Radical Changes To Be Ratified At Sepang Test Next Week

The MotoGP season resumes in earnest next week, when most of the riders will take to the track at the first official test of 2009 at Sepang in Malaysia. But while the fans will be concentrating on the action on track, carefully scrutinizing the times set to see how they can expect their favorite riders to fare, behind the scenes, according to GPOne.com, the manufacturers will be meeting to ratify a list of changes aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP in the next couple of years.

The main thrust of the changes is aimed at extending engine life, in the hope of reducing the maintenance costs for the highly-strung engines, which continue to spiral out of control. The changes will have two prongs: A reduction in track mileage on race weekends and testing; and a minimum engine life imposed by regulation.

First, the proposed changes as reported by GPOne.com:

2009

  • Practice sessions will be shortened by 15 minutes each, from 60 to 45 minutes. In effect, the riders will lose an entire 60 minute session;
  • Warm up will be cut to just 10 minutes, instead of the current 25, and the practice start would be scrapped;
  • A maximum of 9 engines per season, with penalties being imposed on engine failures, either by way of points, or by way of lost starting places;
  • An end to post-race tests, scrapping the 5 days of testing already planned;
  • Winter testing restricted to just 8 days, and the start of the winter test ban to be brought forward to November 11th, the day immediately following the Valencia tests. The ban would end on January 20th, as has always been the case.

2010

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Denning: "Suzuki Given Green Light For 2009"

After weeks of persistent rumors that Suzuki would be pulling out of MotoGP, confirmation has finally come Japan that the bikes will be on the grid in 2009. Talking to Matthew Birt of Motorcycle News, Suzuki team boss Paul Denning said that "senior management" within Suzuki had given the green light to the project for 2009.

Denning also told MCN that Suzuki was not the kind of company which would renege on its contracts with its riders and with Dorna, and even if circumstances had forced them to consider such a move, a decision would not have been made so late. "If Suzuki had seriously thought about that option I’m sure it would have been done in a way that wasn’t at the end of January when we are just about to leave to start winter testing in Sepang," he said to MCN.

There was still no official news about the Rizla sponsorship, however. Denning would only say that the deadline by which a decision must be made was fast approaching, and that by mid-February, they would be able to make an announcement. But the longer the announcement is in coming, the more likely it is that Rizla will be pulling out. Rumors of Rizla's withdrawal have been floating round the paddock since the end of last year, and as we reported yesterday, the Italian media is reporting the loss of Rizla's sponsorship as fact.

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2009 Jerez 125 And 250 Test - Day 3 - Bautista And Simon Smash Lap Records

The final day of testing at Jerez for the junior classes in MotoGP showed the same pattern as the past two days, and the same names at the top of the timesheets. Once again, Alvaro Bautista and Julian Simon set the fastest times, the two Aspar riders lapping under the existing lap records in their respective classes.

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Full Jerez MotoGP Race Removed Again From Youtube

Yesterday, we reported what we thought of as the great news that Dorna had started to put full MotoGP races online, available freely at MotoGP.com's official Youtube channel. Today, less than 24 hours later, they seem to have changed their minds. On Tuesday, the full 2008 Jerez race appeared on the Youtube channel, posted by MotoGP.com.

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Rizla Withdraw Sponsorship From Suzuki?

The rumor has been circulating for a very long time, but news that Rizla will be withdrawing its sponsorship from Suzuki's MotoGP team is moving rapidly from the realm of speculation to the world of fact. The rumors started after Rizla announced that it would be withdrawing its backing from the Crescent Suzuki BSB project, which is part of the same program run by Paul Denning and Jack Valentine behind the Suzuki MotoGP team, and was a common theme for paddock gossip for the second half of 2008.

Now, the Italian magazine Sport Moto is reporting the news as fact: Rizla will withdraw funding from Suzuki's MotoGP team, costing Suzuki some 3.5 million euros per year. The news will add to the speculation which rumbles on that Suzuki could choose to pull out of MotoGP before the season starts, a rumor which is strenuously denied by the MotoGP team. And the relatively small amount - in relation to the budget, which is likely to be over 10 times that figure - in lost income would not appear to be an insurmountable problem: It probably only barely covered the salaries of riders Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi, if at all.

Ironically, the rest of the paddock may well be glad to see Rizla depart as a sponsor. Not because of the loss of income for Suzuki - nobody will welcome that - but because it was widely felt that Suzuki had given Rizla a place as title sponsor at an untenably cheap price, and the paltry sum asked by Suzuki had dragged down the price that other teams could demand from sponsors for the same role. In the long term, Suzuki losing Rizla money could end up bringing more money into MotoGP, and leave it on a more sound financial footing.

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Full Jerez MotoGP Race Online On Youtube From MotoGP.com

Dorna has been notoriously careful with the video footage of its races, and has spent a lot of time and effort getting races and fragments of races taken off of Youtube and other video sharing websites. Indeed, when an online publication such as ours applies for media accreditation for MotoGP races, we are issued with instructions explicitly forbidding us to shoot and use any moving image footage of the race. This is entirely understandable, as the lion's share of Dorna's income is from television broadcasters, and they expect a good deal of protection for the large sums of money they pay for the broadcast rights.

One sign that things are starting to change a little at Dorna was the opening earlier last year of the official MotoGP.com Youtube channel, which hosted various snippets of video from the MotoGP.com website, including the excellent After The Flag official video podcast. It was a start - a careful one, but a start nonetheless.

Now, though, bigger changes are afoot. Perhaps having learned from the World Superbike website, which hosts live video of the races on its website for free in most countries, MotoGP.com is now starting to put some of the old races online. The first race to go up is the complete footage of the 2008 Jerez race, which went up online earlier today. Whether this is the first of many, or just a one-off experiment remains to be seen. At the very least, it is a promising step.

Embedding of the video has been disabled, so you'll have to head on over to the MotoGP Youtube channel, and watch it online there.

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2009 Jerez 125 And 250 Test - Day 2 - Bautista And Simon On Top Again

Alvaro Bautista and Julian Simon dominated once again on the second day of testing for the 125cc and 250cc riders at Jerez. The Spanish Aspar duo lead their respective classes as they had done yesterday.

In the 250s, it was KTM refugee Hiroshi Aoyama who was second fastest, getting the Team Scot Honda within half a second of Bautista. Behind Aoyama, the two newcomers, and former and reigning 125cc world champions Gabor Talmacsi and Mike di Meglio were third and fourth respectively, while yesterday's fast man Thomas Luthi dropped to 5th.

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Official MotoGP Cost-Cutting Proposals For 2010 Include One Bike Per Rider

As the global financial crisis continues to hammer the world of motorsports, the Spanish magazine Motociclismo has revealed the Grand Prix Commission's proposals aimed at significantly cutting costs in MotoGP. The commission, composed of the MSMA representing the manufacturers, IRTA representing the teams, Dorna and the FIM, has spent the last few weeks putting together a range of measures which should help to reduce the expense of participating in MotoGP.

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Kawasaki Decision Due "After Phillip Island"

Rumors continue to surround Kawasaki's MotoGP program, and the latest rumor would seem to tip the balance in favor of the program's demise. The often well-informed British website Visordown is reporting that the 2009 MotoGP bike showed a distinct lack of reliability at the private tests they ran last week at the Australian Eastern Creek circuit.

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2009 Jerez 125 And 250 Test - Day 1 - Bautista And Simon Lead A Thin Field

As if to emphasize the point that motorcycle racing is approaching once again, after the past three days of testing by the World Superbike and World Supersport field at Portugal's spectacular Portimao circuit, a reduced field of 250 and 125 riders took to the track a couple of hundred miles further east at Jerez.

But unlike the overflowing World Superbike paddock, the 250 and 125 tests were significant more for who was absent than for those present. The biggest name missing is of course reigning 250 champion Marco Simoncelli, but there's no doubt that the Italian Gilera man will be on the grid next year. For others, though participation is less certain, as sponsorship deals are still being haggled over in an attempt to finalize budgets.

And so none of the Pons team riders are present, which includes Hector Barbera and Simone Corsi, and neither of the Espargaro brothers will be testing either; Alex Debon is absent, his future still unclear; and Hector Faubel turned up at the track, but will not be riding until tomorrow.

Of the riders that did test today, Alvaro Bautista was the fastest, as might be expected of a serious title contender. The Spaniard finshed ahead of Swiss rider Thomas Luthi, and the Scot Honda rider Ratthapark Wilairot. Reigning 125cc champion Mike Di Meglio managed only the 6th fastest time, after a tumble in the morning which left him relatively unharmed.

As for the 125 riders, it was the Aspar Aprilia pairing of Julian Simon and Bradley Smith who topped the timesheets, ahead of the tiny Marc Marquez on the factory KTM. Britain's Scott Redding was fifth fastest, while American Cameron Beaubier, who stepped from the Red Bull Rookies Cup last year managed the 11th fastest time. The 125s shared the track with leading riders from both the Spanish CEV championship, as well as the Italian CIV championship.

Testing continues tomorrow, and concludes on Wednesday.

250 cc

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2008 In Review, By Andrew Wheeler

Andrew Wheeler is a name many readers may already know. The British-born photographer is a stalwart of the motorcycle racing world, and is the AMA photographer for the excellent American magazine Road Racer X and the UK magazine Motorcycle Racer. His work has appeared in a range of well-respected motorcycle publications around the world.

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Portimao World Superbike Times - Day 3 - Byrne Blitzes Superpole And Overall Times

Shane Byrne was once again the fastest rider in the first running of the new Superpole format for World Superbikes, which takes the form of Formula 1-style "knock out" qualifying: Three sessions of 12 minutes, with a cut down to the 16 fastest to start the second session, and down to 8 to start the final session. Rain disrupted the second session, upsetting proceedings a little and showing that the new procedure can catch people out in qualifying, just as the old procedure did.  

1. Byrne S. GBR Ducati 1098R 1'43.874
2. Neukirchner M. GER Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'43.965
3. Rea J. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'44.144
4. Haga N. JPN Ducati 1098R 1'44.157
5. Haslam L. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'44.217
6. Corser T. AUS BMW S1000 RR 1'44.261
7. Kagayama Y. JPN Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'44.586
8. Laconi R. FRA Ducati 1098R 1'47.057
9. Checa C. ESP Honda CBR1000RR 1'49.387
10. Fabrizio M. ITA Ducati 1098R 1'52.340
11. Nakano S. JPN Aprilia RSV4 1'56.553
12. Biaggi M. ITA Aprilia RSV4 1'56.643
13. Spies B. USA Yamaha YZF R1 1'44.119
14. Smrz J. CZE Ducati 1098R 1'45.182
15. Sykes T. GBR Yamaha YZF R1 1'45.624
16. Kiyonari R. JPN Honda CBR1000RR 1'45.931
17. Parkes B. AUS Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'46.181
18. Salom D. ESP Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'46.260
19. Polita A. ITA Ducati 1098R 1'46.849
20. Roberts B. AUS Ducati 1098R 1'46.897

 

Overall best times from the three day session, all of which were set on Saturday:

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Portimao World Supersport Times - Day 3 Session 2 - Sofuoglu Serves Notice

After the morning session was lashed by rain, the afternoon session for the World Supersport riders was at least dry, if also very windy. At the end of day it was 2007 champion Kenan Sofuoglu who put his name at the top of the timesheets, and a strong showing throughout the three-day test showed he means business on his return to the class. Sofuoglu finished ahead of Triumph's Gianluca Nannelli, the Italian putting on a strong showing to finish with the second fastest time of the day, ahead of Joan Lascorz on the Kawasaki, the other rider who has dominated the proceedings in Portugal.

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Portimao World Superbike Times - Day 3 Session 1 - Rain And Red Flags

The first session for the Superbike riders was stopped after just a few minutes. The red flag was shown after Yukio Kagayama's Suzuki left oil on the track, and the session was canceled after the heavy rain made clearing it up too difficult. At the time, Michel Fabrizio was quickest, ahead of Ben Spies.

Testing concludes this afternoon. If the weather hasn't scared everyone off, as according to Dutch site Racesport.nl, this afternoon's World Supersport session could be canceled.

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Portimao World Supersport Times - Day 3 Session 1 - West Rules In The Wet

The weather reappeared with a vengeance this morning, lashing the Algarve coast and keeping many of the Supersport riders off the track. To nobody's surprise, Ant West set the fastest time in the wet aboard the Stiggy Motorsports Honda, ahead of Katsuaki Fujiwara on the Kawasaki and Matej Smrz a surprising third on the Triumph. Practice is scheduled to continue this afternoon, but with the weather poor, more riders may choose to skip testing.

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