Latest MotoGP News
Reports of testing are starting to sound increasingly like a broken record, with weather being a constant factor preventing the teams from testing properly. The second day of testing for a small group of World Superbike riders at Portimao turned into another washout, with heavy rain and cold temperatures wracking the Portuguese coast.
Despite that, the teams present went out and tested anyway, focusing instead on setup and working on known issues. At the end of the day, it was Ruben Xaus who got his name atop the timesheets on his very first outing on the Ten Kate Honda, finishing three tenths of a second ahead of BMW new boy Leon Haslam, and over a second ahead of his Ten Kate teammate Johnny Rea. Alstare Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio matched the pace of Rea, who was a couple of tenths quicker than BMW's Troy Corser. Two former factory riders on new machines - James Toseland on a BMW and Noriyuki Haga on an Aprilia - propped up the bottom of the timesheets, though the conditions leave the times being set devoid of meaning.
2012 is the year that everything will change. A bafflingly large number of people think this is because of the approach of Planet X, bringing destruction upon the world as foretold by the end of the Mayan calendar (which rather inconveniently now appears to end in 2220), but for motorcycle racing fans, something even more momentous than the end of civilization is on the cards. For 2012 is the year that sees the return of 1000cc motorcycles to MotoGP.
Those who were hoping to see the return of the glorious RC211V and its soul-churning V5 bellow will be sorely disappointed, however. MotoGP may be allowing the return of the liter bikes, but a couple of significant rule changes mean that the face of the grid will be altered irrevocably. There'll be no more barking V5 Hondas, nor howling Aprilia RS3 Cubes, nor will the overly optimistic and sadly failed WCM Blata V6 project be revived. The rules have been written such that the bikes will have four cylinders, use a four-stroke combustion cycle, and are likely to come in well under 1000cc capacity.
The lack of diversity in MotoGP from 2012 onwards is down to the new rule package due to come into effect. So let us first take a look at the rules laid down for MotoGP, before going on to study the reasoning behind those rules, and the effects they will have on the grid.
The weather at Jerez turned miserable on the final day of the Moto2 test there, bringing the action to a premature end at the Andalucian circuit. Only the few riders brave enough to venture out early managed a few dry laps, the rain arriving shortly after noon.
The shortness of available track time did not hamper reigning 125cc World Champion Marc Marquez. The young Spaniard managed just six laps before the rain came on Friday, but he still managed to improve his time, getting down to 1'45.2, just half a second off the official lap record set by Toni Elias back in May, in much more favorable conditions. Both Julian Simon and Xavi Fores also got a quick run out, Simon managing a 1'44.8 in just 10 laps, while former Spanish CEV Moto2 rider Fores set a 1'45.9.
In the MotoGP class, Karel Abraham made use of the wet conditions to get familiar with the bike in the rain, putting in an impressive 38 laps on board the Ducati Desmosedici GP11. With MotoGP testing so limited, Abraham simply had to make the best of the extra testing days he is allowed as a MotoGP rookie for the 2011 season, and riding in the rain was a better option than not riding at all for the Cardion AB rider.
Good news for MotoGP fans in the UK, and everyone else capable of receiving Eurosport (such as via the Eurosport player). Everybody's favorite (English-language) MotoGP commentary team will be back in action for 2011. For British Eurosport has once again struck a deal to cover MotoGP, featuring the dulcet tones of Toby Moody and Julian Ryder, along with expert technical analysis by Neil Spalding.
British Eurosport will cover all 18 rounds of the 2011 MotoGP season, with the 125 and Moto2 races being shown live, and the MotoGP races delayed by one hour, a concession to the BBC, who have also have a contract to air the MotoGP races, one considerably larger than the Eurosport deal. So British viewers will be able to watch the action twice: once in full, on the BBC, and an hour later, revisit the whole thing with commentary from Moody and Rider.
The sun came out, albeit a rather weak, wintery sun, for the second day of testing at Jerez for the Moto2 class, and all of the riders present finally got a chance to go out and put in some laps, rather than just the handful who braved the damp conditions on Wednesday. Fastest time of the day - and an unofficial lap record, beating the lap record set during the race in May by nine tenths of a second - was set by Julian Simon, the Mapfre Aspar rider setting out his stall for the 2011 Moto2 World Championship. Simon finished the day ahead of his fellow Spaniard Aleix Espargaro, the former MotoGP rider fast in just his second test on the Pons Kalex Moto2 machine.
The first day of testing for the Moto2 test at Jerez has not seem much action, with a wet track leaving the riders little to learn at the Andalucian track. Despite the conditions, several riders did venture out on track, including Pol Espargaro, Andrea Iannone, Julian Simon and Scott Redding. The remainder sat and waited for the weather to clear. With so few laps run and so few riders on the track, lap times were fairly irrelevant.
Yamaha have just about cleaned up during the 2010 MotoGP season. The factory secured the 2010 World Championship with Jorge Lorenzo, the Spaniard scoring a record points total along the way, with the Japanese manufacturer also wrapping up the constructors' title, and the factory Fiat Yamaha team taking the team title. In addition, Ben Spies took Rookie of the Year aboard a satellite YZR-M1, finishing 5th in the championship, and with Valentino Rossi taking 3rd - despite missing races due to a broken leg, as well as racing with a long-running and debilitating shoulder injury - Yamaha finished with three riders in the top five.
All in all, then, little reason to change Yamaha's 800cc M1 MotoGP machine, given the startling level of performance that the bike has already displayed. But when Spanish journalist Diego Lacave, editor of the magazine Motoracing, wrote an open letter to Jorge Lorenzo on the website Motocuatro, claiming that the Yamaha will be the bike that gets the least amount of development for the 2011 season, Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada was quick to deny any such suggestion. Lacave was guilty of only looking at Yamaha as a company, not at the culture which that company has, Forcada explained. "I've worked with the Japanese enough to understand their attitude," Forcada wrote in an email to Motocuatro. "They either decide to leave, like Kawasaki did, or they stay and accept all of the consequences."
Less that 24 hours after posting our previous Moto2 update, more details have come to light about who will be riding where for 2011, as well as a few corrections on Monday's list. The most interesting piece of information to come out was the introduction of Marc Marquez Monlau Competicion Moto2 team. The newly-crowned 125cc champion will continue to receive backing from the Spanish petroleum giant Repsol, as expected, but will also be funded by Caixa Catalunya, a regional Spanish bank from (predictably) the Catalunya region of Spain. The team has finally decided to race a Suter Moto2 chassis, rather than the FTR chassis they had been expected to race, after Marquez and his manager Emilio Alzamora vetoed the choice of the team, who had wanted to field an FTR.
The Moto2 rider line-up for 2011 is slowly starting to take something resembling its final shape, with more and more riders signing contracts to ride next year. Kenan Sofuoglu's signing for the Technomag CIP squad provided one catalyst, provoking a spate of moves to secure the known quantities for next season at the Valencia test. The prime mover in that chase was the team that Sofuoglu turned down, with Gresini securing former Tech 3 rider Yuki Takahashi to take the place of the departing Moto2 champion Toni Elias, with Sofuoglu's former Ten Kate Honda World Supersport teammate Michele Pirro taking the second seat in the biggest team in Moto2.
The Tech 3 team had earlier announced the signing of Bradley Smith and Frenchman Mike di Meglio to take the place of the departing Yuki Takahashi and the disappointing Raffaele de Rosa - the Italian being tipped for a return to the 125cc class, along with Hector Faubel (signed for Bancaja Aspar), Joan Olive and Sergio Gadea. Meanwhile, the other hottest seat in Moto2 - the one left vacant by Di Meglio - has been filled by one of the two riders making the jump from the Spanish CEV Moto2 championship, Xavi Fores signing with the Mapfre Aspar team for 2011, joining his CEV Moto2 rival Kev Coghlan on the world stage.
When Valentino Rossi switched from Honda to Yamaha back in 2004, he was fast right out of the gate, setting the fastest time of the Yamaha riders in his first test on the M1, then ending up 3rd fastest in an official test with all of his main rivals for the 2004 season. So when the Italian legend made his debut on the Ducati at Valencia, there was some consternation among the fans and the media about the fact that Rossi could manage only the 15th quickest time, just over 1.7 seconds off the time set by his now former teammate Jorge Lorenzo on the Yamaha.
The rule changes coming for the 2012 MotoGP season are generating a lot of interest from new manufacturers interested in entering the series. Current Moto2 chassis builders FTR, Kalex and Suter are all believed to be working on chassis for use in the so-called CRT bikes, machines based around production engines, while BMW and Aprilia are also rumored to be looking at entering the class once the capacity returns to 1000cc.
Shortly after the Brno round of MotoGP, news emerged that Stuart Garner, the man behind the resurrected Norton brand, had obtained two grid slots for the 2012 MotoGP championship. The company's plans, it was believed, revolved around taking the 1000cc four-cylinder engine which will form the basis of a high-performance sports bike to be introduced in either 2011 or 2012, and race it as part of a plan to promote Norton as a performance brand. The engines were to be built by Menard Competition Technologies, but rumors emanating from the UK's F1 corridor - an area of the central UK stretching from Aylesbury in the southwest to Leicester in the Midlands - suggest that Norton was having doubts about the rate at which engines could be produced at, and that Norton was exploring other options.
Great things were expected of Marco Melandri when he switched to Ducati's MotoGP team for the 2008 season. The Italian has been a rising star on the Gresini Honda, finishing 2nd to Valentino Rossi in 2005, and scoring three victories in 2006. In the first year of the 800s, 2007, Melandri had struggled along with the rest of the Honda riders, after HRC, like the other Japanese factories, realized they had got their 800cc bikes completely wrong when faced with the raw power of the Ducati. If Casey Stoner could win so convincingly on the bike, the reasoning went, then Melandri would surely clean up completely once he got on the bike.
Rarely has a manufacturer switch turned into such a disaster. Melandri's time at Ducati was a nightmare almost from day one, the low point coming after a series of crashes at Jerez. Melandri failed completely to get to grips with the Desmosedici, despite his teammate racking up 6 victories on the machine. The Italian ended the season in 17th, and terminated his contract a year early, leaving the Ducati seat to Nicky Hayden.
That the marriage between two of the strongest brands in Italy, Valentino Rossi and Ducati, should turn into a marketing goldmine comes as no surprise. Even before Rossi's signing with Ducati was officially announced, rumors among paddock insiders suggested that Ducati had sponsors lining up to back their MotoGP program, and now that the new season is approaching, Ducati is starting to pick the fruits of that.
For yesterday, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, AMG - a high-performance subsidiary of the Mercedes Benz brand - announced that they are to enter into a marketing partnership that will see the German car manufacturer support Ducati's MotoGP project. The partnership will not produce much in the way of visible sponsorship on the bikes, for Mercedes is to be "Official Car Partner" to the program, rather than any form of main sponsor. The pair will engage in joint marketing activities, including allowing selected Mercedes owners to test ride Ducati's new Diavel machine at AMG events, while selected Ducati owners will be given the opportunity to test Mercedes vehicles.
Almost 7 months to the day since Valentino Rossi dislocated his shoulder in a motocross training accident, damaging vital ligaments connecting his humerus (arm bone) to his scapula (shoulder blade), the Italian has finally had surgery to correct the problem. Rossi today underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder at the Cervesi di Cattolica hospital near his Tavullia home to repair damage to the supraspinatus tendon (part of the rotator cuff group of muscles and tendons) and the glenoid ligament (the ligament that surrounds the shoulder socket and keeps the humerus or arm bone in place).
If there's one subject that makes a MotoGP fan's blood boil, it's electronics. Electronic rider aids have removed a lot of the spectacle that formerly characterized the series, controlling wheelspin and managing tire wear, turning MotoGP into a series where the front wheel is paramount and the winner is the rider who can carry the most corner speed.
The electronics consist of a battery of sensors, monitoring the location and state of the bike on the track. GPS tracks the precise position of the bike as it travels round the track; gyroscopes monitor its attitude; accelerometers measure the forces being exerted through corners; and a range of engine and wheel sensors monitor wheel speed, engine speed, throttle position and a multitude of other parameters. All this data is fed into (for Yamaha and Ducati, at least) the Magneti Marelli Marvel 4 ECU, which then translates all that information into an engine mapping perfectly matched to the conditions on the track.