MotoGP in Qatar postponed with Stoner on pole. Plus, more MotoGP, Moto2, WSBK, BSB, World MX, and Oz Off-Road news.
The opening round of the MotoGP World Championship that was scheduled to run overnight at the Losail Circuit in Qatar has been delayed until tonight due to a downpour while riders were on the grid earlier this morning.
With the event being held under lights, it was deemed before the weekend that riding in the rain was too dangerous under lights, forcing series organisers to abandon the event when heavy rain began to fall following the sighting lap.
The unthinkable happened despite many claiming that there would be no way it would rain in the desert, and the race will take place on Monday evening (Tuesday morning Australian time). The decision was made following meetings with the teams at the circuit.
It was originally also thought that another possibility is that the race could take over the September date scheduled for the Balatonring in Hungary, which would retain the series’ set calendar of 17 race weekends this season.
Teams fear that the event tomorrow evening could be rained out also as the unpredictable weather remains in the middle east, but that is a risk they are willing to take considering the costs that it would take re-run the event in full on another date.
Defending world champion Valentino Rossi has called for night races to be abandoned completely following the Qatar GP’s cancellation, stating that the race would have went ahead as planned at the Losail Circuit in wet conditions if it wasn’t run under lights.
Before the rain began to fall Australian Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro Team) set pole position ahead of Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha), Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) during qualifying, while Queenslander Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) was eighth on the grid.
Dovizioso’s teammate Dani Pedrosa returned to action despite nagging wrist and knee injuries suffered in testing five weeks ago, and he qualified in 14th position during Saturday’s lone 45 minute qualifying session.
A brilliant performance was had by Hayate Racing Team rider Marco Melandri, who qualified 11th on the ex-factory Kawasaki ZX-RR and went quicker than what he managed at Qatar last season on the Ducati as Stoner’s teammate.
Melandri’s Ducati replacement Nicky Hayden had a horrendous start to his career at Ducati Marlboro after suffering a massive highside crash in qualifying after being hampered by a number of mechanical problems throughout Friday night’s opening practice sessions of the season.
Things went from bad to worse come Saturday’s qualifying as the American crashed whilst trying to improve upon his 16th position in the closing minutes of the session.
Medical checks revealed that no bones were broken in the incident despite pains in his back, and three stitches were required for a cut in his chest following the devastating fall. Hayden returned to the track on Sunday morning for warm-up and lined up for the race before it was eventually cancelled due to the rain.
Spaniard Andrea Iannone (Aprilia) took victory in the 125cc Grand Prix of Qatar, which was run over just four laps following a downpour of rain. Only half points were awarded, with championship favourite Julian Simon (Aprilia) second and Sandro Cortese (Derbi) third.
The 250cc Grand Prix race was run over a shortened 13 lap duration, with Hector Barbera (Aprilia) taking victory from first time podium placer Jules Cluzel (Aprilia) and reigning 125cc World Champion Mike Di Meglio (Aprilia), who impressed on debut in the quarter litre class.
Defending 250cc Grand Prix World Champion Marco Simoncelli sat out the GP with a broken scaphoid, caused by an accident on his dirt bike in the week leading up to the opening round of the season. Simoncelli underwent arthroscopic surgery to the injury, with a screw inserted to help heal the injury quicker, although attempts to actually ride competitively in Qatar proved unsuccessful.
The Moto2 World Championship replacement class for the 250cc World Championship will make an earlier than expected debut, with MotoGP commercial rights holders Dorna announcing that the series will kick off in 2010.
Originally slated to begin in 2011, a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission on 11 April in Qatar confirmed that the new Moto2 class will in fact start in 2010, although it isn’t certain if the series will run in conjunction with the 250s for the opening season like the MotoGP category did with the 500s in 2002.
Another major announcement was made by Dorna that the Moto2 class will adopt a single engine rule for the new year, which will see a control engine used by all teams under the new 600cc four-stroke ruling.
The Moto2 class was originally intended to run production-based engines with prototype chassis, but concerns that the engine rule will be too similar to the engines used in the Supersport World Championship have made it necessary for the series to use a specialised engine for the opening season at least.
Dorna haven’t announced what engine they will use as the control engine, or if it will be based from a current production engine from the likes of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or Kawasaki.
Despite a control engine being adopted, Dorna and the FIM have said that there will not be a control tyre ruling at this point, although Dunlop currently supplies all of the leading 250cc teams in the current GP2 series.
American rookie sensation Ben Spies has topped the Superbike World Championship test at Monza in Italy during his first visit to the historic circuit, again impressing with his ability to quickly learn circuits that he has never seen before.
Yamaha rider Spies lead the way following two days at Monza, heading the Ducati Xerox duo of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio after the later had earlier lead the way following the opening day of testing.
Alstare Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner finished the test fourth quickest ahead of Spies’ teammate Tom Sykes, while Australian Karl Muggeridge impressed for Celani Suzuki by scoring the sixth quickest time of the test to edge out factory rider Yukio Kagayama.
The test marked Muggas’ first time to complete any serious development on the new GSX-R1000, so be sure to keep an eye on him as his bike continues to improve throughout the season.
BMW pairing Ruben Xaus and Troy Corser were eighth and ninth overall respectively in what was a difficult test for the two as Corser escaped injury following a crash, while regular WSBK international commentator Steve Martin also completed test laps for BMW.
Aprilia’s lone rider of the test was German test rider Alex Hofmann, although no times were recorded for either he or Martin as they were simply trying a variety of settings for the test.
The 2009 British Superbike Championship kicked off at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the weekend, with the race scheduled to be held tonight as they race on Monday over the Easter long weekend.
French rookie Sylvain Guintoli (Worx Crescent Suzuki) scored pole position following a dominant performance in qualifying, while top Australian was Glen Richards (HM Plant Honda), who has moved up to the Superbike class as the reigning Supersport champion.
Jason O’Halloran (SMT Honda) qualified in 14th position just under a second off the pace of Guintoli, while David Johnson (Maxxis Adept Yamaha) was 20th in his debut on the new big bang YZF-R1.
A concerning point for Aussie Josh Brookes, who missed the opening round due to Visa problems when entering the UK last week, is that his replacement rider Steve Plater has put in a solid performance by qualifying second for the weekend as he does double duty in both Superbike and Supersport.
Check back tomorrow for the full rundown of the weekend.
MX1 World Motocross Championship rookie Antonio Cairoli (Yamaha) has taken over the series lead following a dominant performance in the first ever Turkish GP on Sunday, the Italian scoring both moto victories in front of 30,000 fans.
Cairoli won the round ahead of Steve Ramon (Suzuki) and defending world champion Davide Philippaerts (Yamaha), while Kiwi Josh Coppins (Yamaha) finished seventh in Turkey following a pair of eighth places.
American Zach Osborne (Yamaha) took the overall victory in the MX2 category following a win in moto two after championship leader Gautier Paulin (Kawasaki) won the first leg of the day.
The Australian Four-Day Enduro has suffered a massive blow just days before its opening day this Thursday in Orange, NSW, with race favourite Stefan Merriman (Yamaha) being confirmed as a non-starter following a devastating broken shoulder injury at the NSW Sprint Series last weekend. Merriman’s injury has blown the race for the crown wide open between the regular Aussie young guns.