News 9 Mar 2009

Racing Insider #46

Chad Reed wins in Daytona to stretch AMA SX points lead, plus news from MotoGP, AMA Superbike, BSB, NZSBK, and the AORC opener.

British Motorcycle News is reporting that Marco Melandri has in fact agreed to ride for the Hayate Racing Team in this year’s MotoGP World Championship after judging the performance of the bike at the Qatar test last week. Melandri was slowest of all in the test, but is confident that they could be somewhat competitive if the team could overcome grip issues with the ZX-RR. The option to remain in MotGP was a hard one to refuse for the former 250cc World Champion, although it’s expected that the Italian has taken a massive pay cut in order to chase his premier class dreams.

Pedrosa will be fighting to make the season opener next month in Qatar

Pedrosa will be fighting to make the season opener next month in Qatar

More news has come out regarding Dani Pedrosa and his devastating injury on day two at the Qatar test, with the Spaniard now fighting the race against time to be fit for the opening round at the Losail Circuit on 10-12 April. It’s certain that he’ll miss the final pre-season test at Jerez at the end of this month.

“I feel quite a lot better. When I arrived the truth is that the knee did not look very good, but the operation went well and I am pleased. This morning Dr. Ferreira made his final check and I saw how good the knee was looking,” Pedrosa told the Spanish press in a conference at the USP Institut Universitari Dexeus hospital.

“Now I have to rest a little as it is very important to give the body a break for the first few days, let things take their course, then I will start my recovery plan. I imagine that at the beginning it will be tough trying to give the skin and knee some elasticity. Referring to my arm, this will not be so complicated, as it will not be immobilised for so long.”

Pedrosa is hopeful of making the first round in Qatar, although isn’t 100 percent certain that he’ll be fit enough in these early stages of his recovery.

“We are planning to work hard and so be ready for the first race in Qatar, but when the day arrives we will have to see whether I am really in perfect shape to get on the bike. The objective is to try and be fit for the first race. You do not choose to be in a situation like this, but we have no other choice than to face up to things and to carry on. I have fallen many times and I have always fought back and I will do it again.”

American Superbike
The 68th running of the Daytona 200 was run under lights for the first time ever at Daytona International Speedway in Florida on Friday night, with former World Superbike winner Ben Bostrom capturing a popular Daytona SportBike victory for Graves Yamaha in what was a controversy-packed race.

A safety car was deployed when the lights began to fail at the chicane just after 30 laps of the scheduled 57 lap event, with an accident involving Yamaha’s Tommy Aquino happening as the field slowed for the safety car.

Zemke, shown here leading Disalvo, said the lights went out in a hurry during the Daytona 200

Zemke, shown here leading Disalvo, said the lights went out in a hurry during the Daytona 200

“I think a couple popped and then they all popped, but it got dark in a hurry back there that was for sure,” said Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke, who finished 11th in the race.

That caused the race to be red flagged and stopped while the incident was cleaned up and the lights were fixed, and then when it got going again there was yet another caution when a rider crashed following the restart.

Bostrom eventually pulled a 0.551 second gap to take victory ahead of teammate Josh Herrin, with Team M4 Suzuki’s Jason Disalvo rounding out the podium – just 0.624 in arrears of Bostrom.

“I’ve tried to win this thing,” Bostrom said. “We have been on the pole here twice now and I have lost the race here by two-thousandths of a second. I know what it’s like in the heart when you take second at Daytona. It hurts. Now I know what it’s like to win.”

Monster Attack Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking was fourth, ahead of Shawn Higbee on the first of the Buell 1125Rs. Favourite Buell Danny Eslick had to pit early on for a loose fairing before being disqualified for passing during a caution period according to a team press release.

Yamaha’s Josh Hayes crashed out of second place with just a few laps remaining in the race, spoiling any chance of a clean sweep of the podium for the boys in blue.

Australian Damian Cudlin was scored 13th at the end of the race, but wasn’t a happy man with the race result in his AMA debut.

“All I know, and being new to this series I don’t want to point fingers at anybody just yet, but I was right behind [Chaz] Davies [who finished seventh] at the restart when everyone ahead of me kept racing under yellow flags,” Cudlin explained. “It was blatantly obvious that people were going forward, and I did the right thing and stayed in order. Now it looks as though I’m the one who’s been punished in the results for staying behind the guy in front of me. You can quote me on this – this race was a joke.”

The series will now move on to Fontana, California, on 20-22 March.

New Zealand Superbike
Queenslander Robbie Bugden wrapped up his third successive New Zealand Superbike Championship over the weekend at Pukekohe, just south of Auckland over the weekend. Bugden won both races on his way to the title, and will now focus his efforts on the remaining rounds of the Australian Superbike Championship.

It was Aussie domination as Gareth Jones won the 600 Sports Production Championship for Yamaha after taking second in race one and winning the second race of the day.

British Superbike
Former World Supersport rider Josh Brookes had his first outing on the HM Plant Honda that he’ll race in the British Superbike Championship this year, taking part in a three day test at the Spanish Almeria circuit.

Brookes had never been to the circuit before, slowly settling in alongside fellow Aussie Glen Richards on the factory Honda team. The test also marked Richards’ first ride on the Fireblade.

“I admit that I did ride cautiously to start with as everything was new to me including the circuit, so I did have a few curve balls thrown at me, but I know there is still much more to come from both myself and the HM Plant Honda,” Brookes told the official BSB website.

HM Plant Honda, Hydrex Honda, and Crescent Suzuki took part in the Spanish test, although lap times haven’t been released after a wind-affected few days that caused most to sit out the second of three days.

In other BSB news, Jason O’Halloran has landed in the UK and took part in a track day at Oulton Park on Saturday, learning the new circuit on a standard road bike just to familiarise himself with the venue.

Meanwhile, the Rob Mac Racing Yamaha trio of Chris Walker, Michael Rutter, and Graeme Gowland all took part in a test at Donington Park, shaking down the new YZF-R1 with considerable success as all hailed the performance of the new bike.

American Supercross

Reed has extended his lead to 11 points in Daytona

Reed has extended his lead to 11 points in Daytona

Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed has stretched his AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, points lead out to 11 points after taking his second victory in a row at Daytona’s Supercross on the weekend.

Reed maximised his advantage over rival James Stewart when the L&M Yamaha rider caused a horrific pile-up in the first turn (YouTube video here), with Stewart forced to work his way from the back of the field to an eventual seventh place finish.

It wasn’t an easy race for Reed though, with a bad start making him earn his victory as he progressed from eighth at the end of the opening lap, finally taking over the lead on lap 17 of 20.

“The start tonight was insane, I was almost at the bottom of that pile-up when Stewart went down, and I felt lucky to make it through turn one clean,” Reed explained. “It was a tough track to pass on so I had to be patient and pick my moments carefully. With seven rounds to go I really feel like we have got the momentum going again and both the team and I are ready to fight hard.”

Second on the night after leading much of the main event was bad boy Jason Lawrence (AMPM/Boost Mobile/Monster Energy Yamaha) in what was a surprise debut for the current West Coast Regional Lites Champion.

Rounding out the podium was Honda Red Bull Racing’s Davi Millsaps, while Reed’s teammate, and fellow Aussie, Michael Byrne was taken out of the race in the turn one melee with Stewart.

Daniel McCoy (Moto Concepts Honda) didn’t make it through to the main event after a 13th place finish in the Last Chance Qualifier.

Opening round winner Josh Grant (JGR Yamaha) was forced out of the night following a crash which injured his right leg.

The East Coast Regional Lites main event was won by Frenchman Christophe Pourcel (Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki), winning his third main event in four starts this year. Second was Martin Davalos (Muscle Milk/MDK KTM) ahead of Nicco Izzi (Rockstar Makita Suzuki).

AMA Supercross Championship Points
After 10 of 17 rounds
1    Chad Reed (Suz)        224
2    James Stewart (Yam)    213
3    Andrew Short (Hon)        163
4    Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)    153
5    Ivan Tedesco (Hon)        140

Merriman won the AORC opener over the weekend

Merriman won the AORC opener over the weekend

Australian Off-Road

Multiple times Enduro World Champion Stefan Merriman made a dream start to his Australian Off-Road Championship campaign, taking victory on both days at the opening rounds for Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha.

Held at Port Macquarie, NSW, over the weekend, Merriman won both days in his return to fulltime domestic competition, signalling a terrific start to his 2009 championship aspirations.

“I’m really happy. It was a great result for my first race back here in Australia,” Merriman said. “It was a good ride and the bike went really well. The team was great too with all the [pit boards] and that, letting me know what was going on.”

Merriman won the opening day ahead of Ben Grabham in his debut on Motorex KTM, with Merriman’s teammate Jarrod Bewley rounding out the podium.

Day two saw a battle between Merriman and defending series champion Chris Hollis (Husqvarna), with Merriman winning over the local star, while third was rookie Toby Price in his first off-road ride for MSC Kawasaki.

The 2009 AORC is a 10-round series held over five weekends, with one round on Saturday in a cross-country format (class mass start, championship classes race for two hours flat out) and one round on Sunday in sprint format (several laps of the bush/motocross track racing against the clock).

Merriman leads the series Outright heading into the third and fourth rounds of the series at Blayney, NSW, on 16-17 May.