Day 1 at Estoril brought a whole bunch of surprises, as you might expect from this topsy-turvy season. The morning started out almost as an echo of last season, with Valentino Rossi ensconced firmly atop the timesheets, although the times were remarkably slow, Rossi's fastest a 1:39.398, fully 2 seconds off Alex Barros' pole time from 2005. Behind Rossi was his friend and colleague Loris Capirossi, putting the big red Ducati into second spot.
Over the past few months, the items I have posted here about the Ilmor / Suter bike have pulled a large number of visitors to my blog, as witnessed by the hundreds of hits from Google with the words "Ilmor" and "Suter" in the search query. Today, the long wait for those news hungry fans has finally come to an end, as the new Ilmor Suter X3 was unveiled at Estoril. The bike, a very sharp, pointed, almost KTM-like design, was presented to huge media interest at a news conference this afternoon, where the team commented on the future of the project, and attempted (somewhat unsuccessfully) to dampen expectations for this weekend.
Well, the influx of young riders from the 250 class seems slowly to be staunching: After Jorge Lorenzo decided to stay in 250s for one more year (I will have more to say about this during the off-season), the only man capable of taking the title from him has also announced he'll be staying in the class next year. According to the Italian site MotoOnline, Andrea Dovizioso has signed a 2 year contract with Honda, staying in 250s for 2007, and moving to MotoGP in 2008.
After all the speculation about Max Biaggi, another ex-MotoGP star is now being named as making a return to the world's premier racing series after a year of absence. US magazine RoadRacingWord is reporting that Alex Barros may be riding in the MotoGP next year.
Well, true to form, Max Biaggi manages to grab the headlines again. And what's more, he did it in style, grabbing the world's attention at a top-secret, low-profile test of the Alstare Corona Suzuki superbike.
Three weekends. Three races. Three winners. The story of the flyaway races seems simple, put like that. But like so many simple tales, this does the story no justice: There is so much more to tell.
It all started at Sepang on Friday. From the start, Loris Capirossi seemed set to continue the dominance he had shown in Brno and impose his will at Malaysia, as he had done the previous year. The only person who looked capable of getting close was Dani Pedrosa. But then, during the second qualifying practice, Pedrosa suffered what looked at first a fairly innocent fall, catching his knee on the curbstones, and sliding off into the gravel. But it transpired that in catching his knee, he had badly gashed it, and broken his toe to boot. His injuries were so serious that there was some doubt that he would be able to make the race, dealing his title aspirations a severe blow.
At last, the Melandri Saga comes to a conclusion. Gresini Racing has finally announced that Marco Melandri has signed with Gresini for the 2007 season, to ride a Honda V4 800. No details of the deal have been announced, other than that both parties say they are very happy to be working together for next year. Reading between the lines, it seems like Honda has promised extra support for Melandri, the title runner up in 2005, and this is what finally swung the deal for him.
Gresini also stated that he was still looking for a team mate for Melandri next year, so that the team can compete at the very highest level. This does not bode well for Melandri's current team mate Toni Elias, who, after an outstanding debut season on the Yamaha, has struggled somewhat on the Honda.
Well, where just a few days ago, it seemed certain that Marco Melandri would be going to the factory Ducati team, now it looks increasingly like last year's title runner up will be staying with Gresini on a Honda next year. Both MotoGrandPrix.it and Crash.net are reporting that Fausto Gresini has matched Ducati's reported offer of € 3 million for next season, an offer which would also include strong factory support from Honda, and, surprisingly, Bridgestone tires. The mystery for all this is where the money is supposed to be coming from, as Altadis, the brand behind Fortuna, are leaving MotoGP, taking their large sponsorship budget with them.
After a friend asked me to explain the way the Manufacturers' Championship works, I decided to start a MotoGP FAQ, with answers to any questions I receive. The FAQ will be a growing and living thing, with regular updates, so keep an eye on it. If you have any questions you want answered, you can send them to me, and I'll do my best to answer them and add them to the FAQ.
Since I started this website, I have received a number of general questions, and seen a number of questions come in via Google. So I thought it would be a good idea to start collecting these questions into a FAQ, for use as a reference. If you have any questions for the FAQ, you can send them to me...
We'll start off with a question from a friend of mine:
How are the standings calculated for the Manufacturer's Championship?
As I'm sure many of you will know, the Riders' Championship isn't the only title being disputed during a MotoGP season. Besides the Riders' title, there are two other official titles up for grabs:
- The Manufacturers' Championship; and
- The Team Championship.
The scoring for these titles is the same as for the Riders' Championship, but the way points are awarded is slightly different:
Eurosport.com is reporting that Team KR will only have one bike for next year. The problem, as it is for so many MotoGP teams, is money. Team KR really need a major sponsor to be able to obtain two engines from Honda. Previously, Team KR had announced that they were hoping to field a full, two-rider team, but that plan has been shelved.
MotoGP.com is reporting that Ilmor have confirmed their entry as a wildcard at Estoril in Portugal. They will be debuting their 800cc 70° V4 bike, dubbed "X3", at the Portuguese Grand Prix on October 15th, with Garry McCoy riding, using Michelin tires. McCoy has been testing the Ilmor at a number of tracks over the last couple of months, including Albacete and Jerez.
The importance of this appearance is that it will be the first time that the new generation of 800cc bikes will hit the track in a public, timed event, and set the mark against which the current manufacturers' bikes will be measured against. The Ilmor has already made an impression, regularly running faster than the Ducati 800 at one test session in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.
The Spanish sports daily AS.com is reporting that Carlos Checa could move to Pramac d'Antin next season.