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Yesterday, we discussed who is going where in the factory teams in MotoGP. For the most part, those deals are either public, or really badly-kept secrets. Today, we'll look at the situation among the satellite teams, a situation which is much, much less clear-cut than the factory squad, in part because the factory deals have not all been announced yet. The number of changes are suprisingly few, reflecting in part the problems in MotoGP. As costs rise, the cost of being competitive is growing, and more importantly, the cost of failure is increasing as well.
As a consequence, teams are not willing to take chances on unproven but promising talent. The learning curve in MotoGP is now so steep - electronics, bike setup, but most especially tires - that it takes half a season to start to get your head around the class. Limited testing has made the situation much, much worse, raising the penalty for rookies entering the class even further - the scrabbling around for substitute riders for Valentino Rossi, Hiroshi Aoyama and Randy de Puniet illustrating the case perfectly.
With the MotoGP season at its halfway point, and the silly season starting to shake itself out, it's time to take a look at the state of the market for 2011. With contracts either signed or on the verge of being signed, the picture of who will be riding where is becoming clear. For the most part, names have been at least pencilled in, those pencil strokes to be replaced by contractually obliging ink after Brno and Indianapolis, but there are still one or two question marks that remain open.
In the first part of this silly season summary, we will address who goes where in the factory teams. The rider picture is just about settled, with the only real question mark what happens at Suzuki. But riders aren't the only factor here, as somebody has to pay the bills. So alongside the rider lineup for each team, we've addressed the issue of sponsorship, and who is likely to be footing the bill next year. Riders and sponsors in bold are confirmed (or as good as confirmed), while names in italics are either best guesses or based on firm rumors. Tomorrow, we will look at the state of the satellite teams.
The rule changes that have been adopted in the MotoGP series since the class went four-stroke in 2002 have generally been met with increasing disappointment by the fans. The 990cc format is generally viewed as the high point of motorcycle racing for many years, even after the fuel allowance was cut from 24 to 22 liters.
But since capacity was cut from 990cc to 800cc, and the fuel allowance cut from 22 to 21 liters, MotoGP's rulemaking body, the Grand Prix Commission, has been buried under a deluge of criticism - not least from ourselves here at MotoMatters.com. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse, with the introduction of the tire restrictions, then the single tire rule, and finally the limits on engines, with criticism growing more vehement at every rule change, nearly all of it aimed at Dorna, the company which runs MotoGP, and its CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
MotoGP coming to the US gave the folks over at OnTheThrottle a chance to get into the paddock and talk to some of the people behind the scenes. One of the most interesting characters David Williams caught up with was LCR Honda's Christophe 'Beefy' Bourgignon, crew chief to Randy de Puniet and his replacement Roger Lee Hayden, filling in while De Puniet recovers from the broken tibia and fibula he suffered at the Sachsenring. In the video interview, Bourgignon discusses Roger Lee Hayden's progress on the MotoGP bike, the difficulty of adapting to the Bridgestone tires, and the intricacies of riding a MotoGP bike. Here's what Bourgignon had to say to OTT.
Despite all attempts to put MotoGP's silly season on hold while the world awaits Valentino Rossi's announcement that he has signed for Ducati, the business of filling next year's empty seats rumbles on. That business is most pressing for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, as the team looks set to lose both its current riders at the end of this season.
In an interview with the French website Moto Caradisiac, Monster Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal sheds some light on his plans for 2011. The interview covers both MotoGP and Moto2, and in it, Poncharal lets slip a few interesting details.
Before talking about what his plans are for next season, he first points out that everything is contingent on Valentino Rossi moving to Ducati. But that matter is to be cleared up on the Sunday night after the Brno race, Poncharal told Moto Caradisiac, saying that Yamaha has a press conference planned at which they will announce their 2011 line up.
Valentino Rossi's record recovery from injury, taking just 41 days to return to racing after breaking his tibia and fibula at Mugello, appears to have brought out the competitive spirit in Randy de Puniet. The Frenchman suffered a similar injury to Rossi's, fracturing his tibia and fibula in a race crash involving Mika Kallio at the Sachsenring, ironically, the very race that Rossi made his return at. Now, De Puniet is targeting a return just 26 days after his accident, two full weeks earlier.
De Puniet was luckier than Rossi, as his fractures were not compound and that the bones did not puncture the skin. But a return to active service so shortly after the injury is almost unheard of, and hard to believe it is medically possible. De Puniet had a large titanium pin inserted into his tibia, to fix the bone, and has since been undergoing treatment using the same hyperbaric chamber therapy that Rossi used to help speed his recovery. In addition to the hyperbaric chamber, De Puniet also used ultrasound to help the bones knit together better. As the LCR Honda rider is already walking without crutches, and is back in the gym working on his fitness program, De Puniet believes he will be fit enough to race at Brno a week on Sunday.
The news that Ducati had finally come clean and admitted they have signed Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden for the 2011 MotoGP season set the Internet abuzz this morning, after US magazine Cycle World published an interview with Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio. In that interview, Del Torchio reportedly said that he looked forward to "Valentino Rossi teaming up with Nicky Hayden."
It is hard to pin down at exactly what stage a rumor stops being a rumor and becomes news, a fact demonstrated by Valentino Rossi's impending move to the Ducati MotoGP team. The very first rumors emerged around the weekend of Mugello, the story broken by veteran Italian journalist Paolo Scalera of the Corriere dello Sport. By the time the MotoGP paddock arrived at Assen, the paddock was positively buzzing with rumors, and at Barcelona, speculation switched from whether Rossi would switch to Ducati to when he would announce it. At the German Grand Prix in the Sachsenring, Rossi cleared up that detail as well: any announcement on his future, he told the pre-event press conference, would have to wait until Brno.
The engine limits introduced for the 2010 MotoGP season have posed crew chiefs throughout the paddock with a delicate problem: How do you manage the engines to ensure that the rider can get the track time he needs during practice to find a good setup, yet still have an engine fresh enough and fast enough to be competitive during the race? This is a conundrum that we at MotoMatters.com have been particularly interested in, and so we decided to track someone down who could answer some of our questions.
At Barcelona we spoke to Pramac Ducati's Technical Director Fabio Sterlacchini, who also functions as Mika Kallio's crew chief, about how the team is handling the limited number of engines. How did they go about shuffling the engines to ensure that their riders always had a strong engine for the race? "We have a schedule," Sterlacchini told us, "Normally we manage the life of the engine, and we use the engine until we arrive at a mileage that we know that above this, it's better that we don't use this engine."
Ever since its return to America, MotoGP in the USA has been something of an anomaly. When the series first headed back across the Atlantic in 2005, it was only the MotoGP class that made the trip to Laguna Seca, with cost and limited paddock space cited as reasons for leaving the (then) 250 and 125 classes back in Europe. When the Red Bull US GP in Laguna was joined by the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway facility in 2008, the two support classes joined the MotoGP riders in the US, but only at Indy. Furthermore, the two US rounds have also always been separated by at least one European race, forcing the teams to fly their bikes and equipment out to the US twice.
Despite the two-week layoff after Laguna Seca, MotoGP's summer break sees Silly Season in overdrive. As the paddock awaits the final announcement of Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati, expected at Brno, the reshuffling which must necessarily take place to fill the seat left by the Italian is going on behind the scenes.
The rider expected to fill Rossi's seat is of course Ben Spies, as his current boss, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Herve Poncharal hinted in an interview at Laguna Seca.But until Rossi officially announces his switch to Ducati, and therefore rejects Yamaha's bid to keep his services, nothing can be finalized. That is set to change at Brno, however. According to Yamaha Racing's managing director Lin Jarvis, speaking to the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, Yamaha wants to have their 2011 line-up sorted out by Brno. Yamaha is closing in on a deal with the man currently leading the MotoGP championship Jorge Lorenzo, and should be able to settle the final details within the next two weeks. "We'd like to have everything in place by Brno, in order to announce the 2011 team," Jarvis told the Gazzetta.
MotoGP's silly season is in full swing, and it has been Ducati who have been dominating the media over the past couple of months. First, by seeing the man who won their only championship, Casey Stoner, head off to Honda to join his former mentor Livio Suppo. And more recently, by the will-he-won't-he saga of Valentino Rossi's imminent arrival to take Stoner's place at the Bologna factory.
But out of the spotlight, the factory has being expanding its involvement even further. Yesterday, Karel Abraham announced on his website that he will be riding a Desmosedici GP11 in MotoGP next season. The 20 year-old Czech is currently riding for the Cardion AB Moto2 team, and has seen a marked improvement in his fortunes since the team switched from the RSV chassis to the FTR.
Q: How difficult was that?
Valentino Rossi: Very much, yeah. Especially the beginning, I have to stay out of the battle, because in front they were making a strong battle. So I don't feel enough confidence to go into the battle. I have to wait. And I need a bit too much lap to take good rhythm and to ride in a good way. I have to say that when I see Dani in the gravel, is extra motivation, you know, because fourth or fifth, more or less is same, but fourth or third change a lot. And from that moment I try to make my best, and I put some good laps together, and I arrived with Dovi, and this time I win the battle, not like in Sachsenring.
Q: At one stage you were over two and a half seconds behind Dovizioso, and as we've seen in the past, it is difficult to close down the gap. There was a lot of laps left, but were you always confident that it would be quite easy to catch up with him?
Q: Was the front end problem similar to the problem you've had previously or just an incident in this race?
Casey Stoner: For me it's a problem, that I suppose if people have the wrong weight in their bike, it was a problem not only for me but for a lot of other riders. A fair few of them crashed, but I think even more had similar problems to me. Obviously, Dani did as well. Like I said, you know, every time I tried to push just a little bit harder, like I had been doing all weekend, it just wanted to fold. Even in the slow corners where I haven't got a lot of weight on it, middle of the turn it would just start folding on me. We have no idea what the reason is, it's not anything like in the past. If I had the forks from the past I would have been down the first time I lost it. But no, with these forks, I get a lot more feedback, so when it does go, I can pick it back up as quick as I can and continue. I feel a lot safer with what I'm running at the moment.