Latest MotoGP News
If the news that Valentino Rossi was going to switch to Ducati for the 2011 MotoGP season was the worst-kept secret in the paddock, the fate of Jerry Burgess and the rest of Rossi's pit crew was probably the best-kept secret. Although it was widely expected that Burgess would follow Rossi to Ducati, all questions on the subject put to the Australian and the rest of the crew were met with a positively sphinx-like silence. Even hardened paddock veterans couldn't get a straight answer out of Burgess, Briggs, Ansiau, Stephens or any of the other members of Rossi's entourage.
Until now, that is. In a forthright interview with veteran US journalist Henny Ray Abrams over on the website of Sport Rider magazine, Burgess finally comes clean about his intention to move to Ducati along with Rossi. His reasoning was simple: the timeframe for Rossi's career fits in perfectly with Burgess' own plans. Rossi, currently 31, is likely to race in MotoGP for another 3 to 4 years, before moving off to race elsewhere, most probably in the World Rally Championship. Burgess is currently 57, and Rossi's retirement from the sport would come at about the time that Burgess himself would be looking at retiring.
When the 125cc class is replaced by the 250cc Moto3 class in 2012, the last of the two strokes will disappear from the Grand Prix paddock. The demise of the 125cc two-strokes was largely down to lack of manufacturer interest: KTM had pulled out at the end of the 2009 season, Honda has not supported a factory effort for several years now, leaving only Aprilia on the grid, along with the Derbi-badged clones. In the hope of reducing costs and attracting more manufacturers to the class, the decision was made to switch to 250cc four-stroke singles, with a cap on the price the engines are to be sold for.
So far, the change has aroused the interest of the Japanese manufacturers, with Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki all rumored to be building a Moto3 engine, and now, Austrian manufacturer KTM could be interested in making a return to the smallest Grand Prix class, with Belgian MX magazine MotocrossMag reporting that KTM is looking at producing a specially tuned version of its SX-F 250 engine for use in Moto3. In its current form, as used for motocross racing, the engine produces in the region of 40hp, and with the addition of several specially lightened parts, the engine could be made to rev higher and produce more power, while still staying under the 10,000 euro maximum selling price.
Although at first glance, the most important motorcycle racing even taking place over the weekend was the Australian MotoGP round at Phillip Island, a far more significant race was taking place in Macau, China. There, 98 of the 101 federations that compose the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme, motorcycling's governing body) met to elect a new president. The choice facing the assembled national federations was between the current president Vito Ippolito and French candidate Jean-Pierre Mougin. The final election saw Ippolito collect 55 votes to Mougin's 41, gaining reelection for another four-year term.
It was an open secret for some time, but now it has been officially announced: Mika Kallio is to leave the Pramac team with immediate effect, and miss the last two races of the season at Estoril and Valencia. Speculation has been rife all year about problems for Kallio, including reports of personal problems in the Finnish media. The press release and Kallio put the Finnish rider's problems down to a nagging shoulder injury that Kallio picked up in a crash at Le Mans, earlier this year. Kallio is to return to Finland from Australia and seek treatment for his shoulder, in preparation for next season, which will probably find him in Moto2.
It appears the decision the world has been waiting for has finally been taken: According to MCN's Matt Birt, Valentino Rossi will be allowed to test the Ducati at Valencia. It appears that Rossi was told by Masao Furusawa on Saturday night that he would be allowed to test after the final MotoGP round of the year.
The decision had been almost inevitable, but Yamaha had been holding off on announcing for as long as possible. It has long been customary for factories to allow their departing riders to test for their new teams after the final race, the only exception in recent history being Valentino Rossi, after he left Honda to join Yamaha. Ducati had already set an example by releasing Casey Stoner early to test for Honda, the team he joins for 2011, and Rossi had expected Yamaha to do the same. Yamaha, however, had been playing their cards close to their chest, in part as this was the only leverage they had over Rossi to ensure he did not hinder his teammate Jorge Lorenzo's bid for the 2010 championship.
With the weather greatly improved from Friday, our shooter-on-the-scene Andrew Gosling of TBGSport ventured beyond the confines of pitlane, and sent us back the following shots:
The MotoGP grid will look worryingly thin again at Phillip Island on Sunday, as two high-profile riders will once again be forced to miss the Australian Grand Prix through injury. One of the names comes as no surprise: Dani Pedrosa had surgery to fix a titanium plate to his fractured collarbone two weeks ago today, and traveled to Australia hoping only to score a few points to shore up his fight to finish 2nd in the championship. But a 20-hour flight from Spain to Australia, coupled with horrific weather conditions have forced Pedrosa to reconsider, and he has decided it is simply not worth the risk.
Although MotoMatters.com's very own photographer Scott Jones is unable to make the long trek across the Pacific to Phillip Island, we have some help from a local. Andrew Gosling of TBGSport is on hand, braving the elements to bring us shots from the edge of the Bass Strait. We think you'll like them:
With the 2011 MotoGP rider lineup very near to being settled, attention is turning to Moto2 and the 125cc class. And two of the hottest seats in the junior classes are held by the Aspar team, the Spanish powerhouse that has produced multiple champions over the years. Today at Phillip Island, the Aspar team announced part of their future plans for next season, re-signing current 125cc rider Nico Terol and current Moto2 rider Julian Simon to new contracts with the team.
Both men are to remain in their current classes for another season, with Simon signed up for another year in Moto2, while Terol has been offered a two-year deal, spending 2011 in the 125cc class. Beyond 2011, Terol could either move up to Moto2, or could stay on to try to win the brand new Moto3 class, the 250cc four-stroke single class that is to replace the two-stroke 125s from 2012. That decision will depend in part on whether Terol manages to win the 125cc title next year. Terol is still very much in contention for the 2010 125cc title as well, trailing championship leader Marc Marquez by just 3 points with another 3 races left to go.
The text of the Aspar press release appears below:
Even though Valentino Rossi has not yet heard whether he will be allowed to test the Ducati after the final MotoGP round at Valencia - a fact Rossi once again made a point of mentioning in the pre-event press conference at Phillip Island - preparations are already underway at the Bologna factory for the Italian's arrival. According to the Italian magazine Motosprint, Ducati are once again evaluating whether to use a screamer or big-bang firing order in the Ducati, and will be bringing a bike with one of each engine type to Valencia should Rossi be given the all-clear to test by Yamaha. Ducati team boss and former test rider Vito Guareschi has been seen studying Rossi's riding style very closely at a number of tracks to evaluate which bike to give Rossi first.
The weather at Phillip Island has a reputation for providing four seasons in one day, but this Friday, the Island is mainly offering winter. Cold winds and heavy rain have lashed the Island on the edge of the Southern Ocean, with floods washing sand onto the track surface, and circuit staff are hard at work trying to clear the track and make it fit to ride on. As a result, practice has been postponed until the track has been cleared for use.
A further update is due at 2:30pm local time, at which point it will be decided if and when to start practice. The MotoGP 2010 season has been blessed with extraordinarily good weather this year, with only a couple of sessions showing any rain at all. That run of luck had to run out at some point, and it appears that time is now.
As the season winds towards its conclusion, the effect of the engine rules is starting to become clear. With 15 out of 18 races already having been run, reliability problems have been given plenty of time to rear their head, and what's been remarkable is the fact that there's been so few problems in this regard - with the exception of the Suzukis, who will will be glad that they got their permitted engine allocation expanded to 9 engines instead of 6.
In the reliability stakes, Honda rather unsurprisingly comes out on top, with just three engines withdrawn from a grand total of 36 allocated to the six riders on an RC212V. What's more, the Hondas have a lot of spare engines unused, and engines with just a few sessions on them. The inevitable dark murmurings of that the engine rules were drawn up at the behest of Honda will be further fueled by these numbers, but whether there is any truth in them or not, there is no doubt that HRC has done a fantastic job on engine reliablity
The fractured collarbone Dani Pedrosa sustained at Motegi could not have come at a worse time for the Repsol Honda rider. Pedrosa and his team had finally sorted the Honda RC212V, and with Pedrosa on blistering form, were starting to reel in Jorge Lorenzo. Actually snatching the championship from the Fiat Yamaha rider looked to be almost impossible, but they were going to make it as tough as possible for Lorenzo all the way to the end. The crash also came at the first of three flyaway races on three consecutive weekends, giving Pedrosa virtually no time to recover from the triple fracture. Complicating things further was the distance Pedrosa would have to travel to seek medical assistance, flying from Japan back to Barcelona for surgery, and then back out to Malaysia or Australia for his next race.
In the end, Pedrosa decided to skip the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, but the Repsol Honda team have just announced that Pedrosa will be back at Phillip Island. The Spaniard was due to fly out to Australia on Monday, giving him as much time to recover and prepare for the race as possible. Pedrosa's fractured collarbone is healing well, the titanium plate holding the fragments together doing its job perfectly. But the Repsol Honda man is still suffering with stiffness in his neck and shoulder, and will be receiving physiotherapy in Australia to help deal with the problem. Pedrosa's objective is to hold on to his 2nd place in the MotoGP Championship, where he leads Valentino Rossi by 47 points. With just three races to go, that should be an achievable goal, though Pedrosa will have to score points consistently to ensure his place in the standings is safe.
After a promising rookie year in MotoGP, Mika Kallio has struggled in 2010 on the Pramac Ducati. So mediocre has his form been the past six month, that Kallio has decided to call it quits early. According to reports in the Spanish media, Kallio will not be riding the last two races of the season for the Pramac Ducati squad, and his season will end after Sunday's race at Phillip Island.
Taking his place will be yet another Spaniard: After an outstanding year in the World Superbike championship aboard a Ducati 1198R, finishing 3rd behind Max Biaggi and Leon Haslam, and well ahead of the factory Xerox Ducatis of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio, the 38-year-old veteran Carlos Checa is to replace Kallio at Estoril and Valencia. Checa last rode in MotoGP back in 2007, when he raced for the LCR Honda squad currently fielding Randy de Puniet, after which the Spaniard moved to World Superbikes.
With MotoGP grid sizes currently shrinking almost on a daily basis, judging by the news from Sepang, it was clear that something would have to be done to stem the losses. The latest count was just 15 bikes on the grid in 2011, with Pramac and Suzuki down to one bike each, and Interwetten Honda out altogether.
The latest paddock rumors from Sepang - assembled by our friends over at GPOne.com - suggest that Dorna is stepping in to shore up grid numbers for next year, by providing support in a couple of key situations. The first move is to help get Toni Elias back into MotoGP. The way that Elias has dominated the brand new Moto2 championship, culminating in the 2010 title he secured at Sepang, has generated a huge call for the popular Spaniard to be given a ride in MotoGP. Elias' options looked very good, either taking the second bike at Suzuki, replacing the departing Loris Capirossi, or else taking over Randy de Puniet's seat at LCR Honda, should the Frenchman have plumped for the Suzuki seat before Elias. Once the second bike at Suzuki disappeared - looking more like a racing certainty with every passing day - that plan fell through, leaving Elias to look for a ride in Moto2.