Phillip Island, Australia

Imola Returns In Finalized 2009 World Superbike Championship Calendar

The FIM today announced the official and final version of the 2009 World Superbike calendar. The announcement both confirmed some sad news and provided some excellent news for racing fans.

The bad news is that Brands Hatch, the biggest motorcycle race in the UK, and arguably the largest motorsports event in the country, is now officially off the calendar. Its absence is a result of an argument over sanctioning fees between FGSport (or as it is now called, Infront Motor Sports) and MSV, the body which organizes BSB and is run by Jonathan Palmer, which owns both Brands Hatch and a number of other major race circuits in the UK. The arguments may ostensibly be over money, but a whiff of politics hangs over the decision, with the Flammini brothers wanting a great deal more money than last year, while Palmer refusing to pay any more than he did last year. The loss of Brands is a major blow to race fans, both in terms of the circuit - which is a beautiful track, in a rather idyllic wooded area, and in terms of the event. Attendances at Brands were huge, rivalling even the numbers seen at Spanish MotoGP rounds.

The good news, however, is that Vallelunga has been dropped in favor of Imola. There had been rumors that this was to happen, as the track was dangerous and difficult, with a tight section added on in haste to make it eligible for FIM sanctioned international races. And as Vallelunga was thought to be included primarily to draw in Max Biaggi's fans from his native Rome, with Biaggi now a regular part of the series, the need for a round near Rome has been obviated.

The return of Imola sees one of the classic race tracks back on the calendar. Imola has been the site of some classic battles, both in the Grand Prix series and in World Superbikes, but perhaps none have been so famous as the final round of the 2002 World Superbike series, when Colin Edwards beat Troy Bayliss to win the championship.

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Phillip Island Kawasaki And Suzuki Test - Day 3 Times

After the rest of the field had already packed up at Jerez, the Kawasaki and Suzuki teams continued testing for one more day at Phillip Island, working mostly on testing new parts to be used on the 2009 versions of their respective MotoGP machines. Though everyone except for John Hopkins - who is still in pain from an injury caused at Assen - improved their times, for all except for Marco Melandri, the improvements were fairly small.

Only Melandri made a big leap, taking 0.7 seconds off his best race time, set on the Ducati. But it is clear that both Suzuki and Kawasaki have a big hill to climb if they are to be competitive. The engineers will now return to their workshops with the data collected from the tests, and prepare the 2009 versions of the machines, which are due to be unveiled at the first test of the year. For Suzuki, that will be in Sepang in early February, together with the rest of the MotoGP paddock, but Kawasaki have chosen to return to Phillip Island once again at the end of January, for another private test.

Times set on day 3:

1Loris CapirossiSuzuki1'30.9
2Chris VermeulenSuzuki1'31.1
3Marco MelandriKawasaki1'31.8
4John HopkinsKawasaki1'32.1
5Olivier JacqueKawasaki1'32.3

Fastest times set during the race in early October: 

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Phillip Island Kawasaki And Suzuki Test - Day 2 Times

Suzuki and Kawasaki continued their testing at Phillip Island on Thursday, despite rain disrupting the morning session. Rain wasn't the only issue, as the Kawasaki riders also complained about the strong winds which Phillip Island, which sits on the very edge of the great Southern Ocean, is famous for.

The Kawasaki riders all managed to improve their times, with Marco Melandri matching his best time from the race weekend in early October with a 1'31.8, Olivier Jacque taking 3/10ths off his time from yesterday, and John Hopkins being nearly a second faster than yesterday. Suzuki released no times for today, stating that Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen worked mostly on developing the new bike.

The interesting thing is that those were the times given in the official press releases, but the well-informed Italian site GPOne.com tells a different story. They show some fairly remarkable times for Capirossi and Vermeulen, with Capirossi running a 1'29.7, 3/10ths under Nicky Hayden's lap record set in October. The time given for Capirossi was provided by his manager, Carlo Pernat, who spoke to Capirex over the phone. However, GPOne.com also quotes Bridgestone tire technicians as saying that Capirossi would have run a 1'31.0, while Vermeulen set a 1'31.2.

 

Which of the various sets of times are accurate is impossible to say, though the word of Bridgestone technicians is probably more reliable than the manager of a rider, as managers tend to have a vested interest in presenting their riders in the best possible light. Below are both sets of times, and we leave it to the analytical powers of our readers to decide which is likely to be the more accurate.

Times according to Kawasaki:

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Phillip Island Kawasaki And Suzuki Test - Day 1 Times

The MotoGP riders are back to work again today, though some earlier than others. The Kawasaki and Suzuki teams have decided to skip the official Jerez test in favor of a private test at Australia's Phillip Island circuit. The choice is particularly important for Suzuki, as the team has struggled to get results at the circuit, the bike being down on both power and suffering with edge grip problems.

So far, the times released from the test, are still some way off the pace they need to run. Marco Melandri is still getting used to the Kawasaki ZX-RR, this being only his 2nd full day of testing on the bike, after the Valencia test in October was curtailed due to rain. But already Melandri is as quick on the Kawasaki as he was on the Ducati during the race here in October, though 0.7 seconds slower than during practice here in October.

John Hopkins was considerably slower, but the American has had some pain from the ankle injury he suffered at Assen in June. The tendons are rubbing on the plate put in place to fix the ankle every time he changes gear, and both knee and ankle are swelling up and painful.

But the fastest Kawasaki rider was test rider Olivier Jacque. The Frenchman is working on a revised chassis, which will form the basis for the 2009 Kawasaki MotoGP bike, due to make its debut at Sepang in February. Jacque believes the chassis should make it possible for him to run consistent 1'31s, which would be faster than the pace of the Kawasakis during the race here.

The Suzukis were both quicker than the Kawasaki men, Loris Capirossi faster his team mate Chris Vermeulen by 4/10ths of a second. But just as at Kawasaki, neither man is close to the times they set in early October, when MotoGP raced here. So despite the revised electronics and suspension, Suzuki still has some work to do. 

Suzuki and Kawasaki will be testing at Phillip Island for two more days.

Times released from Phillip Island day 1

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2009 MotoGP Calendar Update: Misano Moved Back A Week

The FIM announced a minor change to the 2009 MotoGP calendar today. The Misano round of MotoGP will be held a week earlier than previously scheduled, moving it to the week after the Indianapolis MotoGP round.

DateGrand PrixCircuit
April 12th*QatarLosail
April 26thJapanMotegi
May 3rdSpainJerez
May 17thFranceLe Mans
May 31stItalyMugello
June 14thCatalunyaCatalunya
June 27th**NetherlandsAssen
July 5th***United StatesLaguna Seca
July 19thGermanySachsenring
July 26thGreat BritainDonington Park
August 16thCzech RepublicBrno
August 30thIndianapolisIndianapolis
September 6thSan Marino & Riviera di RiminiMisano
September 20thHungaryBalaton
October 4thPortugalEstoril
October 18thAustraliaPhillip Island
October 25thMalaysiaSepang
November 8thValenciaRicardo Tormo - Valencia

* Evening race
** Saturday race
*** Only MotoGP class

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2008 MotoGP Phillip Island Race Report - The Art Of Racing

Ever since the long-lamented 990cc bikes roared into the sunset at the end of 2006 to be replaced by the 800cc machines, MotoGP has suffered a crisis of confidence. That final year of competition with the large capacity bikes produced some of the most exhilarating racing ever seen, yet after the introduction of the new formula, the racing changed overnight, suddenly becoming processional and rather too often, positively dull.

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2008 Phillip Island Qualifying Practice Report

After Phillip Island had been treated to a very mixed bag of weather on Friday, with balmy and dry conditions in the morning making way for a very cold and wet session in the afternoon, the paddock and fans were delighted to be greeted by much more stable conditions on Saturday. The morning free practice session, which saw Nicky Hayden nudge Casey Stoner off the top of the timesheets in the dying minutes, took place in cool but dry conditions, and the official qualifying practice started out under sunny skies, but not much warmer.

The opening minutes saw lap times drop down quickly down into the mid 1'30s, with Dani Pedrosa the first rider to crack the 1'31 barrier, and Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner taking another half a second off just a few seconds later. As is his custom, Stoner then chipped away at the times even further, perfecting his race setup to set the bar at a time of 1'30.124 after just 10 minutes of the session.

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