Latest MotoGP News
While Silly Season for MotoGP seems to start earlier and earlier, the announcement of the calendar seems to get pushed back every year. 2011 is no exception, and even though September has started, there is still no provisional MotoGP calendar for next year, something which is normally published around the time of the Brno MotoGP weekend.
The reason for this year's delay is that the calendar faces a number of complications: Firstly, most people in the paddock are unhappy with the date of the opening MotoGP round at Qatar. While MotoGP fans had to wait until the second week of April for the season opener, the World Superbike series had already been underway for six weeks, and was entering its third weekend of racing. Then there is the issue of the Hungarian MotoGP round that went missing, the option of running Laguna Seca and Indianapolis back-to-back to help save money, and a host of other unresolved questions.
With the highest-profile moves all officially confirmed, MotoGP's Silly Season is starting to run out of steam. The big surprises are out of the way, and we are left with just over half the seats still unfilled. But even for the unsigned rides, names have already been penciled in, some rather more firmly than others.
The two big names still waiting to put their signatures under contracts are surely Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo's Brazilian manager is said to be playing hardball with Yamaha, trying to extract the best possible conditions out of the Japanese factory now that the sales powerhouse Valentino Rossi has left Yamaha to go to Ducati. Rumors of a 14 million euro salary demand are unconfirmed, but with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica likely to take on sponsorship of the Yamaha squad, Lorenzo might be expected to earn that in sponsorship by allying his selling power to the Telefonica brand.
The press office of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continue to do an outstanding job, collecting the following notes and quotes from the riders in today's MotoGP race. For quotes from the podium riders, see the separate news item.
MotoGP POST-RACE NOTES:
MODERATOR: OK, ladies and gentlemen, riders are on their way. In third place, Jorge Lorenzo here at Indianapolis. (Applause) Jorge has a 68-point lead in the championship over Dani Pedrosa, of course, who won the race. In second place, Ben Spies. (Applause) And the race winner, his third Grand Prix victory of the season, Dani Pedrosa.
Dani, you look absolutely shattered, I've got to say. I think that was, all three of you look absolutely shattered but that was a pretty tough afternoon's work.
As widely expected, and anticipated here just a couple of days' ago, Nicky Hayden announced an extension of his contract with Ducati at the Indy Mile flat track race on Saturday night. The good news for Hayden is that the deal is for two years, with Hayden signed up for 2011 and 2012. Hayden told the crowd at the Indy Mile "Next year I'll be teamed with some guy named Rossi, who knows a little something about bikes."
With both Hayden and Valentino Rossi signed up for two years, Ducati is clearly playing it safe over the formula switch back to 1000cc, due to take place at the end of the 2011 season. This allows both Hayden and Rossi to test and develop Ducati's MotoGP bike for the new formula, maximizing testing without running the risk of losing knowledge should one of their riders want to leave at the end of the 2011 season. But with Hayden having made a huge leap forward this year, and his public profile in the US helping to sell Ducatis in large quantities both at home and abroad, Ducati also felt that signing Hayden was a safe bet.
Below is the text of the official press statement:
DUCATI ANNOUNCE A TWO-YEAR DEAL WITH NICKY HAYDEN
MODERATOR: Ben, quite a weekend for you. Up and down, as it has been for I think most people here at Indianapolis. First of all, congratulations, pole position. Two weeks ago was the first front row, and now you've gone one better in pole.
BEN SPIES: Yeah, it's a dream, I mean to have a pole position at any time in MotoGP and to be able to do it in the first season on the Monster Tech 3 bike in front of the American crowd, it's great and add Indianapolis to it. It's kind of ticked all the boxes this weekend. We just got to, you know, not get ahead of ourselves, so it gives us some common edge for tomorrow but got to kind of live the moment right now. You know, it kind of took the pressure off the announcement on Friday and just knowing what's going on and am I'm really wanting to repay the Tech 3 team because they've helped put me in a place to be there and, you know, to be able to get a pole for them and hopefully can end the season good and keep being consistent and progress. But, you know, today we'll just savor the moment right now and go in tomorrow and try to put a hard 45 minutes and see what happens.
MODERATOR: It's been an interesting weekends, I think, for everybody in MotoGP, grip level has been a problem. You've crashed yourself, and the weather conditions also seem to be getting a little bit hotter.
Valentino Rossi was far from happy with his qualifying position at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, his worst position since Valencia 2008. His attempt to improve his qualifying position had been hampered by a crash with just a few minutes left in the session, the Fiat Yamaha rider going down at Turn 6, a corner that has caught out a lot of riders so far this weekend.
Speaking to the Italian press after qualifying, Rossi complained about the surface of the track in that corner, saying "if it hadn't have been for that hole in Turn Six ... We asked for that hole to be filled in two years' ago in the Safety Commission." The crash was Rossi's second of the day, something that hadn't happened since his first season back in 1996, Rossi claimed. The cause, Rossi explained, was the rear suspension being set too hard, making it impossible for Rossi to catch the bike once it started to slide.
The industrious folks in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office have done part of our job again, collecting quotes from fifteen of the seventeen MotoGP riders for tomorrow's MotoGP race. Even better, they came up with a selection of fascinating statistics from today's qualifying session as well. Here's the official IMS press notes and quotes:
MotoGP QUALIFYING NOTES:
Casey Stoner battled back from a crash midway in the second MotoGP practice session to set fast time overall on a already scorching, both literally and figuratively, morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track surface, uneven and slippery even in the best of conditions, made the morning session an exercise in controlled sliding, if you were lucky and crashing if you weren't. Joining Stoner in the kitty litter were Hector Barbera and Valentino Rossi, who has been complaining all weekend about a lack of grip.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa set his fast time after the checkered flag had flown ending the session, followed milliseconds later by Stoner, who took the top spot away from the Spaniard by a mere .058 seconds. The duo displaced Pedrosa's team mate Andre Dovizioso, who had taken the top spot with a bit over 6 minutes left in the session.
Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo had his late flying lap impeded by Gresini Honda's Marco Melandri and had to settle for fourth.
The final rider in the 1:40's, Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden, lanquished in the bottom half of the standings for the majority of the session and vaulted into fifth with eleven seconds left.
The impressively efficient press department at Indianapolis Motor Speedway collected and provided the following collection of quotes from fourteen of the seventeen MotoGP riders after the first session of free practice. Thanks to Paul Kelly and his staff for doing our job for us:
CASEY STONER (No. 27 Ducati Team, first): (Since you didn't run here last year, how hard was it to set up the motorcycle?): "We know genuinely the layout of the circuit. We know how the bike is going to react on a certain type – whether it's fast corners, slow corners, heavy braking or not. We had enough data from '08 just to start with, in general. There will be three or four different groups of circuits that we go to that we know what setup works. So we start with that rough idea; that's how we start every weekend. We'll know from previous years what roughly works on this style of circuit and then we just go from there. Out of the box it (the motorcycle) wasn't great. We tried one setting and completely went the wrong way, and it felt horrible. We came back and tried going a different direction and made another step and made it feel a little better, and we tried the last thing to make another improvement and sort of went backward again. We just have to go back and forth until we find that point where we're getting all aspects of the bike working."
The Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix has unleashed a veritable avalanche of official press releases about the future of the sport. The latest release is from the Aspar team concerning the extension of their contract with Ducati for 2011, but the release also hints at further developments in the future. The press release mentions Jorge Martinez' desire to field a two-man team on Ducatis for the 2012 season as well, which would appear to contradict rumors linking Aspar to Aprilia.
For rumors in the Spanish and Italian press have linked the Aspar to a deal with Aprilia to race a heavily modified version of their RSV4 bike in MotoGP in 2012, entering under the guise of a CRT team. Such a suggestion is plausible given Aspar's strong historic connection to the Noale factory, having raced and won many titles for Aprilia in the 125 and 250cc championships. However, given Aspar's strong ties to the Italian manufacturer, the chances of the Grand Prix Commission granting Aspar CRT status should he apply to race Aprilias seems rather slim. A deal with Ducati to race factory prototypes seems a much more likely chain of events.
ASPAR TEAM AND DUCATI TO CONTINUE IN 2011
Excellent relationship between Spanish team and Italian factory leads to fresh deal
Dorna Sports has just announced that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the MotoGP world championship for the fourth consecutive year in 2011, with a possible further extension to be negotiated. The round will be tentatively scheduled for August 26th-28th, 2011.
Dorna and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have just confirmed that MotoGP is to be back at Indy for 2011. The deal sees MotoGP returning for a single year in 2011, with a review to take place in light of the changes due to happen from 2012 onwards. The renewal sees the Indy GP scheduled for the same weekend next year as this year, with the race to be run on August 28th.
The press releases issued by Dorna and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are shown below, but the Dorna press release contains an interesting hint about the future of MotoGP. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta mentions the changes coming for 2012, saying the agreement "permits all possibilities to be explored at the end of 2011 when the current contractual agreement with the MSMA and IRTA is reviewed, as MotoGP continues to develop into a new era in the sport in 2012." It has been widely hinted that Dorna intends to radically revise the agreement the company has with the manufacturers' association, the MSMA, and this would seem to confirm it. Rumors suggest Dorna wants to remove the exclusive right to make technical regulations which the MSMA currently holds, after the 800cc rules turned out to be such an expensive bust. Comments such as these by Ezpeleta - made in an entirely inappropriate context - strongly suggest there is much truth behind this, and that MotoGP is going to undergo a huge shakeup for the 2012 season.