Mika Kallio

2009 Qatar MotoGP Qualifying Report - The Grid Is The Race

Changing the way that Qualifying works is apparently the latest fashion in motorcycle racing. The World Superbike series did it by dropping the old single-lap Superpole format, and adopting a series of three knockout sessions, shameless copied from Formula One. MotoGP would protest that it has changed its qualifying format - though cost-cutting measures have reduced the length of qualifying from an hour to just 45 minutes - but the adoption of the single tire rule and the disappearance of full-on one-lap qualifying tires left MotoGP followers wondering just how this would affect the way the teams and riders approached Qualifying.

As the session started, at least one thing remained unchanged. Within a few minutes of the green lights, and on his first couple of laps out of the pits, Casey Stoner was laying down a blistering pace. The 2007 World Champion had cracked into the 1'56 bracket, and by his fourth lap, came within 0.009 of equaling the fastest time of the weekend, set by none other than Casey Stoner. The Marlboro Ducati rider was setting the bar for the rest of the field.

Though no one could directly challenge Stoner, he did not enjoy his huge (over a second) advantage for long. Within a few minutes, Valentino Rossi had jumped up to second fastest, just over 3/10ths of a second behind the Australian. Stoner did not wait long to respond: Six minutes later, the Australian was back out on track and cracking another barrier, into the 1'55s, extending his lead to over a second again with a lap of 1'55.504.

Behind Rossi, the fight for third was hotting up, with first Loris Capirossi taking the last front row spot, then Colin Edwards, before Andrea Dovizioso also got involved. Dovi held the spot for five more minutes, before Jorge Lorenzo confirmed his strong form at Qatar by blitzing a lap just short of Rossi's second place time.

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Scott Jones' Glorious Images From Qatar - Day 1

As you have surely already noticed, MotoGPMatters.com photographer Scott Jones is at Qatar (funded in part by your generous donations and the support of our carefully selected advertisers), sending back interviews and the fantastic photos which make him our favorite shooter. He's starting to send us some of his fantastic photos, which we have shared with you below. All images should link to high-res versions of the photos. Enjoy!

Mika Kallio at Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Mika Kallio testing his toesliders

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2009 Qatar MotoGP Day 1 Round Up - Stoner Firmly In Charge

The waiting really is over for MotoGP fans, as the MotoGP bikes finally took to the track at Qatar to compete in earnest. First blood in the 2009 campaign went to Casey Stoner on the Marlboro (and at Qatar, it really is a Marlboro) Ducati, a fact that shocked absolutely nobody. As ever, Stoner was fast from the moment he rolled out onto the track, getting down into 1'57 territory within ten minutes, and slashing a further 0.8 seconds off his time with 12 minutes of the session left. 

For a long time, Stoner's advantage seemed insurmountable, but in his final run, Valentino Rossi closed the gap from a second to get to within 0.4 of a second, with the potential for more if he hadn't run into traffic on a very fast lap. Though four tenths is a sizable gap, Rossi will feel he is at least in touch with Stoner, and with two more sessions to go, and no qualifying tires to distort the grid, the reigning world champion will be confident of staying with Stoner away from the line.

Third fastest man in the opening session of 2009 was Colin Edwards, the only other rider capable of getting within a second of Stoner, and looking as strong here as he looked last year during practice. Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo makes it three Yamahas in the top four, Lorenzo 1.2 seconds behind but with more likely to come.

The session threw up plenty of surprises. Such as Alex de Angelis in 5th, for example, but de Angelis also showed his Mr Hyde by running wide into the gravel during the session, a harbinger of what is to come, perhaps. An even bigger suprise was Mika Kallio finishing 7th, after having been as high as 5th earlier in the session. Though we've only had one 45 minute session of practice to judge him by, Kallio's single fast lap at the IRTA test at Jerez could possible be the rule rather than the exception.

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Those 2009 MotoGP Bikes In Full Color

The talented Scott Jones, MotoGPMatters.com's photographer, is out at Qatar covering the race for us, and is already sending back some fantastic photos, and more. But just to get the season off to a good start, here's his shots from the grid presentation earlier today. All of the pictures should link to larger, desktop-sized images.

Valentino Rossi's Fiat Yamaha M1

Rossi's 2009 Yamaha M1

Casey Stoner's Marlboro Ducati GP9

Casey Stoner's 2009 Marlboro Ducati GP9

Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda RC212V

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2009 IRTA Test Jerez Overall Times

With the IRTA Test behind us, it is an interesting exercise to map out the best times for all of the riders over the entire two-day weekend of testing at Jerez. Unsurprisingly, the best times for most people were set during the BMW M Award session, but the lack of qualifying tires this year, combined with the fact that that 45 minute session was disrupted by both the weather and James Toseland's crash meant  that there was not so much in it. Casey Stoner came out of both the M Award and the entire weekend as the clear winner, although both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were closer than these times suggest. Jorge Lorenzo, in particular, made a big step forward, and looks like he could run with Rossi, Stoner and Pedrosa this season, though he is still not ready to challenge for the title. At least, that's what he says.

But the Suzukis are back on track again too. This is the third different track at which Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen have been competitive, and it looks like they could be close to the fight for the podium this year again. Mika Kallio pulled out a single perfect lap for the M Award session, but otherwise, was further off the pace, and the Ducatis which aren't ridden by Casey Stoner seem to be struggling once again. Vito Guareschi, Ducati's test rider, was out with a cast aluminium chassis, suggesting they may be experimenting with a chassis which copes with crashing better, anticipating the single bike rule expected to come into effect in 2010, but the factory riders stayed with the carbon fiber frame. Casey Stoner tried both an aluminium and a carbon fiber swingarm, and ended up on the carbon fiber item.

Honda look to be struggling still, and are badly missing the input of the injured Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso still lacking experience in bike development, though he is learning fast. HRC will have a lot of catching up to do once Pedrosa's knee is healed, and the Spaniard is back in action. While Hayate seem to have solved some of the rear traction problems they were having, at least on a dry track which has some heat in it. Marco Melandri may not end up being 18th everywhere after all, though Qatar could still be a problem, where a cold track could cause him problems.

In two weeks time, all this speculation will end, thank heavens, as the riders hit the track and start racing once again. The time for talking is nearly at an end, and the time for twisting the throttle is almost here.

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2009 IRTA Test Jerez - Day 2 - Final Session A Washout

After heavy rain and thunderstorms disrupted the final minutes of the BMW M Award session, a wet track and overcast skies kept most of the field off the track for the final session. Only those still with testing to do took to the track, and only then after the rain had finished. Andrea Dovizioso was among the hardest working of the riders, and saw his hard work rewarded with the fastest time, ahead of Chris Vermeulen, once again demonstrating both his prowess in the wet and the progress of the Suzuki, and Marco Melandri, who has less to worry about the rear of the Hayate / Kawasaki when grip is down anyway.

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda, IRTA Test Jerez 2009

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Dominant Stoner Takes BMW As Rain Stops Play At Jerez

Casey Stoner did at Jerez what Casey Stoner seems to be capable of at any circuit. The Australian dominated the 45 minute special qualifying session at the official IRTA Test at Jerez, eventually taking the BMW on offer for the fastest lap by over 7/10ths of a second. The Ducati rider took control of the session just 8 minutes in, smashing the 1'40 barrier with a lap of 1'39.176, over a second up on the rest of the field.

The rest of the session saw the other riders edging closer, with Valentino Rossi looking like taking top spot from Stoner, until he was balked by a slower rider. But with just under 10 minutes of the session left, Stoner stomped on any hopes other riders might have been cherishing of bagging the BMW. The Australian slashed half a second off his previous time, putting in a lap of 1'38.646 to claim the special BMW M Award.

A few minutes later, the black clouds which had been threatening the track finally broke over the circuit, drenching the track and halting any chance of riders improving their times. The entire field headed back to the safety of the pits, and with 5 minutes of the official session left, it was effectively over.

Bad luck dogged James Toseland at Jerez. With 16 min to go, the Englishman hit a white line going into to Turn 3, and tumbled through the gravel at high speed. The accident caused the session to be briefly red flagged, as the medics transported Toseland and the remains of his Tech 3 Yamaha from the track. The rider was reported to be OK, but he looked badly banged up. The word so far is that Toseland suffered a concussion, but no official announcements have been made.

Nicky Hayden was slightly luckier than Toseland. The American ran wide into the gravel, but used all his dirt track skills to stay upright as he ran through the gravel at high speed.

Results of the BMW M Award.

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2009 IRTA Test Jerez Day 2 - FP2 Final Times

The switch from Central European Time to Central European Summer Time meant we lost an hour at Jerez this morning, the clocks going forward. So when practice opened at 10am this morning, the track had barely warmed, and the cold wind made wearing a coat highly advisable. As a consequence, most of the riders didn't hit the track until 10:45, with only the test riders out and circulating. 

Casey Stoner was one of the first official riders out, and was apparently entirely unhindered by the cool track temperatures. Within three laps, Stoner was under the existing lap record, and a tenth of a second quicker than his own time yesterday. Behind Stoner were the Fiat Yamaha pair, Jorge Lorenzo leading team mate Valentino Rossi once again, while Suzuki's Loris Capirossi was less than a tenth slower than Rossi, showing that Suzuki mean business this year.

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