Latest MotoGP News
To get one important question out of the way first (I'll come to The Big Question later), Ducati will be running a big bang engine next year. Nicky Hayden said he preferred the feel of it, Filippo Preziosi said that the Screamer had "good potential" - code, in case you haven't guessed, for being very rough around the edges - but the big bang does what it is supposed to do: give the rider great feedback.
The Screamer vs Big Bang decision was what the Valencia tests were ostensibly about before Valentino Rossi turned a wheel on the track, but with the Italian legend ending day one in 10th, and day two in 15th, all that changed. While the man who had left Ducati to ride for Honda was scorching around on day one, then setting the fastest time on day two, Valentino Rossi, who had taken Casey Stoner's place in Ducati, was wobbling around at the rear.
Just as we did yesterday, here's the round of press releases from the official test at Valencia, the final day of the test. As both Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner are under contract to teams other than the ones they were riding for, there's no rider quotes from them. Stoner spoke to the press separately afterwards (more on that later), while Filippo Preziosi reported on Rossi's feeling on the Ducati Desmosedici. Below are the press releases, and a full list of times is here:
LORENZO AND SPIES WRAP UP SUCCESSFUL VALENCIA OFFICIAL MOTOGP TEST
Day two of the Valencia test started under better conditions than yesterday, allowing Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies a full morning's riding in the Spanish sunshine. Both riders had completed their testing schedule by the lunchtime break, giving the Yamaha engineers enough data to work over the winter break for the first of the 2011 tests in Sepang at the end of January.
A remarkable and historic day for MotoGP started in farce and ended in, if not glory, then at least some form of euphoria. At 10am, TV broadcasters around the world switched over live to Valencia, for two hours of broadcasting riders looking out of garages at a wet and windy track, while the media of the world huddled outside the Marlboro Ducati pits waiting for Valentino Rossi to emerge. Dorna staff were looking particularly nervous, having sold a pile of off-season subscriptions for their (otherwise excellent) streaming video coverage off the back of Rossi's Ducati debut, and now there was nothing to placate the punters with, other than the expert time-filling of Gavin Emmett (and no, we're not related).
Eventually, the surface dried out enough for the riders to venture out on track, with Rossi dispersing the throngs around his garage by the simple expedient of going out and putting in a few laps, temporarily slaking the crowd's appetite. With that out of the way, the world of MotoGP could return to what will pass for normal from now on, while Rossi is on the Ducati.
Here at MotoMatters.com, we have never been keen on posting press releases without any commentary to explain the background to them. But the circumstances of the first MotoGP test of the 2011 season at Valencia are so extraordinary - Valentino Rossi's long-awaited Ducati debut, for example, as well as the first outing for Casey Stoner on the Honda - that we are prepared to make an exception. Here are all today's press releases, featuring expertly massaged opinions and heavily doctored ride quotes:
LORENZO AND SPIES FIRST AND THIRD AT VALENCIA TEST
Yamaha Factory Racing Team riders Jorge Lorenzo and new team-mate Ben Spies completed a successful first day of the official MotoGP test at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia today, topping the timesheets as only two of five riders to dip below the 1.33 minute mark . Rain in the morning saw the day's session delayed until the track had dried with all riders waiting until the afternoon before venturing out onto the circuit.
The waiting is finally over. At around 12:25pm on Tuesday, November 9th, Valentino Rossi finally rolled out of pit lane for his first laps aboard the Ducati Desmosedici GP10. Two hours and twenty five minutes after practice had officially started.
Tension had been building for hours, after rain had started falling in the morning, continuing past the 10am start time for the first official test of the 2011 MotoGP season. Fortunately, the rain clouds soon blew over, and the sun and strong winds dried the track sufficiently for the first riders to venture out. With the promise of action, crowds of journalists started to gather in pit lane, while crowds of fans gathered on the rooftop of the building which houses the pits and lines the Valencia circuit's front straight.
With Honda confirming that they will be running a three-man factory team next season, there are only a couple of loose ends left to tie up. The most significant - and the most depressing - is that Suzuki has finally announced that they will only be fielding a single MotoGP bike for 2011, with Alvaro Bautista at the helm.
The move was another one of the 2011 MotoGP season's many, many open secrets, and a move that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has been trying to fend off since it was first mooted. Dorna believes that Suzuki has an obligation under the terms of the contract it has with the Japanese manufacturer to supply a minimum of two bikes to the MotoGP grid. Suzuki believes it only has a commitment to supply a presence on the grid, and that a single bike complies with its obligation under the contract. Ezpeleta met with Suzuki after the Motegi round of MotoGP in Japan, but failed to come to an agreement. This matter is likely to end up in the courts at some point, but that won't help get any bikes on the grid for 2011.
The last tweaks for the 2011 MotoGP season are being ironed out, with official announcements tidying up the few loose ends dangling from the tapestry of 2011. One of the longer threads left untied was the situation surrounding Andrea Dovizioso and Honda. After HRC signed Casey Stoner to ride for the factory team, Dovizioso looked in danger of being nudged out of the Repsol squad, despite having a guarantee in his contract stating that he would get an automatic ride with the factory team again if he finished in the top 5.
For a long time, it looked like either Andrea Dovizioso or Casey Stoner would be housed in a separate structure, with separate sponsorship and run by Livio Suppo. But Suppo's attempts to persuade Red Bull (who were the prime candidate for title sponsorship) fell on deaf ears, and this plan fell apart. The next option was for Dovizioso to be shifted into the Gresini team with direct support from HRC, but this was a move that Dovizioso fought tooth and nail to prevent.
The Moto2 market is moving very rapidly this Sunday night at Valencia, with new signings being revealed on an almost minute-by-minute basis. The latest piece of news to emerge from the paddock is that British rider Kev Coghlan has signed to ride for the Aeroport de Castello team for 2011. Alex Debon had originally intended to continue riding for another year in Moto2 at the request of his sponsors, but after breaking his collarbone for the 3rd time this year (and the 10th time in his career) the Spaniard has been told by his medical advisors that he needs to stop racing.
Coghlan has been racing in the Spanish CEV Moto2 championship, where he has been engaged in a season-long battle with Carmelo Morales and Dani Rivas for the title. Coghlan also made a couple of wildcard appearances this season, at Silverstone and Aragon, where he impressed many team bosses, especially after ending a couple of practice sessions inside the top 4. A technical problem ended Coghlan's race at Aragon on the first lap.
With the start of the 2011 MotoGP season just 72 hours away, the first test due to start on Tuesday at 10am local time, the grid is still not finalized. Of the 17 expected riders, only 15 had been confirmed at their teams as of Saturday afternoon, leaving one seat at Pramac and one seat at Gresini Honda still vacant. On Saturday evening, one of those seats was officially filled, with Frenchman Randy de Puniet being confirmed at the Pramac Ducati squad.
The move had been long expected, after Toni Elias had been signed by the LCR Honda, a deal reportedly brokered by Dorna after Elias had displayed a reluctance to return to the Pramac squad. Sightings Friday night of De Puniet and his manager having dinner with the Pramac team further fueled speculation that an announcement was imminent, the time pressure of the Tuesday tests adding to the urgency.
As we wrote yesterday in our Moto2 round-up story, the Moto2 silly season is in full swing, with so many rides up in the air and so many riders still chasing seats. One of the biggest logjams has been Kenan Sofuoglu, the 2010 World Supersport champion having been in demand with a large number of teams, especially after his astonishing debut at the rain-soaked round at Estoril last weekend.
But on Saturday, that logjam cleared, when it emerged that Kenan Sofuoglu had agreed to ride for the Technomag CIP team for the 2011 season. The signing came as something as a surprise, as Sofuoglu came close to signing a deal with the Gresini Moto2 squad to replace departing Moto2 champion Toni Elias, but the deal was called off at the last moment after Gresini came up with a list of additional demands. Sofuoglu's preference had been to ride a Moriwaki, which is why the Turk was talking to Gresini, but an intervention from Suter chassis maker Eskil Suter helped change Sofuoglu's mind. In the end, Sofuoglu elected to stay with the Technomag squad, who have welcomed him in as replacement to Shoya Tomizawa, who was tragically killed at Misano. The announcement was met with a round of applause in the Technomag garage as Sofuoglu entered this morning.
Putting together a list of riders for the 2011 Moto2 season has proven to be a remarkably intractable task. Fear and uncertainty stalks the Moto2 paddock, not least because the full list of admitted teams was not released until last weekend at Estoril. The list contains 22 teams with space for 40 riders, though doubt remains over whether the teams will be able to fill all 40 seats.
Below is the information that MotoMatters.com has been able to glean from a range of sources so far. There are still a huge number of gaps as far as riders are concerned, as teams and riders scramble for cash with which to fund rides, and as teams weigh up their options in terms of riders. Even the names that are available are still not certain, and changes are expected all the way up to Sunday night, the eve of the first Moto2 test of the 2011 season. Sunday night seems to be a pretty solid deadline, however, as the teams are keen to test on Monday, and nobody will be testing without a contract.