2012 Laguna Seca MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Silly Season Reopened, And Edwards Entertains

As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday, on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision "until I'm ready to talk about the future." To carry that off and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you is quite an achievement.

Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes - well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy and a few border issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down - plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement. Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try to slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited available rides.

Prime candidate to take Spies' ride is, unsurprisingly, one Valentino Rossi. With Spies out of Yamaha, his seat in the factory team is now officially open for a return by Valentino Rossi. Yamaha's prodigal son admitted on Thursday that he had "other options" alongside remaining at Ducati, but he also made it clear that he had not yet made up his mind what he was going to do. A decision would come only during the summer break - the period between Laguna Sec and Indianapolis - Rossi said, and he would spend his holiday time weighing up his options. "There are pluses and minuses which have to be weighed up," Rossi told the Italian press.

A return to Yamaha would be a guarantee of having a competitive bike in the short term, but he would face "the rider currently in the best shape" Jorge Lorenzo. It would be a difficult decision, for on it hangs Rossi's final years in MotoGP. The fact that Audi want to keep Rossi at Ducati was "an honor" and the Italian was seriously considering the offer he had from the Italian factory. If it was just a question of money, he said, the decision would have been made a long time ago. But before he would sign with Ducati again, "there are still a few technical details to clear up," Rossi said. The Italian was careful to heap praise on Ducati Corse head Filippo Preziosi, and denied that the factory had had any contact with Masao Furusawa, former head of Yamaha's MotoGP program. "I never spoke directly with him, and everyone at Ducati says the news is not true," Rossi told the Italian press.

Rossi will have some updates at Laguna, but not as much as he had hoped for. The setback at the Mugello test, where a "component failure" had caused Rossi to crash and prevented him from testing all of the new rideability package he had hoped to use at Laguna. There will be some updates available - Nicky Hayden spoke of some parts for the throttle bodies, hinting at some modifications to the butterfly valves and some electronics to manage them. But there is still a large part of the rideability package to come, and the negative aspect for Rossi is that the parts are simply not ready yet. In an earlier interview with GPOne.com, Jeremy Burgess had said that part of keeping Rossi happy was giving him the impression that things were moving along. Having new parts to test each weekend would help keep Rossi motivated, Burgess said.

While Rossi's future is uncertain, that of Nicky Hayden looks very close to being settled. Hayden told reporters at Laguna that negotiations with Ducati had been moving briskly since Mugello. Sources inside Ducati suggest that the deal is likely to be concluded and announced this weekend, though they remain tight-lipped on the record. The contract looks to be for a single year, and the news that Hayden will be back at Ducati is being picked over for significance by everyone inside the paddock. Does selecting Hayden to stay mean that Ducati has moved to ensure at least one stable factor for 2013, expecting Rossi to move to Yamaha? Or is Hayden's contract a sop to keep Rossi at Ducati, giving the Italian a reliable partner to test the Desmosedici with and help him develop the bike?

That uncertainty is playing into the Yamaha camp as well. With Spies gone and Rossi yet to make his mind up, the Tech 3 Yamaha riders are waiting to hear where they will end up. Cal Crutchlow has an offer from Ducati, but it now appears that will only be valid if a seat is vacated at the factory by Rossi. Andrea Doviziosi, meanwhile, has offers from Gresini and from Ducati, as well as options in World Superbikes, but is bitterly disappointed that Yamaha are waiting to hear what Rossi does before giving Dovizioso the call. "On a satellite Yamaha M1," he told the Italian media, "I am scoring results which nobody expected, but this is not enough." Like Dovizioso, Crutchlow wants to be on a factory bike, regarding that as the only way to be in with a chance of a title. "With a satellite Yamaha you can be 5th or 6th, score a few podiums, and if you are very, very lucky, maybe get a win," Crutchlow said.

What is certain is that Bradley Smith will be moving up to MotoGP. Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal confirmed to French journalist Michel Turco that Smith would indeed be on one of the team's two Yamaha M1s in 2013, though the second rider is still to be named. Experience could be key here, and while Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso could fulfill that role if they stay, Poncharal is exploring other options as well. Randy de Puniet is one option - Poncharal could end up with two Frenchmen in his team, as current Moto3 rider Louis Rossi is also being linked to Tech 3 to race in the Moto2 team - while the other is Nicky Hayden, should the American's Ducati deal fall through. The name of Hayden is a surprise, as Poncharal was not excited by the prospect when I spoke to him about it a few races ago.

The good news for race fans is that Colin Edwards will be back in MotoGP next season. The Texan revealed that he has a two-year deal with Forward, but the real reason the fans will be glad to see him was the way that he made his announcement. When asked about the Suter he is currently riding, he called it "a piece of shit", explaining that his bike, like all the CRTs as far as he could see, was a very long way from being competitive. Where at a race weekend, they should be working on the fine details of setup, in actual fact they were still trying to figure the big picture out, he said. "We had our ass smacked and our balls tickled, but some of the things that were promised, it just hasn't happened," the Texan said colorfully. He should have an Aprilia from Indianapolis, which is not enough to race with the prototypes, but it was at least the best CRT bike, he said.

Edwards was ambivalent about the idea of CRTs, seeing the point of the rule, but saying that at the pace the bikes are currently going, it simply made no sense. "It's just kind of a bullshit rule," Edwards said. "How do you expect to fly around the world and compete when you know you can't win? It's been hard to stay motivated when you know you can maybe get 12th, maybe get 10th. But the formula's just not right yet, the CRT thing is a good idea - or a one-brand bike, or whatever that rule is - but right now when you have a bunch of prototypes out on track, it's more dangerous than anything. I feel like I'm spending more time looking behind me, trying not go get out of these guy's way." The solution was easy, according to Edwards. "The bikes all these guys are riding this year? Make them available for satellite teams next year. That way you get 24 bikes on the grid, let's go racing," Edwards said. A brilliant idea that Dorna, the FIM and IRTA have pushed for repeatedly, only to be rebuffed by the factories. They would rather send the old bikes to the crusher than have them on the grid.

Edwards' frank and entertaining replies prompted a question from Ben Spies when the floor was opened to questions: "You must have a really good press officer, don't you?" Spies joked. Edwards then went on to prove exactly why he is such a special part of MotoGP, disregarding protocol to get his son up onto the stage, taking pictures with his son halfway through the press conference, before allowing it to continue. Edwards then cracked some jokes about the silly season speculation: "Valentino's going back to Yamaha, Ben's going to race the Tour de France and Casey and me are going hunting" quipped the Texan.

With so many riders brought up to respond exactly as their PR managers demand, Edwards is a breath of fresh air. He generates a lot more interest for his team than his results command, and he is a massive favorite with the fans. The sponsors probably hate it, but the truth is, they get more bang for their buck from a witty loudmouth like Edwards than they do from the average, polite racer that populates most grids in most series nowadays. MotoGP needs characters like Edwards.

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You usually have more info than most of us. I'm curious to know what it is.
What makes you almost certain Ben will switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia?

MotoGP in 2014 on a BMW prototype is what will happen. Ben is simply assembling a new team, testing it out in WSBK, for a return a year later.

Rumor has it, Ben feels that Yamaha is 'lopsided toward Lorenzo', I also don't think he had a very good relationship with Jarvis... but all will be revealed in good time. I just hope he does it with respect for Yamaha and the success they've enjoyed together in WSBK, the AMA etc.

Colin has a sense of humour, by far the best method to deliver bad news is to soften it with humour, Edwards is a master of it. His comments regarding CRT are superb. I really wanted CRT to work, but its not happening.

Lorenzo is another with a great sense of humour but he respects the Yamaha press officer's intentions more often.

I do wonder if Casey, who is not so naturally funny, had made the comments regarding CRTs, Dorna etc how they would've been received? No doubt he would've been labelled a "whinger"... But add humour and its all good. Funny though, I agree with that process.

Really enjoyed the round up, thanks mottomatters..

Pretty sure CRT being shit the first year was sorta understood by Dorna. I think this will help them push through the standardized ECU.

Agreed. The CRT bikes were never going to be competitive with the factory prototypes in their current guise. They simply didn't have the required level of development.

Making the racing more competitive is Dornas ultimate goal, and to do that they need a stable set of rules that keep the performance within boundaries which can be achieved by the private teams. CRTs were never really going to be the answer, especially while the rules stay in a constant state of flux, as nobody would get sufficient development time to start hassling even the privateers.

Suzuki's 800 project showed that, over the course of several seasons, the performance of the slower teams improves, while the level of the tops teams plateaus. This is the reason that BMW are biding their time, waiting for a solid set of rules to base the design of their new bike on. Aprilia are doing the same, while using the CRT concept to gain some valuable development data.

Haha the bikes a piece of shit saying badwords cussing beeing a blunt n badass haha yeah that's Edwards a badass mofo we gonna miss when he retires..
Wish he was still on a Yamaha... And I have my doubts about where Rossi will end up but I think it will be back where it started on the Yamaha alongside Lorenzo..
Can't wait for free practice tommorow

You've got to love Edwards. No matter his results or what bike he's stuck with or team-mate, he always seems to be having a good time. Will be good to see his NGM team finally put that pile of parts to bed. The Suter BMW never worked from the off. Even in Qatar, they finished well because the Aprilias were malfunctioning. I think we'll see some better results from NGM Forward and Colin Edwards from Indy on out.

Let Ben develop the BMW the way it was meant to be developed: in its own chassis by its own engineers. I'd like to see Ben win WSBK again, and come back to GP racing as a principal factory rider.

I'm getting a little worried for Cal and Dovi. Their futures seem to be completely tied to Rossi's decision. If he stays at Ducati someone's going to remain a satellite rider for another year or two. Dovi's got the numbers this year for a move up, and he'll likely get along with Lorenzo. Cal's paid his dues, on the other hand to Yamaha by persevering on the Tech 3 team. Both riders are deserving of a factory ride, but Rossi holds the cards.

Silly season indeed!

He must be bringing news sponsors with a truckload of cash, because his results in Moto2 aren't much to generate a bump to the premier class.

I wouldn't say that. He's not on a Kalex or Suter... He's on an in-house project bike that while looks great isn't up to the level of those others. He does a good job of keeping it at the pointy end, probably closer to it than the bike is really capable of.

I think it's more a case of cashing in on a promess incentive. Poncharal wanted a high profile rider for his Tech3 project in Moto2. A MotoGP ride was in the contract signed by Smith. The Tech3 chassis is far from the best. I think Smith is better than what the results show.

Thanks for a great 'interim' piece David.

I must say I hadn't realised that the factories refuse to release the outdated bikes; what a shame. CE is right, we'd possibly have a grid full of prototypes again and not two seperate races. Admittedly there would only be 3 manufacturers out there...

Fingers crossed that BMW come on board and Suzuki return (not least of all because an old man I likes the girls in the blue uniforms and hats, oh and the handcuffs).

Don't know how much it cost the factories to keep outdated parts available but it may not be a sustainable option for them if the lease price is set too low.

Isnt that how Vale was when he was young? a punk who didnt yield into protocols... Thats what he was known for.. the race where max pushed him out of the track and rossi showed the finger.. thats badass.. haha

anyways, question regarding ben. If he's going to the BMW SBK team, then either Haslam or Melandri will be out rite? or is it a different team?

David said that Ben is going to the BMW Italia team not the BMW factory team, so they are different.
And Haslam is alreary out of the BMW factory team, the team will be racing with only melandri next year.

Dovi is a very good, consistent, and fast rider. He is a little bit like Hayden in terms of potential, maybe slightly better. They are both backup riders for the number one guy. No one expects them to win the world title but hey... It is not impossible- Hayden has proved it.
Repsol wanted the get rid of him to make room for Stoner, a WC and multiple race winner. He add to bring in his lawyer to stay on the team last year.
Yamaha knows what they are going to get with him, 4-6 podiums and maybe a lucky win.
He always acts as if he does not understand why the factory teams are not treating him like royalty. The answer is simple: he is a number 2 rider just like Hayden, Spies, and Bautista. You get a shot at it, and if you don't deliver the search begins for the next bright star.

Hayden may still have a ride because well, let's face it, not too many want to jump on the GP13.
Spies could have kept his seat because he was already there, and no one that much better than him was waiting in the pipeline.
Dovi could get a factory seat at Yamaha, if Rossi declines the offer, or at Ducati, if Rossi leaves and Cal gets overlooked.
IMHO it's Cruthlow, Bradl, Bautista, and even De Puniet's turn to be given a shot on a proper factory bike. That' why I liked to rookie rule. Without Marquez jumping to the Repsol team, one of these guys would have received an offer.

Let's not forget that last year Dovi finished above HRC's 'annointed one' Pedrosa and has been the next best after either 4 (and later 3) aliens since his rookie year in the premier class - no mean feat when up against some of the best riders of the last 30 years of Grand Prix. He's now consistently beating the number 2 Factory rider, and his very hard charging team mate. He is a former 125 world champion who in his world championship year beat 9 previous or future world champions, including Stoner, Lorenzo, Bautista and the late Marco. He regularly stuck it to Lorenzo when Jorge was on a dominant Aprilia RSA and Dovi was on an undeveloped Honda. Add all those things together and I think you've got a compelling reason for Dovi to be given the second Yamaha. He may not be the be the brashest kid in the paddock, but he let's his riding do the talking. In my view he has more potential on the Yamaha than he ever did with the Honda as It suits his late braking style. It's that skill that kept him in the hunt with Lorenzo when he was on a plainly slower Honda. I'm a big fan of Vale's and I'd love to see him return to Yamaha for the emotional link, but he's 7 years Dovi's senior and to me it would seem a shame for someone who left the factory of his own accord to take the ride of someone looking to secure a long-term seat on a bike that is clearly suiting him.

Totally agree with the last sentence. However, MotoGP desperately need some excitement and close fighting at the front. Not saying Rossi will return or even deserve to return to Yamaha but we, the fans, want to see the drama and close fighting Rossi will bring on a competitive M1. Dovi may well be the third or fourth best rider out there but I don't see him challenging Lorenzo and Pedrosa.

Rossi and JB have stepped up, Audi have stepped up, now it's ducati's turn to change from the small manufacturer excuse, and start acting like the massive company they are now apart of.
I think we will see what they are made of in the next few months... For me Rossi has done everything and more at honda and yam far surpasing the dreams of both Casey and Jorge so has nothing to prove there and nothing to gain. But both him and Ducati have everything to gain by making the duke a successful 'brand' in motogp.
It's harsh that so many riders are being kept waiting and it all seems to be because Ducati won't confirm whether they will put in anywhere near the effort of the japs(needed), hard to believe really... Time to step up for them.. Glad to see they have resigned Nicky. Whilst I feel for both Cal and Dovi they do seem to have got it into their heads that a factory ride is a given for someone having a decent season and with only 4 bikes capable of what they both want at the current time can't help thinking they have got a little ahead of themselves, Cal especially... Besides which the US is a massive market for Ducati(the only thing that appears to be going right for them)and judging by the backlash over the last few weeks they cannot afford not to have Nicky onboard. As an aside, read an article this morning about what will happen to caseys team when he leaves, the majority of them I suspect moving to honda from long term careers at ducati, only to find themselves out of work only two seasons on(Marquez bringing his own team as is the fashion these days).. There are simply no guarantees in this sport.
At least CE still has his sense of humour, and, still has a ride in motogp.. Though you have to wonder why NGM have continued for so long with the same design... Is cost a major factor for the CRTs?? seems obvious but if not then he's every right to be pissed.

Something is afoot for Ben to leave the "best" team.

Methinks Ben was to lose the factory bike to Rossi, though, NOT in the factory team. Rossi is sponsored by Monster, so are Tech3.

So Rossi on a factory at Monster Tech3 with Bradley Smith (for whatever reason) on a satellite. Cal to Ducati.

This puts Dovi to the factory team on a satellite spec bike (maybe spec plus) with Jorge leading the factory.

All speculation.....

.. but you're forgetting who pays for MotoGP teams to go racing. As David alluded to in his article on Rossi's options, factory team sponsors do not expect their investment to be repaid by letting satellite teams beat the factory boys. OK, so Yamaha don't have a title sponsor at the moment, but they're hardly going to attract one by having the most marketable asset in MotoGP riding in a satellite team.

Of course, you, me (and probably Herve) would all love to see it to happen.

This is what I was on to writing few weeks ago, that Casey's way of dealing with MotoGP is one of the best this days or the best possible. Ben Spies, now Edwards openly say it. Motivation sucked as regulations changing like rollercoaster with much help from all the so called PR s h i t with Dorna support (towards certain Spanish/Italian side). What Spies, Stoner and now Edwards highlighted is the PR cage making them prisoners who hates their job (it's no more passion...) The PR cage is currently extended to sponsors, MotoGP owners and bikemakers. What riders can do now? only hunger strike to hear them. Only riders have the best suggestions to cure the serie.
Family, spontaneous behave has a lot of meanings. Freedom and entertaining is one of them.
It's not anarchy and bad business for sponsors and bikemakers - it's the best PR they can ever reach. Watch and listen again Edwards, Spies and Stoner carefully. They're on to something very important which is near to losing.

Awesome stuff, but I'd much rather have seen him bang fairings with Checca & Biaggi the last couple years. Aside from comic relief, MotoGP is a waste of time for him.

From here (2013) forward I think I may agree with that. I believe Colin was led to think he was the main guy tapped by Dorna to develop the entire CRT project on the track. This was the future of Moto GP and he was going to be the pioneer. Thus the "smacked our asses and tickled our balls" statement. We see now how that's worked out. No one could have predicted back in 2011 that Aprilia would weld a few tabs on the WSBK chassis and call that a CRT or that Suter would concentrate all their efforts on one guy in Moto 2 to the detriment of everyone else. So as it turns out, with Dorna's greed for full grids and factories willing to crush multi-million dollar bikes instead of re-sell them to satellites, we've had to settle for a two tier Moto GP.

But I agree with you about the coming year. Why continue with the misery and broken promises of being a "Claiming Rules Team" and living your existence at the blunt end when you could be treated like a king again in WSBK...maybe even bring Yamaha back to the series.

A week ago today, we were all tearfully saying goodbye to Nicky Hayden, while a few acidic malcontents were happy to pound away that he doesn't have the track record to deserve a factory ride - or even supposedly to stay in MotoGP.

Today he seems to have the safest place of all the unsigned riders.

Guess this is a wonderful object lesson on not commenting too quickly. Of course, I say that here where it will be understood if not agreed to. Saying this on crash.net . . . . . . . nobody would be able to get the point.

Not so good for Crutchlow. Ducati are obviously keeping him waiting for Rossi to make his decision. He had an offer on the table from Poncheral, I suggest he takes it now before the carrot of a works Duke ride is yanked away and he finds himself left with only the prospect of a satellite Ducati for 2013 and obscurity.

I am salivating at the thought of Spies going head to head against Melandri on the BMW's next year. That is going to be fun.

A big fan of Checa, but he got his title, so now I won't feel bad if Melandri or Spies takes it back.

And as much as it sucks Spies is leaving GP to WSBK, somehow it just seems right to hear about him back there.

The bottom line is that Dorna has had a firm grip on MotoGP for a number of years, and the results aren't impressive. Less competitive racing, fewer manufacturers, and riders retiring or leaving for WSBK. The constant rule changes are a reflection that Dorna is making things up as it goes.

A lot of criticism has been heaped on the manufacturers for the introduction of the 800s, less competitive racing, and increased costs. At least Dorna has been incredible good at creating this narrative, and journalists have been happy to agree.

If the manufacturers were really to blame, then it was Dorna who let it happen. Dorna obviously didn't at the time understand the impact of the changes suggested by the manufacturers. Whether the manufacturers were really at fault, I believe, is debatable. What's certain is that Dorna didn't undertand then the impact of technical changes to cost and competition.

So, why does it make sense for Dorna to push for all of these technical changes to prototypes? Their CRT proposal has been nothing short of a miserable failure. Colin was only expressing what was blindingly obvious. What's even more sad is the number of prototypes on the grid. Dorna is clearly trying to make the grid look like less of a joke.

The last minute weight changes and the changing of tires mid-season are more examples of Dorna idiocy. Why can't they keep things stable for just a while? See comments from Casey, Burgess, etc on why making changes all the time is just bad. Let's not even mention the fact that it's definitely not helping costs and likely making things less competitive.

Davide Brivio made a great argument earlier in the season. Basically, what MotoGP needs are more sponsors. This is where Dorna should be spending their time. They should help each team find more sponsors and get them more money instead of changing a bunch of rules. Getting more sponsors means making the sport more accessible outside of Spain and Italy.

The trend is disheartening. I find it sad that the press is consumed with the latest rumors instead of having their eye on the bigger trend.

"I find it sad that the press is consumed with the latest rumors instead of having their eye on the bigger trend."

The press are beholden to those Spanish parasites for their credentials and all the other little ( or should that be ' big ' ? ) perks that are associated with attendance at GP's.

Any really pertinent, barbed criticism of those Dorna scum would mean a journo was blackballed.................

If we're lucky, Dorna will be consumed when the Spanish economy implodes totally. Hopefully that will be sooner than later.

Personally, I think Rossi has had his chance. He left Yamaha of his own free will to "conquer" the Ducati. Give one of the future world champions a chance. I'd love to see what Pol Espargaro could do. And he's got heaps of personality.

Every utterance from any senior BMW Motorrad executive in the past two years clearly indicates the German company sees the costs as in MotoGP as way, way too high. In fact, one of them recently criticised Honda and Yamaha for the escalation of costs there. Given also that BMW has taken three and a half seasons in the Superbike World Championship to develop its S1000RR into a winner, it is hard to see them being close to competitive in MotoGP. With the announcement that BMW will not be entering a factory team in SWC in 2013, what happens to the facility it set up jointly with Alpha Racing. Will that operation build Superbike and Superstock S1000RRs for various national distributor racing teams?

The speculation of Spies riding for BMW Motorrad Italia does make sense. He would be welcomed in Superbike with open arms and let's face it, that's the series that provides the exciting racing. Melandri and Sykes battling at Brno was riveting.