Aspar Close To Deal With Kawasaki For 2009

With so few bikes on the grid, you would think it would be relatively easy to get into MotoGP. All it would really take is a sponsor with deep enough pockets to fund a bike, a decent rider and the team - with the costs for the team probably being the least significant part of the entire package. But the saga of Jorge Martinez tells quite a different tale.

Jorge Aspar Martinez, the owner of the Aspar team which dominates both the 125cc and the 250cc classes, has been trying to get into MotoGP for quite some time now. At the end of last year, Martinez seemed to have the whole deal sewn up: Suzuki would provide him with a factory machine, and either Ben Spies or Alvaro Bautista would ride it. It was just a matter of tidying up a few loose ends, and preparing for 2009.

It didn't quite work out that way, though. Suzuki's interest in providing a bike quickly cooled, after the Rizla Suzuki team failed to continue the progression they had shown in 2007, leaving Aspar without a bike. Aspar then turned to Ducati for equipment, but rumors emerged in the Spanish press that though Ducati appeared to be willing, Alvaro Bautista, the man Aspar wanted on the bike, had refused point blank to ride a Ducati, pointing to the examples of Marco Melandri, Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli. Discussions with Yamaha were also held, but proved fruitless.

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2008 Brno Warmup Times Day 3 - Stoner Fastest Again

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
11Casey STONERDUCATI1'57.204  
246Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'57.6790.4750.475
37Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'59.1261.9221.447
450Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI1'59.1631.9590.037
524Toni ELIASDUCATI1'59.2102.0060.047
656Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'59.2882.0840.078
72Dani PEDROSAHONDA1'59.3342.1300.046
815Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'59.4222.2180.088
95Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'59.4952.2910.073
1021John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'59.5232.3190.028
1114Randy DE PUNIETHONDA1'59.6872.4830.164
1265Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'59.7152.5110.028
1333Marco MELANDRIDUCATI1'59.9732.7690.258
144Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA2'00.1482.9440.175
1513Anthony WESTKAWASAKI2'00.4523.2480.304
1648Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA2'00.6703.4660.218
1752James TOSELANDYAMAHA2'01.2294.0250.559

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Reminder: Brno MotoGP Round On CBS, Not Speed On Sunday

Just a quick reminder for all our US-based readers: The MotoGP race from Brno is due to be broadcast  by CBS on Sunday, not Speed. The race is due to be shown as a same-day delay broadcast at 2pm EDT. For more details, check your local CBS affiliate, or the TV Racer website.

Be sure to check your DVRs, and don't miss the race. It could well be another classic.

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Riders Meeting To Discuss Safety - And Single Tire Rule?

Some unusual reports are coming out of Brno this evening. On Friday evening, there was a scheduled meeting of the riders' safety comission, but at that meeting, Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi arranged for another meeting, between all 17 of the current MotoGP riders and the CEO of Dorna, Carmelo Ezpeleta. The subject of that meeting was the dangers presented by the rapidly increasing corner speeds in MotoGP, and ideas were presented and discussed to tackle the problem.

Or at least, that's the official version, according to MotoGP.com, the website owned and operated by Dorna, the organizers of the MotoGP series. Respected motorcycle racing journalist Julian Ryder, however, is reporting over on Superbikeplanet.com that the main idea discussed was the institution of a single tire rule.

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De Angelis To JiR, Spies To Gresini, Takahashi To Team Scot?

The announcement that Team Scot and the JiR team of Luca Montiron were to split up has raised questions in the paddock about what effect this will have on the size of the grid, and how the spoils would be divided. It was generally assumed that Montiron's role in MotoGP was finished, and that Team Scot, having turned the worst team in the paddock into a model of efficiency, would stay in MotoGP, most likely with Yuki Takahashi, their current 250cc rider, taking the seat Andrea Dovizioso will vacate when he leaves for Repsol Honda.

But in an interview with GPOne.com's Alberto Cani, Montiron claimed that he will have a Honda, a title sponsor, and either Alex de Angelis or Nicky Hayden as a rider for next year. Montiron told GPOne.com that he has already presented his plans to Honda, and that these plans would include a big-name rider. Montiron confirmed that Alex de Angelis is one of the riders he is interested in. The other "big name " is believed to be Nicky Hayden, but Hayden is almost certain to sign with Ducati for 2009.

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2008 Brno Qualifying Practice Report

At the end of the first day of practice at Brno, it was clear that there were two men a long way clear of the rest of the field. Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi were over half a second ahead of the man in 3rd, and the only riders capable of cracking into the 1'57s. The timing sheets seemed to tell a fairly clear-cut story of two fast men, a pack of riders all very close to each other, and another disastrous failure by Michelin. The grid seemed to be shaping up nicely.

The problem was, Saturday's weather threw not so much a fly as a whale into the ointment, after a storm front unleashed torrential rain over the Czech track, leaving the circuit completely drenched, though still ridable. With more rain coming in during the day, the grid was going to reflect a slightly different reality than Friday's practice had revealed, and confusing the picture even more, the forecast for Sunday is for the usual warm, bone dry conditions we have come to expect from Brno over the years.

During the morning's free practice session, Casey Stoner had already proved quite emphatically that he is probably the best wet-weather rider in the world, by stomping all over the competition. And as qualifying started in a light drizzle, he continued in the same vein. On just his 2nd flying lap, the Australian took a 5 second lead over the rest of the field, leaving his rivals gasping for breath.

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2008 Brno FP3 Times Day 2 - Casey Stoner Dominates In Difficult Conditions

Casey Stoner was quickest once again in damp and miserable conditions. Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen was the only man to get close, though still over half a second down. Valentino Rossi was well off the pace for much of the session, only leaping into the top 5 in the last few minutes of the session.

The Michelins continue to struggle. First Michelin rider is Dani Pedrosa in 8th, and Michelin shod men are propping up the bottom of the table.

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2008 Brno FP2 Times Day 1 - Casey Stoner Back In Charge, And On Record Pace

Casey Stoner took revenge in this afternoon's session of free practice, taking back the top spot that Valentino Rossi had taken in the morning. Stoner was quickest all session, taking a comfortable lead of well over half a second at one point. But on his last couple of laps, Rossi clawed back some time, getting to within 2/10ths of a second. It's hard to say at the moment, but it looks like Rossi is at least close to Stoner's pace. it was clear that Stoner was really pushing, though, as the Australian ran off track, and was forced to get off his Ducati to get the bike facing in the right direction.

Stoner wasn't the only rider to have off-track excursions. Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis, John Hopkins and James Toseland all suffered crashes.  Toseland's was at very slow speed, tipping over in the gravel, but de Puniet managed to crash twice in the 60 minute session.

The Bridgestone's dominated once again, taking the top 6, and 9 of the top 10 places. Only Colin Edwards seemed to have some pace, at one point cracking into the top 3. After the drama at the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca, Michelin look to be in for a third disaster in a row, despite having tested on the new surface in June.

While Stoner and Rossi dominated, the good news for the rest of the field is that they managed to closte the gap. From over a second down, the rider in 3rd place is now just over three quarters of a second off Casey Stoner's pace. But that's still a long way from closing the gap.

Practice continues tomorrow, but the forecast is for cold, wet conditions, so the data is unlikely to be any use for the race on Sunday, which is expected to be warm and dry.

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
11Casey STONERDUCATI1'57.231  
246Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'57.4100.1790.179
365Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'58.0000.7690.590
456Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'58.2280.9970.228
515Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'58.2641.0330.036
67Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'58.4621.2310.198
75Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'58.6721.4410.210
821John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'58.8301.5990.158
924Toni ELIASDUCATI1'58.8811.6500.051
1050Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI1'58.9231.6920.042
1148Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA1'58.9771.7460.054
124Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA1'59.0941.8630.117
1352James TOSELANDYAMAHA1'59.3282.0970.234
1414Randy DE PUNIETHONDA1'59.4052.1740.077
1533Marco MELANDRIDUCATI1'59.9432.7120.538
162Dani PEDROSAHONDA2'00.5403.3090.597
1713Anthony WESTKAWASAKI2'00.6213.3900.081

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2008 Brno FP1 Times Day 1 - Rossi Pips Stoner To The Post

 Both Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner are well under lap record pace, and over a second faster than the rest of the field. So far, it looks like Michelin got it badly wrong again, with Colin Edwards the first non-Bridgestone runner down in 9th place. Dani Pedrosa is clearly not fully recovered, and bringing up the rear of the field. Practice continues this afternoon.

Pos.No.RiderManufacturerFast LapDiffDiff Previous
146Valentino ROSSIYAMAHA1'57.782  
21Casey STONERDUCATI1'57.9110.1290.129
356Shinya NAKANOHONDA1'59.0211.2391.110
415Alex DE ANGELISHONDA1'59.1341.3520.113
521John HOPKINSKAWASAKI1'59.2201.4380.086
67Chris VERMEULENSUZUKI1'59.4001.6180.180
724Toni ELIASDUCATI1'59.7561.9740.356
865Loris CAPIROSSISUZUKI1'59.7701.9880.014
95Colin EDWARDSYAMAHA1'59.9652.1830.195
1033Marco MELANDRIDUCATI2'00.0822.3000.117
1150Sylvain GUINTOLIDUCATI2'00.0832.3010.001
124Andrea DOVIZIOSOHONDA2'00.4292.6470.346
1348Jorge LORENZOYAMAHA2'00.4472.6650.018
1414Randy DE PUNIETHONDA2'00.4962.7140.049
1552James TOSELANDYAMAHA2'01.0743.2920.578
1613Anthony WESTKAWASAKI2'01.1283.3460.054
172Dani PEDROSAHONDA2'01.2313.4490.103

 

Circuit records:

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Rossi To Test Engine Upgrade During FP1 At Brno

At the previous MotoGP race at Laguna Seca, Valentino Rossi unveiled his strategy for dealing with the relentless pace of Casey Stoner: Get in front of the Ducati, and get in Stoner's way. Those tactics worked beyond expectation at Laguna, but part of that was down to the nature of the narrow, twisty California track. Back in Europe, on wider, faster tracks, it's going to be a good deal more difficult to apply the same strategy.

To do that, Rossi would need more horsepower from his Yamaha M1, to allow him to keep up with Stoner on the straights and attempt to pass him on the brakes again into the corners. The Italian was due to test new electronics for the bike at the post-race tests on Monday and Tuesday, which may be able to help in this area.

Now, in a tacit admission by Yamaha that Rossi's Laguna Seca tactics are going to be tough to apply at the fast and wide Brno, MCN is reporting that Rossi will test the upgraded electronics during Friday morning's FP1 session. According to MCN, the revised electronics are aimed at improving the traction control system and allowing the engine to turn more revs.

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Ant West: I'd Sack Me If I Was Kawasaki

Despite the romance and the glamor, life in motorcycle racing's premier series is a merciless existence. Just how tough it is is revealed in an interview MCN's Matthew Birt did with Ant West, in which West reveals his exasperation at his own form. In the interview, West concedes that if he was in charge at Kawasaki, he would probably sack himself, given his run of poor form since the beginning of the season. Kawasaki are expected to announce soon that West's contract will not be renewed for next year.

But finding a replacement will not be easy. Riders are hardly lining up for a shot on the Kawasaki ZXRR, especially after having watched John Hopkins slip from potential podium positions aboard the Suzuki to struggling to get into the top 10 on the Kawasaki. The only thing capable of tempting riders is money, and money is not something in abundant supply at Team Green, despite the Monster Energy sponsorship.

So West may yet get to stay in MotoGP. His main advantage is the fact that he is cheap, and the alternative for Kawasaki would be hiring another rider prepared to ride for pin money, in MotoGP terms. Until Kawasaki can improve the bike and get it running closer to the front, Kawasaki and West could yet be condemned to stick together.

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Nicky Hayden To Miss Brno MotoGP Round

Repsol Honda have just officially announced that Nicky Hayden will miss the Czech Grand Prix at Brno this weekend. The Kentuckian damaged his heel when he landed heavily after a jump during a Supermoto race at the X Games in Los Angeles on August 1st, and is still in a lot of pain.

Although the injury does not necessarily prevent Hayden from riding, racing at Brno could exacerbate the damage, leaving the American with problems for the rest of the season. Citing the examples of other riders who have ridden with injuries only to make their problems worse, Hayden said he would prefer to concentrate on recovery rehab, and come back at Misano fit, and try to finish the season well.

Hayden apologized to his team, especially after having received special permission to take part in the race at the X Games. "I just wanted to do some riding during the break, have some fun and I thought that maybe it'd give me a little spark for the rest of the season, but it backfired on me," he stated in the press release.

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Yet More Of Jules Cisek's Laguna Seca Photos

No need for an introduction this time, just straight into more of Jules Cisek's fabulous photographs from Laguna Seca.

Typical Californian weather: foggy and cold

Laguna Seca MotoGP

 

You know you're in trouble when you have to use intermediates in the dry

Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca on intermediates

 

Of course, if you had Bridgestones, the conditions didn't bother you

Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca 

Dean

Alex de Angelis, Qualifying, Laguna Seca

 

Laguna's front straight, not long, but still fast

Valentino Rossi, Laguna Seca, Qualifying

 

 

Not so much Elbowz as Kneez

Ben Spies, Laguna Seca, Qualifying

 

The edge of the world

Casey Stoner, Warmup, Laguna Seca

 

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