News 18 Feb 2009

Racing Insider #33

Aprilia’s Shinya Nakano has set the pace after the opening two days of WSBK testing at Phillip Island.

Marco Melandri’s Speedcar debut at Qatar last weekend was a successful one as the MotoGP star battled amongst the likes of Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz Harold Frentzen to qualify fourth and finish eighth in the opening race of the weekend. That gave him a front row starting position for the second race, which he shocked the paddock by leading Saturday night’s race by over seven seconds when his car suffered a mechanical problem and forced him out of the race. Melandri’s misfortune handed the victory to ex-Formula One driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, but who would have ever expected him to drive like he did?! It was a spectacular performance and one that may open up the doors for a future career in four-wheels if he can’t revive his MotoGP career.

As expected, Melandri’s not so green MotoGP team is piecing itself back together ever so slowly, and the Italian had some very interesting things to say in newspaper Gazetta dello Sport this week, according to Autosport. Marco has claimed that he expects ‘Kawasaki’ to be testing at the next test in Qatar at the start of March, so it is very likely going to have to come together quickly. The team is said to be funded by Dorna and is only a one rider outfit, so there is a chance they will make it in time with the right negotiations at Kawasaki. It’s one thing to get the team running again, but it’s a completely different scenario on trying to keep it going (especially the bikes and engines) for the entire year.

A Moto2 bike hit the race track for the first time in anger at Valencia in Spain on Monday and Tuesday, with BQR Honda rider Dani Rivas setting a reported best lap of 1:36.85, which is around 1.5 seconds off of 250cc Grand Prix times. This is a good sign for the future in my eyes, with Rivas obviously not as fast as the likes of Marco Simoncelli or Alvaro Bautista, which begs the question, how fast would the GP regulars go on a Moto2 bike? Besides, this is just their BQR’s first test with the new bike that features a Honda CBR600RR production bike engine in a prototype chassis. The time would have qualified Rivas second if he was in the Supersport World Championship round at Valencia last year.

Fonsi Nieto will have his first Moto2 ride next week at former GP circuit Jarama, and his team is the first non-Honda engine Moto2 team as he’ll use an R6 engine from Yamaha. Something tells me that by the time Moto2 kicks off in the next year or two, these Spaniards are going to be very, very competitive.

World Superbike

Shinya Nakano and Aprilia are fastest so far

Shinya Nakano and Aprilia are fastest so far

News has filtered in from Phillip Island Superbike testing, where Aprilia’s Shinya Nakano has set the pace after the opening two days with a 1:33.1, just six tenths off of Troy Bayliss’ best lap from last year at the Victorian venue. Second was Regis Laconi on his DFX Ducati in a shock burst of speed, while Max Biaggi was third quickest yesterday after posting the quickest lap on Monday. Stiggy Motorsport Honda’s Leon Haslam was next, while the Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasakis of Makoto Tamada and Broc Parkes struggled almost two seconds off the pace. Quickest Supersport rider was Ant West on his Stiggy Motorsport Honda.

Saturday and Sunday will see official teams from Ducati, BMW, Suzuk, Honda, and Yamaha hit the track in the final round of testing before the series kicks off next weekend.

American Supercross
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