The MotoGP silly season has come surprisingly early this year. John Hopkins move to Kawasaki signaled the first serious sign of the impending rider shakeup, and now, the second major move could be imminent. That stalwart of British motorcycling, Motorcycle News, is now reporting that Marco Melandri is very close to signing a contract with Ducati.
Although it was widely expected that Roger Lee Hayden would get a wildcard ride on the Kawasaki ZX-RR at the Laguna Seca MotoGP round, official confirmation stubbornly refused to appear. Now, though, Kawasaki have finally confirmed that World Champion Nicky Hayden's younger brother will definitely get a wildcard at Laguna. Hayden is currently riding for the factory Monster Kawasaki team in AMA Superbikes, which is why he was offered the ride.
After the stunning news yesterday that John Hopkins will be leaving Suzuki at the end of the 2007 season, today yet more news came out of the Suzuki camp. Motorcycle News is reporting that AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies will be offered a ride on the GSV-R MotoGP bike before the end of the season.
After last year, when the riders market in MotoGP remained relatively static, with very few riders coming and going, 2008 looks like it could see a major shakeup in teams and riders. And John Hopkins could be the person who gets the ball rolling, as Motorcycle News is reporting that Hopper has jumped ship and signed with Kawasaki.
At the annual Yamaha Day held in Rimini, Italy, Valentino Rossi talked about how he sees his future in MotoGP. The Doctor told journalists that what keeps him in MotoGP are fresh challenges, challenges he has found this year from Casey Stoner on the Ducati, and as long as he keeps finding fresh goals and challenges, he will remain in MotoGP. But, he added, his stay in MotoGP will one day come to an end, and it will come within the next five years. Rossi said he believed that he will leave "when I'm 31, 32 at most".
Perhaps the longest-running and worst-kept secret contract deal is coming to a head: Spanish sports daily AS.com is reporting that reigning 250 world champion Jorge Lorenzo will officially sign a deal with Yamaha very soon. Lorenzo's manager, Dani Amatriain, confirmed to AS.com that a verbal agreement has already been reached, and the only detail left to discuss is the small matter of which team Lorenzo will run.
It seems like the addition of a MotoGP round at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in mid-September 2008 has the motoring press on both sides of the Atlantic in a real tizzy. Fact, fiction and fantasy are being mixed up into a giant Fruitcake Smoothie of confusion. The worst culprits are here in Europe, with the normally excellent Eurosport laboring under the misapprehension that Indy will replace the US GP at Laguna Seca.
Poor Toni Elias' injury led to a veritable feeding frenzy of speculation as to his replacement, but now it seems that Gresini has finally and officially put an end to this. MotoGP.com has an announcement that Michel Fabrizio and Miguel Duhamel will be replacing Elias over the next two races.
The title says it all, really, but it seems that Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the 2nd US MotoGP round on September 14th, 2008. The round will see all three classes (125, 250 and MotoGP) compete, leaving little or no room for the AMA Superbikes, which support MotoGP at the Laguna Seca round. But the advent of the 125 and 250 classes to the US will be very popular with hardcore racing fans in the US, as they long for a glimpse of the classes providing the new blood to the MotoGP class.
It's an open secret that Kawasaki are trying to hire a top racing talent to do justice to their current MotoGP bike. Although both Randy de Puniet and Anthony West are doing very well on the updated Ninja ZX-RR, the Kawasaki Racing Team feel they need an experienced and talented rider to put their machine on the box, where they feel it belongs.
With the season at its halfway point, the MotoGP carousel is starting to gain momentum, as riders start to announce their intentions for the 2008 season. Already, Honda have announced that they expect Dani Pedrosa to re-sign his contract with HRC and Repsol Honda for 2008, and now, Motorcycle News is carrying a story about another key player.
The news has been in the air for a long time, but finally it's starting to be something like official: The US will get a second MotoGP round at Indianapolis, which will run in September 2008, according to MotorcycleNews.com. No dates have been set for certain yet, but a provisional calendar could be announced at the Sachsenring MotoGP round in Germany next week, or else at the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.
It seems that secrets are almost as hard to keep in MotoGP as discovering the truth behind the hundreds of rumors permeating press and public. Just two days ago, we reported that Jake Zemke was the hot favorite to ride Toni Elias' bike at Laguna Seca, for the US GP there in three weeks' time. Now, it seems, it wasn't Zemke Honda were after, but his American Honda team mate Miguel Duhamel.
Over the past few months, rumors had been building that the Ten Kate Racing team would be entering MotoGP in 2008. Ronald ten Kate had himself admitted that they had been studying the possibilities, and believed that they could run a MotoGP team surprisingly cheaply. With a young British rider in outstanding form, in the shape of James Toseland, the move to MotoGP seemed to be an obvious step for Ten Kate.