Racing Insider #103 is this week's lone RI in a new schedule, but rest assured it's the most insightful column yet as we take a look from behind the scenes of the sport.
First there were five, then there were two and now there’s only one per week, but we can assure you now that Racing Insider every Wednesday is going to be stronger than ever in revealing news stories, focussing all our efforts on the weekly upload rather than spreading it through a number of sometimes dull days.
The change has come about after the addition of the Breaking News, News Releases and Team Event Releases sections on the home page, which take care of the news very well, allowing us to back RI down to just one per week with all the inside scoops that may not yet be confirmed, but our sources certainly are on target.
In reducing RI to Wednesdays, that will allow us to offer a wider variety of feature stories on the site from day to day, with a boosted bike testing and product review range kicking off this week on Friday. Audio and video have also received a major revamp, and we’ll have more time than ever to bring you quality updates.
It’s exciting time here at MotoOnline.com.au as we continue to find our feet in the World Wide Web, and it’s the feedback that has assisted us in getting to where we are at now just four months into the site’s existence. Thanks guys!
Now for this week’s RI column.
Motorcycle road racing’s premier class returns to the Cathedral this weekend for the seventh round of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, where Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner are all tied on points heading in.
But despite the close championship chase, the majority of the focus seems to be off the track as teams race to cement their riders for next season, and the speculation doing the rounds this week is massive.
With both Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista already knocking on the door for many MotoGP teams, and now it’s become known that Hector Barbera is also looking for a satellite team seat for next year.
Riders that could be on the way out if they aren’t careful are Chris Vermeulen and James Toseland, both who are former World Superbike stars but have struggled to make a real impact in MotoGP – due to inferior equipment in CV’s case.
The word is that both could be heading to Superbikes, but check out the World Superbike section in this insider column to find out where.
Also likely to head back to WSBK is Colin Edwards, with the aging rumours of him joining Aprilia to campaign the RSV4 still remaining a very real possibility according to the European press.
Although all three of those guys are very much good enough to be in MotoGP, this rush of young talent from the 250cc class is coming quickly, and teams are especially interested after seeing the fast rise of Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo from the quarter-litre category.
Another rider that may be WSBK bound is Niccolo Canepa, who was thrown in at the deep end by Ducati and the Pramac team this year, but he’s had plenty of experience on the 1098-1198 range so he would be ideal for SBK duties in my eyes.
Soon enough we’ll see what truly happens, but the silly season is in full swing earlier than ever and riders/managers are working around the clock to ensure that they get a position before the music stops.
As for the race weekend at Assen, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Lorenzo will win it, but the podium will be very much similar to what it has been all year with the leading trio.
Pedrosa will be back battling for the lead soon, but he’s going to find it tough this weekend racing without pain injections, so we’ll have to wait and see how his body handles the pain.
Apart from that I’d like to see Nicky Hayden regain some form for Ducati at a circuit he’s won at in the past, but interestingly it’s been reported this week that these next few races at Assen and Laguna Seca aren’t crucial for his career in MotoGP at Ducati.
Two more battered and bruised riders racing this weekend will be Yuki Takahashi (broken finger in race at Catalunya) and Marco Melandri (injured wrist in post-race test crash), but you can bet that Taka is just happy to be there after rumours had him on the chopping block at the previous round in Spain.
News already filtering through from Assen is that the single bike per rider rule that was set to be introduced for next year looks as though it will be abandoned, with the risk of ruining a team’s race weekend by wrecking a bike far outweighing the advantages in the slight cost reductions that it would provide.
Other big news for MotoGP announced this weekend is that Network 10 and ONE HD have gained exclusive rights to the series next year on free-to-air television, finally getting it live and featuring extended pre-race shows compared to now with Greg Rust and Daryl Beattie. Se the News Releases section for full details.
We’ve got a few energy drink fans here on MotoOnline.com.au, so how about this rumour…Red Bull isn’t happy with Monster’s enlarged involvement in MotoGP and is looking to sponsor a team in the premier class as the naming rights sponsor.
Red Bull has reportedly tried to land a deal with Pramac Ducati, but that fell through, and instead it looks like we may see the Austrian company join the official Honda team. Now that would be something to see…
Ousted World Superbike star and former 250cc Grand Prix racer Roberto Rolfo continues to set the pace in Moto2 testing for his Spanish-based Yamaha team, again equalling to 250 World Championship times, but this time at Valencia. Something tells me that these bikes are going to be thrilling to watch in 2010.
As mentioned in the MotoGP section today, the possibility of Vermeulen and Toseland joining World Superbikes next year seems to be real and it looks as though the teams they’ll likely sign with could be Suzuki for CV and Ten Kate Honda for JT.
Even though the pair are eager to prove their strengths in MotoGP, their additions on those two teams would be incredible, not to mention if Edwards went back with Aprilia to partner Max Biaggi.
As for Yamaha in WSBK it looks like American revelation Ben Spies will be staying put, although Tom Sykes may be less comfortable in his place as both Cal Crutchlow and Leon Camier have been doing great things for Yamaha in both World Supersport and British Superbike this season. Again it seems it’s a case of having too many top riders and not enough competitive bikes on the grid!
Since Spies has been so good this year in WSBK America is the country of choice for up and coming talent, with both Jamie Hacking (Kawasaki) and Blake Young (Suzuki) replacing the regular riders at Donington Park this weekend.
Young actually took Spies’ place at Yoshimura Suzuki in the States for this year and Mat Mladin has publicly urged him to get to Europe ASAP, so it’s somewhat refreshing to see new blood get a chance rather than recycling Fonsi Nieto again at Alstare.
WSBK will be going back-to-back this weekend at Donington after completing the Misano round last weekend, setting up yet another action packed weekend that will see the Supers and MotoGP clash on the same weekend yet again – keeping us busy and all spectators well entertained.
As for the Aussies this weekend, Troy Corser and Broc Parkes will be hoping for better weekends than last, while it’s uncertain when exactly we will see Karl Muggeridge or Brendan Roberts return to action – we may yet see Roberts on a third Guandalini Ducati.
In Supersport we will be hoping to see Andrew Pitt bounce back and Mark Aitchision, Ant West and Garry McCoy continue to build on their improved form of late, but Russell Holland has been let go by his private Honda team and replaced by Michael Laverty, who is the brother of front runner Eugene.
A report of mine has been released in today’s Australian Motorcycle News regarding the future of the Woodstock Bourbon Australian Superbike Championship running alongside the V8 Supercars at Phillip Island in September, but the refreshing news is that even though that event will be a Superbike-only affair if it goes ahead, there will still be a separate round featuring all the classes to replace the abandoned Calder Park finale. See the magazine for the full report, or stay tuned for updates as the new progresses right here on MotoOnline.com.au.
The possibility of the series running a more production-based set of rules next year appears to be gaining steam, and Motorcycling Australia’s Road Race Commission minutes from last month that are posted on MA’s website here clearly shows that it’s Yamaha that is pushing for this as we previously reported, and that the riders and teams of the series are to be surveyed regarding the possibility.
Also interesting is that the June report here shows that there was a teleconference in regards to featuring Superstock bikes within the Superbike class this year, but that hasn’t yet been confirmed – with the class now eligible to be an Australian championship with just 10 riders instead of the former limit of 15.
It looks as though we have a predicament on our hands here, because anything under 15 is just sad for the sport – especially when Peter Ward from the Aussie Racing Cars series was telling me on Monday how that class was having a difficult year with just over 30 entrants instead of 40-45. The whole time I was thinking of the grid at Queensland Raceway’s ASBK round where the numbers were so small.
At this point I’d say that Yamaha’s request for more standardised rules could only be an improvement at this rate, and from what I hear, many other domestic series could be heading down the production-based path too.
One final point is that Australian Superbikes could be running on E85 fuel in the future as the board has requested for Phil Tainton to test it – which it’s unclear whether they mean in his factory-backed Team Joe Rocket Suzuki Superbikes or simply in a dirt bike or something at his work shop. We’ll get back to you on that one!
Last week’s MX Nationals round in Wanneroo was a spectacular event with a lot of hype leading up to it, especially since many of the sport’s leading stars went testing over in Western Australia in the lead up to the event, simply because you can’t find that kind of sand here on the East coast.
We’ve all seen now that Cheyne Boyd and Tye Simmonds won the round, and the big news is that both of those guys are now 20 points behind the leaders of the Pro Open and Pro Lites classes each, being Jay Marmont and Matt Moss respectively.
There could be fireworks in the last two rounds, but with over a month break in between rounds we will be waiting a while to see how it all pans out. When the series does resume we’ll finally see Daniel McCoy make his MX Nationals debut for Cool Air Kawasaki, but for now he’s headed to the Hattah Desert Race, as is Simmonds.
This weekend will see the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship back in action at Murray Bridge in South Australia, where the Wellard Ballard’s Yamaha teammates of Stefan Merriman and A4DE winner Jarrod Bewley will be fighting it out once again amongst a host of other leading AORC riders.
Speaking of Australian Off-Road and the A4DE, the highly publicised disappointments of this year’s course has been copping a fair amount of criticism lately, and in those MA June reports mentioned above it is noted that a meeting is to take place with the promoters to fix any problems with the event in the future.
After a rare weekend off the AMA American Motocross Championship hits Thunder Valley in Colorado this weekend, where Australia’s Chad Reed leads the series for Rockstar Makita Suzuki.
Watch out for Reed’s helmet design this weekend, which is designed to promote the Red Dust Role Models that is supported by the Vodafone Australia Foundation. The design is actually the same as what Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes used in last weekend’s V8 Supercar race at Hidden Valley.
That’s it for this week’s Racing Insider. We are pumped for the weekend’s action!