Last-Minute Bailout Fails, Single Tire Rule Comes To MotoGP

After all the speculation, machinations and backroom dealing, the deed is finally done. This morning, 9am Japanese time, the Grand Prix Commission, the body in which teams, manufacturers and organizers decide on the rules which goverrn MotoGP, decided unanimously to switch the series to a single tire supplier. The Commission issued a timetable for the switch, which requires proposals from tire manufacturers to be submitted by October 3rd, the Friday of the Phillip Island Grand Prix, with a decision on those proposals from the Grand Prix Commission due on October 18th.

Michelin has already announced that they are considering submitting a proposal, and Dunlop Racing's Jeremy Ferguson told Eurosport commentators Toby Moody and Julian Ryder during the broadcast of the 250cc race that Dunlop was not interested in being the supplier for the MotoGP series. However, the favorite to get the contract is Bridgestone, as any other outcome would be unpalatable for the big name riders who have publicly switched to the Japanese tires in recent years.

The change will also mean the end of qualifying tires. With the FIM and Dorna effectively having control over the supply of tires, they will be able to restrict the types of tires available, and ensure that soft tires which only last a single lap will not be made available to the teams. According to Ezpeleta, the qualifying format will stay as it is, a single, hour-long session on Saturday, but qualification will be done on race tires.

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2008 Motegi MotoGP Warmup Results - Rossi Under Lap Record, Pedrosa And Stoner Close

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
146Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'47.263  
22Dani PEDROSAHONDA1'47.5870.3240.324
31Casey STONERDUCATI1'47.9130.6500.326
448Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA1'48.1420.8790.229
521John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'48.1750.9120.033
65Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'48.2040.9410.029
756Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'48.2540.9910.050
833Marco MELANDRIDUCATI1'48.3831.1200.129
969Nicky HAYDENHONDA1'48.4231.1600.040
104Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA1'48.4951.2320.072
117Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'48.4961.2330.001
1250Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI1'48.6001.3370.104
1365Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'48.6261.3630.026
1452James TOSELANDYAMAHA1'48.8471.5840.221
1515Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'49.0231.7600.176
1614Randy DE PUNIETHONDA1'49.0271.7640.004
1713Anthony WESTKAWASAKI1'49.7102.4470.683
1824Toni ELIASDUCATI1'49.8592.5960.149
1964Kousuke AKIYOSHISUZUKI1'51.5504.2871.691

 
Circuit records:

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2008 Motegi Qualifying Report

Since the damp start to the race weekend on Friday morning, the weather at Motegi has cleared up nicely, and Saturday's qualifying practice session started under warm sunshine and with a hot track. Fortunately for the riders, they had already had two dry sessions to work on their dry setups, and the fastest laps were soon coming thick and fast.

As we have come to expect, Casey Stoner quickly shot to the top of the timesheets, taking fastest lap on his very first complete lap, but he was pushing a little harder than the bike was up to. As he braked for the hairpin on his 3rd lap, Stoner overcooked it, and ran off the track into the gravel. He quickly rejoined, and was back up to speed within a couple of laps.

For the first 8 minutes, the fastest time changed relentlessly, with Randy de Puniet, Shinya Nakano and Valentino Rossi chipping away at the lead to get into the low 1'48s. But once Rossi hit his stride, he took a much firmer grasp of the lead, setting a lap of 1'47.581, and going on to circulate in the 1'47.7 bracket.

After his initial off-track excursion, Stoner soon joined Rossi in the 1'47s, along with Jorge Lorenzo, and with a quarter of the session gone, took over provisional pole with a 1'47.484. There was clearly nothing wrong with Stoner's race setup, but unusually, the Australian was not yet breaking lap record pace, a feat he has managed during practice almost effortlessly at almost every racetrack since Barcelona.

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Ducati To Switch To Michelin - Single Tire Proposal To Be Scrapped?

A crucial meeting is due to be held at Motegi on Saturday afternoon. During this meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, a proposal is to be submitted to allow only a single manufacturer to produced tires for MotoGP. Bridgestone is the favorite to be awarded the contract, which would end nearly 60 years of open competition in motorcycle racing's premier class. The general expectation is that the proposal will be adopted without too much argument.

Or at least, that was the general expectation up until a few hours ago. Now, Spanish television is reporting that Ducati, the team that has taken Bridgestone to its dominant position in the MotoGP paddock, is in talks with Michelin to supply tires to all 5 Ducatis expected to be on the grid for next year. The deal, if it were to come off, would immediately scupper any chances of a single tire proposal being pushed through, and blow the tire war wide open again.

At first glance, the proposal may seem to be beyond bizarre: Why would a company who have built up such an incredible record of success with Bridgestone suddenly dump the tire company who helped them to win world title this year, and whose tires are certain to win the championship again in 2008? What's more, why drop what is considered to be one of the key ingredients in the magic recipe that has turned Casey Stoner from being a fast kid with a tendency to crash to arguably the most dominant rider in MotoGP?

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2008 Motegi FP3 Times Day 2 - Stoner Fastest, Lorenzo Close

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
11Casey STONERDUCATI1'47.357  
248Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA1'47.5210.1640.164
346Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'47.7920.4350.271
42Dani PEDROSAHONDA1'47.8160.4590.024
569Nicky HAYDENHONDA1'47.8810.5240.065
665Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'47.9750.6180.094
75Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'48.1100.7530.135
814Randy DE PUNIETHONDA1'48.1200.7630.010
956Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'48.2960.9390.176
1050Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI1'48.3330.9760.037
114Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA1'48.4361.0790.103
1221John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'48.4711.1140.035
1324Toni ELIASDUCATI1'48.5221.1650.051
147Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'48.6811.3240.159
1533Marco MELANDRIDUCATI1'48.8821.5250.201
1615Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'49.0201.6630.138
1752James TOSELANDYAMAHA1'49.0611.7040.041
1813Anthony WESTKAWASAKI1'50.1572.8001.096
1964Kousuke AKIYOSHISUZUKI1'50.3062.9490.149

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It's Official - Dovizioso To Repsol Honda, Takahashi To Scot Honda, JiR Out

After Nicky Hayden's less than surprising switch to Ducati, the 2nd worst kept secret in MotoGP was announced at Motegi today. HRC formally announced that Andrea Dovizioso will be heading to Repsol Honda as Hayden's replacement. The Italian rookie has made a big impression since arriving in MotoGP, and his long-standing relationship with Honda, including struggling to compete with the much faster Aprilia's in the 250 class, made him a racing certainty for the Repsol Honda seat.

The devil of such a deal is, as always, in the details. Dovizioso signed a one-year deal with Repsol, in itself a rarity, as the factory team has preferred to work on a two-year cycle with riders. But Dovizioso's biggest challenge will be sharing the pits with Dani Pedrosa. With the full weight of the team's Spanish sponsor behind him, as well as a competent political operator at his side, Pedrosa has had most of the attention from HRC over the past two years, even going so far as to engineer a switch to Bridgestone tires in mid-season, breaking up a long-standing relationship which HRC has had with Michelin.

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2008 Motegi FP2 Times Day 1 - Stoner Back On Top, Pedrosa Chasing

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
11Casey STONERDUCATI1'48.121  
22Dani PEDROSAHONDA1'48.1940.0730.073
346Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'48.5100.3890.316
44Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA1'48.7700.6490.260
565Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'48.7790.6580.009
650Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI1'48.7940.6730.015
769Nicky HAYDENHONDA1'48.8000.6790.006
833Marco MELANDRIDUCATI1'48.9450.8240.145
924Toni ELIASDUCATI1'48.9740.8530.029
1014Randy DE PUNIETHONDA1'49.1491.0280.175
1156Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'49.1901.0690.041
1221John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'49.1971.0760.007
135Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'49.3441.2230.147
1452James TOSELANDYAMAHA1'49.4241.3030.080
1548Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA1'49.5051.3840.081
167Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'49.6641.5430.159
1713Anthony WESTKAWASAKI1'50.1312.0100.467
1815Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'50.1582.0370.027
1964Kousuke AKIYOSHISUZUKI1'50.8792.7580.721

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2008 Motegi MotoGP Preview - Own The Racetrack

For the past few years, Suzuki has been using the slogan "Own The Racetrack" to market its legendary and long-running GSX-R sports bikes line. Of course, when they use the phrase "own the racetrack" they mean it in a metaphorical sense, of being the best bike out on the circuit, rather than the literal sense of actually paying money to own and operate a racing facility for your own personal use.

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Bridgestone Likely To Be MotoGP Single Tire Supplier For 2009

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.

One problem with the proposed switch was that Bridgestone, the tire company that the teams and riders preferred, had professed that they weren't interested in providing tires for the entire grid in MotoGP. This would have meant that though the riders would get the single tire that 17 out of 18 of the MotoGP regulars had backed, it would most likely be provided either by Michelin or by Dunlop.

Now, though, it appears that Bridgestone have finally caved in to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta's pressure. Motorcycle News is reporting that the Japanese tire maker have agreed to submit a tender for the MotoGP tire contract, after Bridgestone senior management met with Ezpeleta at the Valencia Formula 1 Grand Prix.

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No Honda For JIR and Spies, Bike Goes To Scot And Takahashi Instead

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.

Though JIR held all the paperwork and contracts, the team had been heading ever more rapidly downhill since they switched from Bridgestone tires to Michelins in 2005, eventually fatally injuring the careers of Makoto Tamada and Shinya Nakano. By joining forces with Team Scot, who have been immensely successful in the 250 and 125 classes despite riding seriously underpowered Hondas, and fielding the extremely talented Andrea Dovizioso, the team had been transformed, with Dovi currently standing 5th in the championship, and the team not far behind the Gresini and Alice teams in the team standings, despite scoring points with only one rider.

So the decision was always likely to come down to Honda's view of the future of the team. JIR's track record of running and managing a team was patchy at best, and though Luca Montiron was rumored to have an option on triple AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies, he looked to have the weaker hand.

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Sylvain Guintoli Spotted Testing Haga's World Superbike Yamaha

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.

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Single Tire Rule To Be Announced At Motegi?

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.

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Checa To Return On Third Kawasaki?

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.

The Valencian team manager - who played a pivotal role in bringing F1 to the streets of his home town - really needs a prominent Spanish rider for the extra factory Kawasaki bike he is to field. He had hoped to announce both rider and official confirmation from Kawasaki at Motegi next weekend, but with Elias out of the equation, Aspar has been forced to seek other alternatives.

After the compulsory mention of Max Biaggi, now signed to Aprilia in World Superbikes, the Spanish press' current favorite to ride for the team is hoary veteran Carlos Checa. After a mediocre year aboard the LCR Honda, Checa made the switch to World Superbikes, joining the Ten Kate Honda team. Checa's move has been relatively successful, getting a double win in Utah, and running close to the top of the title chase, though still a country mile behind Troy Bayliss, the man who continues to dominate World Superbikes in his final year.

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