that he expects to be able to test the Interwetten Honda MotoGP bike during the tests on Monday, to assess when he might be able to make a full return to racing.
In a press release by the Interwetten Honda team, Aoyama said that he hoped to make a return as soon as was sensibly possible: