News 22 Jul 2009

Racing Insider #107

Get the scoop on the world of racing in this latest edition of Racing Insider, including news from MotoGP; WSBK; ASBK; BSB; AMA SBK; EWC; Oz MX and AMA MX.

The German MotoGP race was exciting from start to finish

The German MotoGP race was exciting from start to finish

Whoever said that MotoGP was falling victim of too much electronic intervention and it was affecting the racing quality may just be taking backwards steps right now, because the last few races have been exceptional.

Not that I agree with the electronics in motorcycle racing, but last weekend’s race at the Sachsenring in Germany was a good one from the start, with the four front runners – Velentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner – all showing the ability to win the race at some stages during the 30 lap affair.

In the end, as we all know by now, it was Rossi who edged out teammate Lorenzo and Pedrosa, but it was the possibility of the latter two teaming up at Honda next year that had tongues in the paddock wagging.

The future of Spaniard Lorenzo is beginning to heat up, with the former double world champion requesting a pay rise from his current Yamaha team or threatening that he’ll move to Honda.

It’s believed that Lorenzo is looking to almost double his current income since he has challenged teammate Rossi in most races this season, but Yamaha has its limit and are not willing to budge.

This has sparked Lorenzo to look at other manufacturers for a seat if the money can be boosted, with a Telefonica-sponsored satellite Honda team likely to be his next move if he doesn’t reach an agreement with Yamaha, but sources also suggest that there is an outside possibility that he’ll be slotted right into the factory Repsol squad at the expense of Andrea Dovizioso.

The interesting thing in all of this is that some European press reports have linked Colin Edwards back to the Fiat Yamaha factory team alongside Rossi if Lorenzo leaves, which would suit the Italian megastar just fine.

While Lorenzo says he’s in no rush to decide his future, it’s expected that current 250cc star Alvaro Bautista will have to sign with Suzuki by this weekend’s British Grand Prix if he is to move into the premier class with the Japanese manufacturer, although he’s expected that he’ll remain with Team Aspar and move to the premier class on a satellite Ducati run by his current team.

If Bautista doesn’t sign with Suzuki there’s every chance that the team will retain Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi, despite Vermeulen reportedly searching for a ride with Yamaha.

Hayate’s Marco Melandri is all but confirmed for the Gresini Honda team to partner Marco Simoncelli, leaving Alex de Angelis and Toni Elias without a seat on the leading satellite Honda squad.

With that move it is expected that de Angelis will join the Pramac Racing Ducati team, setting off a number of moves that will see a vastly different looking grid in 2010.

Will Edwards be back with Rossi on a Fiat Yamaha in 2010?

Will Edwards be back with Rossi on a Fiat Yamaha in 2010?

Casey Stoner’s mystery illness has been diagnosed by American doctors as mild anaemia and a slight gastritis, but the mystery doesn’t stop there after Stoner admitted in Germany that anaemia wasn’t what was causing his tiredness in recent grands prix.

While doctors have diagnosed the Australian former world champion with anaemia, Stoner told the press at the Sachsenring GP on the weekend that it wasn’t severe enough to be the culprit for his crushing fatigue during the most recent three races in the lead up to Germany.

Things began to look up for him at the Sachsenring, racing to fourth place and indicating that he felt better throughout the race then in recent races, now looking forward to the Donington Park round this weekend.

The decision to add production-based 1000cc engines within prototype chassis to boost grid numbers in MotoGP’s premier class built momentum over the weekend in Germany, with Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta admitting that it’s a very real possibility.

MotoGP currently runs full-on prototype machines with 800cc engines, but in a bid to reduce costs it’s been speculated over the last fortnight that the premier class could follow in the footsteps of the Moto2 category in adopting cost effective production-based engines in GP racing chassis.

The confirmation from Ezpeleta came as a surprise in Germany, although he did state that the concept was only in discussion at this point in time while the MSMA are reviewing the idea at the moment.

It was also revealed at Sachsenring that the MSMA has proposed the idea of leasing out 800cc prototype engines for private teams to use for a season within chassis sourced by themselves, essentially reducing the costs of leasing a complete bike for the season – which is said to cost over three million per bike for the season in some circumstances.

But that idea has been tested before by Team KR, which quit in 2007, proving a very expensive option to develop an entire chassis around what was a non-competitive engine with zero updates throughout the season.

Interestingly, Team KR has entered for the Moto2 class for next year, excited for the concept that will see teams develop their own chassis while using the production-based Honda control engine for the season that will ensure equal performance for all teams on the grid.

If there’s one thing for certain in MotoGP right now, change is certainly only just around the corner before the series is left with zero teams at all.

Ten Kate Honda rider Jonathan Rea topped the timesheets at the World Superbike Championship test at Imola last week, the series visiting the circuit in preparation for the upcoming round in September.

Rea set the fastest lap late in the final afternoon on the two day test, his 1:48.670 laptime edging out Ducati Xerox rider Michel Fabrizio, who had been quickest throughout the test until Rea’s final surge.

Rea was fastest in last week's Imola test

Rea was fastest in last week's Imola test

Fabrizio finished the test second, while American sensation Ben Spies was third quickest for Yamaha in his first visit to the historic Italian circuit for his Italian-based Yamaha World Superbike Team.

Series leader Noriyuki Haga sat out the test following his Donington Park crash where he suffered a broken arm, while Lorenzo Lanzi was a standout for DFX Ducati in setting the fourth fastest lap of the test.

It was yet another difficult showing from the Australian contingent, with Troy Corser best of the Aussies in 17th for BMW Motorrad, while Kawasaki’s Broc Parkes was 19th quickest.

Alstare Suzuki rider Max Neukirchner made his return after suffering a broken leg at Monza, but it was short lived when he again crashed at Imola and suffered injuries to four vertebra in his back – forcing him out of this weekend’s Brno round in the Czech Republic where Yukio Kagayama will go at it alone for the Alstare team.

Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu was fastest in the World Supersport test at Imola, while Garry McCoy was the top Australian in fifth position for the test. Andrew Pitt was sixth fastest, while Anthony West, Mark Aitchison and Jason O’Halloran were 9-11 places respectively.

The test was O’Halloran’s debut with Althea Honda, and he’s since been confirmed for the round this weekend to make up an all-Aussie Althea team alongside former Yamaha teammate Atcho.

O’Halloran had raced at Brno in 2007, so he’ll be sure to be strong from the outset as long as he can get the bike set up correctly for him after spending over a year on Superbikes.

Today marks the Australian Superbike test at Eastern Creek in New South Wales, where the Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki factory teams are preparing with selected privateer competitors for the upcoming round on 7-9 August.

The defending champion Motologic Racing Honda team of Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell aren’t in attendance, as they weren’t at the Queensland test earlier this year either, although it shouldn’t set them back too much come race time.

One team looking for all the track time it can get it the Team Joe Rocket Suzuki squad, which continues to feverishly develop its K9 model GSX-R1000 after two previous tests at Winton have proved successful.

Waters has been fast on the K9 GSX-R1000

Waters has been fast on the K9 GSX-R1000

Superbike rookie Josh Waters went faster than he ever had around Winton before last Friday, so all things going well should see the likeable Victorian on pace from the outset at the Creek round.

Waters tested alongside experienced three-time champion teammate Shawn Giles, also having his first ride on the K9 model, and former double series winner Marty Craggill, who will compete in the remaining rounds of the series on the team’s 2008 model.Supersport rookie Troy Herfoss was also in attendance on the team’s lone GSX-R600.

The Woodstock Bourbon Australian Superbike Championship will be broadcast on Network 10 alongside its ONE HD telecasts for the remainder of 2009, the series gaining extensive interest from viewers of the coverage aired to date.

Network 10’s airing of the Queensland Raceway round commenced last Sunday after already being aired and repeated on ONE HD, which is 10’s 24-hour sports channel, gaining a great amount of coverage on the leading free-to-air channels.

It looks as though there may be two-seater rides with celebrities on board at the Eastern Creek round, a concept which has been tested in Oz before and is also popular in both MotoGP and AMA Superbike.

I just heard on the news that V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup is on the cusp of re-signing with TeamVodafone for a lucrative figure of $700,000.00 per year for three years! If only our ASBK riders could somehow earn that amount one day…wow.

Yamaha scored a sweep in the British Superbike Championship at Mallory Park last weekend, with Airwaves-backed teammates James Ellison and Leon Camier taking a win apiece, but the big news was the accident of Aussie Josh Brookes.

Brookes had a difficult round for HM Plant Honda at Mallory Park, causing a multi-bike incident in the opening race and receiving a two event ban and also receiving a further one event ban that’s been suspended for two weeks for reckless riding.

British fans have been downright rude to Brookes since the incident, and although he was also involved in the crash that broke the leg of Sylvain Guintoli at Donington earlier this year, it should be noted that incident was reportedly down to a brake failure on his CBR1000RR.

Yes, he’s aggressive, but some of the names he has been labelled over the past few days have been cruel and not exactly fair for a rider who is currently ranked top three in the Supersport World Championship as well as having an Australian Superbike and two Australian Supersport titles to his name.

Yamaha also dominated the AMA Superbike Championship round at Mid-Ohio in the United States over the weekend, with Josh Hayes winning on Saturday and Sunday to boost his tally to three victories in 2009.

Mladin wasn't at his usual best in Ohio last weekend

Mladin wasn't at his usual best in Ohio last weekend

Australia’s seven-time champion Mat Mladin was third on Saturday and seventh on Sunday in an unusual results tally for him, although there’s no doubt that he is well on his way to wrapping up the title.

As reported in Breaking News last week, Aaron Gobert has joined the Factory Aprilia Millennium Technologies team for the remainder of the AMA series, competing in the Daytona Sportbike series alongside British rider Chaz Davies. Gobert made his debut on the bike last weekend with 11th on Saturday before being forced to make a pit stop on Sunday due to a loose gear shifter.

Ousted Supersport World Championship rider Russell Holland was also a surprise competitor at the Mid-Ohio round if AMA Superbikes, contesting the series on a privateer Yamaha. Holland had a difficult initiation, finishing 16th in race one and 14th in the second in what was his debut in the U.S.

The Japanese round of the Endurance World Championship will be run this weekend, with the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hour featuring a hoard of Japanese teams to go up against the EWC regulars.

Aussie Steve Martin and his Yamaha Austria Racing Team will be looking to continue their perfect season to date, although that’s unlikely with the factory-supported Japanese efforts on Bridgestone tyres.

Australia will also have Damian and Alex Cudlin to cheer for in the Phase One Yamaha team, which originally was going to sit the round out due to funds, while it’s unconfirmed if Josh Brookes will be riding with the Sakurai Honda team after he injured his thumb in the aforementioned  BSB crash.

Australian Chad Reed has extended his lead in the AMA Motocross Championship after scoring his second victory of the season at Spring Creek on Saturday. The Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider now holds a 37 point advantage after winning ahead of Ivan Tedesco and fellow Aussie Michael Byrne on the weekend.

It was a solid result for Byrne after an injury-plagued year to date, so hopefully he can continue soldiering on and maybe even also assist Reed in wrapping up the title for the season.

The weekend will mark the penultimate round of the MX Nationals Australian Motocross Championship at Lakes in New South Wales, where the battle will resume between CDR Rockstar Yamaha teammates Jay Marmont and Cheyne Boyd, who currently have just 20 points separating them.

Ross Beaton will join CDR Rockstar Yamaha at Lakes on Sunday

Ross Beaton will join CDR Rockstar Yamaha at Lakes on Sunday

Joining the team this weekend will be Under 19s rider Ross Beaton, the Tasmanian youngster receiving the wildcard ride alongside two of the best in the business for what will be an eye opening experience for him – and a great experience also.

Daniel McCoy will finally return from injury to make his 2009 debut for Troy Carroll Cool Air Kawasaki alongside Cody Mackie in the Pro Open class, and he was spotted at Mt Kembla last weekend along with both Mackie and Jay and Ryan Marmont.

McCoy has been riding this week with Motorex KTM rider Ty Simmonds in preparation for his comeback, and there are still whispers getting around that there could be some rider swaps come the Super X series.

Watch this space…

Also keep an eye out for desert and off-road ace Ben Grabham this weekend, who will compete for Motorex KTM on a factory 450 in the Pro Open class as he tries to improve his outright speed for the AORC series.

That’s all for now, I’m heading out to Eastern Creek for the ASBK test, so check back later for a detailed report.