News 1 Jun 2009

Racing Insider #97

In this edition of RI: All the news from a massive weekend in racing including insider info and reports from MotoGP; Moto2; WSBK; ASBK; BSB; EWC; and AMA MX.

Stoner won ahead of Lorenzo and Rossi in a spectacular Italian GP at Mugello

Stoner won ahead of Lorenzo and Rossi in a spectacular Italian GP at Mugello

It was a massive weekend in racing, and perhaps the greatest achievement of all was Casey Stoner’s memorable victory in the Mugello MotoGP race, winning at the circuit for the first time and also handing Ducati its first victory in the Italian Grand Prix – the venue of their official test circuit.

The race itself was incredible, with so many opportunities for riders to take victory, and seeing the likes of Marco Melandri, Andrea Dovizioso and Loris Capirossi leading the race was just what MotoGP needed to spice things up.

But in the end it was the usual suspects who rose to the top, with Casey taking victory for Ducati Marlboro by just 1.001 seconds over Jorge Lorenzo, while his Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi was a second in arrears of him.

Stoner’s win broke Valentino’s seven race win streak at Mugello, which he would be disappointed in, but I think his bigger concern would be that Stoner’s strong circuits are coming up and Lorenzo has consistently battled him (and mostly beat) him so far this season.

Queenslander Chris Vermeulen had a promising start to the race before dropping back down the order in 10th at the finish, struggling to get his slicks up to temperature once he came in and switched bikes mid-race.

A major disappointment came at Mugello when Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa injured his right hip in Saturday morning practice without even crashing, and then further aggravating it in a massive fall during the race.

Pedrosa is under an unjury cloud once again after Mugello

Pedrosa is under an injury cloud once again after Mugello

The Spanish double 250cc World Champion pulled the gluteus medius muscle in his hip and may have caused a tiny crack in the greater trochanter (thigh) bone where the muscle attaches, although he lined up for qualifying and the race with injections to ease the pain.

Pedrosa’s latest injury happened without falling, instead trying to control a massive slide in the left-hand Palagio corner, but his crash in the race caused further bruising to the area.

Despite his troubles, Pedrosa is expected to be back for his home grand prix at Catalunya in Barcelona on June 14, hoping to claw back some points for his title aspirations.

Off the track there were rumours flying thick and fast that World Superbike hero Ben Spies is on track for a MotoGP ride for somebody other than Yamaha in 2010, but believe me, he will remain at Yamaha in WSBK or GP unless a massive offer comes along.

For conversation’s sake, Troy Bayliss’ best lap time that he posted in a recent three day test with the Ducati Corse test team at Mugello was similar to Rossi’s fastest lap in the race near the end, but in a more realistic comparison his times were very much similar to those of Mika Kallio and Nicky Hayden in qualifying – not bad for a retired 40-year-old!

All the 125cc and 250cc reports and results can be found in our News Releases and Team Event Reports sections on the site, so check them out.

As I said on Friday in RI # 96, the deadline for teams to submit entries for the brand new Moto2 World Championship that is set to be introduced in 2010 was on 29 May, with a massive 89 Moto2 rider applications submitted for the season.

Moto2 will be the 600cc four-stroke replacement class of the current 250cc two-stroke category in 2011, with both specification of motorcycle eligible as a transition year next year.

There are almost 100 entries for Moto2 in 2010

There are almost 100 entries for Moto2 in 2010

Set to feature a Honda control engine with teams able to use their own prototype chassis, the Moto2 class has had a total of 46 teams that want to enter the series with a total of 89 riders on the new four-strokes, while just one team with two riders have requested an entry to race with the 250cc machine.

A selection committee with representatives from the FIM, Dorna and IRTA will meet at the Catalunya Grand Prix in Spain this month to establish the provisional Moto2/250cc entry list for 2010, with just under half of those riders expected to gain entries for the series.

It’s expected that the favoured teams will be the current 250cc teams when the selection committee selects the entries, with MotoGP teams being next in line ahead of former 250cc teams that aren’t currently competing, 125cc teams, and then new teams that are requesting entry.

That is an amazing number of teams that have requested to enter the series even though the complete regulations haven’t been released yet, and Dorna must be smiling right now.

What this means is that teams like Aspar etc are all working on Moto2 projects right now, and you can almost bet your life that it’s going to be a booming time for Moriwaki as many private teams will look to the Japanese manufacturer to supply the frames.

Suddenly this series has become a major hit in the MotoGP paddock, with two-stroke lovers seemingly overpowered in the quest for four-stroke supremacy.

Spies, a three-times AMA champion, won both races at his home WSBK round

Spies, a three-times AMA champion, won both races at his home WSBK round

America’s Superbike World Championship sensation Ben Spies took a superb double race victory in his home round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah this morning (Sunday in the U.S.), scoring his seventh straight pole position before marching to both race wins.

The Yamaha three-times American Superbike Champion was the clear favourite heading into the round, living up to expectations by winning race one over Ten Kate Honda’s Carlos Checa and Ducati Xerox’s Michel Fabrizio, before winning the second over Fabrizio and Checa’s teammate Jonathan Rea.

It’s about time that the Honda riders were up front again consistently, because it had been a horrible start to the year for Ten Kate as Leon Haslam was always top Fireblade, but now it seems they are finally making some headway.

It was a solid weekend for 24-year-old Spies, who closed the world championship gap back to 53 points behind Ducati Xerox’s Noriyuki Haga after the Japanese hero could only manage 9-8 results for the weekend.

As for the Aussies in the field, PBM Kawasaki’s Broc Parkes had his best weekend of the season after qualifying seventh, but a mechanical problem forced him out of race one, and he raced on to 11th in the second outing.

Interestingly, teammate for the weekend Jamie Hacking scored Kawasaki’s best result all season long with a seventh in the opening race. Between Sheridan Morais in South Africa and Hacker in the USA, Kawasaki has had some good rounds lately.

BMW’s Troy Corser was 15th in race one and 16th in the second, while Karl Muggeridge crashed out of race one and didn’t contest the second leg of the weekend.

It’s becoming frustrating for Beemer as they watch Aprilia get increasingly better, although it is hard to compare them fairly simply because of Aprilia’s racing heritage and experience in GP and WSBK racing previously.

All the Supersport reports and results can be found in our News Releases and Team Event Reports sections on the site, so check them out, but I must say what a great weekend for Gazza McCoy.

Also a shout out must go to Andrew Pitt, who proved why he is world champ by racing to a seventh place finish despite missing qualifying after crashing on the opening lap of the session. He started 30th and raced through the field, ignoring the effects of a nasty concussion and a battered body for a great result.

IEG has implemented a podium at the circuit directly after the races, with Allerton showing off his new cheque - they even had champagne!

IEG has implemented a podium at the circuit directly after the races, with Allerton showing off his new cheque - they even had champagne!

The Aussie Superbike double-header round at Queensland Raceway was yet another step in the right direction for new promoters International Entertainment Group, and you can catch all the race action from the Superbike and Supersport classes in our Features section.

Most of you would have seen in our Breaking News section that there will be a new Superstock 1000 Cup class incorporated into the Superbike field at the remaining rounds thanks to support from Procon and M9.

The attraction for Superstock riders here is that they’ll have separate prize money up for grabs, and that will count for a lot when they go out on track with the Supers on Sunday afternoons.

Australian Superstock 1000 Championship leader Pat Medcalf isn’t sure if Yamaha will allow him to race in the series or not, and he said that he doesn’t really care either way because he’s focussing on the Australian title.

But he’s a factory rider, so for the top privateers in the Superstock class it would seem more inviting for a chance to win extra prize money to pay the bills, a great way for extra track time and the opportunity to ride on track with the country’s best.

The final details aren’t yet announced, but hopefully it raises the numbers for the Superbike class because Queensland’s low grid numbers were even smaller than those in MotoGP – which is known to be struggling right now.

Rumours emerged in Queensland that the ASBK series is going to go full Superstock spec in 2010 with treaded tyres and all, but IEG boss Yarrive Konsky has formerly denied those rumours when questioned. We’ll have to wait and see.

Plus, that ASBK joining V8 Supercars rumour continues to swirl, so we’ll have to do some digging and see if we can finally find the truth in all of this. Personally, I’d like to see it at selected rounds.

By the way, everybody keep your fingers crossed for a good showing for Australian 125cc Grand Prix rivals Andy Lawson Junior and Blake Leigh-Smith at the second round of the Spanish championship next weekend, where they will join fellow Aussie Glenn Scott just one week after going 1-2 at Queensland Raceway.

Brookes (right) took his first BSB podium after a tough start to 2009

Brookes (right) took his first BSB podium after a tough start to 2009

While Leon Camier dominated the Thruxton round of the British Superbike Championship for Airwaves Yamaha, the big news for Aussie fans was the podium placing for HM Plant Honda’s Josh Brookes in race two – finally getting a solid result in what was been a very difficult season to date.

When Brookes gets his confidence up he is a very hard man to beat, so I really feel that he can get the ball rolling and challenge the Yamaha riders, effectively putting HM Plant Honda back up where they belong. His teammate Glen Richards was also in the top 10 pretty easily, but the current Supersport champ will be looking for more.

Jason O’Halloran made his debut at Thruxton, again impressing as a privateer for SMT Honda in the series, but something tells me that he will be less than satisfied considering Brookes’ podium placing.

Even though he is on inferior privateer equipment, the O’Show always aims high and hopefully he can put it all together for a good round soon that will see him put in the spotlight for a factory ride in 2010. He has the talent, now all as he needs is the equipment.

It was also a top round for Billy McConnell in Supersport, winning the race on his Yamaha YZF-R6 ahead of a very talented field.

Just quickly, Steve Martin and the Yamaha Austria Racing Team have put themselves in contention for the FIM Endurance World Championship, backing up their Le Mans victory with another win at Oschersleben in Germany to cement their championship status.

The bad news is that fellow Aussies Damian and Alex Cudlin didn’t finish again with Phase One Yamaha, but once they piece a race together then I’m sure that they will be up on the podium in at least one round this season.

The news that three-times AMA Motocross Lites Champion Ryan Villopoto is out of the 2009 season in what was his debut in the 450 class rocked the AMA circuit last weekend at Hangtown in Sacramento, but what that means is that there will never be an easier time for Australian Chad Reed to take the title than this year.

Mike Alessi, winner of Hangtown, will be Reed's main competition in AMA MX

Mike Alessi, winner of Hangtown, will be Reed's main competition in AMA MX

I’m not saying that it will be easy at all for Reed, because he still has a very fast Mike Alessi to deal with as well as Josh Grant, but what I am saying is that the series is anybody’s now that Villopoto is out and reigning champion James Stewart isn’t defending his crown.

Reed was third yesterday behind Suzuki teammate Alessi and former Lites champion Ivan Tedesco, racking up good points again as he rides to gain fitness and speed in his first outdoor season in two years.

JGR Yamaha’s Josh Grant actually won the second moto but was handed a penalty for jumping under a new flagging system when a rider is down, being docked a position and also finding himself bumped off the podium.

The weekend was also a solid one for Dan Reardon in his rookie 450 season in the U.S, finishing sixth, while Jake Moss finished 13th overall with a very impressive seventh place in moto two.

South Aussie Brett Metcalfe’s fourth position in the Lites was another great result, and to me it’s so good seeing the guys from down under excel in what is the hardest motocross championship in the world.

Robbie Maddison won the second round of the prestigious Red Bull X-Fighters in Canada on the weekend, the Aussie proving that his talent isn’t limited to world record stunts and that he can mix it with the best of them in Freestyle Motocross too.

Maddo is becoming that popular in his home country now that he was featured on the news right after the MotoGP segment on Channel Nine – with no mention of Chad Reed or the other Aussies’ results at Hangtown.

That’s what happens when you have good PR resources and are a famous daredevil worldwide.