Another piece of the MotoGP puzzle fell into place today, with the news that Randy de Puniet has signed a deal with LCR Honda for two years. The move is something of a surprise, as the Kawasaki has been very impressive this year, in stark contrast to the Hondas, and especially the satellite bikes run by teams such as LCR.
The MotoGP paddock has spent a long time waiting for Dani Pedrosa to finally sign the new contract which HRC have waiting for him. It was thought that much of the delay was due to disagreements about the length of the contract, with HRC wanting Pedrosa to sign for 3 years, while Pedrosa only wanted to extend for a single year. With Pedrosa's displeasure with HRC becoming ever more public, delaying signing the contract seemed understandable, but rather pointless. After all, where, realistically, could Pedrosa go?
Testing continued at Brno on Tuesday, though it got off to a very slow start due to the rain that had fallen overnight. If there's one man that isn't afraid of the rain, it's Anthony West, and so the Australian Kawasaki rider was the first out on the slowly drying track. Once the track dried sufficiently, he was joined by 13 other riders who had stayed on to test. West also spent some time testing qualifying tires, as this was his first opportunity to test the qualifiers outside of an actual qualifying session.
The paddock is awash with rumors at Brno, and one of the most stubborn is not about riders or bikes, but about tires. With Michelin so far failing very publicly to come to terms with the new tire rules, the balance of power has shifted as far as tires are concerned, from Michelin to Bridgestone. The demise of the overnight tire shipment has removed what has turned out to be the sole advantage for Michelin, and more and more teams are looking to switch to winning rubber.
Ever since the news broke that 250cc World Champion Jorge Lorenzo would be moving to MotoGP with Yamaha, there had been intense speculation about how the young Spaniard's role would be fit into the Yamaha team. Normally, the matter would be settled quite simply, as a young and promising rookie would be slotted in as the junior rider with the seasoned veteran, but in Lorenzo's case, this required a little more tact.
Since the signing of John Hopkins punched a huge hole in Kawasaki's rider budget, speculation has been rife about who would join the American in the Kawasaki garage in 2008. There had been whispers that Monster Energy, Hopkins' personal sponsor and sponsor for most of Kawasakis motorsports activity in the USA, would become the title sponsor for Kawasaki, bringing a substantial sum to the table and enabling Team Green to possibly sign another big name, and maybe even field a third bike.
|1||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||1'56.901|
|2||John Hopkins||Rizla Suzuki||1'57.66|
|3||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki||1'58.42|
|4||Nicky Hayden||Repsol Honda||1'58.425|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||1'58.55|
|6||Loris Capirossi||Ducati Marlboro||1'58.767|
|7||Randy de Puniet||Kawasaki Racing|
Kawasaki have just issued a press release announcing that Japanse Superbike veteran Akira Yanagawa will make an appearance at the Pacific Grand Prix at Motegi in Japan as a wild card rider. Yanagawa is currently leading the All Japan Superbike Championship riding a Kawasaki ZX-RR, and has an almost legendary status in the world of Superbikes, having helped develop the ZX7R in the late 1990s, and becoming the first Japanese rider to win a World Superbike race outside of Japan.
For many years now, the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic at Brno has been a turning point, a fulcrum around which the fates and fortunes of all those involved in MotoGP pivot. Its singular position has much to do with the race's place in the MotoGP calendar, coming as it does at the end of the long summer break. Despite the fact that already, well over half the races have been run, Brno is regarded as the midpoint of the MotoGP year, and signals the start of the second half of the season.
With the key players in the MotoGP rider market having made their moves, for the most part, the major logjams have been removed, and the rush to fill the remaining seats can start to hot up. Motorcycle News is carrying reports of one such move: Matthew Birt is reporting that Sylvain Guintoli has signed a pre-contract with Pramac d'Antin.
While many sports wage pitched battles with Youtube over content hosted on the video sharing website, Dorna, the rights owners for the MotoGP series, have understood that that's a battle that no one is capable of winning, and so has decided to embrace the technology, rather than try and control it. They today announced the launch of the Youtube MotoGP channel, hosting much of the content previously placed on the MotoGP.com website.
With 3 of the 4 Yamaha seats for 2008 already filled, the only question remaining was who would ride the 4th Yamaha next year. With Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo taking the official factory Yamaha seats, and James Toseland signing for Tech 3 Yamaha, the list for the final Tech 3 seat seemed terribly long.
When qualifying practice started at Brno this afternoon, there was never any doubt about the outcome. Casey Stoner had dominated every single session of practice so far, despite finishing behind Sylvain Guintoli in yesterday's second free practice session, and the expectation was that the young Australian would come out on his Ducati and lay waste to the opposition, just as he has done all season. But Stoner's plan started to go awry from his very first lap.
What we feared earlier today has now been confirmed: Marco Melandri will take no further part in the Czech Grand Prix at Brno, as a result of the pain and weakness he is suffering caused by the neck injury he sustained at Laguna Seca. Despite intense treatment, including a series of injections and magnetic therapy, Melandri is still in too much pain to ride due to a herniated disk.
The Italian will now concentrate on recovering in time for the next round at Misano, just 50 miles from his hometown of Ravenna, Italy.