News 30 Mar 2009

Racing Insider #61

Casey Stoner has won the BMW M Award at the Jerez test in Spain over the weekend. Plus, MotoGP, Moto2, WSBK, AMA SX, World MX, and FMX news.


Stoner won the BMW M Award in Jerez on the weekend

Stoner won the BMW M Award in Jerez on the weekend

Casey Stoner has won the BMW M Award at the Jerez test in Spain over the weekend, picking up the keys to a 135i, which was a BMW Sauber F1 Team special edition on this particular occasion.

The 2007 MotoGP World Champion also won the award last year in the wet at the same test, but setting the fastest time in the dry this year during the ‘Qualifying’ session and shootout for the Beemer was a great achievement for both Casey and Ducati on what has been a bogey track for them in the past.

In fact, Stoner has never even finished on the podium at Jerez, and Valentino Rossi has already referred to Stoner only being fast for one lap at Jerez, meaning that he is confident of his and Yamaha’s package over a race duration.

One thing to keep in mind is that Stoner’s best lap of 1:38.646 was around 1.5 seconds beneath the existing circuit record set by Dani Pedrosa in the race last year, although it was still half a second off of Jorge Lorenzo’s pole position time from last year.

The difference is that teams don’t use qualifying tyres this year as Lorenzo did in his qualifying run last season, so Stoner’s time is a real sign of the step forward that teams have taken during the off-season.

Another important thing to note is that Casey has declared his wrist to be in good shape heading to the season opener in two weeks time, finally putting rumours to rest that he’ll have to sit out the season. This year is going to be massive for Stoner and Rossi in the war for the ultimate crown.

It was the usual culprits of this season’s pre-season filling the top five positions again, with Stoner and Rossi leading the way ahead of Loris Capirossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Chris Vermeulen.

Capirossi and Suzuki are back in Rizla colours - and still fast!

Capirossi and Suzuki are back in Rizla colours - and still fast!

Capirossi has been quoted as saying his Rizla Suzuki is 100 percent better than last year, and it shows with the current form of Capirossi and Queenslander Chris Vermeulen. Two Aussies in the top five is a promising start for our local favourites.

It’s also great to see that last year’s rookie of the year Lorenzo has adapted to the Bridgestones, stating that the front is much better than his previous Michelins, although the rear is very much similar grip wise.

Mika Kallio’s showing of sixth on the Pramac Ducati was excellent for the rookie, even beating out former world champion Nicky Hayden once again in the race to be second fastest Ducati behind Stoner. That battle will be fascinating throughout the season, and Hayden isn’t yet satisfied with his form on the GP9.

Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland had another massive highside to end up in the medical centre again, this time on turn three at Jerez, although he didn’t suffer any serious injuries apart from another blow to his confidence. It’s been a tough transition to the Bridgestones so far for JT. As expected, Toseland’s helmet was minus the Red Bull decals now that the team is sponsored by Monster.

Rain ended the test a session early before the final practice took place, although the BMW Award session was just completed as the rain began to fall with a few minutes to run in the session.

One of the most interesting observations to come out of the Jerez test was that Ducati test rider Vittoriano Guareschi was actually on a cast aluminium-framed Desmosedici. In a similar design to the GP9’s current carbon-fibre chassis, Guareschi set his fastest ever lap of the Circuito de Jerez.

Kawasaki test rider Olivier Jacque was in Jerez at the official tests to help the Hayate Racing Team with the ex-factory ZX-RR, specifically helping new recruit Marco Melandri to find comfort on the bike. It is unclear if Jacque’s Kawasaki testing role will extend to the new Hayate team now that they have taken over.

Rizla Suzuki unveiled its 2009 livery in the lead up to the MotoGP test at Jerez, with riders Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi very satisfied with their new GSV-R’s performance over the off-season. Rizla Suzuki’s new bike looks very much similar to previous seasons with the customary light blue scheme.

Sete Gibernau’s Grupo Francisco Hernando Ducati satellite team also unveiled its final colour scheme for this season, opting for a bright red, white, green, and blue machine instead of the previous white, gold, and black version used in early testing. The bike looks similar to an Italian flag apart from the blue at the front.

Randy De Puniet and the LCR Honda team will turn many heads all over the world this season as they have landed sponsorship from Playboy in Italy, despite protests from selected parties. De Puniet and his LCR Honda will adorn the famous Playboy bunny throughout the season on the satellite Honda RC212V.

Toseland, in Monster energy colours, had a big crash again

Toseland, in Monster energy colours, had a big crash again

Another final livery was debuted at Jerez, with the Monster Energy Tech 3 Yamaha team showing off its bike with the Monster claw for the first time since the sponsorship agreement was announced last month. Monster was a major sponsor for Kawasaki’s now defunct team, but has since joined Tech 3.

Rule changes by the Grand Prix Commission after a meeting with FIM president Vito Ippolito at Jerez was announced by Dorna in our Press Releases section this morning, with the major changes set to come in 2010.

The major change is that is has been confirmed that MotoGP riders will only be permitted one machine each in an attempt to reduce costs for teams. This has been questioned by teams, with many stating that no matter what they will have at least one full spare bike in parts at each event, so they may as well have them in running order.

It will also affect the rain rule that allows riders to come in and switch bikes mid-race if rain falls, although now it’s expected that teams will actually make changes in a full on pit stop similar to those made in an endurance race. The carbon brakes (needed to be switched to steel units for the wet) are the only question mark in this theory as it is a time consuming effort to switch out the full braking system. Don’t be surprised if carbon brakes are banned altogether.

The number of engines to be used over an entire season has been slashed to six, with a penalty of 10 points deducted if a rider or team exceeds that limit. Pit crews working on the bike have been limited to five, while the minimum weight has been increased to 150kg – up two kilos from this season.

Rookies will no longer be permitted to join factory teams, having to spend at least one season in satellite outfits. This is an interesting rule that has nothing to do with cost reductions, more so allowing satellite teams to get their hands on up and coming talent before they are snatched away by the factories. This also means that both Ben Spies and Marco Simoncelli will definitely not be on the likes of Fiat Yamaha, Repsol Honda, or Ducati Marlboro next season.

Schedule changes are to be announced, although it’s understood that reverting to a two day program from the current three is still to be decided and confirmed at this stage.

Hook made his Rookies debut and was 12th fastest. Photo: Red Bull Images

Hook made his Rookies debut and was 12th fastest. Photo: Red Bull Images

Check out this Dorna press release for the full rundown including a host of technical changes in a bid to keep costs down.

In other GP news, three young Australians will contest this year’s Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, and it was newcomer Josh Hook who was best at a test at Estoril in Portugal last week. Hook was 12th fastest overall, while fellow Aussies Arthur Sissis and Dylan Mavin were 13th and 15th respectively.

The 250cc Grand Prix replacement class, Moto2, will likely feature a control engine when it is introduced to the series, which could be as soon as next season if rumours are to be believed.

Moto2 will feature 600cc four-stroke production-based engines in prototype chassis to take over from the expensive 250cc two-stroke complete prototype machines, and the GP Commission could implement a control engine following an announcement by Dorna at the Jerez tests.

The Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers’ Association has proposed the single-make engine rule, and the manufacturers will now be consulted to see if the idea could become a reality.

It is expected that chassis specialists will make up most of the Moto2 grid rather than the factory manufacturers, meaning that a control engine would make the category less expensive for development purposes and much closer action on track.

If a control engine was to be confirmed, it would already derail some teams’ plans as there are already selected teams using both Honda and Yamaha engines in these early stages of development.

It is unknown if the likes of Tech 3, which has expressed interest in the class as a feeder category to its Yamaha MotoGP team, would still be interested in campaigning a team if they weren’t allowed to use their current Moto GP suppliers’ engines. It would all depend on branding.

World Superbike
Multiple times British Superbike Champion Gregorio Lavilla could join Shane Byrne at Sterilgarda Ducati if he finds the funding for this year’s Superbike World Championship, the Spaniard separating with his original 2009 Pro-Bike Honda team after the team’s sponsorship was affected by the economy.

Both Lavilla and Byrne have won titles for Airwaves Ducati (now Yamaha) in the UK and would form a very competitive team for Sterilgarda, especially after original signing Alex Polita has had to forfeit his ride due to sponsorship issues so far this season. It seems that gone are the days where you gain opportunities by talent and success in the beginning rather than money.

American Supercross

Reed holds an eight point lead with four rounds remaining in AMA SX

Reed holds an eight point lead with four rounds remaining in AMA SX

Eight points separate Australia’s defending AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, leader Chad Reed and James Stewart with just four rounds remaining in the series following Stewart’s win at Toronto in Canada on the weekend.

Reed notched up his 13th consecutive podium of the season, while Stewart continued his perfect streak of scoring victory in every race this season that he hasn’t crashed in. It’s going to be a very tight finish, although one more slip up from Stewart in these final stages will surely put Reed in the box seat come the Vegas finale in May.

A great result was had by French rookie Christophe Pourcel in the Lites class as he wrapped up the Eastern Regional title, fighting back from severe pelvis injuries one year ago to once again prove his talent. Pourcel has won four races so far this year and wrapped up the title with one round remaining before the series heads back West.

Check out the full results and report in our Press Releases box.

World Motocross
Faenza’s Italian Grand Prix marked the start of this year’s Motocross World Championship and it was Tanel Leok who made an impressive start at his new Red Bull Yamaha team after four years with Kawasaki. In a wet and muddy day that saw the second motos cancelled, Leok won ahead of Ken de Dycker and Clement Desalle.

New Zealander Josh Coppins got his 2009 campaign off to a solid start with sixth, while his teammate and reigning world champion Davide Philppaerts was ninth after securing pole position in the dry on Saturday.

The MX2 class saw Gautier Paulin take victory for Kawasaki, which was a surprise result when he passed Jeremy van Horebeek with just two laps to go for the one and only race of the day for the class.

Full results and report can be found in our Press Releases, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on Kiwi Coppins’ progress over the course of the season this year.

Freestyle Motocross
The Nitro Circus boys have pulled off one of the greatest stunts in the history of motorcycle riding as Jim de Champ has successfully landed a front flip under the watchful eye of double back flipper Travis Pastrana. De Champ is actually Pastrana’s rally co-driver and the pair have won the North American title a number of times, and the front flip is a great comeback after injuring himself attempting the trick at the X Games last year. Check out this clip from YouTube.