Alex de Angelis

2009 Qatar Night Test Day 2 - Stoner Is Back

Testing resumed under rather better conditions at Qatar today, yesterday's rain fortunately not making a reappearance. And so all of the riders took to the track, with no reason to sit it out. One rider came to regret that decision, Dani Pedrosa suffering a big highside, and fracturing his wrist and leg (full story here), a bitter irony after the Spaniard chose to sit out yesterday's session for fear of aggravating his already injured knee.

Fastest of the day was - how could it be otherwise? - Casey Stoner. The Australian put in relatively few laps, but according to Livio Suppo, his wrist was holding up better than it had been previously, the surgery on his injured scaphoid slowly starting to heal. Stoner was testing a carbon fiber swingarm to go along with the carbon fiber frame, and from the times he set, it would appear to be working.

Valentino Rossi was second fastest, though still 6/10ths behind Stoner, a big gap. But his arrears to Stoner had not left him without a sense of humor: Rossi appeared at the track with a comedy high-visibility yellow helmet, in the colors used by the emergency services in a number of countries.

Colin Edwards was third fastest, the Tech 3 Yamaha man clearly settling in with his new crew chief, while Andrea Dovizioso was left to salvage Repsol Honda's honor, taking the 4th fastest time in the dying minutes of the session, ahead of the Suzukis of Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi.

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2009 Qatar Night Test - Rain In The Desert

The night test at Qatar got off to a frankly bizarre start on Sunday night. The test, which was due to run from 6pm to midnight local time, got off to a difficult start, after rain in the morning left the track greasy, and then rain at around 7pm called proceedings to a halt for a while, with riders sitting in the pits for an hour or so, before going out again. But it wasn't just rain that was causing the problems: Sand had been blowing onto the track and both reducing grip while paradoxically increasing tire wear, making the whole exercise of rather dubious value.

That was certainly the opinion of a number of riders: Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa decided to sit out the evening, not wanting to risk further injury to their recovering wrist and knee respectively. Loris Capirossi did not even bother to start, while Valentino Rossi came straight in after an out lap. Jorge Lorenzo recording a single lap before coming back in again.

The two riders who recorded the most laps were the two riders who need the work the most: Nicky Hayden is still battling to come to terms with the Ducati, and find a solution to the rear wheel pump that everyone except Casey Stoner seems to struggle with. Stoner suffers it just as much as all the other Ducati riders, he just seems to cope with it better, perhaps by ignoring it completely.

Marco Melandri is still to sign his contract to ride the "Hayate", or The-Bike-Formerly-Know-As-The-2009-Kawasaki. But he put in a fair stint of testing, to try and get a feel for what the bike is like. According to GPOne.com, Melandri said that TBFKAT2K is better than the 2008 Kawasaki, which must come as a relief. The team is to be run by technical guru Ichiro Yoda, with former team boss Michael Bartholemy having been pushed aside.

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2009 Sepang Test - Day 3 - Final Times - Stoner Smashes Lap Record Once More

Casey Stoner completed the three day test at Sepang exactly where he hoped to be: On top. Despite the continuing pain from his wrist, which prevented the factory Ducati rider from putting in any long runs, there was no stopping Stoner. His fastest lap, on the new spec tires which are capable of lasting much longer than the old soft qualifying tires, was over a second quicker than the current lap record he holds.

Second fastest was Valentino Rossi, another inmate of MotoGP's sick bay. The reigning World Champion got close - within a tenth of a second - but could not quite match Stoner's blistering pace. The Doctor kept Suzuki veteran Loris Capirossi behind him, Capirex consigned to third place, just over a tenth of a second behind Rossi. Capirossi has been the revelation of the test, the new Suzuki clearly improved, though the Sepang track also suiting the bikes handling very well.

Fourth fastest was Colin Edwards, the Texan showing both that the 2009 Yamaha M1 is an excellent package, and that he is one of the few Michelin riders to have adapted easily to the new Bridgestone tires, demonstrating just why Michelin kept him as their lead test rider for so long. The other former Michelin men are much further down the field, Jorge Lorenzo the first of them in 7th, three quarters of a second behind his team mate, ahead of Repsol Honda new boy Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi was left without a team mate, after Dani Pedrosa went home a day early with a painful knee, which is still not fully recovered from surgery in December.

Pedrosa's absence left Toni Elias the fastest Honda rider, surprising many who had thought that Elias would struggle with the new tires. The Spaniard had previously used a special custom front tire, of a much softer construction, but has adapted very well to the new, much stiffer tires being used.

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2009 Sepang Test - Day 2 - Final Times - Stoner Continues To Lead

Casey Stoner continued his dominance at Sepang today, on the second day of testing, though his wrist continues to trouble him, leaving the Australian incapable of putting in too many laps. But even a relatively small number of laps is enough to be the fastest man on the grid, which should give the competition pause for thought. 

Loris Capirossi continues his strong showing at Sepang, raising hopes that Suzuki might have a good season again in 2009. The Italian veteran is a fraction ahead of his compatriot Valentino Rossi, who was third fastest. Like Stoner, Rossi is also struggling with injury, though the stitches in his fingers and foot are nowhere near as serious as Stoner's healing scaphoid. But there is less than 2/10ths of a second covering the top three, so things are pretty close.

After a difficult first day, Dani Pedrosa is back up to speed, the Repsol Honda rider also cracking the 2'02 barrier. But Pedrosa is a quarter of a second behind Rossi, and nearly 0.4 behind Stoner. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden took a second off his time from yesterday, climbing to 9th. But the American is still over a second and a half behind his team mate.

James Toseland is the rider struggling the most. The Englishman didn't improve his time from yesterday, and is propping up the bottom of the timesheets. Not the start to the year Toseland will be hoping for.

Testing concludes tomorrow.

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2009 Sepang Test - Day 2 Times - 4pm - Stoner Back On Top

On day 2 of the Sepang test, the picture is similar to yesterday. Once again, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi are battling it out for supremacy, and a 4pm, it was the Australian who was on top. But unlike yesterday, the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was very close behind, and ready to join the front group. More times once testing finishes. 

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2009 Sepang Test - Day 1 Times Final - Capirossi Smashes Lap Record

The work that Suzuki have done on their GSV-R over the winter seems to be paying off. After the deadly duo of Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi had led for most of the day, Capirossi put in a final fast lap to top the timesheets. And what a lap: over quarter of a second under Stoner's existing lap record. Suzuki have been impressive at Sepang before, putting in a strong showing here at the beginning of the 2007 season, and it looks like they have found some of the speed they lost last year, although it must be said that the Sepang track's lack of very long fast sweepers suits the Suzuki very well. With Capirossi appearing wearing standard Suzuki leathers, it looks like Rizla will not be renewing its deal, though you have to wonder whether a good result from testing here might help sway the argument.

Casey Stoner was second fastest, his scaphoid surgery apparently successful, as he was riding comfortably, and comfortably under the lap record. Valentino Rossi was in a little more discomfort from the stitches he has in his hand after falling over at home, but the Italian was still very fast, though 3/10ths slower than Stoner. Rossi suffered a fall earlier in the day, but escaped relatively uninjured. Capirossi's team mate Chris Vermeulen set the fourth fastest time, confirming Suzuki's form here in Malaysia.

The atmosphere in the factory Honda garage could be tested, as Toni Elias was the fastest of the Hondas, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso on the first of the official Repsol bikes. Dani Pedrosa, heavily tipped for the championship this year, only managed the eighth fastest time, 1.5 seconds behind Capirossi. Sete Gibernau was fastest of the other Ducatis, 1.75 seconds behind Casey Stoner, but a quarter of a second ahead of Stoner's Marlboro Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden, who finished 11th.

Testing continues tomorrow.

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2009 Sepang Test - Day 1 Times - 4pm - Rossi Leads Stoner

Action is still underway in Malaysia, and the times are starting to come in. All day long, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have been swapping the lead, and at 4pm, it was Rossi's turn at the top of the timesheets. The big surprise of the day are the Suzukis, both Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen the only riders capable of getting anywhere near the two leaders.

More worrying will be the big gaps between the rest of the field: Dani Pedrosa is in 6th place, nearly a second behind Rossi, while Sete Gibernau in 10th is another second behind Pedrosa. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden is down in 14th, just behind James Toseland. Hayden's time will be a worrying sign that the Ducati is still a difficult bike to handle.

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Honda To Introduce Rev Limits - For The Satellite Teams

One of the cost-cutting proposals aimed at saving MotoGP currently under discussion is the introduction of rev limits. The idea is that the lower revving engines will stress the engines less, and make them last longer, cutting the amount of maintenance required. Whether this will work or not is open to debate, and ever the great innovator, Honda have taken the first step, in announcing that they will be placing a rev limit of 18,200 revs on RC212V engines.

Of course, Honda isn't foolish enough to sacrifice its chance of winning a title while imposing rev limits, so the only bikes these limits will be applied to will be the satellite spec RC212Vs. The factory-spec Hondas of Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso and - presumably - Toni Elias will continue unfettered by any such limits.

This is a hard blow on the satellite teams. Though aimed at extending engine life from the current 600km to 1200km - or about two race weekends - it will also most likely render the satellite spec bikes unable to compete with the much faster factory bikes. Coming after two years of - by HRC's very high standards - substandard equipment, another year of circulating at the back of the field will make it even harder for the satellite Honda teams to secure sponsorship.

The restriction is even more frustrating because it cancels out the benefits of having pneumatic valves. The satellite teams were looking forward to being able to compete once again, now that HRC had dropped its old steel spring valve engines and switched to the potentially more powerful pneumatic valve unit. But most of those benefits will be lost due to the rev ceiling.

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Full Jerez MotoGP Race Online On Youtube From MotoGP.com

Dorna has been notoriously careful with the video footage of its races, and has spent a lot of time and effort getting races and fragments of races taken off of Youtube and other video sharing websites. Indeed, when an online publication such as ours applies for media accreditation for MotoGP races, we are issued with instructions explicitly forbidding us to shoot and use any moving image footage of the race. This is entirely understandable, as the lion's share of Dorna's income is from television broadcasters, and they expect a good deal of protection for the large sums of money they pay for the broadcast rights.

One sign that things are starting to change a little at Dorna was the opening earlier last year of the official MotoGP.com Youtube channel, which hosted various snippets of video from the MotoGP.com website, including the excellent After The Flag official video podcast. It was a start - a careful one, but a start nonetheless.

Now, though, bigger changes are afoot. Perhaps having learned from the World Superbike website, which hosts live video of the races on its website for free in most countries, MotoGP.com is now starting to put some of the old races online. The first race to go up is the complete footage of the 2008 Jerez race, which went up online earlier today. Whether this is the first of many, or just a one-off experiment remains to be seen. At the very least, it is a promising step.

Embedding of the video has been disabled, so you'll have to head on over to the MotoGP Youtube channel, and watch it online there.

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Melandri: Team Scot, Gresini, Or Something In Between?

Since news of Kawasaki's imminent withdrawal from MotoGP hit the internet, speculation has positively boiled over about the future of the two riders under contract to Team Green, John Hopkins and Marco Melandri. Hopkins' future is thought to be relatively secure, as the Monster Energy sponsorship money which helped fund the team is firmly tied to the American, and will go wherever Hopkins goes.

Melandri, though, is another matter altogether. Although highly popular, he doesn't have a huge sponsorship deal tied directly to him personally which would ease his way into another team. However, his popularity in Italy and beyond, as well as his previous success (Melandri's manager Alberto Vergani likes to point out that Melandri has 5 MotoGP victories to Dani Pedrosa's 6) mean that he is a popular target for the Italian satellite teams.

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