Monday, September 21, 2009

SBK: Showdown at Imola.

Lately, the flow of racing endorphins has dried up for motorcycle junkies. There hasn't been any bike racing on the world scene since Labor Day weekend (ok, so there has been BSB and *yawn* endurance racing). The sight of once-proud motorcycle journalists posting trivia like a list of the ages of racers as news items is a pitiful one and the most heated topic of discussion is the silly season. Cold Turkey is an ugly experience indeed.

Luckily for us, the drought is nearly over and the World Superbike series will resume this weekend at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, near Imola, Italy. When we last met at the Nurburgring, American rookie sensation "Big" Ben Spies had wrested the lead in the series from Xerox Ducati's "Nitro" Noriyuki Haga as a result of the Texan's win in race one and second place in race two while Haga was knocked went down as a result of contact with Ten Kate Honda's Jonny Rea. At the end of the day, Spies found himself atop the leader board, 18 points ahead of Haga.

With 6 races left in the season, the championship has become Spies' to lose. The Yamaha Italia team tested at Imola last July and Spies was at or near the top of the time sheets most of the time. Spies was also fast at the season-ending Portimao test last year on a bike he'd never seen before. That leaves Magny Cours as the only track that the American has no prior seat time at, not that lack of track knowledge has been much of an impediment to his meteoric rise to the top.

Nori looks to have mostly recovered from the broken wrist and shoulder blade incurred at Donington Park in June. Haga finished a close second to Spies in Race one in Germany and was running at the the front before he was taken out. Haga's Xerox Ducati team mate, Michel "Mr. Fabulous" Fabrizio hasn't provided much of an assist to Haga, other than his failed pass in race 1 at Brno that sent both himself and Spies into the kitty litter.

The most improved rider as of late has been young Ulsterman Jonny Rea who has taken to his Ten Kate team's new Ohlins suspension like a duck to water. Teammate Carlos Checa has had a recurrence of his annual bout of "Checa's Syndrome", a mysterious condition whereby his results get better as contract time nears.

The real news during the hiatus has concerned the Silly Season in both the SBK and MotoGP paddocks. When it was announced prior to the Indianapolis MotoGP round that Ben Spies had signed with Yamaha for 2 more years, Yamaha stated that the team "foresaw" that Spies would be in SBK in 2010 with a possible bump up to the Tech 3 satellite team in Moto GP. Reports in MCN (it *must* be true!) that Spies had committed to appearing in MotoGP in 2010 seem to indicate the the tuning fork crystal ball was cloudy and the future is a lot closer than it seemed a few weeks ago.

Spies' departure could and probably will set in motion a veritable domino effect of team restructurings and rider placements in the weeks to come. Most likely, we'll start to see some official movement soon, maybe this weekend. Whatever happens, us racing junkies will be comfortably numb with a fresh supply of our favorite drug.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canepa Saves Seat; Kallio Re-Signs? is reporting that Niccolo Canepa has retained his ride at Pramac Ducati -- for now. Despite heavy rumors to the contrary, Canepa, against the wishes of Paolo Campinoti, Pramac Team boss, will not lose his ride for the last 4 races of the season to newcomer Aleix Espargaro, despite Espargaro's beating the Genovese rider in his substitute appearances on the finicky Desmosedici. Reportedly, a provision in Canepa's contract couldn't be overcome w/o heavy litigation. In other Pramac news, it looks like, as expected, Finn Mika Kallio has agreed to terms and has signed for another year at the team.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spies to Tech 3 in 2010?

MCN (It*must* be true!) is reporting that American Ben Spies will join fellow Texan Colin Edwards on the Tech 3 Yamaha satellite team in 2010. Announcement will reportedly happen at the Imola WSBK round weekend after next.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Espargaro in at Estoril?

Spanish site is reporting that Aleix Espargaro, who impressed the MotoGP paddock with striking performances in relief of Mika Kallio (including a frankly amazing 5th fastest lap at Misano) on the heretofore finicky 800cc Desmosedici has agreed to a deal that would see him on the Pramac Ducati in Portugal and possibly for the rest of the MotoGP season. Ducati is apparently making sure that they have a full complement of riders should Casey Stoner be unable to appear at the next round. If Stoner does return as expected, Niccolo Canepa will probably be forced to step aside in favor of the frankly surprising Spaniard. Canepa and his manager are reportedly meeting with Pramac brass today to determine the young Italian's future with the team, which includes a possible Moto2 ride in 2010.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SBK: Hopper Likely to Miss "Rest of the Season"

More bad news for John Hopkins. "Hopper" has been plagued by injuries in his rookie World Superbike season and in the aftermath of a horrific crash at the Nurburgring that left the American unconscious for 16 minutes, it looks like that season is at a merciful end. In a video on Youtube, Hopkins revealed that he had to surgery at Dr. Ting's for torn ligaments and tendons in his left shoulder, scaffoid damage,a bone separation in his right wrist that required the bones to be fused, and tendons repaired in his previously injured hip.Also, CT scans revealed Hopkins had bruising and bleeding on the brain that will need to be monitored for 6 to 8 weeks with no dangerous activity allowed, which makes it likely that he won't race again this year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Suzuki Superbike Rumors

A spate of interrelated 2010 Suzuki WSBK rumors have wafted in through the ether in the last few days. Let's take a look:

1. Alstare Suzuki bids adieu to Yukio "Crash" Kagayama?. Team owner Fat Frankie Batta has made no secret to the fact that he needs two top riders on the team in order to be competitive (he also thinks he needs 2-3 million more Euro, but that's a different story). Batta reckons that the currently injured Max Neukirchner fills the bill, but the other current rider, Yukio Kagayama, doesn't. Kagayama is intermittantly fast, to be sure, but he historically suffers from a distinct inability to keep the machinery out of the scenery. With no podiums in 2008 and but one in 2009, the good will that he garnered with his 2007 Suzuka 8-hour win may not be enough to keep him on the factory team. Current rumors have Kagayama heading back to British Superbikes or to a rumored new Suzuki team that we'll discuss in a bit...

2. If Kagayama is gone, who'll ride for Alstare? Frankie Batta has a wish list of potential riders, allegedly starting with Soon To Be Departed From MotoGP riders Chris Vermeulin and James Toseland. Trouble is when Frankie goes to Tokyo to talk to Suzuki brass, he always has big dreams that don't get funded. Also, Vermeulin is allegedly high up on Aprilia's wish list and Toseland is reportly cozying up to former employer Ten Kate Honda, who are reportedly trimming their roster to two riders for 2010.

3. Yoshimura Suzuki in World SBK? With their long-time #1 rider Mat Mladin retiring back to the outback and Suzuki's direct involvement in the American AMA/DMG superbike series heavily rumored to be at an end, Yoshimura is reportedly casting their nets upon international waters. Reps of the California based company were reportedly at the Nurburgring to scope out the scene and to meet with reps of a European Superstock team and are supposed to renew the conversation at Imola. Other rumors indicate that a Yoshimura team could be a lily-pad for factory favorite "Crash" Kagayama.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Espargaro in, Canepa out at Pramac?

Reports from Europe indicate that Aleix Espargaro, replacement rider for Mika Kallio at Pramac Ducati, underwent successful surgery today for compartment syndrome ("arm pump") in his right forearm, at the USP Hospital San José de Madrid. Why you ask, is this important? Wasn't Espargaro a temporary replacement rider without a steady gig in MotoGP or anywhere else, FTM?

Whispers across the pond indicate that Espargaro might become a permanent (for the rest of this year anyway), replacement for Niccolo Canepa. It's no secret that Ducati has been disappointed in Canepa's performance to date in the premiere class, although to be fair, Superstock to the big show was a huge leap for the 21 year-old Genovese rider. Adding fuel to the rumors is the quickness that the surgery was performed after yesterday's San Marino race. With 3 weeks before the Estoril round, Espargaro should have ample time to return to fitness.

MotoGP: Misano Results

1. Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 44min 32.882 sec
2. Jorge Lorenzo SPA Fiat Yamaha Team 44min 35.298 sec
3. Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team 44min 45.282 sec
4. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Repsol Honda Team 44min 59.212 sec
5. Loris Capirossi ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 44min 59.421 sec
6. Toni Elias SPA San Carlo Honda Gresini 45min 1.168 sec
7. Mika Kallio FIN Ducati Marlboro Team 45min 3.066 sec
8. Marco Melandri ITA Hayate Racing Team 45min 4.639 sec
9. Chris Vermeulen AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 45min 4.791 sec
10. James Toseland GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 45min 11.229 sec
11. Aleix Espargaro SPA Pramac Racing 45min 19.555 sec
12. Randy de Puniet FRA LCR Honda MotoGP 45min 24.923 sec
13. Niccolo Canepa ITA Pramac Racing 45min 36.080 sec
14. Gabor Talmacsi HUN Scot Racing Team MotoGP 45min 55.229 sec

Alex de Angelis RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini lap 1
Colin Edwards USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 lap 1
Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro Team lap 1

de Angelis took out Edwards and Hayden in the first corner in an ill advised hairball move. Pedrosa got out to an early lead but was overtaken by Rossi who wedged him in between himself and Lorenzo. By time Lorenzo got by Pedrosa, there was no catching the Doctor.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

DeAngelis to Tech 3?

Usually reliable Spanish site is reporting that Tech 3 Yamaha and San Marino native Alex DeAngelis have agreed on terms that would see the soon to be former Gresini Honda rider ride for the French team alongside American Colin Edwards in 2010. This move, if true, almost certainly means that Englishman James Toseland and Australian Chris Vermeulin will depart the series to return to their World Superbike roots. This also means that current teammate Toni Elias has a high probability of returning to Pramac Ducati alongside Finn Mika Kallio.

MotoGP: Misano Qualifying

Screaming last lap puts "The Donkey" on the pole...

1 46 Valentino ROSSI YAMAHA 1'34.338
2 3 Dani PEDROSA HONDA 1'34.560 0.222 0.222
3 99 Jorge LORENZO YAMAHA 1'34.808 0.470 0.248
4 24 Toni ELIAS HONDA 1'34.907 0.569 0.099
5 5 Colin EDWARDS YAMAHA 1'35.184 0.846 0.277
6 69 Nicky HAYDEN DUCATI 1'35.223 0.885 0.039
7 15 Alex DE ANGELIS HONDA 1'35.343 1.005 0.120
8 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO HONDA 1'35.492 1.154 0.149
9 14 Randy DE PUNIET HONDA 1'35.554 1.216 0.062
10 65 Loris CAPIROSSI SUZUKI 1'35.561 1.223 0.007
11 36 Mika KALLIO DUCATI 1'35.601 1.263 0.040
12 33 Marco MELANDRI KAWASAKI 1'35.785 1.447 0.184
13 7 Chris VERMEULEN SUZUKI 1'35.790 1.452 0.005
14 52 James TOSELAND YAMAHA 1'36.070 1.732 0.280
15 44 Aleix ESPARGARO DUCATI 1'36.228 1.890 0.158
16 88 Niccolo CANEPA DUCATI 1'36.264 1.926 0.036
17 41 Gabor TALMACSI HONDA 1'37.091 2.753 0.827

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spies commits to Yamaha for two more years

Press release from Yamaha Europe:

Ben Spies to stay with Yamaha in 2010 and 2011

Yamaha Motor Company., Ltd and Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. are delighted to announce that an Agreement has been concluded with Ben Spies for his participation with Yamaha for 2010 and 2011. The program foresees a season in 2010 with the Yamaha World Superbike Team based in Gerno di Lesmo, Italy and a switch to Yamaha's satellite MotoGP team for 2011.

Laurens Klein Koerkamp, Racing Manager Yamaha Motor Europe said - "We got to know Ben this season in our Yamaha World Superbike Team as a very talented, professional and dedicated person whom we are thrilled to continue working with. Not only is the relationship between Ben, the team and Yamaha in general very successful but also it's a pleasure to work with him. This early agreement permits Yamaha and Ben Spies to now fully focus on their 2009 World Superbike campaign in their challenge to achieve their first World Superbike Championship titles together."

Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing said - "We are truly excited about the prospect of Ben's arrival into our future MotoGP program. Ben is doing a great job for Yamaha in his first season in the World Superbike Championship. He is in great shape to challenge for the title this year and we will be rooting for him at the remaining four events this season. Ben's primary mission is to win both his and Yamaha's first World Superbike title. After that when Ben eventually makes the move to the MotoGP championship we will be ready for him and, in line with the new MotoGP regulations, we will create a place for him within the Yamaha satellite team and give him the support he needs for his next challenge.

Ben Spies:

"I am very happy to say that I will remain a part of the Yamaha family and will continue in the WSB series for 2010. This is an exciting period of my racing career and I look forward to even more. Yamaha has been great in the warm welcome that I have received entering the world level and I want to thank them for all they have done, and giving me their trust for a next career step into MotoGP in 2011."

Edwards Staying at Tech 3?

In an interview on, Colin Edwrds revealed that he will probably be returning to Tech 3 Yamaha in 2010.

“Yamaha want to keep me, It is just a matter of me and Herve coming to an agreement and we are pretty much there."

Edwards also remarked that his teammate was as yet undecided but wouldn't be adverse to having fellow American Ben Spies along in the TT box.

"As regards a team-mate I don’t know yet, we’ll see what the scenario is there. I would like to see ‘Team Texas’, that would be cool. I don’t know if he is as colourful in front of the camera as I am but I’ll give him some tips!

Misano FP1

1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m35.304s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m35.430s + 0.126s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m36.080s + 0.776s
4. Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda 1m36.096s + 0.792s
5. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m36.316s + 1.012s
6. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m36.350s + 1.046s
7. Mika Kallio Ducati 1m36.419s + 1.115s
8. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m36.508s + 1.204s
9. James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha 1m36.588s + 1.284s
10. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m36.608s + 1.304s
11. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m37.056s + 1.752s
12. Toni Elias Gresini Honda 1m37.057s + 1.753s
13. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m37.126s + 1.822s
14. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1m37.134s + 1.830s
15. Niccolo Canepa Pramac Ducati 1m37.306s + 2.002s
16. Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki 1m37.454s + 2.150s
17. Gabor Talmacsi Scot Honda 1m37.869s + 2.565s

MotoGP: Misano

Two For The Show

Well, here we are, 5 days, half a world and a virtual universe away from the working-class neighborhoods of Speedway, Indiana. Misano, located on the Adriatic coast of Italy is a seaside resort town that just happens to have a world-class racetrack nearby. There must be something in the water around these parts (or vino, as the case may be) because fast motorcycle racers are born and raised here in abundance. Marco Melandri, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex DeAngelis and, oh yeah, some guy named Valentino Rossi all hail from nearby.

The MotoGP championship comes to The Doctor's "home" race a hammer and tongs battle between Rossi and his young Mallorcan teamate, Jorge Lorenzo. As we may remember, Rossi, in a rare display of poor judgment, threw away half his points lead at Indianapolis and made the title chase not as foregone a conclusion as the pundits had been saying.

With 5 races remaining on the calendar, every venture onto the track, be it practice, qualifying or the race itself has become a take-no-prisoners war between the Fiat Yamaha riders. The off-track battle has become equally heated with each side being sure to take maximum advantage of statements made to the press in an attempt to get inside the head of his rival.

Against that backdrop, we have a number of lesser dramas being played out, most notably riders without a gig for next season. Homeboy Alex DeAngelis, his Gresini bridges in smoking ruins behind him after this week's comments about a lack of team support, wants to show that his finish on the box at Indy wasn't a fluke and that he shouldn't be relegated to the murky world of Moto2. Over at Tech 3, Colin Edwards and James Toseland are auditioning, along with a cast of thousands, for the 2 most sought after rides remaining for 2010.

Over here across the pond, Americans are coming into the three-day Labor Day weekend with a veritable plethora of motorcycle racing to choose from. With the AMA, WSBK and MotoGP all being contested, we're going to need that extra day to recover from the excitement.

Bold Predictions

1. Rossi
2. Lorenzo
3. Pedrosa

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hayden Re-signs with Ducati

Press release from Ducati Corse:


Ducati Corse is hereby pleased to announce that Nicky Hayden will sign a one year extension to his current agreement and will line up alongside Casey Stoner in the Ducati Marlboro Team for 2010.

"The confirmation of Nicky is the right reward to a rider who has shown to perfectly embody the frame of mind that characterizes Ducati - Passion, Determination and Commitment." said Claudio Domenicali, Ducati Motor Holding General Manager. "We have always considered Nicky to be an important asset to the Ducati 2010 strategy and we are very happy that he will remain in the Ducati Marlboro Team.* His progression through the season has been constant up to the podium in Indianapolis and we are certain that the experience he has gained will be decisive for a 2010 season full of success"

"This has been a very good week and this news just adds to that," commented Nicky Hayden. "After the good result in Indy, now to renew the deal with Ducati is exactly what I wanted. I'm very happy. I always had faith and believed that we could achieve good results. I'm excited for these last five races of the 09 season, and if you look at the progression we have made from the start of the season to the middle, hopefully we will continue this through to the end. I just wish to say a big thanks to all the guys who made this happen, especially everybody in Ducati as well as all our sponsors and I'm sure I'll be able to do a good job next year and to continue to build with, and be part of, the Ducati family"

*Editorial translation: "None of the other riders we approached would touch the Desmosedici with a 20 meter pole for a trunk load of Euro. Nicky already has a couple of sets of red leathers and we won't have to repaint the hospitality unit. "

Pedrosa Re-Signs with Honda?

According to, Dani Pedrosa, despite receiving a rumored "lucrative offer" from Marlboro Ducati, has resigned with Repsol Honda. This is hardly much of a surprise as most reports had the Catalunyan close to an agreement with HRC. The Ducati is rapidly becoming the new "bike you can't pay me enough to ride", ala the Kenny Roberts dirt track TZ 750. The signing will supposedly be announced next week and is rumored to be a one-year deal.