It's been a long time - too long, is the general opinion in the paddock, 5 months without MotoGP allows fan enthusiasm to sag - but MotoGP is back again. No more phony wars, this time, it's serious out in the desert.
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When Suzuki announced that they would be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2011 season, they were keen to emphasize that the withdrawal was only temporary, saying they were planning a return to MotoGP in 2014. Though many paddock regulars were sceptical about such a suggestion, Suzuki are sticking to their guns, it seems.
Dani Pedrosa has issued a formal apology to his fans over his arrest for attempting to cheat during an exam for his yachtmaster certification. In a written statement from his lawyers and disseminated to the Spanish media, Pedrosa stated that he had "taken some bad advice and made a mistake."
Dani Pedrosa was arrested and released by Spanish police in Valencia on Saturday, March 31st for allegedly attempting to cheat during an examination required to obtain Yachtmaster certification. The Spaniard was arrested as part of an operation by the Spanish Guardia Civil national police force against a network involved in helping people cheat while sitting their yachtmaster exams, under the auspices of the Valencia regional government.
As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. The leaked document is a figment of my fevered imagination, and Dorna intends to cut races in Spain, rather than expand them. We are more likely to see races in a wider variety of countries than see all the races be held in Spain. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
Since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, MotoGP has been desperately looking for ways to cut costs. A raft of measures aimed at lowering the technological costs of MotoGP have been rushed through over the past three years, with more expected to come in the coming months and years. But with much of the excess already cut from the bikes and the technology, the following area to undergo drastic cost reductions is the second largest budget item facing teams: Travel and transportation.
MotoMatters.com has received a copy of a confidential internal discussion document circulating inside Dorna setting out a plan to radically reduce the costs of travel and accommodation for the MotoGP paddock. The plan is certain to be controversial: the method for reducing travel costs currently under discussion is simply to do away with them, and host all of the MotoGP races in Spain.
In a further sign that motorcycle racing teams are looking east to make up for the sponsorship they have lost in the west, the Gresini Racing Moto2 team today announced that Indonesian oil company Federal Oil is to back Gino Rea, one of Gresini's two Moto2 riders, in the Moto2 class. The news had already slipped out in the Gresini press release announcing Rea as their second rider, alongside Ratthapark Wilairot, but now the news has been announced officially.
The preseason is finally over. The final day of the final test at Jerez saw a familiar pattern unfold, with the factory Hondas and factory Yamahas fastest, the rest some way behind. Jorge Lorenzo led the session for seven hours and fifty minutes, until Casey Stoner stepped up the pace. Was it so important to stage a last-lap dash and steal top spot, one journalist asked? "Nope, just trying to be cheeky!" The World Champion responded.
As talks continue between Dorna and the MSMA over the future of MotoGP from 2013 onwards, some proposals are already looking solid for the future. On Saturday, Carmelo Ezpeleta told members of the Spanish press that Dorna and the factories had agreed further limits on the number of engines allowed for each rider during the season. As part of the cost-cutting proposals, from 2013, the number of engines is to be reduced from 6 per rider to 5.
"What we should do," the Jose Maroto, the Spanish editor of Motociclismo said to me, "Is organize MotoGP in Ethiopia, or anywhere they are having a drought. It hasn't rained here in Jerez for 70 days, and this is what happens when we arrive." It had happened in Sepang, and it happened at Jerez, the weather was the major protagonist on the second day of testing at the Spanish circuit, with high winds and heavy rain dominating much of the day.
Talks are continuing at Jerez over the future of MotoGP, with the focus on how to reduce costs for a sustainable championship. After the proposals that Dorna presented to the factories at Sepang, with measures including a rev limit and a standard ECU, it was the turn of the factories to come with their counterproposals to make the championship affordable.
The first day of the final test ahead of the MotoGP season, and normal service has been resumed. The factory boys - well, the factory Hondas and Yamahas - are top of the pile, and fairly comfortably ahead of the rest.