News 13 Mar 2009

Racing Insider #50

Spies leads the way after day one of WSBK in Qatar, plus MotoGP, ASBK, and Australian MX news. * Updated.

Welcome to the 50th edition of Racing Insider here on, it seems like just yesterday when I sat down to write the first Insider column, so it’s a strange feeling to be at 50 already with many more to come.

World Superbike

Spies is proving to be a fast learner

Spies is proving to be a fast learner

On to the racing, and American Ben Spies has once again proved his might by topping the time sheets during the opening day of qualifying at the Losail Circuit in Qatar overnight. The Texan had never seen the circuit before arriving for this event, and was immediately on the pace – setting the second quickest time in the first free practice before putting the Yamaha on provisional pole position in the afternoon.

I said after he put on such a good showing at Phillip Island that his real test will come at Qatar considering he got to test at the Island the week before the actual race weekend, but today in Qatar he went straight out there and was on the pace from the get go.

The Qatar circuit is a very difficult one to learn, with minimal reference points and a very flat layout that gives no real indication of where you are on the track – it all basically looks the same.

Spies’ new R1 also passed its next test, proving to work well at a variety of different tracks so for including Portimao, Kyalami, Phillip Island, and now Losail. If he can continue this type of form the Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP guys will be under severe pressure to perform come contract time later this year.

Interestingly, Spies’ teammate Tom Sykes was 12th in the session, although he only used one set of tyres in the afternoon session.

The 24-year-old set a best lap of 1:58.886, which is faster than Fonsi Nieto’s race lap record of 1:59.156, but slower than Troy Corser’s Superpole record of 1:58.053 from last season.

“The track has been great for my first day here and the team have been working great as always, we’re continuing to make the bike better and better, hopefully we can get even faster for the race,” Spies said after the session. “We can’t forget there are many fast guys out here and I’m sure they’re doing their homework too. Every time I come to the track with Yamaha the bike is getting better and it’s already such a fun bike to ride.”

Second quickest yesterday was Jonathan Rea with a 1:59.177, edging out Hannspree Ten Kate Honda teammate Carlos Checa’s 1:59.731 – which is quite a ways back considering how close the field was at Phillip Island’s opening round. The result was still a good one for Checa though, bouncing back from shoulder problems that hampered him at the Island.

Fourth fastest was Italian Max Biaggi on the Aprilia RSV4 in its debut at Losail, which was a solid opening day for both Biaggi and the V4 Aprilia. Rounding out the top five was the third of the Ten Kate Hondas in Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Top Australian on the day was Troy Corser for BMW in 16th, although they were under no illusions that it was going to be difficult going to Qatar without any data whatsoever – not even from years past. Corser’s teammate Ruben Xaus was right there with Corser in 17th.

Neukirchner was fastest in free practice but 13th in qualifying

Neukirchner was fastest in free practice but 13th in qualifying

Kawasaki’s Broc Parkes was just behind Corser in 18th, while Karl Muggeridge improved slightly over his Phillip Island performance with the 21st quickest lap time so far. Guandalini Ducati’s Brendan Roberts was 26th on the time sheets.

One thing of note today was the Ducati Xerox teammates of Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga struggling compared to usual, with Fabrizio eighth and Haga 11th.

“Today was a strange day for me. We tried a different rear suspension setting to that used in Australia but the grip did not improve as we expected it to,” said a puzzled Haga.

Leader of the first free practice session Max Neukirchner dropped to 13th in the timed qualifying session.

In Supersport it was Cal Crutchlow who lead the way for Yamaha with a 2:02.634, just ahead of teammate Fabien Foret, who seems to be one of the best each year the series visits Qatar. Third quickest was former world champion Kenan Sofuoglu on the Ten Kate Honda.

There were four Australians in the top ten with Mark Aitchison fifth fastest and best of the Aussies, while Garry McCoy was eighth, Ant West was ninth, and defending world champion Andrew Pitt was 10th quickest.

Russell Holland was 24th fastest, while Shaun Geronimi was 30th fastest, which was unfortunately the slowest and over six seconds a lap off of Crutchlow’s best.

Check out this link for the official WSBK website for the most detailed results that you’ll find anywhere on the web.

The Qatar event started yesterday due to the race being run on Saturday, so make sure you tune into Fox Sports 3 at 7.45pm on Saturday night to watch all the action live.

The Hungarian Grand Prix has officially been cancelled for 2009, with a statement from Dorna this morning noting that the event will be off the calendar this year, but will be rescheduled for a date next season. Here’s the release:

The Grand Prix of Hungary scheduled on September 20 is cancelled and will not be replaced in 2009. The FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix will therefore consist of 17 events only in 2009 and the Hungarian Grand Prix will be rescheduled in the 2010 calendar.

Australian Superbike
It still remains a mystery whether or not the Australian Superbike practice session at Symmons Plains in Tasmania will go ahead, with no decision officially made as of last yesterday afternoon. The test day would be held on Wednesday, 1 April, which is just two days before the actual event of 3-5 April.

Testing on a Wednesday the week of the race wouldn’t usually be permitted due to unofficial practice being banned within six days of an event, but since the practice is an official session run by IEG it seems that it’s alright for the event to go ahead with no penalties occured for any participating rider. The logistics of it all could be a major problem though, with riders essentially needing to arrive in Tasmania on Tuesday and stay there basically all week.

Whatever the decision is will be based off of the email sent out by Motorcycling Australia on 6 March, so it’s a good sign that it’s the riders and teams who have been asked for their feedback on this particular subject.

An update on the matter was put on the official ASBK website yesterday stating:

The International Entertainment Group (IEG) wishes to thank all competitors who have expressed their view point of the proposed additional practice sessions at Round 2 of the Woodstock Bourbon 2009 Australian Superbike Championships at Symmons Plains.

Motorcycling Australia (MA) and IEG are meeting first thing tomorrow morning to work through the proposal and resolve any outstanding issues. An update will be placed on this website after this meeting. Until then we believe that we have sufficient information and competitor feedback to present to MA and ask you to be patient and await this advice.

An update has come through from MA this afternoon. Here it is:

ASBK practice day to go ahead

Motorcycling Australia has given its approval for an official practice day to take place on the Wednesday ahead of the second round of the 2009 Australian Superbike Championship at Symmons Plains, Tasmania.

The official practice day is scheduled for Wednesday 1 April, and will be open to all Superbike, Supersport and 125GP / 250GP Mono riders only.

The decision has been made with particular attention paid to the responses MA received regarding the possibility of the practice day taking place.

Riders from all classes (excluding Juniors) will be eligible to ride in practice on Friday 3 April.

In accordance with the additional official practice day on Wednesday and the amended practice sessions on Friday, amendments to section 27 of the Supplementary Regulations have been approved by the Steward for the second round of the Championship.

Full schedules for the event will be highlighted in the Final Instructions for the second round of competition, which will be made available through the IEG and MA websites ( and

Australian Motocross

Cheyne Boyd will be strong in the MX Nationals

Cheyne Boyd will be strong in the MX Nationals

We broke the news yesterday that Daniel McCoy has parted ways with the Moto Concepts Honda team in an exclusive interview, and although it’s a shame that it looks like he’ll have to return home earlier than expected, McCoy’s addition to the Australian MX Nationals if he does in fact come home will be interesting to watch.

McCoy, cousin of World Supersport star Garry McCoy, finished on the podium five times in the second half of the outdoor season last year, so if he can build on that and carry momentum from his time in the USA he may just be a podium threat week in, week out, like he is hoping.

Another rider who is looking for a ride is Jake Moss, who is also currently based in America contesting the West Coast Regional Supercross Lites class from Troy Lee Designs Honda, although that team doesn’t compete in the outdoors over there. Moss is hoping to land a ride for the nationals over there, or will likely return home in the Open class here if he can put something together. His only problem is that he’ll miss the opening round next month due to commitments in the U.S.

Having both of these riders in the MX Nationals would make it even more exciting heading into the new year, with the likes of Jay Marmont, Craig Anderson, Cheyne Boyd, Andrew McFarlane, and more, all set to do battle in the 450 class.

Check back on Monday for full reports from all events running over the weekend.