Marco Melandri took part in the first free practice session at Assen today, after having received the go ahead to ride from his doctors. The session was longer than usual, due to the major changes at Assen, though rain interrupted at one point, and Melandri set reasonable times. Shinya Nakano was fastest, followed by John Hopkins. FP times to follow later.
Where Are The Racetracks Of Yesteryear?
Former Dutch GP star Jurgen van den Goorbergh is reporting that Riders For Health (Dutch site, International Site) will be selling off chunks of the old Assen TT circuit during the Assen TT weekend. For just € 25 you can own a piece of the historic track that so many great names have raced on. The track is being sold at the Riders For Health stand, behind the main stand at the circuit itself during the race weekend.
This just in from an official press release by the Pramac d'Antin Team:
For the eighth round of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship that in Assen, Holland, this weekend, ALEX HOFMANN, PRAMAC D'ANTIN MOTOGP rider, will replace SETE Gibernau on the Official Ducati. The Spanish rider injured himself during the frightening accident of last Sunday in Spain and his return will depend on how fast his recover will be. As a replacement for ALEX HOFMANN, there will be the Spanish IVAN SILVA, already racing for the Team of LUIS D'ANTIN in the EXTREME category of the Spanish Championship, that also did a race of the 2006 World Championship in the Superstock 1000 class.
A big opportunity for ALEX HOFMANN, that will have a great occasion to race with the Official DUCATI (BRIDGESTONE tyres), but also for IVAN SILVA that will ride on the DUCATI DESMOSEDICI GP06 for the first time in the World Championship, assisted by the technical staff of the Team PRAMAC D'ANTIN MOTOGP.
Although, thankfully, no one was seriously injured, the chaos at Catalunya is having a number of interesting repercussions. An update on the latest developments:
There was a good deal of sorrow at the end of 2005, as racers around the world said goodbye to the old North Loop at Assen. Although already much shortened over the years, the North Loop still held some remnant of the old country roads that used to form the track when racing started at Assen over 80 years ago, with its high-speed, off-camber crooks, combined with tighter, but still fast bends. But for the sake of commerce, this glorious cathedral of racing was to disappear, to make way for a vast entertainment complex-cum-theme park-cum-shopping mall.
The digging equipment moved in in late Autumn, tearing up the old track, and piling up the mounds of earth for what will become new seating areas around the new Haarbocht, Strubben, and laying the foundations for the TT World entertainment complex. But the long, cold winter we suffered in Holland threw a spanner in the works, delaying work on the track by several weeks due to frozen ground, which in turn set back the date for the first races planned around the new track.
The three riders injured in today's first corner pile up seem to be less badly injured than was first thought.
Motorcycle racing is full of drama. It's the reason so many people love it so much. After the drama at Mugello, the race at Catalunya was eagerly anticipated. Could the second Spanish round live up to the previous race weekend in Italy?
Thousands of Spanish fans, and many observers, including your humble reporter, expected the Gran Premi de Catalunya to be a festival of Spanish racing, with Spanish, or rather Catalan, riders starting from the front row of the grid, to take a Catalan win in front of their home crowds. The fact that most of the Catalan riders are on Michelins, the tires which dominated last year's race weekend, only reinforced this expectation. But this evening, the bars of Barcelona will be filled with despairing Spanish fans, wondering what happened to their local heroes. Sometimes, things just don't work out as you expected.
Another interesting session. No one was out early in the session, and times being set were in the 2 minute range, after about 20 minutes, it all kicked off. The session provided a few surprises again. Kenny Roberts Jr is still fast, but not as fast as Valentino Rossi, who topped the table with a 1:42.837.
At a dramatic press conference at the Barcelona race track, Sebastian Porto, Repsol Honda's 250 cc class rider, announced his retirement from motorcycle racing with immediate effect. The 27 year old Argentinian has had a dismal season so far, his best result a 7th place in Qatar, a severe disappointment for the man who came a very close second in the championship in 2004.
If Spain is the heart of motorcycle racing, Catalonia is its soul. The separatist region along Spain's Northeastern coast positively pulsates with racers and racing history. Of the five Spanish riders contesting the GP de Catalunya, four of them are Catalan natives, all of them born within a GP's distance of the Barcelona race track. But it's not just the riders: Dani Pedrosa's mentor, former GP star Alberto Puig, current MotoGP team manager Luis d'Antin, and Spain's only 500cc world champion Alex Criville are all Catalan. Everywhere you go in Catalonia you see billboards of Pedrosa, Checa and Gibernau peering down at you, posted along swooping mountain roads to die for. A day's riding through Catalonia and you understand why the MotoGP paddock is simply awash with Catalans. So while there was plenty of atmosphere at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, the Grand Prix de Catalunya will be simply electric. The question is, of course, with so much to choose from, who will the Catalan crowd be backing?
Pride and Prejudice
Dutch racing website Racesport.nl is reporting that not James Ellison, but French 250cc rider Silvain Guintoli, rode James' Tech 3 Yamaha during the Mugello post-race testing session. Guintoli set a testing time of 1:52.1, faster than Ellison's 1:52.224 race lap. Speculation is rife that Guintoli will step in to replace the British rider, who has failed to live up to his pre-season form, or match team mate Carlos Checa's results. In James' favor is the fact that he is the only British rider in the championship, which could be important to the BBC, who broadcast MotoGP in the UK.
The news is also over on MotoGP.com