Those New MotoGP Rules: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

As we reported earlier today, the Grand Prix Commission has announced a slew of new rules for MotoGP, supposedly aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP. The measures contain a mixture of news for MotoGP fans, some good, some bad, and some seemingly incomprehensible. Let's go through the measures one by one, and examine the possible impact.

First up is the revised weekend schedule, which sees the Friday morning practice dropped, and the other practice sessions severely shortened. A race weekend will now look as follows:

Friday

13:05-13:45125cc Free Practice 1
14:05-14:50MotoGP Free Practice 1
15:05-15:50250cc Free Practice 1

Saturday

09:05-09:45125cc Free Practice 2
10:05-10:50MotoGP Free Practice 2
11:05-11:50250cc Free Practice 2
13:05-13:45125cc Qualifying Practice
14:05-14:50MotoGP Qualifying Practice
15:05-15:50250cc Qualifying Practice

Sunday

08:40-09:00125cc Warm Up
09:10-09:30250cc Warm Up
09:40-10:00MotoGP Warm Up
11:00125cc Race
12:15250cc Race
14:00MotoGP Race

Back to top

Maxtra Forced To Change Name, Loses Witteveen

Starting a brand new team with a brand new bike is hard at the best of times, but to do so in the midst of the biggest economic slowdown the world has seen for 80 years is brave beyond reason. There was a good deal of interest when former Suzuki team boss Garry Taylor presented the new Maxtra Racing project back at the Shanghai Grand Prix in May of last year, before the crisis struck, and that interest has continued as the project has progressed.

But according to Dutch website Racesport.nl, trouble has hit the team, and in a stroke of bitter irony, it is not even related to the global financial crisis. First of all, the team is likely to have to change its name, after a French company has laid claim to use of the name Maxtra. Since the rumors emerged on Racesport, the Maxtra Racing website has been inaccessible, any attempts to access it requiring a username and password. The team is likely to switch to using the name of the Chinese motorcycle company funding the team, Haojue, dropping the disputed Maxtra moniker. But a rebranding exercise is never cheap, and everything, from team shirts to race trucks to letterheads will have to be reprinted, repainted or recycled.

Worse news comes from the engineering department, however. Jan Witteveen, the brilliant Dutch engineer responsible for designing championship-winning engines for Aprilia, is rumored to have withdrawn from the Maxtra project, reportedly due to his unhappiness at the performance of the bike. Fear that his reputation could be tarnished by its lack of pace is believed to be the motivating factor for pulling out.

Just where all this leaves the new team remains to be seen, but they should still have sufficient funds to field both British rookie Matt Hoyle and the more experienced Michael Ranseder.

Back to top

2009 World Superbike Final Test, Phillip Island, Day 3

Testing concluded for the penultimate time at Phillip Island, with only one more batch of riders due to test at the Australian circuit before the season commences in just over a week's time. Where Shinya Nakano had been quickest yesterday, today, it was the turn of his Aprilia team mate Max Biaggi to top the timesheets. The Roman Emperor just pipped Regis Laconi to the post, the DFX Ducati rider lapping only one hundredth of a second slower. Nakano was third fastest, ahead of an unleashed Broc Parkes on the Kawasaki. The Akashi factory may have pulled out of MotoGP, but they have stepped up support for some of the other series, posting a huge contingency in the AMA, and promising much more support in World Superbikes. By the look of Parkes' performance today, they may have got it right.

Of the World Supersport bikes, it was a former Kawasaki rider who topped the timesheets. Ant West repeated his performance from yesterday, setting the fastest lap on his Stiggy Motorsports Honda.

The next test will be this weekend, and then racing begins in earnest.

World Superbike

Pos.RiderBikeTimeTotal laps
1Max BiaggiAprilia1'32.5971
2Regis LaconiDucati1'32.6062
3Shinya NakanoAprilia1'32.7268
4Broc ParkesKawasaki1'32.9070
5Leon HaslamHonda1'33.2065
6Tommy HillHonda1'33.3055
7Roberto RolfoHonda1'33.5095
8Makoto TamadaKawasaki1'33.9080

World Supersport

Back to top

Grand Prix Commission Bans Electronic Suspension And Launch Control

The Grand Prix Commission met this morning in Geneva to discuss rule changes for the upcoming MotoGP season, and MotoGP.com has a preliminary announcement of what those changes will be:

  • An immediate ban on electronic suspension
  • An immediate ban on electronic and hydraulic launch control systems
  • The scrapping of the Friday morning free practice sessions
  • The reduction of the remaining sessions from 60 minutes in length to 45 minutes
  • From the Brno weekend, the riders will have only 5 engines to use for the remaining 8 races of the season.

We will report more fully on this once the FIM issues the formal press release announcing the full changes, but already, we can draw a few preliminary conclusions about the effect of these changes:

Back to top

2009 World Superbike Final Test, Phillip Island, Day 2

Phillip Island is gearing up for a whole sequence of tests to be run by the World Superbike teams, before the season finally kicks off there in ten days time. The Aprilia riders have already been here for a day - drawing complaints from the other team managers that Aprilia are testing excessively, pushing up the costs of testing for the other teams, - and it is Aprilia's Shinya Nakano who tops the timesheets, clearly into the riding groove already. Nakano leads Regis Laconi, back on a Ducati once again, and looking very fast on it, and his Aprilia team mate Max Biaggi. Biaggi finished the day on a bit of a low note, having suffered a relatively low-speed fall towards the end of the day.

The Supersport riders are also on track, with local boy Ant West looking happier on a Honda Supersport machine than on the Kawasaki MotoGP bike. The Stiggy Motorsports rider leads his team mate Gianluca Vizziello, ahead of the Althea Honda pairing of Mark Aitchison and Matthieu Lagrive.

The current contingent of riders finish up on Wednesday, and will be replaced this weekend by the bulk of the factory teams, ready for the season opener on March 1st.

World Superbike

Pos.RiderBikeTime
1Shinya NakanoAprilia1'33.1
2Regis LaconiDucati1'33.1
3Max BiaggiAprilia1'33.7
4Leon HaslamHonda1'34.1
5Makoto TamadaKawasaki1'34.9
6Broc ParkesKawasaki1'35.1

World Supersport

Back to top

One Bike Per Rider Won't Mean More Bikes On The Grid, Say Manufacturers

Tomorrow - Wednesday, February 18th - is likely to be a big day for MotoGP. For tomorrow, the Grand Prix Commission is due to convene to finalize a range of measures aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP, which we at MotoGPMatters.com will report upon fully as soon as news emerges from that meeting. The measures expected are likely to include the scrapping of Friday morning practice, a reduction of the length of the other practice sessions from 60 minutes to 45 minutes, minimum engine life, and for next year, the introduction of one bike per rider.

Whether the suggestion of a single bike for each rider comes directly from Dorna or not, it is no secret that Carmelo Ezpeleta is especially keen on this idea. For the CEO of the Spanish organization which runs MotoGP sees in it a chance to expand the dwindling grid up to a size where a couple of injuries won't mean automatic points for any finishers. Ezpeleta's thinking is that with far fewer bikes to support and maintain, the manufacturers would have spare capacity to provide bikes to extra riders, and help pad out the starting field.

Back to top

Melandri: "I'm Ready To Race The Private Kawasaki"

It is looking ever more likely that there will be 18 bikes on the MotoGP grid after all. Marco Melandri - currently in Qatar racing in the SpeedCar Series - has told the Italian media outlet SportMediaset.it that he is ready to ride the private Kawasaki after all. There is still no absolute word that the Kawasaki project has been given the go ahead, but Melandri is sounding increasingly convinced it will happen.

The project - if it does happen - will likely be financed in part by Dorna, and the Spanish organizing body has been one of the main forces trying to ensure that at least one Kawasaki makes it onto the grid, as reputedly agreed in private contracts between Dorna and the FIM. The withdrawal of the factory Kawasaki team was a huge blow for Dorna, and Carmelo Ezpeleta, the company's CEO, has seemingly spent every waking moment trying to ensure that at least one of the abandoned bikes make it on to the grid.

Melandri's decision to push ahead with the project directly contradicts his earlier statements that he would not race "just to make up the numbers". Asked directly about this by SportMediaset.it, Melandri replied "I'm not going to be able to win, but I'm sure  I won't be in for a season like 2008. Because I'll be on a bike that has a character I like, even if it is not super competitive, and I will have a team that will do everything to make me comfortable on the bike, so I can do the maximum, and so I will have nothing to lose." Melandri was also clear about his aims for the year: "I just have to show that I can still want to fight, and then I can find a good situation for 2010."

Back to top

Lavilla's Team Manager: "We Will Start The Season In Valencia"

Yesterday, we reported on the consequences of the credit crunch for the World Superbike paddock, but it seems they may not be quite as bad as expected. After we ran the story relaying reports of Gregorio Lavilla being forced to pull out of the World Superbike series, we were contacted by Marco Nicotari, owner and manager of the Pro Ride Superbike team which Lavilla rides for.

Nicotari denied that Pro Ride would be pulling out of the World Superbike series, and have every intention of competing in World Superbikes in 2009. However, Nicotari did say that they will not be racing at either the season opener at Phillip Island or the second round at Qatar. "Our position is to start the season in Valencia," he wrote.

Reports of Pro Ride's withdrawal were based on stories that the team would not have a title sponsor. Nicotari rejected this, pointing out that Mormaii Sunglasses has been their sponsor since November 2008, and had appeared on the fairing at the recent Portimao tests. However, the team had lost two smaller sponsors, and unfortunately, these were the sponsors paying for the first two rounds of the year, making it difficult to travel to the first two flyaway rounds. 

"We have decided to skip the first two races due to a loss of 2 important sponsors. They have declared what everyone is declaring now: that this is a difficult economic moment. That was the reason for this hard decision that for sure upset a little bit all of us, including Gregorio, who is a very competeitive person, and who wants to be there racing against the best riders in the world," Nicotari told MotoGPMatters.com.

Back to top

2009 2nd Valencia 125 And 250 Test - Day 2 - It's That Man Again

The second and final day of testing at Valencia for the 125s and 250s saw Marco Simoncelli dominate once again. The reigning 250 World Champion put in a huge number of laps to finish the day with a comfortable lead over his Gilera team mate Roberto Locatelli. The Gileras finished the day ahead of the Hondas of Hector Faubel and Thai rider Rathapark Wilairot.

The 125 class was a much more worrying affair. Yesterday's leader, Efren Vazquez had a huge crash, which saw him trap his leg in the wheel, ending with the Spaniard being rushed to hospital in Valencia with a deep cut that partially severed achilles tendon. Vazquez wasn't the only rider to fall, being joined in the gravel by his team mate Pol Espargaro, as well as former Red Bull Rookies Johann Zarco and Matthew Hoyle.

With Vazquez gone, it was the turn of the very impressive Italian rookie Lorenzo Savadori to top the timesheets, ahead of Espargaro aboard the Derbi. The unfortunate Vazquez was still quick enough in the 11 laps he ran before crashing to finish third fastest, however.

Vazquez will be hoping to recover quickly, and be ready for the next test, due to take place at Estoril in a month's time. Before that, there will be more testing for the junior classes at Valencia next week.

250 cc

Back to top

Credit Crunch Hits WSBK Paddock Too - Lavilla Could Lose His Ride

Most of the doom and gloom hitting motorcycle racing in the wake of the credit crisis has been centered on MotoGP. Understandably, as the premier class is exponentially more expensive than any of the other motorcycle racing series. But MotoGP is not alone: after earlier news that Sterilgarda Ducati wouldn't have the funds to field Alessandro Polita in Australia and Qatar, reports are emerging that Gregorio Lavilla could be out of a ride for 2009 altogether.

The well-informed Dutch website Racesport.nl is reporting that the Pro-Ride Honda team - which arose from the ashes of the Alto Evolution team, which fielded Shuhei Aoyama in World Superbikes last year, with little success - has failed to find a sponsor, and consequently won't have the money to compete in the 2009 WSBK season, leaving Lavilla sidelined. Racesport's efforts at contacting the team for comment have so far met with no success.

The 35 year-old Spaniard had a mediocre season last year aboard the Vent-Axia Honda, after several years of success in the British Superbikes series. Whether his fortunes would have improved with the former Alto-Evolution team is open to debate, as the Italian team has had very little to show over the past few seasons. But Lavilla could well be joining the ever-growing band of professional motorcycle racers who will be spending 2009 watching from the sidelines.

Back to top

Melandri And Kawasaki To Be On The Grid

Sources in the mainstream sports media in Italy are reporting that the on-again-off-again saga that is Kawasaki is sort of on again. According to both Tuttosport and Sportmediaset, Marco Melandri will be riding a privately run Kawasaki, in a team led by Michael Bartholemy. The deal is said to have been put together by Dorna, in the person of CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, who has been in constant negotiation with Kawasaki since the news broke.

Details of the deal are somewhere between sketchy and nonexistent, but the deal seems to be that Kawasaki will make all of the 2009-spec bikes available to Michael Bartholemy, and the Belgian team manager will field a single rider in the person of Marco Melandri. Shortly after the news broke that Kawasaki would be withdrawing from MotoGP, the factory said that it had enough bikes and parts to last approximately a quarter of a season, and so presumably, this would be enough to run a single rider for at least half a season, perhaps a little longer if the practice restrictions are pushed through as expected.

Finance for the project will most likely come from Dorna - presumably in fear of breaching their own contract with the FIM to field at least 18 riders for a world championship - possibly with some seed money from Kawasaki, to buy out their remaining contract, which committed them to race in MotoGP until 2011. Melandri would presumably be riding the 2009-spec bikes tested by Olivier Jacque in Australia during January, despite reports of poor reliability. And maintenance and - speculatively - engine development could be done by the French company Solution F, as reported by GPOne.com in January.

Back to top

2009 2nd Valencia 125 And 250 Test - Day 1 - Simoncelli Rules The Roost

The second batch of 125 and 250 riders are out at Valencia, testing in preparation for the 2009 season. But though the location might be the same, the names are mostly different. This time, it's Marco Simoncelli who tops the 250s, though none of the Aspar big guns are on track to face the reigning champion. Simoncelli's time as quicker than that set by Alvaro Bautista two weeks ago, but it has to be said that the weather conditions are infinitely better. In comparison, Alex Baldolini improved his time by a second, while Hector Faubel took nearly 2 seconds off his fastest time of the previous tests.

In the 125 class, it was Efren Vazquez who was quickest on the factory Derbi, though the Spaniard also managed to crash in a fairly serious way at the end of the day. But the surprise of the day was the 2nd fastest time for Lorenzo Savadori, an Italian rookie who was European 125 champion last year, and hotly tipped for success. To be 2nd fastest on his first test is fairly impressive, and promises more to come.

The other news of interest was the arrival of the Maxtras, the Chinese bike designed by former Aprilia guru Jan Witteveen and Britain's Harris Performance, and run by John Surtees. The Maxtra still has some work to be done, though, as Michael Ranseder was the fastest of the two team mates, beating British rookie Matt Hoyle by two seconds, but still four seconds down on the time of Vazquez.

Testing continues tomorrow.

250 cc

Back to top

Kawasaki: Why Flog A Dead Horse, When You Could Revive A Live One?

The latest news/rumor on the Kawasaki front - or perhaps that should be the final nail in Kawasaki's coffin - is that Dorna is attempting to acquire the Kawasaki bikes so that Marco Melandri can race in MotoGP in the 2009 season, as reported by various press sources. Carmelo Ezpeleta is said to be willing to pay for the bikes to run out of his - or rather Dorna's - own pocket, in order to pad out the grid and give it some semblance of credibility.

If this is true - and that's a big if, as one of the sources is Alberto Vergani, Marco Melandri's manager, and Italian riders' managers are about as reliable as Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, though they tend to err slightly more often on the side of optimism - then it is both completely puzzling and remarkably short-sighted. If the Kawasaki - or "Dornasaki" as some wags are labeling it - does turn up on the grid, it will be a bike that is likely to start at the back and travel rapidly backwards. As the year progresses, the competition will receive a steady stream of upgrades, improving at each race. And each of these upgrades will leave the Comatose Kawasaki yet another step behind, heaping calumny upon humiliation over the head of the poor rider foolish enough to volunteer to ride the ailing beast.

Any attempt to resurrect Kawasaki will be doomed to failure, with no money for development. The attempt offers nothing to either the team or the rider(s) involved, and is more likely to damage Dorna than anything else, despite allowing the Spanish company to save face. This is surely a rescue better left untried.

Back to top

HRC Opens "Witch Hunt" For Rev Limit Moles

Dark tidings from inside Honda. GPOne.com is reporting that HRC has started what the Italian site is calling a "witch hunt" to find the source of the leak about rev limits. HRC is said to be mightily displeased that this information should have been made public, regarding it as "confidential commercial information", which should not be shared in any way.

Quite why Honda should be getting into such a tizzy at the leaking of the fact that the satellite bikes have a rev limit in place of 18,200 rpm, some 800 below the factory bikes 19,000 rpm limit, is a bit of a mystery. With minimum requirements likely to be imposed on engine life, using satellite teams as a testbed for the impact that rev limits would have on engine life would seem to be a sensible step. Granted, HRC's image may be negatively affected, as the company could be seen to be forcing the satellite teams to accept a disadvantage when it comes to the races. But launching a full-scale chase for the loose lips which sunk HRC's ship merely makes the situation a good deal worse. And is more likely to encourage further outbreaks of leaking than prevent it.

Back to top

Bautista To Take Pedrosa's Seat In 2010?

For three years now, Dani Pedrosa has been Spain's Great White Hope, and the man that they have placed their hopes on to take only the second MotoGP championship for the country which is obsessed with the sport. And for the past three years, the hope that springs in Iberian hearts has been cruelly dashed, as Pedrosa has confirmed his status as a brilliantly talented rider who finds it immensely difficult to consistently win races.

There have been very good reasons that Pedrosa's ambitions have been thwarted: 2006 was his rookie season, and expecting a title that early is too much to ask; in 2007, the Spaniard faced an incredible Casey Stoner with a severely underdeveloped Honda RC212V; then last year, Pedrosa had to face one of the greatest riders of all time as he rode one of his finest seasons of all time. All entirely understandable, and no one can underestimate the size of the task he has ahead if he is to take the title in 2009.

But it appears that it is not just the Spanish MotoGP fans who are growing tired of waiting. More worryingly, Pedrosa's employer is starting to lose patience with the Spaniard as well. There had been paddock rumors that Pedrosa's position was no longer set in granite as early as the middle of last year. And these rumors started to gain ground after HRC signed the talented Italian Andrea Dovizioso as Pedrosa's team mate, against the express wishes of Alberto Puig.

Back to top

Pages

Subscribe to MotoMatters.com | Kropotkin Thinks  RSS