Pedrosa: I'll Do My Best To Be Ready For Qatar

Saturday morning, at 10am local time, Dani Pedrosa and Dr Xavier Mir, of the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona, gave a press conference on the state of Pedrosa's wrist and knee, after the Spaniard had undergone surgery to fix a distal radius fracture and an open knee wound on Wednesday. The operation had been successful, and Pedrosa was recovering well, was the general conclusion, but the start of his season was still in doubt.

Pedrosa has completely written off any chance of participating at the IRTA tests in Jerez, preferring instead to concentrate on his chances of recovering in time for the season opener at Qatar. "We'll be doing our best to be ready for Qatar, and when the time comes, we will see whether we are ready to race. The goal is to be ready for the first race," he told the assembled press.

On the subject of his preparation for the season, Pedrosa was frank but optimistic. "You don't get to choose these things," he said, "but we have no choice but to keep moving forward. I've fallen off many times, but I always get back up again. We will be fast on a motorcycle again. It's true that we have had problems this preseason, but we have to keep moving forward."

Pedrosa's - and the medical staff's - chief concern was his knee. "The wrist is less complicated, and I will have it immobilized for a much shorter time than the knee," Pedrosa said. "At the start, my knee didn't look good at all, but the operation has gone well, and I'm happy. I imagine it will be hard for the skin and the knee to regain elasticity. I'll have to get some sleep, and let it start to recover."

The Spaniard reflected on the poor start he got to the season in 2008, too. "Last year I had a broken hand, but it happened in January. This time it's a little more delicate, because it will be a while before I can move my knee."

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Melandri Ready To Sign, Hopkins Nearly Free Agent

He said he would wait until the Qatar tests to make a decision, and that's exactly what he's done. According to MCN's Matthew Birt, Marco Melandri has decided to sign to ride the Kawasaki / Dornasaki / Hayate in 2009. Melandri's manager Alberto Vergani told MCN that riding the bike under the lights at Qatar had convinced Melandri that the better option would be to ride, and hope to secure a better seat for 2010, rather than sit out a year, and risk being overlooked for 2010.

The conundrum Melandri finds himself facing concerns whether it is better to ride round at the back on an obviously inferior bike, or hope that people remember what he was capable of when he was on competitive machinery. His fear is that what people - and more importantly, team managers and factory bosses - will regard the 2008 Ducati Desmosedici GP8 as competitive machinery, a bike which Melandri deeply feared, and which he had a miserable season on. And so he would appear to be pinning his hopes on the Hayate team being able to fix the Kawasaki enough to at least allow him to score points regularly, and compete for top 10 finishes.

The portents for such an outcome are not good, however. It is clear that the Kawasaki will receive little or no upgrades during the season, which would not be so bad if the Kawasaki was a competently handling motorcycle. The trouble is, the Kawasaki is something very far from that, and its problems have a very familiar ring to them. Melandri was complaining of a lack of rear grip on the bike, and Vergani told MCN that the Italian felt the bike could be competitive if they could just fix this issue.

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Daytona 200 Results -- Dazed And Confused

On a beautiful spring night in Florida, the largest crowd to attend a Daytona 200 in recent memory left the speedway knowing that Ben Bostrom had won the spring classic, but weren't really sure exactly how he'd pulled it off. They weren't alone. Bostrom himself was somewhat confused about the way events played out.

37 laps into the scheduled 57 lap race, Bostrom's Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes had pulled out to a 5 second lead and looked to be well on his way to erasing the bitter memory of last year's race disqualification that robbed him of his 1st 200 win. 

Then, Tommy Aquino went down in the chicane as the apparent end result of a lighting snafu which had brought out the pace car. The race was subsequently red-flagged which left 70-plus racers cooling ther heels on pit road for approximately 30 minutes.

By now, readers not familiar with the 200 are probably wondering: Pace car? The Daytona 200 is an odd race, even by US standards. The distance is over 3 times as long as a typical race, necessitating multiple pit stops and when there is a mishap prompting a yellow or red flag situation, racers are supposed to gather behind the pace car, which, theoretically keeps the bikes in order. Unfortunately, theory doesn't always result in successful practice and there have been incidents in the past where racers have been denied their proper position when racing resumes.

On the restart, after a 30 minute delay, the order was Josh Hayes, Bostrom, Martin Cardenas, Jason DiSalvo and Jake Zemke. A couple of crashes and pace car deployments later, Bostrom pits, apparently losing almost a full lap in the process. Still on track, the pace car waves everybody by and they all take off at top speed. But when Bostrum comes up behind the pace car he is held until the rest of the pack catches back up.

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American Superbike -- Daytona Results

Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin won the inaugural American Superbike race today at Daytona International Speedway. So what, you say, won't Mladin win them all  this year now that Ben Spies has moved on to World Superbikes? Besides, those bikes they're riding aren't really superbikes, are they? You'd be wrong if you looked at the spec sheet and the finishing order and thought the race was boring.  It's true that Mladin took over on the 7th lap and  won by over a second but the actual racing was a lot more entertaining than that.

Mladin, Corona Honda's Neil Hodgson and  Foremost Ducati's Larry Pegram all led in the early stages of the race and Mladin's teammate Tommy Hayden overcame a poor start that he attributed to an unfamiliar starting procedure to join a lead pack that saw numerous overtaking manuevers behind the leader. Mladin's grasp on the top step on the podium was in peril until he employed a backmarker to gain a bit of breathing room very late in the contest. Hodgson pipped Hayden at the line in a thrilling finish for second place by .001 second when Hayden lost speed after being  balked in the chicane on the last lap. Pegram dropped back to a distant but comfortable fourth when an electrical problem forced him to switch off his 1098's traction control.

Blake Young took fifth place in his debut performance for Yosimura Suzuki after a nearly race-long battle with Graves Yamaha's Ben Bostrom. Bostrom's teammate, Josh Hayes, dropped back after an off-track excursion in the horseshoe. Hayes was sandwiched by Jordan Suzuki teammates Aaron Yates and Geoff May.

While it may be true that the hardware isn't state of the art and the finishing order looks like the same old, the point of racing is close battles and exciting finishes. Today's race delivered those requirements in spades and the series only looks to get better as the season progresses.

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Daytona Superbike Qualifying and Superpole - The More Things Change

Mat Mladin and Yoshimura Suzuki took up where they left off last year and took the American Superbike  pole today at Daytona. On a sunny, nearly perfect Florida day, Mladin rode a nearly perfect Superpole lap, gapping teammate Tommy Hayden by nearly a second. Hayden, with brother Nicky in the pits for moral support, had set fast time in the qualifying session that set the 10 rider line up in the new to the AMA Superpole. Graves Yamaha's Ben Bostrom had trouble in the infield which ruined his lap, putting him at the bottom of the order. In the pre-qualifying session, 32 riders went fast enough to make this afternoon's Superbike final.

1Mat MladinRockstar/Makita/SuzukiSuzuki GSX-R10001:37.499
2Tommy HaydenRockstar/Makita/SuzukiSuzuki GSX-R10001:38.345
3Larry PegramPegram RacingDucati 1098R1:38.455
4Neil HodgsonCorona Extra HondaHonda CBR1000RR1:38.479
5Blake YoungRockstar/Makita/SuzukiSuzuki GSX-R10001:39.633
6Aaron YatesJordan Suzuki BrandSuzuki GSX-R10001:39.791
7Joshua HayesYamaha Motor CorpYamaha R11:40.117
8Michael LavertyCeltic RacingSuzuki GSX-R10001:40.221
9Geoff MayNational Guard Jordan SuzukiSuzuki GSX-R10001:40.888
10Ben BostromYamaha Motor CorpYamaha R11:41.043


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Pedrosa: Out For Jerez, Questionable For Qatar

Dani Pedrosa's luck is stubbornly refusing to improve. Doctors at Barcelona's Dexeus Institute declared yesterday's surgery a success, which was the good news. The bad news was that the recovery period is going to be at least four weeks, ruling Pedrosa out of the IRTA test at Jerez, and endangering the Repsol Honda rider's season start at Qatar in early April.

The problems are not so much from the fractured wrist. Dr Xavier Mir pinned the fracture using a titanium screw, and Pedrosa can expect to start moving the wrist again in ten days or so, although the wrist is likely to stay weak for some time to come. Pedrosa's knee, however, is another matter. Another specialist at the Dexeus Institute, Dr Bartolome Ferreira, used skin and fat from the inside of Pedrosa's thigh to cover the open wound the Spaniard's crash in Qatar had left him with. And because of the nature of the wound, it will be at least three weeks before Pedrosa can start to move the knee, and a minimum of four weeks before he can start to fully bend the knee.

Four weeks out of circulation means that Pedrosa is almost certain to miss the official IRTA test at Jerez, and with the season opener at Qatar just over five weeks away, even the very best case scenario would see the Spaniard recovered just enough to race. But even then, Pedrosa's season is likely to get off to a shakey start, requiring a race or two before he is back to anything like full strength.

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Daytona Bike Week Preview - Uncharted Waters

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time we were all wondering who would take over the AMA roadracing program and what direction the new overseers would take it in. Just as a brief recap, here's what happened:

1. Daytona Motorsports Group, a consortium comprised of the France family and Roger Edmundson bought the rights to roadracing and sundry other AMA branded series.

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MotoGPMatters Coming Live From Daytona!

As the spring equinox grows ever closer in the northern hemisphere, the wraps are starting to come off of racing motorcycles the world over. Last weekend saw the World Superbikes kick off down under at Phillip Island, and this week sees the traditional start of the American road racing season at Daytona Bike Week. The highlight this year will be the Daytona 200, to be raced under the lights for the first time.

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Bridgestone Testing 2010 Tires Because Of 2009 Testing Restrictions

Throughout the not-so-merry saga of cost cutting proposals being put forward by the Grand Prix Commission to deal with the global financial crisis, has warned about the law of unintended consequences. Several of the proposed rule changes, we said, would end up costing more money in the short term for uncertain savings in the long term. Our fears have already been confirmed by Yamaha's technical chief Masao Furusawa, who said that Yamaha would be spending more money in the short term to increase engine durability.

Further confirmation of our suspicions has been forthcoming from Bridgestone. In the press release issued by the Japanese tire manufacturer after the Qatar tests, Bridgestone's motorcycle race tyre development manager Tohro Ubukata said that the testing restrictions introduced this year are forcing the company to start work on its 2010 tires already.

"The recent FIM regulation changes have affected our development plan so looking now at development for 2010 is very important. We now have to finish 80 per cent of our development for next season during this winter testing period because in-season testing has been significantly reduced. As a result, as well as bringing the soft and medium compound tyres from this year’s line-up, we brought some new compounds in development for 2010, where the target is to give the tyres a wider still operating range," Ubukata said in the press release. 

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World Superbikes Goes Cost Cutting Crazy Too

More news from the ever-expanding cost cutting front. At the Phillip Island World Superbike round, the Superbike Commission followed in the steps of the Grand Prix Commission, heading down the road of rule changes aimed at reducing expenditure. And like MotoGP, the first casualty was Friday morning practice. As of the Valencia round of World Superbikes in early April, Friday morning practice will be scrapped for the Supersport and Superstock 1000 Cup, while free practice for the Superbike class will be moved to the afternoon. Technical inspection has also been moved from Thursday to Friday morning.

Unlike MotoGP, where the savings came mainly in the form of fewer engine rebuilds, the savings for Superstock and Supersport will come mainly in fuel, tires and crash damage. Both Superstock and Supersport engines regularly last multiple races, with some even lasting for an entire season. And though fuel and tires are fairly low budget items, in the low budget racing format of Superstock and Supersport, these measures could provide real savings.

More drastic than the changes announced at the meeting in Phillip Island is the subject of discussions for the next meetings of the Superbike Commissions. The FIM press release states that practice restrictions and engine limitations are to be discussed next. With limited potential for tuning and parts development, extended engine life for World Superbike machines may not produce the need for extra durability development that it is doing in MotoGP. But it remains to be seen whether such limitations will produce actual savings, or merely lead the teams to spend their money in other areas instead.

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2009 Qatar Night Test Day 3 - Stoner Nearly A Second Ahead

On the final day of testing at Qatar, Casey Stoner did his usual trick of trouncing the field, his fastest time of 1'55.744 just 6/10ths off his own lap record, and nearly a second faster than his nearest competitor. Stoner did relatively few laps, and is still in some pain from his recuperating scaphoid, but declared himself happy with its progress, calling his wrist "almost OK", although he did tell that he was unhappy with the number of laps he had put in on the Ducati. The only worry the Australian had was in areas which involved heavy braking for left handers with the bike tipped over. Stoner had been testing electronics settings to match the new carbon fiber swingarm Ducati is using on the GP9, and decided to call it a day at 11pm, after the track began to lose grip as it cooled.

Stoner's nearest competitor was a bit of a surprise: Jorge Lorenzo was second fastest on the final day of testing, after complaining in previous days that he was struggling to cope with the Bridgestone tires. He obviously found some kind of solution, though his time still left him just under a second slower than Stoner.

Lorenzo may have been slower than Stoner, but he was also nearly a quarter of a second faster than his Fiat Yamaha team mate. Both Lorenzo and Rossi had been focusing on race simulations, putting in long runs to test how the bike ran on the spec tires. Lorenzo's times were impressive: a long run of 1'57s, finishing with a few laps in the 1'56s.

Chris Vermeulen finished the day 4th, the Suzuki clearly improved over the winter, raising hopes that the bike may show a return to its 2007 form. But the form of the Suzukis was perhaps not the biggest news of the night.

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Pedrosa To Undergo Surgery On Wednesday

The injury Dani Pedrosa suffered at Qatar is worse than at first thought. Early reports said that Pedrosa had come away from the accident with only bruising and swelling, but Pedrosa has not been so lucky. For according to the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, Pedrosa has suffered a distal radius fracture, an injury which will require the fitting of a titanium screw to compress the fracture. He is scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday afternoon.

The good news, in a glass-one-sixteenth-full kind of way, is that Pedrosa only suffered a severely bruised and cut left knee. He is to have a skin graft on the knee at the same time as his wrist. Pedrosa suffered the injuries after his bike landed on him after highsiding him off in Turn 10 at Qatar.

Honda previously issued a press release stating they expected Pedrosa to be riding at the official Irta test in Jerez at the end of March, but it is doubtful that Pedrosa will be at full fitness by then. A distal radius fracture is not as difficult an injury as a scaphoid, but it can get very complicated due to the amount of soft tissue that is involved in the structure of the wrist. The Dexeus institute, where Pedrosa is to undergo surgery, will be issuing an update on his condition tomorrow.

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Monster Energy Confirmed As Title Sponsor For Tech 3 Yamaha

After Kawasaki pulled out, much speculation ensued as to what would happen about their Monster Energy title sponsorship. Almost immediately after Kawasaki's withdrawal was announced, rumors appeared linking Monster to Yamaha. First came the rumor of a deal with Valentino Rossi, but along with it came talk of a deal for the Tech 3 Yamaha team.

It turns out this was no idle speculation after all. After the personal deal for Rossi, Tech 3 today announced that Monster Energy would be their title sponsor for at least the next two years. The Monster claw logo will appear both on Rossi's helmet and cap, and on the side of the Tech 3 Yamahas.

This finally is good news for MotoGP. The problem for the series is, after all, not so much that costs are too high - they are a mere 10-20% of the vast sums involved in Formula 1, while the series receives close to the same media exposure - but that incomes are dramatically too low. A big sponsor like Monster can provide a much-needed cash injection for Herve Poncharal's cash-strapped team, as well as attracting more outside sponsors into the sport.

The worry is that Monster, like Rizla with Suzuki, and like their deal with Kawasaki, got the exposure at a bargain basement price. No details were released about the amounts involved, but if teams sell title sponsorship cheap - as was the case with Rizla and Suzuki - then they make it impossible for the rest of the teams to raise the cash that MotoGP so desparately needs.

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2009 Qatar Night Test Day 2 - Stoner Is Back

Testing resumed under rather better conditions at Qatar today, yesterday's rain fortunately not making a reappearance. And so all of the riders took to the track, with no reason to sit it out. One rider came to regret that decision, Dani Pedrosa suffering a big highside, and fracturing his wrist and leg (full story here), a bitter irony after the Spaniard chose to sit out yesterday's session for fear of aggravating his already injured knee.

Fastest of the day was - how could it be otherwise? - Casey Stoner. The Australian put in relatively few laps, but according to Livio Suppo, his wrist was holding up better than it had been previously, the surgery on his injured scaphoid slowly starting to heal. Stoner was testing a carbon fiber swingarm to go along with the carbon fiber frame, and from the times he set, it would appear to be working.

Valentino Rossi was second fastest, though still 6/10ths behind Stoner, a big gap. But his arrears to Stoner had not left him without a sense of humor: Rossi appeared at the track with a comedy high-visibility yellow helmet, in the colors used by the emergency services in a number of countries.

Colin Edwards was third fastest, the Tech 3 Yamaha man clearly settling in with his new crew chief, while Andrea Dovizioso was left to salvage Repsol Honda's honor, taking the 4th fastest time in the dying minutes of the session, ahead of the Suzukis of Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi.

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Pedrosa Fractures Wrist At Qatar Test

Dani Pedrosa's 2009 season is getting off to a nightmare start. After sitting out the first day of testing at Qatar, judging that the rain had made the track too slippery to risk crashing and damaging his slowly healing knee, the Spaniard suffered a big highside on the second day of testing.

Pedrosa crashed at Turn 10, a left hander which opens up quickly to become a fast turn, badly injuring both his left knee and his left wrist. He was rushed back to the Clinica Mobile, where he was examined and found not to have broken anything, but he did sustain a suspected fracture of the left wrist, the same wrist Pedrosa injured in his spectacularly painful crash at the Sachsenring last July. The medical director at the circuit told the press that although Pedrosa had injured his wrist and leg, he had not suffered a bang to the head and had not lost consciousness. His injuries were severe enough for the Spaniard to require an oxygen mask to help calm his breathing.

Pedrosa will be flown back to Barcelona on Tuesday morning, where he will undergo a CAT scan to determine the full extent of his injuries. There is a good chance that Pedrosa will be fit enough to take part in the official IRTA test at Jerez at the end of the month, but whether he will be at full fitness then is subject to doubt.

The session was red flagged because of Pedrosa's crash, and then red flagged again shortly after, after a crash by Mika Kallio left some oil on the track. 

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