News 8 Apr 2009

Racing Insider #68

Pedrosa and Simoncelli back for Qatar, as Hayden makes his GP century. Plus, 125 and 250GP, ASBK and AMA SX news.


Pedrosa will make a surprise comeback this weekend in MotoGP

Pedrosa will make a surprise comeback this weekend in MotoGP

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa has confirmed that he will start the Qatar Grand Prix this Saturday night, fighting back from surgery to his left knee and wrist after a massive testing crash at the circuit earlier this year.

Pedrosa’s recovery has been faster than expected after a vital operation including a skin graft on his knee, which he wasn’t able to bend past 90 degrees throughout the last few weeks in his recuperation process.

“I’m really happy to be going to Qatar for this race. It’s clearly been quite a difficult winter for me and not the preparation for the season that we would have chosen. But my recovery from the surgery in March has been good – probably a little better than we expected – and that means I have the chance to make the first race, which is great,” the former double 250GP world champion said.

“Obviously I haven’t been able to do the usual level of physical training while I’ve been injured, and we’ve missed out on some testing time, so we have some catching up to do.

“But I know my team hasn’t been standing still while I’ve been away and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the bike and riding for the maximum result possible for my situation.”

There’s no way that the current world number three will be at full strength for the weekend, but any points are good points in the cut throat world of MotoGP – especially when the likes of Vale Rossi and Casey Stoner and getting set to wage the biggest war of all.

In fact, the battle between Spaniards Pedrosa and Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo will be extremely fascinating throughout the year as long as Dani regains full fitness, and the pair have been crashing often over the past year to ensure they are top Spaniard. The rivalry between the pair in their home country is insane, kind of like football team rivalries for fans in Australia.

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden will be celebrating his 100th grand prix start this weekend under lights at the Losail Circuit in Qatar, which is a great feat for the former world champion who went direct from the AMA Superbike Championship to MotoGP back in 2003.

It hasn’t completely been easy sailing for the Kentucky Kid during his six seasons in the premier class, but his world championship in the final season of 990ccs in 2006 was a dream come true for one of grand prix racing’s genuine nice guys.

“I can’t believe it’s already been a hundred GP starts – I have really enjoyed them all…well some a lot more than others!” said Hayden. “But it’s been an honour to race in grand prix with all these great riders, sweet tracks, and the awesome fans all over the world. I know it won’t be easy but I really hope my best GPs are ahead of me. It seems only fitting to start my 100th race with a new bike and team.”

Current 250GP champion Marco Simoncelli is confident of lining up this weekend despite undergoing wrist surgery under the watchful eye of Doctor Costa yesterday, but he needs to be extremely careful as the fractured bone is his scaphoid – the bone the has been nagging Casey Stoner and one that has ended many top racers’ careers including the great Kevin Schwantz.

It’s expected that Simoncelli will skip Friday’s sessions in a bid to rest it as much as possible before final qualifying and the races, and his urgency to get back on track shows that he knows it will be a very tough task to repeat this year. He’s hoping it’s his last in the quarter-litre class before he steps up to MotoGP.

Simoncelli is already behind his rivals as the 125s and 250s are testing in Qatar this week before the real action starts this weekend. It was Hector Barbera who was quickest in the 250s, while Bradley Smith surprisingly outpaced teammate Julian Simon by over half a second – Simon has been the standout throughout the pre-season so far since joining Aspar Aprilia’s powerhouse team. Practice gets underway tomorrow evening.

Australian Superbike is currently in New Zealand testing the 2009 model Suzuki GSX-R1000 at it hasn’t arrived in Australia yet, but expect the Team Joe Rocket Suzuki factory effort to have the K9 by the next round in Queensland at the end of May if all goes to plan. It’s believed that Phil Tainton Racing has all the specs and info ready to up-spec the model to Aussie Superbike spec as soon as one arrives, but another factor will depend on the availability of spare parts and if they have time to test. Either way, Suzuki hasn’t unleashed its secret weapon for championship leader Josh Waters or three-times series champion Shawn Giles just yet.

Great news filtered through yesterday afternoon that Tasmania’s 125cc Grand Prix winner Andy Lawson Jr will be competing in the Spanish championship onboard and ex-Scott Redding satellite Blusens Aprilia, which is an awesome opportunity to get overseas on competitive equipment following his disappointment of the collapse of the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup.

Lawson Jr will continue competing in his bid to capture the Australian 125GP title on a Honda, but he’s confident that he will be able to adapt to the Aprilia in Europe. The Queenslander joins former Aussie 125GP champion Glen Scott in the Spanish championship and we’ll be sure to keep track of both young guns.

American Supercross
The title fight for the 2009 AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, is building massively with three rounds remaining as Australia’s defending champion Chad Reed leads James Stewart by just five points. Check out Racer X for two great Monday Conversations with the pair following their heated battle at Jacksonville in Florida last Saturday night. apologises for the lack of pictures in the Racing Insider’s this week as we are battling a hotel internet connection over here in NZ.