The switch to a single tire in MotoGP is moving from the probable to the inevitable with some alacrity now. There had been rumors that an announcement would be made at Motegi, as discussed earlier, and now, more details are starting to emerge.
When the split between the JIR and Team Scot sections of Team Scot JIR was announced at Laguna Seca in July, speculation immediately began on who would get the Honda RC212V the joint team was running. JIR - Japan Italy Racing, run by Luca Montiron - held the contract with Honda for a bike and a start license, while Team Scot brought sponsorship money, an outstanding pit crew, and the extraordinarily talented Andrea Dovizioso.
The whirlwind that is MotoGP silly season has just about blown itself out after Indianapolis, helped on its way perhaps by hurricane Ike, and as the seats have continued to fill, there are some three riders still left standing, apparently with no immediate future in MotoGP. Shinya Nakano looks likely to replace the aging Tady Okada as HRC's test rider - a role he is to some extent already filling at Gresini Honda, and Kawasaki are still keen to retain Ant West, albeit on either a World Superbike or World Supersport machine. But for Sylvain Guintoli, the prospects for 2009 were far less obvious.
There were rumors, of course, mostly about a possible future in World Superbikes, but the truth of such rumors is always hard to discern. The one rumor that surfaced most frequently linked Guintoli to the vacant seats at Yamaha Italia in WSBK, but with Tom Sykes - currently riding a Suzuki in BSB - signed to replace the departing Noriyuki Haga, and no clear word on whether Troy Corser would be staying or going, even that ride looked uncertain.
Now, though, evidence has emerged that Guintoli could indeed be heading for Yamaha after all. The Italian site Xracer.it spotted the British-based Frenchman testing Noriyuki Haga's Yamaha R1 at Vallelunga after this weekend's recent World Superbike round at the Italian track.
A year on, and the more that things change, the more they stay the same, at least in MotoGP land. Paolo Scalera is reporting that once again, Dorna are threatening to impose a single tire rule at a meeting to be held at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
The problem, according to Dorna, is one of safety. The competition between Bridgestone and Michelin has reached such a peak that corner speeds are increasing almost month by month, and with them, the speeds at which riders are crashing. The only way to reduce corner speeds, or at least stop them from increasing, is to put an end to the competition between tire brands.
The general assumption is that any single tire contract will be awarded to Bridgestone, but Ezpeleta denied this. The contract to supply tires for the series will be opened up for general bidding, with the main stipulation being that all teams will have access to the same tires, and tires will be supplied to the teams for free.
But much to the dismay of Bridgestone's current crop of riders, Bridgestone have repeatedly stated that they have no real interest in being the single supplier for MotoGP. The Japanese tire maker see little advantage in producing tires in a series with no competition, and one which would cost them significantly more money without aiding tire development. Michelin would be the obvious candidate for the role, having currently been forced out of most other motorcycle racing series by the imposition of a single tire rule there.
The news that Toni Elias had turned down offers from both Jorge Martinez Aspar to ride a Kawasaki and initial advances from Ducati to stay with the Alice satellite team left a hole in the MotoGP silly season. The seats at Alice look increasingly certain to go to Mika Kallio, currently chasing KTM's first 250 title, and Niccolo Canepa, the young Italian test rider for the Ducati factory. But Elias' refusal left Aspar with a big problem.
For those just awakening from time under a rock, the leakiest secret of the season was released to the world today...
Due to personal circumstances - a long-deserved and hard-earned (by my wife) vacation in Spain - there won't be an Indianapolis race report for a week or so. Which is a real shame, as the race had plenty of incidents to talk about.
As a consolation, here's the transcripts of the podium press conference, as well as a selection of quotes from some of the riders involved in the race. Thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and their amazingly efficient PR team for providing the information so quickly and smoothly.
Podium Press Conference:
Indianapolis turned out to be the place to make contract announcements, and for Randy de Puniet, things were no different. After Kawasaki confirmed that they had signed Marco Melandri, LCR Honda also announced that they have extended their contract with HRC and Randy de Puniet for another year. The Frenchman will be riding for the team again in 2009, after showing that he can be incredibly fast on his day.
Full results of a dramatic and weather-stricken 2008 Red Bull Indianapolis MotoGP Grand Prix:
After a 125cc race which was run mostly in the dry, being red-flagged 6 laps from the end after it started to rain, the rain has begun in earnest. The start of the 250 race has been delayed due to high winds and very heavy rain, and no word yet on how this will affect the rest of the schedule.
Dorna have just announced that the 250 race will now be run at 4:30pm local time, after the MotoGP race. That presumes, of course, that the MotoGP race can take place at a track which is currently being lashed by the remnants of hurricane Ike.
To understand American motorcycle racing, you have to understand flat track: large capacity motorcycles running as fast as possible round a mostly oval dirt track without a front brake. The sight and sound is impressive, and seeing crowds of riders firing into a corner with the rear kicked out is one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles on the planet.
Kawasaki have finally officially announced the news that had been unofficially made public since Brno, that Marco Melandri will be riding for the factory next year. The team issued an official press release today, announcing that Melandri has signed a two-year deal to ride for Kawasaki for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The weather looks like it is holding off, and the race should be run more or less on schedule, at 3pm. There is talk of the MotoGP race being pulled forward in place of the 250 race, so that MotoGP would start at 1.15pm local time, and 250 at 3pm, but there's no confirmation of that yet.
For most of this year, qualifying has followed a reasonably predictable pattern. A couple of laps after his out lap, Casey Stoner would seize pole position, gradually turning the thumbscrews on the rest of the field. About halfway through the session, Randy de Puniet would be the first rider out on qualifying tires and snatch pole from Stoner.