Marco Simoncelli has continued his reign at the top in his first test of the year, certifying his dominance in the quarter-litre class.
The rumoured non-branded team that will take over Kawasaki’s entry in MotoGP this season is looking more likely by the minute. Sources have indicated that mechanics are being re-signed at the moment and the team will in-fact feature just Marco Melandri as expected. This leaves Californian John Hopkins out of a ride. We should have confirmation here in the next couple of weeks if everything is successfully pulled together. More information will likely come out during the official test coming up in Qatar on 1-3 March.
For those wondering about the Valencia 250cc tests, Marco Simoncelli has continued his reign at the top in his first test of the year, certifying his dominance in the quarter-litre class. It’s expected to be his last year in the category before he wants to move to MotoGP next year, so he will have to really make his mark if he stands a chance of getting factory equipment in the premier class.
It was Valentino Rossi’s birthday yesterday, which is hard to believe since we’ve watched him since he was a teenager in the 125cc ranks. Happy birthday, Vale! Here’s a pretty cool tribute to Valentino sent to us by Yamaha overnight:
Valentino Rossi turns 30 today, 16th February 2009. The Fiat Yamaha rider has had an immensely successful career to date, winning eight world championships, 97 races and becoming the most successful premier-class rider of all time. As he enters his 14th season in the world championship, his sixth with Yamaha, he is still the dominating force in the sport, having recaptured the title in typically exciting style last season.
Below is a collection of quotes from colleagues, fellow riders, family and a few of his more famous fans. Some are recollections of favourite moments with Valentino, whilst some are simply messages for him on the day he turns 30. All are different ways of saying ‘Happy Birthday, Valentino!’
Davide Brivio (Fiat Yamaha Team Manager)
“I don’t really have a favourite memory of Valentino, or at least it’s difficult to choose the ‘absolute best!’ The first one that comes to mind however is just after the Welkom race in 2004, his famous first MotoGP race with Yamaha. Before Valentino finally joined Yamaha, during one of the meetings the previous September, he said that he wanted to win his first race with Yamaha! This immediately created a lot of pressure for me and for Yamaha, but anyway I promised him that we would all try all our best. Honestly at that time I felt that it was going to be a very difficult thing to achieve! During the final few pre-season tests the chances of doing it began to look better and better, but in a race itself anything can happen. Incredibly, he won that race in Welkom and just after it, after the technical meeting had finished, we were alone in his changing room. Somebody had left a bottle of wine in the fridge and we opened it and raised a toast to that day way back in September, when he had first said that he wanted to win this race. “We did it!” I said to him. It was a very emotional moment for me because it was the moment we achieved our very first target together. Happy Birthday!”
Cesare Cremonini (Singer and friend)
“Vale is a fighter, but armed with a smile. I’ve never seen him lose his humanity, even in the most difficult moments. One time I found him making gags and jokes as if he was at home with friends, when in fact he had just a couple of minutes to go before a decisive race. While he was putting on his leathers, ready to go out and challenge the world, he transmitted a joy for life, listening to a song on his ipod. “Ciao Ragazzi! See you later!” He said. Then came a sweeping victory at the limits of possibility and a long night of partying together! Happy Birthday, Vale!”
Tom Cruise (Actor and Rossi Fan)
“Valentino, You are a true champion. You keep raising the bar, relentlessly pursuing the next race, the next challenge, the next championship. I also know that the victories don’t necessarily become easier. You have to dig deeper, work even harder, become more focused to overcome the distractions. That’s what you do. And I, like countless others, know that when you’re on that track anything is possible. It was my great pleasure to be there at Laguna Seca and see you take that victory. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it! You certainly don’t disappoint! Thank you for all the great races you have given us, and for all the great races yet to come. Happy Birthday.”
Daniel-Day Lewis (Actor and Rossi Fan)
“Every race, every win, every championship! Vale the kid in the portaloo is an old favourite, always irresistible in victory and gracious in defeat (not that he had to prove it very often!) But the all-time favourite memory for me would be him at Laguna Seca going inside Stoner through the dirt. Death or glory; the whole race an answer to those daft enough still to have a question. And to have shaken the hand of that man – that I won’t forget either.”
Aldo Drudi (Designer and Rossi Fan)
“Cattolica, August 1996, 2pm, very hot. I’m travelling by motorbike on a deserted road towards the sea, when a small and colourful outline appears from an intersection ahead, going very fast. A young boy on a scooter ‘closes’ the corner, accentuates the bend, runs around the pavement, straightens up and pulls a wheelie… he holds the wheelie on the aqua-green Zip for more than 200 metres, still on the gas. I accelerate and catch him up. The boy lets go of the left handlebar and lifts the left hand in a sign of victory. I recognise him and follow him. Finally he lowers the wheel and with his feet on the footrests he throws embraces and salutes all around the road to his imaginary fans. He notices me, right beside him, and smiles. Happy Birthday Vale!”
Colin Edwards (Team-mate 2005/06/07 and now Tech3 Yamaha rider)
“I have a few fond memories of Vale starting from 2000. Our 2002 victory at the Suzuka 8-Hour was something special, but I’d have to say my one memory that stands out is Laguna 2005. Basically, we were both healthy and fighting for every inch. I did have a slight advantage knowing the track since 1992. As I can recall, it was the first time we were together on track racing close; as most would confirm, he was usually ten seconds in front of me leading by this point in the race! Then he mounted a charge on the last two laps that came up just short…I was happy we didn’t have one more lap! Haha!!!! It’s not really a memory that I beat him, it’s more of a memory of racing side by side with what I consider “The Goat”, which translates as The Greatest Of All Time. Happy birthday, you old man!”
Carmelo Ezpeleta (CEO, Dorna Sports)
“My favourite “Valentino moment” is remembering the unique human quality that he showed after his battle with Nicky Hayden for the 2006 MotoGP Championship. It is very easy to behave like a champion when you win, but Rossi’s attitude after losing was admirable and impressive.”
Lin Jarvis (Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Racing)
“It’s difficult to think of a single moment but I guess one of the most memorable moments was during the 2003 season when Valentino had his first meeting with the Yamaha YZR-M1. We had started our secret discussions earlier that year for a possible future move to Yamaha. Vale said he wanted to have a real look at the Yamaha M1 bike so we agreed to organize a secret rendezvous in the paddock at the Donington GP. To keep it secret we arranged to meet on Saturday night in the Yamaha Factory Team pit box. After midnight Vale arrived in a dark parka jacket with the hood up. He looked like a burglar coming to steal our stuff! Once inside he greeted everybody there and introduced himself and then took his time to look at Carlos Checa’s M1 from every angle before asking our permission if he could sit on the bike. We were so surprised by his humility and modesty and even more surprised when he paid a complement to us by stating that it was “not so bad” after all. His attitude on that first night time meeting said a lot about the man. Since then I have seen a hundred more examples… Happy Birthday, Vale!”
Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team-mate, 2008/09)
“I want to say Happy Birthday to my team-mate Valentino. It is great for me to be racing with a legend like him, but maybe now he’s 30 he might slow down a little bit!”
Marco Materazzi (Inter Milan football player and friend)
“We met thanks to Inter, but we became friends thanks to motorbikes: our two great passions! Now the stadium and the circuit are occasions to be fans for one another and to try to bring good luck; you for me and I for you. But the moment in which we feel the truest friends is when we’re having dinner together at my house, sitting together at the same table. There we are just Marco and Valentino, two who for many reasons see life in the same way. Today I am just like you, when you put your number on to race it is the double of me when I put mine on to play, because I have 23! For your 30th I give you ‘double’ greetings. And one more special thing to remember, to succeed in keeping our ‘secret’ promise, the one which we can only tell when we’ve achieved it! Happy birthday Vale!”
Guido Meda (Italian TV commentator and friend)
“The end of testing, the slow-down lap. Valentino sees you from the track and goes to wave at you. It’s a quick movement and it seems trivial, but it’s a sign, a sign of how he focuses his attention; on the bike while he needs to, on the man when he can. He separates the moments, detaches them, changes and reasons. This is why everyone always wants him as their poster boy. The Valentino I know above all defeats what is normal while the legend grows. Now he turns 30, what can I say? As before, he still has his feet on the ground. He is ruthless and very much a perfectionist. He is easy-going and always curious with his own taste for an interesting life, but he is normal. After eight titles and 97 victories, I would like to be sure that I tell the story in the right way and, although the legend continues to grow, I can always find simple words.”
Stefania Palma (Mother)
“I have thought about what to tell you through the media for your 30th birthday… I could have dealt with sun, stars, mountains, love and happiness… but I feel it is more right to say, simply… HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
Carlo Pernat (Journalist and friend)
“How could I not love you, Valentino? The champions know exactly what they have to do, instinctively. I remember in 1997, when we were making your first TV advert. You had to endure a day with a fussy and long-winded director, who couldn’t finish and had to adjourn until the next day. You left and, with your friend Uccio you called to warn that you were already home at your house, and where you were staying also the next day! Straugurissimi, Legend!”
Wayne Rainey (World Champion with Yamaha 1990/91/92)
“Happy 30th birthday Valentino! I love to watch when the odds are against you, the battle is on. Your passion to win is visible and I respect that very much. 30 years old…life is just beginning for you!”
Kenny Roberts Senior (World Champions with Yamaha 1978/79/80)
“Valentino, when I first saw you ride at the ranch in Barcelona… I thought Kevin Schwantz was tall and skinny! You were very impressive then as you are now! Good luck and Happy Birthday!”
Graziano Rossi (Father)
“Simply… I would like to wish him to get to 40 without growing up anymore and then after 40… let’s see!”
Rino Salucci (Friend and president of official fan club)
“Am I asking too much if I ask for 30 more years of excitement? Well, I can live with half!
Uccio Salluci (Best friend)
“I hope that for the next 30 years Vale will be as fast as he has been in the previous 30 and that he gives us more passes and excitement like we had at Laguna Seca 2008. 30 more Corkscrews, Vale!”
Marco Simoncelli (250cc World Champion and friend)
“Happy Birthday, Bomber! Although you are now 30, try to give us as much excitement as you have given to us until you were 29! Auguri! Sic58”
Gigi Soldano (Official photographer and friend)
“I know that every time I work with him something different will happen once again. One more time his image is in front of my lens and once again I have a different feeling and taste to be working with him. His little wrinkles, his determined gaze with his piercing eyes, which look right through you if you are not quick to change the shot. We play a game and by now he knows what expression I want before I have even asked, just like a team-mate in a match. The expressions stay in my mind as memories. This is what having Vale in front of the camera means, every time. I am always happy that I have the good fortune to work with him. Today he is posing for me with a chocolate cake to celebrate his 30th birthday. I shoot it as simply as possible; It’s not necessary to have anything else to make it a unique shot. A white background is enough, and once again we relax into the ‘groove’. A song comes into my head: “When you have a sunny day in December, you can say that summer is already here! Congratulations, Vale!”
James Toseland (Tech3 Yamaha rider)
“30 is a big milestone for a racer because, even though you’re not really old as a person, you’re starting to be one of the older ones in professional racing and you start to feel that you can’t go on forever! I don’t think it’s a problem for Valentino however, he seems to still feel 25 so as long as that continues he’ll be just fine! Happy Birthday and have a great party!”
This year’s Superbike World Championship is kicking off at Phillip Island in just under two weeks time, so it may come as some surprise that the factory teams are at the scenic circuit already pounding out lap after lap. That’s right, World Superbike testing will be happening at the Island for the next five days straight as all the major teams complete their final preparations before the 2009 season begins.
The big news so far is that former Kawasaki MotoGP pilot John Hopkins is not at the circuit with Stiggy Motorsports Honda, but don’t be surprised if he turns up in SBK sooner or later if his MotoGP career isn’t saved by Dorna.
A number of private test sessions (not open to the public) will be held around the 4.448km circuit over the next six days, starting with Aprilia duo Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano on their Italian V-four machine and culminating with the remaining factory teams this weekend.
Other teams which will be testing early this week include Stiggy Motorsports Honda riders Leon Haslam and Roberto Rolfo, DFX Ducati with Frenchman Regis Laconi, and Aussie World Supersport contenders Mark Aitchison (Honda) and Anthony West (Stiggy Motorsport Honda). The Kawasaki Supersport team will also be finalising set-up on its all-new ZX-6R, which has already been extremely fast in the hands of Spaniard Joan Lascorz.
The big guns will be on track this weekend, including the Yamaha duo of Ben Spies and Tom Sykes, BMW’s Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus, Ducati’s Nori Haga and Michel Fabrizio, Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama, and the Ten Kate Hondas of Carlos Checa, Jonathan Rea and Ryuichi Kiyonari.
In Supersport, world champion Andrew Pitt will be joined by his Ten Kate Honda teammate Kenan Sofouglu, and Aussie hero Garry McCoy will also be finalising preparations on his updated Triumph Daytona 675.
All tests over the coming five days are closed to the public. If you are a fan and can’t wait to get some big bike action, your chance comes in just ten days when the opening round of the 2009 Superbike World Championship is staged at Australia’s Phillip Island from 27 February 27 to 1 March.
To get your tickets go to www.phillipislandcircuit.com.au/superbikes/index.html, or by calling the circuit on 1 300 728 007.
We revealed a few weeks ago that Honda’s Australian Superbike team would be testing at Phillip Island along with the World Superbike teams, and that is the case with Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell putting their Motologic-prepared CBR1000RRs through their paces amongst the WSBK racers. What’s the bet that the boys can challenge the international riders early on in the test? Jason O’Halloran’s national lap record is very close to Troy Bayliss’s WSBK record, so there is a chance that they will battle with the private teams testing early in the week.