Suzuki Close To Deal With Capirossi And Vermeulen

Another couple of pieces in the MotoGP rider merry-go-round may be finalized this weekend. According to reports over at Motorcycle News, Suzuki is likely to extend Loris Capirossi's deal this weekend, and is close to renegotiating a deal with Chris Vermeulen. Capirossi is likely to be the first deal to be officially announced, as Paul Denning, Rizla Suzuki's team manager, told MCN "to all intents and purposes Suzuki and Loris want to move forward," which could mean an announcement could be made this weekend in Italy.

Vermeulen's case is a little more complex. Both the Rizla Suzuki team and Vermeulen himself are keen to continue the relationship, but after Vermeulen fell short of a performance requirement which would have guaranteed a new deal, Suzuki in Hamamatsu, Japan and Vermeulen have been haggling over financial terms. Reports say that Suzuki has offered Vermeulen less than half his current salary, something which Vermeulen is understandably unhappy with. But Vermeulen is known to be very keen on staying in MotoGP, despite having several options in World Superbikes next year, reportedly including an offer of the factory Ducati. As a result, Vermeulen may be looking at accepting the pay cut, but seeking an improved package of performance-related bonuses.

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Silly Season Rumors Into Overdrive: Dovizioso To Suzuki, Spies To JIR, Vermeulen To WSBK

There are points during the year when the so-called silly season - the period during which contract negotiations hot up and rumors about who will be riding wear start circulating furiously - becomes so febrile that it becomes hard to tell where insider gossip ends and psychedelic speculation begins. At these times - usually shortly after the summer break, and once a major name has switched rides, freeing up the rest of the market to move - speculation about who will go where ceases to be an educated guessing game of which riders would be the best match with which teams, and becomes more like just linking every possible rider with every team with a possible empty seat, in the hope of getting it right thanks solely to the laws of statistics. Consequently, during these periods the silly season is not so much silly as just plain ridiculous.

Now appears to be such a time. Once Marco Melandri officially announced that he would be leaving Ducati, and then confirmed he would be riding for Kawasaki, the rest of the market seemed to fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Nicky Hayden would go to Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso would go to Repsol Honda, and if Suzuki kept both their riders, then Ben Spies would go to Gresini Honda, courtesy of American Honda.

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Ducati On Spies: "He Wants Too Much Money"

Earlier today, we reported on rumors that Ben Spies was in the frame for the Factory Ducati ride in World Superbikes. We also mentioned that there was one problem standing in the way of a Spies - Ducati World Superbike deal, and that was Ducati's need to have an Italian rider on the team.

Well, it seems there is another, more serious problem, and one that seems to be a factor in every deal that Spies is linked with: the question of money. Like many of the riders in the AMA Superbike championship, Spies is extremely well paid. Like those riders, though, Spies is also aware that though an AMA title is nice, it doesn't have the status or the standing of a world championship. If Spies wants to know how he measures up against the rest of the world, he will have to head to Europe to ride in a series with a world title at stake.

And here's where the two desires clash: When Spies tells the teams who are interested in him as a rider how much money he needs as a base salary, they lose interest in him quicker than a teenage boy who has just spotted an oversized adam's apple. His reputed wage claim of US$ 2 million is bigger than anyone else in World Superbikes, and matches - and probably beats - most of the factory riders in MotoGP. For a rookie coming into a series, that's just way too much to be asking.

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Spies Eyes A Factory Ducati - But In World Superbikes

At the beginning of this season, it all seemed pretty clear: In 2009, Ben Spies would be riding a Suzuki in MotoGP. Right now, two-thirds of the way in to the series, that early certainty has all but disappeared. For a number of reasons, most of which involve money in one form or another, the chances of American MotoGP fans seeing Ben Spies on a Rizla Suzuki next year have all but disappeared.

That leaves Spies in a quandary. The Texan does still have options in MotoGP, but these would not be in a factory team, leaving him waiting for important upgrades if the bike turns out not to be competitive. And with Spies' best MotoGP option currently with Gresini Honda, that is a bigger risk than it may seem. Ever since the switch to the 800cc formula, which Honda were expected to dominate, Honda riders - factory and satellite alike - have struggled, with only Dani Pedrosa capable of being truly competitive aboard the RC212V.

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Michelin "Surprised" At Factory RC212V For Nakano

When HRC announced that they were to give the factory RC212V to a satellite team to test, very few people were surprised. Well behind in the points race, Dani Pedrosa needs all the help he can get . What did surprise almost everyone, however, was the fact that the bike was given not to Andrea Dovizioso, the rookie who has been most impressive on the satellite bike, and leads the satellite Hondas in the championship table, but Gresini Honda's Shinya Nakano.

Nakano has been mostly anonymous so far this year, riding around in the middle of the pack for the most part. The decision seemed at the very least, a little strange. HRC themselves stated that Nakano had been given the bike because he was Japanese, and he would be able to communicate with HRC's engineers in their native language.

Cynics and conspiracy theorists had another explanation. Pointing to Nakano's Bridgestone tires, they said it was a sign that the official Repsol Honda factory team is preparing a switch to Bridgestones for next year, after two years of problems with their current tire suppliers, Michelin. After all, the cynics said, both Dovizioso and the HRC engineers speak excellent English, and are used to working with riders for whom English is not their first language.

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Hi-Res Laguna Seca Desktops Added

The desktop images of Scott Jones' great Laguna Seca photos have proved very popular indeed. So popular, in fact, that we received requests for higher resolution versions of those desktops. Scott was very quick to oblige, but unfortunately, I wasn't as quick, and so it took me a while to get the desktops up.

But finally, here they are. The images are now available in the following resolutions: 1400x1050, 1280x1024, 1280x800 and 1024x768. One of those resolutions should fit your desktop. Here's the one gracing mine:

Laguna Seca Corkscrew

 

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Ducati - Hayden Deal Close, Pramac Offers For Canepa And Simoncelli

By now, the only MotoGP fans who might have missed the fact that Nicky Hayden is likely to sign for Ducati for next year can only have been stuck in the depths of the Amazon jungle for the past 6 months. But the chasm that yawns between the probable and the actual remains as wide as ever, and until the official announcement is made, the deal cannot be taken as done.

An interview with Ducati team boss Livio Suppo over on Speed TV appears to bring the probable more firmly into the realm of the real. Suppo spoke of his admiration for Hayden, and especially the American's attitude to racing. Suppo was particularly impressed by the American's maturity and consistency, and believes that Hayden would be an excellent team mate for Casey Stoner. Suppo told Speed's Colin Young that Ducati expected to announce their plans at the end of the month, which means that an announcement will probably be made at the Misano MotoGP round, just a few miles from Ducati's home base in Bologna.

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2008 Brno Post-Race Test - Day 2 Times - Stoner Shatters Lap Record

Testing concluded at Brno today, under hot and sunny skies. Only 11 riders took to the track, all of the Hondas except Shinya Nakano having left, feeling they would learn nothing as a result of not having tires they could use. Dani Pedrosa had left very early on Monday, having gone out for just 5 laps. The message from HRC to Michelin was pretty clear, as Nakano, the only Honda, was running on Bridgestones.

Casey Stoner completely destroyed the lap records, running full second under his pole record from last year on some experimental qualifiers from Bridgestone. But more impressive than that was a sequence of 5 laps Stoner set on race tires, 4 of which were in the low 1'56s, with one incredible lap of 1'55.904. Stoner commented afterwards that they had once again found some improvements in setup. The competition can only hope the jump for Ducati is not as large as it was the last time round they tested, after Barcelona. Stoner went on to win the next three races in a row after that test.

Stoner wasn't the only rider to improve. Valentino Rossi tested more new electronics, and improved his times to get into the mid 1'56s. Rossi's team mate Jorge Lorenzo was the best of the Michelin runners, shaving 1.3 seconds off his best time of the weekend.

Full times for Day 2 of testing, courtesy of GPOne.com

1Casey StonerDucati1'55.85540 laps
2Valentino RossiYamaha1'56.61331 laps
3Loris CapirossiSuzuki1'57.13230 laps
4Chris VermeulenSuzuki1'57.48317 laps
5Shinya NakanoHonda1'57.55927 laps
6Jorge LorenzoYamaha1'57.60027 laps
7Niccolo CanepaDucati1'57.63929 laps
8James ToselandYamaha1'58.00737 laps
9Olivier JacqueKawasaki1'58.48314 laps
10Marco MelandriDucati1'58.9276 laps
11Ant WestKawasaki1'59.01038 laps

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Melandri To Sign For Kawasaki For 2009

After Marco Melandri announced that he and Ducati had agreed to drop the second year of his two year contract, after a disastrous year on the GP8, speculation abounded about where Melandri would now end up. The most obvious option seemed to be Gresini Honda: Melandri and Gresini had split on relatively amicable terms, and Melandri had proved in the past that he knew how to ride the Honda - at least, once Honda fixed the dismal satellite RC212V.

But a return to Gresini is not to be. According to MCN's Matthew Birt, Marco Melandri has agreed terms with Kawasaki for 2009. There had been rumors that Melandri would make the switch mid-season, if Ducati decided to drop Melandri early, but after signs of improvement over the past couple of races, Melandri raced for Ducati at Brno, and is now almost certain to finish up the season with the team.

Melandri's main motivation for the switch to Kawasaki is that the Italian would rather stay with a factory team, to ensure he has more input into the development of the bike. His previous experience at Gresini left him occasionally frustrated, forced to wait for developments from the factory to be made available once they'd fixed their own riders' problems.

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2008 Brno Post-Race Test - Day 1 Times

Times set during the post-race test at Brno, courtesy of GPOne.com:

Final times. Stoner's lap was set on a race tire, and just 0.1 seconds shy of the pole record held by Valentino Rossi.

1Casey StonerDucati1'56.26152 laps
2Valentino RossiYamaha1'57.33228 laps
3Toni EliasDucati1'57.45749 laps
4Shinya NakanoHonda1'57.65233 laps
5Chris VermeulenSuzuki1'57.74279 laps
6Colin EdwardsYamaha1'57.74259 laps
7Alex de AngelisHonda1'57.82668 laps
8Sylvain GuintoliDucati1'57.85954 laps
9Jorge LorenzoYamaha1'57.97965 laps
10Loris CapirossiSuzuki1'58.17717 laps
11Niccolo CanepaDucati1'58.20460 laps
12Marco MelandriDucati1'58.32569 laps
13Randy de PunietHonda1'58.56856 laps
14Dani PedrosaHonda1'59.0675 laps
15Olivier JacqueKawasaki1'59.1308 laps
16Andrea DoviziosoHonda1'59.17221 laps
17James ToselandYamaha1'59.22845 laps
18John HopkinsKawasaki2'00.4144 laps
19Tady OkadaHonda2'00.73562 laps

Times as of 2pm local time

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Riders Ask For Five Changes To Improve Safety

Yesterday, we reported that all 17 current MotoGP riders had held a meeting to discuss safety with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. That meeting took place behind closed doors, and so the exact details of what was discussed were not made public, although it was an open secret that the riders had asked for a single tire rule.

Fortunately for us, the Spanish sports daily AS.com is very well connected, and has managed to find out just what the ideas were that the riders presented to Dorna. The riders had 5 proposals to improve safety:

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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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