When qualifying practice started at Brno this afternoon, there was never any doubt about the outcome. Casey Stoner had dominated every single session of practice so far, despite finishing behind Sylvain Guintoli in yesterday's second free practice session, and the expectation was that the young Australian would come out on his Ducati and lay waste to the opposition, just as he has done all season. But Stoner's plan started to go awry from his very first lap.
What we feared earlier today has now been confirmed: Marco Melandri will take no further part in the Czech Grand Prix at Brno, as a result of the pain and weakness he is suffering caused by the neck injury he sustained at Laguna Seca. Despite intense treatment, including a series of injections and magnetic therapy, Melandri is still in too much pain to ride due to a herniated disk.
The Italian will now concentrate on recovering in time for the next round at Misano, just 50 miles from his hometown of Ravenna, Italy.
|5||14||Randy DE PUNIET||KAWASAKI||1'57.599|
Casey Stoner and John Hopkins were once again far and away the fastest riders on the track at Brno this morning, leading the timesheets within the first 10 minutes of practice, and staying there all the way to the end. Stoner was fastest by a small margin for most of the session, until 2 minutes from the end, the Australian Ducati man destroyed the existing lap record, set by Loris Capirossi last year. Suzuki's John Hopkins was the only man who could stay within range of Stoner, and the only other man capable of consistently running 1'58 second laps, which looks like being race pace.
With Saturday's morning session of free practice under way, Marco Melandri's name is once again missing from the timesheets. It seems that the Italian is still suffering as a result of the trapped nerve we reported yesterday, and is still in too much pain, and lacking too much strength to take much part in the proceedings. It's conceivable that Melandri is saving himself for this afternoon's qualifying practice session, but if he doesn't set at time in qualifying, his weekend is effectively over.
Marco Melandri was conspicuous by his absence from this afternoon's free practice session, and only afterwards did we find out the reason. The Dutch site Racesport.nl is reporting that a trapped nerve is causing considerable pain and a lack of feeling in Melandri's left arm, leaving the Italian incapable of riding during FP2, after he was unable to remove his own helmet at the end of the first free practice session.
The day's second free practice session took place under overcast skies, though it stayed dry throughout. And the fastest two men of the morning's practice were fastest once again for most of the afternoon. But this time, Casey Stoner didn't dominate the session like he had in the morning. In fact, it wasn't until 10 minutes from the end that Stoner finally managed to better the time set by Suzuki's John Hopkins. Once faster, though, he proceeded to set a series of blistering laps within half a second of the existing lap record set by Loris Capirossi during last year's race.
When it comes to racetracks, the most damning accusation that MotoGP fans can make is that a particular circuit is a "cookie cutter track." What they mean by this is that the track consists of a bunch of symmetrical, computer-designed turns stuck together to resemble something which has just rolled off a production line, rather than grown organically with the landscape to seamlessly become one with its environment, and the tracks they point to when using this term of abuse are places like Shanghai in China and Sepang in Malaysia.
It's finally official: Loris Capirossi has finally announced that he has a one year deal to ride for Suzuki for 2008, with an option for 2009. The Italian veteran held a press conference at Brno today, remarkably enough in the Ducati hospitality area, at which he made his decision public. "I have a good feeling about Suzuki: They have a lot of 500cc titles, and it means I will still be riding for a factory team, which was important," Capirossi said. He also confirmed that he had offers from both Kawasaki and from the satellite Pramac d'Antin Ducati team, which he rejected.
For weeks now, ever since Marco Melandri signed with Ducati, effectively pushing Loris Capirossi out of the picture at the Bologna factory, speculation has been rife that the Italian veteran would turn his back on the factory with which he had become virtually synonymous. Many teams were named, but it became increasingly clear that there was only one destination which Capirex could realistically arrive at.
Finally, a little better news for the Gresini Honda team. Both Marco Melandri and Toni Elias passed fitness tests on Monday, and have been cleared to ride at Brno. Elias is still recovering from a broken femur and Melandri is still suffering with a broken ankle he suffered at Laguna Seca. The Gresini duo spent two hours riding Honda CBR 600 sports bikes around the Misano circuit, to test their condition, which revealed that they are both capable of riding, albeit with some pain.
Well, the previous batch of photos from Jules "Popmonkey" Cisek proved such a success that we thought we'd provide some more. Reader Scott Jones e-mailed us to let us know that he had some photos of Laguna Seca, and he kindly agreed to let us feature a few here. We hope you agree with us that they are well worth a gander.
If you've never seen one, this is what the tail of a Kawasaki Supersport bike looks like
Ben's spare leathers
Choices, choices ...
Another key piece in the 2008 MotoGP jigsaw puzzle is about to fall into place. Reports are appearing on several news sites that Loris Capirossi will make an official announcement about which team he will be joining on Thursday, the eve of the Czech Grand Prix at Brno.
As we predicted just a couple of days ago, the Italian authorities appear to have declared open season on Italian MotoGP riders. After Valentino Rossi was stung with a tax demand for 112 million Euros, now it's Loris Capirossi's turn.