News 29 Jul 2009

Racing Insider #108

Get up to date with all the hottest insider news from around the world of motorcycle racing including MotoGP; WSBK; ASBK; BSB; Oz MX; Oz SX; and AMA MX.

Last weekend’s MotoGP round at Donington Park produced yet another twist in the 2009 tale, finishing up with defending champion Valentino Rossi extending his series lead despite crashing in the race.

Once again Rossi somehow defied the odds by crashing, remounting, and still scoring a solid haul of points, while his main rivals Jorge Lorenzo had rounds that they’d rather forget.

Lorenzo crashed out of the lead after hitting a white line under brakes on a damp circuit, while Stoner and Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden’s gamble to start the dry race on wet tyres in the hope that it would rain just didn’t pan out as planned.

Dovizioso took a well deserved first MotoGP win at Donington and is now looking for a contract extension

Dovizioso took a well deserved first MotoGP win at Donington and is now looking for a contract extension

You have to give it to first time race winner Andrea Dovizioso though, because he has been knocking on the door for a while now and can now stand proud as a race winner in the premier class.

The victory has boosted Dovizioso, the Italian stating this week that he’s now looking for a two year extension on his HRC contract, although that may be difficult considering Honda has signed Marco Simoncelli to a factory-backed deal and Lorenzo is a strong possibility of gaining Honda support – even if it is on his own team.

Once again the big news will be whether or not Lorenzo stays at Fiat Yamaha, because if he does move then it will be very interesting to see who gets the call up to replace him.

Interestingly, European press reports have said that Rossi is urging him to go for the challenge at Honda, but of course he would say that considering the Yamaha is widely considered to be the number one bike in MotoGP right now.

Personally I’d like to see him go and give it a shot, because as good as the Yamaha may be, it seems as though both of the best riders in the series are tied up against each other at Yamaha on the same bike.

Away from the track we’ve had the FIM announce the provisional calendar for 2010 as seen in the Breaking News, but the most intriguing thing is that Silverstone’s British Grand Prix round has been scheduled on the same week as the Isle of Man TT. Expect it to change before the calendar’s finalised.

This week saw the World Superbike promoters, Infront Motor Sports, his back at reports that MotoGP could turn to a production-based 1000cc engines in 2010, stating that the move is not going to happen.

Infront’s statement that it does not consider a similar idea either to be realistic or feasible in view of the existing contracts between the FIM and it is fair enough, with the differences severely blurred between the categories if it were to go ahead.

The response at last weekend’s Donington Park MotoGP round was actually very positive amongst teams, with the series struggling for numbers while WSBK booms with excitement and many private teams.

I guess the confusing part is that if the production engine-based Moto2 category is going ahead next year, then what would be the problem from WSBK’s side if there were to be a similar concept in the premier class with 1000cc production engines and prototype chassis?

It may just get very interesting in the coming months, but I think WSBK deserves all the success it is getting right now because things weren’t looking so bright just five or so years ago.

Next year will likely see Ben Spies remain at Yamaha in WSBK with a few wildcard MotoGP rides, while Tom Sykes is likely to stay too since he has done a very credible job in his rookie year too – only to be overshadowed by a very determined Spies.

And let’s not forget the racing action from last weekend at Brno, where Spies was knocked down by Noriyuki Haga’s Ducati teammate Michel Fabrizio unintentionally, while Max Biaggi and Aprilia stood out as new winners in the series for a great first win on the RSV4.

Just seven points separates the injured Haga and Spies now, with a massive end to the season set to take place over the second half of this year. It’s going to be unreal for the series.

IT was revealed last week that Phillip Island will be the host of the final round of this year’s Australian Superbike Championship on 28-29 November, the round gaining confirmation late last week from series director Yarrive Konsky.

The round had originally been scheduled for Calder Park until that was cancelled earlier this year, but it now looks as though the round will be in and we’ll have all the classes on-board for the first standalone round at the Island in many years.

A problem in the new date is the fact that it’s scheduled just one week after the Oran Park 6-Hour Motorcycle Production Race, which would effectively rule out many major riders and teams from competing – both from a risk and cost standpoint.

James Spence told me that he’s not particularly worried about the clash, but he does recognise that the addition of a few factory teams and riders would add to the prestige of the event.

The Australian Superbike teams test at Eastern Creek last week saw Team Joe Rocket Suzuki’s Shawn Giles top the timesheets onboard the all-new GSX-R1000 in the bike’s public debut, and he may just produce his first win of the season at what will be the fourth round of the series on 7-9 August.

As reported in the Breaking News yesterday, Glenn Allerton and Motologic Racing will be at this weekend’s V8 Supercar event at Sandown as a preview to the Phillip Island two-plus-four event. There may be more bikes on hand, but we’ve not got confirmation of that yet.

We’re hearing that round won’t be a points scoring round for the ASBK for this year at least due to its late confirmation, but either way it will be a good round for the bikes and quite a few fans go to the Island’s V8 round since it’s an enduro event.

Other news this week is that Procon Racing has switched to being called the Evolution Sports Group, with an entirely new look set to debut at Eastern Creek’s round next month.

The team is remaining very tight lipped on the concept, but I keep hearing that team owner Wayne Hepburn is planning very big things for next year as in a full on race team.

Rider Shannon Johnson currently has ties with KTM in riding the RC8R, so why not join forces and add another factory effort to next year’s ASBK series? This is just me hoping for now, but either way the interest from Hepburn with a team is an added bonus to the sport.

Muggas will be on a HM Plant Honda in BSB in place of Richards

Muggas will be on a HM Plant Honda in BSB in place of Richards

The news that former Supersport World Champion Karl Muggeridge tested with HM Plant Honda last week and will be on the bike until fellow Aussie Glen Richards returns from injury is very good for him, pretty much revitalizing his career if he can make the most of it with good results.

Australia’s factory PBM Kawasaki World Superbike rider Broc Parkes will also make his debut in BSB alongside teammate Makoto Tamada at the Brands Hatch round, the Kawasaki WSBK squad entering the weekend for testing time.

Brookes was forced out of the Suzuka 8-Hour last weekend event after he suffered a broken thumb in the controversial BSB incident the weekend before, and he’ll be out of the BSB series until mid-September in two rounds time. Brookes was originally slated to ride for the Sakurai Honda team, which finished third outright in the event.

Cheyne Boyd took a clean sweep in the Pro Open class at the Lakes round of the MX Nationals, closing the points gap to 14 behind CDR Rockstar Yamaha teammate Jay Marmont and setting up a great finale with just one round remaining in the series.

Rounding out the podium was local star Craig Anderson for Kawasaki, while Cody Mackie again put in a solid performance for Troy Carroll Cool Air Kawasaki for a top four overall.

New faces for the weekend were Daniel McCoy in his return from injury, having a great battle in moto two with teammate Mackie and usual Honda off-road racer Peter Boyle.

Other notable riders in the class were Suzuki’s Josh Strang, who had a great ride in his motocross debut with the domestic Shift Motul team, and Paul Broomfield was a wildcard for Woodstock Honda Thor after a few years out of national action.

Speaking of wildcards, Under 19s rider Ross Beaton had a very good ride for 10th overall in the Open class with CDR Yamaha, so keep an eye on him as a star of the future.

The Pro Lites category was won by Suzuki’s Matt Moss, winning race two to clinch the round and set himself up for the title heading into the final round. Second overall was defending champion Luke George, while Motorex KTM’s Ty Simmonds was third.

Action was also hot off the track at this round, with the biggest rumour circulating that current champion and series points leader Marmont isn’t set in stone for 2010 at CDR Rockstar Yamaha.

The most likely avenue for him to depart to would be his brother’s MXRAD team, which is believed to be well in the hunt for taking over the factory KTM outfit if speculation is to be believed.

But moving from the team that he’s had such a successful two years with would be a massive move for Jay, so we’ll just have to see what the future holds. One thing is for sure, wherever he ends up he deserves the best equipment and the biggest pay cheque in the country for the results that he has turned over the past 18 months.

There have been whispers of Troy Carroll’s future, with all indications being that his Cool Air team will be the sole Kawasaki effort next year and will be taking over the factory team.

Other rumours have a number of our Pro Lites riders heading stateside next year instead of chasing the Pro Open title, with Matt Moss, Simmonds and George all expected to try out for fulltime seats in the States for 2010.

All of this is just speculation at the moment, but Lakes was very much a hive of activity both on and off the track if we are to believe our very credible sources in the industry.

It’s official! The world’s fastest Motocross and Supercross rider (arguably?) James Stewart will be contesting the Brisbane round of this year’s Super X series in Queensland, coming down under to go up against Chad Reed on home soil.

If you ask me, with a full season of motocross under his belt plus the opening rounds of Super X complete, Reedy will have to go into this race as the favourite. A sell out crowd is expected, so get your tickets fast!

The Stewart/Reed battle is set to take place on Aussie soil in Brisbane's Super X round

The Stewart/Reed battle is set to take place on Aussie soil in Brisbane's Super X round

Other rumours doing the rounds at Lakes last weekend had Daniel McCoy joining the High Roller Energy Coastal KTM team for Super X, which is said to be very close to finalised with close ties to the factory squad, although as for 2010 he will likely be a free agent once again.

Some may question the move if it does happen, but it has to be noted that McCoy’s ride with the Cool Air Kawasaki team in the MX Nationals is a satellite sort of deal because he was a late addition to the squad, with his dad Mick spinning the spanners at Lakes.

The inclusion of Stewart in Super X will tempt many of the sport’s leading stars from America to make the trek over here, and I expect a variety of big names to be on the grid at a number of rounds now that the series is on the map as the number two Supercross series in the world to the AMA series.

Australia’s Chad Reed has extended his lead in the 2009 American AMA Motocross National Championship, winning the most recent round at Washougal last Saturday for Suzuki.

Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Reed won ahead of Yamaha riders Josh Grant and Jason Lawrence, who scored his first ever podium in the 450 class, and you have to take your hat off to J-Law after he continues to bounce back time and time again from all sorts of troubles that he lands himself in.

Troy Lee Designs Honda’s Jake Moss had a sixth place result in race one before crashing out of the second, again proving that he has the pace to run upfront if he can keep it on two wheels and get some momentum going with the team doing more rounds.

Reed’s teammate and fellow Aussie Michael Byrne clinched a fifth overall with a best of fourth in moto two, sitting very comfortable in fifth position overall for the title so far with just four rounds left to run.

The 250 class victory went to Reed’s teammate Ryan Dungey, but Australia’s unsung hero Brett Metcalfe has snuck into third in the points chase after a consistent year so far.

This weekend will mark the X Games in Los Angeles, California, so check out all the action live on ESPN on Foxtel. I can’t wait to see the action go down in the 15th edition of the incredible action sports Olympics.