Testing resumed after the long winter layoff for the official test ban, and the so eagerly-awaited first day of testing proved to be a tumultuous and drama-ridden affair. From the start, it was clear that the riders were having a tough first day back at work, with several crashes throughout the day.
The seemingly interminable drought of the MotoGP winter test ban is about to come to an end, and masses of die-hard MotoGP fans will draw a collective sigh of relief. For testing resumes at Sepang in Malaysia on Tuesday, with all of the teams slated to attend the 3 day test.
The test will also be the first chance all of the teams get to focus more closely on their 2008 machinery. All of the new bikes should be there, and the teams will be working on getting the bikes up to speed as quickly as possible.
In the middle of the 2007 season's summer break, MotoGPMatters.com caught up with Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, and talked to him about racing, the tire and engine rules which came in in 2007, and the direction for Suzuki in 2008. With the winter test ban about to end, and the teams getting ready for the 2008 season, it seems like a good time to run the interview with Chris Vermeulen, and whet our appetites for the thrills to come. Take it away, Chris.
You share a background with Casey Stoner and Ant West in dirt track, and you're all here doing very well in MotoGP. What is it about racing dirt track as kids in Australia that makes you all so good?
I don't know, really. Growing up on the dirt gives you a lot of feel for the bike, I find. It gives us a lot of understanding of what's going on underneath us on the Grand Prix bikes, I guess.
Casey Stoner's father Colin says that Casey's such a fast starter thanks to those short dirt track races. You, on the other hand, tend to be slower off the line, but quick once you get into the groove after a lap or two. Is that a legacy of your later experience in Supersport or Superbike?
That should be lap 10 or 20, not lap 1 or 2! No it's got nothing to do with Superbike or dirt track. I guess I just wait, get into a groove, and make sure everything feels fine. I push as hard as I can from the start, but I've got to be comfortable before I can go really quick , I guess.
For many MotoGP fans, especially in countries such as the USA, where motorcycle racing is very much a minority pursuit, the thought of the sport seeing the sort of popularity it enjoys in Spain and Italy is regarded as a kind of idyll to aspire to. But they forget that the flip side of that coin is that such popularity spawns a kind of relentless hunger for news, which in turn generates a vast and entirely unreliable rumor mill, some of which may even turn out to be accurate.
In an interview on the official MotoGP.com website, Claudia Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Corse told reporters what they already knew: that Ducati is most fearful of the new Honda RC212V for the 2008 season. Domenicali made two very obvious and related points: that Honda will want revenge for their miserable performance in 2007, and that HRC have the technological prowess and means to achieve just that.
Julian Ryder is fast becoming one of the giants of motorcycle racing journalism, thanks to his MotoGP commentary - together with the inimitable Toby Moody - for Eurosport, and his outstanding annual MotoGP season review.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna s.l., the body which organizes and runs the MotoGP show, is a shrewd political operator. After his most recent coup, forcing Bridgestone to supply Valentino Rossi with tires for 2008 by threatening to turn MotoGP into a single make series, he turned his attention to the racing spectacle of MotoGP. A much-heard lament in the latter half of the 2007 season was that electronics - and more specifically, traction control - were killing the spectacle of racing, and even, it was muttered, removing much of the skill. And so just before Christmas, Ezpeleta once more tried the "cat-among-the-pigeons" gambit by suggesting that a single, standardized ECU could solve MotoGP's problems.
This time, however, he may have pushed the envelope just a fraction too hard: In a fascinating interview with the Italian site GPOne.com, Ezpeleta appears to pull back from the brink, and is now discounting the possiblity of a spec ECU. Rather unsurprisingly, the main objection has come from the factories themselves, who are united in their opposition to any such move to rein in their freedom to innovate, to borrow a rather apposite phrase. But while acknowledging the technical difficulties a spec ECU would present, the wily Ezpeleta is not to be stumped that easily. Ezpeleta neatly sidesteps the factories by placing the option in the hands of the riders, suggesting that if the riders put forward a proposal for Dorna to step in, then he would have to examine the case for a control ECU once again.
Once again, Carmelo Ezpeleta has managed the remarkable balancing act of appearing to put out the fire whilst simultaneously fanning the flames. And by a strange coincidence, during the period when it is quietest on the MotoGP news front.
It sounds almost too bizarre to be true, and our research has failed to turn up any further confirmation, but the Spanish website DailyMotos.com is reporting that Michael Schumacher is to take part in three MotoGP races in 2008. According to DailyMotos, Ducati were so impressed by the times set by Schumacher during his test after the final race of 2007 at Valencia.
As an American who has as much interest in auto racing as he does motorcycle racing, I was more than a bit nervous as the threat of a single-tire-supplier rule loomed over the Fall of '07. Now that I read of the latest seemingly similar threat of a standardized ECU, I'm begging an inquiry into motive.
Valentino Rossi is complaining about the pervasiveness of electronic traction controls. I infer this is a complaint about Dani Pedrosa, since Casey Stoner claims to be using little or none of the stuff. Riding a bike nearly identical to Pedrosa's, Nicky Hayden began to find success after (reportedly) trimming the electronic controls way back. This implies that only certain riders are benefiting from a computerized nanny, and that all of them have the option of limiting its influence. Am I to believe that Rossi - who, when he was winning everything in sight, was as sideways as anyone - believes he was being trounced by Casey Stoner's tires and Dani Pedrosa's computer engineer? Has he just defined the limits of his abilities for all of us to see? Is he really that ashamed of his bike? Or is this some back-handed mind game he thinks will fool everyone next year? Either way, I consider it a fairly remarkable retreat from the greatness he once exuded.
Back to Mr. Ezpeleta... Why grant this complaint such credence? A standardized ECU makes the sport - by default - a spec series. Until we know what goal is being pursued, why is a spec ECU the suggested - or mandated - solution? It seems to be the equivalent of brain surgery with a sledge hammer.
Let me start 2008 by wishing all of MotoGPMatters.com's readers all the best in 2008. May 2008 find you happier, healthier, faster and safer than any year before.
The influence of electronics has been growing ever since the MotoGP class entered the four-stroke era. This has caused a great deal of concern among many fans and riders, as the bikes get easier to ride within 99% of their potential. To put an end to this, Carmelo Ezepeleta, the CEO of Dorna, has suggested that MotoGP could switch to a standard ECU, much as Formula 1 has done.
The FIM, the governing body of international motorcycle racing, today announced changes to the technical regulations for the MotoGP series. The changes are numerous, if mostly rather minor, and covered tires, seat units, and cylinder bores, together with a host of minor clean ups and clarifications.
Thanks to reader John Thomson, Canadian MotoGP fans will be able to watch the documentary on Nicky Hayden's 2006 and 2007 season, "The Kentucky Kid" over the holiday season. John e-mailed MTV Canada, and they wrote him back that "The Kentucky Kid" is scheduled to appear in the week of Christmas. So, in addition to the usual fare of movies about Santa, Canadians can relive a bit of the summer's excitement.
Exact broadcast schedules are not know yet, but should appear on MTV Canada's website in due course.
The FIM today unveiled the provisional entry list for the 2008 MotoGP season (PDF document), revealing a couple of important changes in the numbers riders will be running next season. The most important of these is of course the number to be carried by the world champion. Like Nicky Hayden before him, Casey Stoner's bike will bear the number 1 plate.