Mika Kallio

2009 IRTA MotoGP Test Jerez Day 1 - 1pm Update

The track is drying at Jerez, though more due to the wind than the sun, the skies are still cloudy, if not quite leaden. But the times are now definitely starting to drop. So far, Loris Capirossi is topping the timesheets, finally emerging from the pits to prove that the Suzuki genuinely looks fast. James Toseland is currently second, ahead of the Playboy LCR Honda of Randy de Puniet.

Valentino Rossi was the last of the late wakers, finally entering his pit garage shortly after 1pm.

Times shortly after 1pm

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2009 Qatar Night Test Day 3 - Stoner Nearly A Second Ahead

On the final day of testing at Qatar, Casey Stoner did his usual trick of trouncing the field, his fastest time of 1'55.744 just 6/10ths off his own lap record, and nearly a second faster than his nearest competitor. Stoner did relatively few laps, and is still in some pain from his recuperating scaphoid, but declared himself happy with its progress, calling his wrist "almost OK", although he did tell GPOne.com that he was unhappy with the number of laps he had put in on the Ducati. The only worry the Australian had was in areas which involved heavy braking for left handers with the bike tipped over. Stoner had been testing electronics settings to match the new carbon fiber swingarm Ducati is using on the GP9, and decided to call it a day at 11pm, after the track began to lose grip as it cooled.

Stoner's nearest competitor was a bit of a surprise: Jorge Lorenzo was second fastest on the final day of testing, after complaining in previous days that he was struggling to cope with the Bridgestone tires. He obviously found some kind of solution, though his time still left him just under a second slower than Stoner.

Lorenzo may have been slower than Stoner, but he was also nearly a quarter of a second faster than his Fiat Yamaha team mate. Both Lorenzo and Rossi had been focusing on race simulations, putting in long runs to test how the bike ran on the spec tires. Lorenzo's times were impressive: a long run of 1'57s, finishing with a few laps in the 1'56s.

Chris Vermeulen finished the day 4th, the Suzuki clearly improved over the winter, raising hopes that the bike may show a return to its 2007 form. But the form of the Suzukis was perhaps not the biggest news of the night.

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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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Pramac To Run Two Ducatis In 2009

The Kawasaki story isn't the only drama that is playing itself out in MotoGP at the moment. Though the factory Ducati team is able to raise extra money almost at will, the Pramac team has been suffering since the withdrawal of its title sponsor, the Italian telecoms company Alice.

Things were thought to be so bad that speculation mounted that Pramac would only be able to field a single bike for Mika Kallio. It was rumored that Niccolo Canepa would take the other bike to Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando team, as the Spanish property magnate has spoken openly of his willingness to pour money into the MotoGP team.

Now, the well-connected Ducati fan site DucatiCorseFriends.com is carrying a statement that this is not the case. Members of the Pramac team told DCF that Canepa would be staying with Pramac.

This does not necessarily mean that both Kallio and Canepa would be wearing the same colors. Team manager Paolo Campinoti has suggested on several occasions that the two riders could bear the logos of different sponsors. And there has been a good deal of speculation that Grupo Francisco Hernando could be one of the sponsors interested in appearing on a Pramac Ducati. The deal would allow GFH to get greater coverage for the African dictatorship where it is building the vacation resort the sponsorship is aimed at promoting, at a much reduced investment. 

 

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FIM Releases MotoGP Entry List: 19 In MotoGP, 22 In 250s, 29 In 125s

The FIM today released the provisional entry list for the MotoGP series, encompassing the MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc classes. As expected, the MotoGP class has 19 entries, the single tire rule freeing up the equipment for Sete Gibernau's team.

Perhaps the best news is the entry list of 22 riders for the 250cc class. With KTM's withdrawal from the class earlier this year, it looked for a while like there could be fewer than the minimum of 15 entries required for a World Championship to be organized. Since then, a number of privateer teams have entered Aprilia LE's, and Aspar has found sponsorship from the new Balatonring circuit in Hungary to provide former 125cc World Champion Gabor Talmacsi with factory equipment.

FIM Provisional Entry List 2009 

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Jerez November MotoGP Test - Day 2 Times

Testing continued today at Jerez, and despite the damp track in the morning and the continuing cool weather, lap records continued to be shattered. Once again, the battle was between Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, and while Pedrosa was quickest for a good part of the day, in the end it was The Doctor who finished the day on the top of the timesheets, with a time 1/10th of a second quicker than Pedrosa's time from yesterday, and 7/10ths faster than the lap record here.

The two title hopefuls were also a second quicker than the rest of the field, just as they were yesterday, with Dani Pedrosa setting the 3rd fastest time, a tenth off his own fastest practice time here in March. There was little separating the group behind Pedrosa, with 6/10ths covering 10 riders.

The good news in that group was for the men who had been slow yesterday: Sete Gibernau took 2 seconds off his time from yesterday, and Nicky Hayden slashed a second and a half off his lap times, putting Gibernau up to 10th place, and Hayden up to 6th, just 0.04 seconds off Jorge Lorenzo's 3rd fastest time.

What is already clear is that this is shaping up to be a two-speed championship. Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are a cut above the rest of the field, with Casey Stoner likely to join that elite group once he returns to action. Behind the front runners, the new tire regulations may have closed the field up, with times closer together than they were last year. But with at least three riders so far ahead, the racing may once again come down to a procession for the podium, followed by some great action fighting over 4th or 5th place.

Testing now ceases, apart from the last day of testing in Phillip Island for Suzuki and Kawasaki on Friday, and the riders and teams all head off for a well-earned break during the winter test ban, which lasts from December 1st to January 20th, though the riders won't be back on the track again until February 5th in Sepang. But though the riders will be able to relax a little, the teams, and especially the R&D departments, will be working flat out on improving the bikes, and getting them ready for the new season. There's still a lot to be done.

Times from Thursday's test: 

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