News 14 Oct 2009

Racing Insider #119

This week's Racing Insider takes a detailed look into the Island MotoGP and Tassie Super X events, plus news from WSBK; ASBK; U.S. SX and Oz Off-Road.

Stoner will be hoping for his third Australian GP victory in a row.

Stoner will be hoping for his third Australian GP victory in a row.

There are just a couple of days before the Australian round of the MotoGP World Championship takes off at Phillip Island, with the opening practice coming up fast as the lone Friday session is set to take place at 13.55 in the afternoon.

Friday will mark the first time that we have seen Casey Stoner at home since last year’s Island victory, and will also mark Queenslander Chris Vermeulen’s final appearance at the Island in the premier class (for now).

Personally, I’ll be hoping for a Stoner victory so he seals his three-peat, but the battle for the world title between Fiat Yamaha riders Vale Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo has been absolutely fierce – and both have made mistakes to date.

Everybody looks forward to the Island round and most of the international contingent has already arrived in Melbourne this week, so let’s hope that the weather improves for the weekend’s action.

Here are some statistics regarding this weekend’s grand prix for you take mull over as we await the race weekend:

•    Should Casey Stoner win this weekend, he will overtake Wayne Gardner in the all-time win lists. Both are currently tied for second behind Mick Doohan (54) at 18 victories apiece.

•    If Yamaha wins this weekend, it will match the manufacturer’s most successful season ever of 11 victories – set in 2005.

•    Marco Melandri is the only rider who has taken victory in the 125, 250 and MotoGP categories at Phillip Island.

•    Loris Capirossi hasn’t won at Phillip Island since he won the 125GP race in 1990 (yes, 1990!), but he has scored five premier class podiums in the meantime.

•    Phillip Island is one of only two tracks that Rossi hasn’t scored pole position at for Yamaha, the other being Laguna Seca. However, he has finished on the podium at the Island in 11 out of 12 visits.

•    Hiroshi Aoyama could wrap up the 250cc Grand Prix World Championship this weekend if he wins and his arch-rivals have low point-scoring races.

•    Italy could score its 200th 250cc Grand Prix victory this weekend.

Thanks to Dr Martin Raines for compiling the list of statistics heading into the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Final piece of MotoGP information for today: Remember a few weeks ago we mentioned that Carlos Checa could become a Ducati MotoGP test rider for 2010? Well, it looks as though it’s going to happen after he lost his WSBK seat with Ten Kate this week.


Some major shuffles that were announced in our Breaking News section took place this week, with Leon Haslam joining Alstare Suzuki as expected for 2010, but the big shock came from left field when Max Neukirchner revealed that he would be heading to Ten Kate Honda alongside Johnny Rea.

That surprise prompted Suzuki to boost Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli from the British Superbike Championship on to the Alstare team alongside Haslam in an all-new squad, while current Alstare veteran Yukio Kagayama has been confirmed for the Crescent Suzuki team in BSB.

These latest announcements get us somewhat closer to having an idea what the grid will look like for next year, and all but finalise the factory-backed teams in the series apart from the second seat at Kawasaki, Aprilia and BMW.

Tom Sykes is still rumoured to be partnering Vermeulen at Kawasaki, while Aprilia is expected to be Max Biaggi at least, and BMW will probably return with Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus.

The speculation of a second Aprilia team is yet to be confirmed, but there has been suggestion that Shane Byrne and Leon Camier may make up an all-British line-up on that particular team. If not, then expect one of these guys to partner Biaggi on the factory team.

For now though, all eyes are looking toward the season finale at Portimao in Portugal next weekend, where the Nori Haga/Ben Spies showdown is set to explode one last time in the ultimate fight for the 2009 crown.

Maxwell, Waters and Allerton will be in a massive battle for the ASBK honours this weekend.

Maxwell, Waters and Allerton will be in a massive battle for the ASBK honours this weekend.

This weekend’s Island MotoGP round will also feature the penultimate round of the Woodstock Bourbon Australian Superbike Championship, where reigning series champ Glenn Allerton holds a slight 11-point lead over Team Joe Rocket Suzuki’s Josh Waters, while his Motologic Racing teammate Wayne Maxwell is 19 points off Allerton.

ESG Honda’s Shannon Johnson will concentrate on Supersport duties after initially considering contesting the Superbike class again after his solid run at the Superbike Open, but ESG will have both Jake Holden and David Anthony on the CBR1000RRs for the round alongside regular Chris Trounson.

American Superbike riders Holden and Anthony have been testing at the Island in recent weeks, lapping in the 1:34 range, but will likely step it up once race time comes this weekend and the entire field is on track with them.

Speaking of Johnson, word is that he’s set for a return to factory status for the next couple of years after impressing throughout 2009, and if I was to guess his manufacturer, I’d say KTM would have to be the one – meaning they’re officiall stepping up to ASBK racing. This move isn’t confirmed, but I heard it from a very reliable source in the industry, so we’ll hope that it comes to fruition. An ESG KTM perhaps? Time will tell.

The move toward having four two-plus-four rounds next year is gaining momentum and seems all but finalised by series promoters IEG, and we’ve been told that it will be a seven round series in total, with four at the V8s, one at WSBK, one at MotoGP, and one standalone bike-only event.

I would say that the sticking point in all of this is where the support classes will end up, but no sign or hints have been given apart from the fact that both the Morgan Park and Broadford circuits have received enquiries for available dates.

A standing rumour suggests that the MRRDA will co-promote the support/development categories, with an all-in season finale to be the one standalone event of the season.

The twist in all of this is that I’ve heard IEG has something special up its sleeves in regards to the support program, so we will have to wait and see what that is if its confirmed and revealed, because I certainly have no clue as to what it is just yet.

Super X starts this weekend in Tasmania, and it looks as though it could be a mudder after a week of rain down south, and a forecast featuring rain on Friday at times.

The good news is that Saturday isn’t scheduled to be raining, but it is expected that the weather will reach a chilly top of 14 degrees in the daytime, setting the event up for a cold night of racing.

But the opportunity to see Chad Reed compete in green on a Kawasaki for the first time since 2001, when he raced to second in the world championship, will keep fans and the industry excited, and I’ve been told that Kawasaki USA has sent all of its factory parts and selected crew members for Reedy’s Super X campaign.

I’m excited for this series, a little disappointed that the round clashes with the GP weekend at the Island, but don’t be surprised if we see the likes of Reed, Jay Marmont and others on location at the Island for Sunday’s racing.

Contrary to earlier reports, it looks as though Mike Alessi won’t be lining up for Motorex KTM in the Pro Lites class, not until next year at least from American-based reports. We hope he’s there, but we shall see.

An appearance from Michael Byrne is also on the cards at selected rounds, although it’s not yet clear what team he’ll be on either for Super X in Oz or for the AMA series in 2010.

Solid American rider Kyle Cunningham is a last minute replacement for Mitch Hoad at Serco Yamaha after he was injured recently, adding one more top rider in the mix against the likes of Matt Moss and Ryan Marmont in the Pro Lites championship.

Stewart dominated on debut with the new YZ450F at the U.S. Open of SX.

Stewart dominated on debut with the new YZ450F at the U.S. Open of SX.

Last weekend’s U.S. Open of Supercross at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas marked a dominant weekend of racing for James Stewart in his debut aboard the 2010 model Yamaha YZ450F, winning both nights and walking away a cool $100,000 (U.S) richer for his efforts.

Of note for Australian fans was the performance of Dan Reardon as he scored third overall to grace the podium with Stewart and Davi Millsaps, and this will raise his confidence for Super X.

The future of Jake and Matt Moss definitely sits Stateside for next year, with Jake this week rumoured to be joining Ryan Dungey on the Rockstar Makita Suzuki 450 team. It was first thought that Christophe Pourcel would have the ride, but he’s reportedly staying at Pro Circuit Kawasaki, opening the doors for Moss.

That move would fit well for Moss since he’s riding for Shift Motul Suzuki in Super X at home, although we’ll know more as the silly season progresses and rides are officially announced.

As for Matt, all indications are that he’ll be on Jake’s team from this year, Troy Lee Designs Honda, but that’s another move that is yet to be officially confirmed – or denied – at this point in time.

Either way, Australia will once again have a solid line-up of top level riders in the AMA series for next year.

The calendar for the 2010 MX Nationals Australian Motocross Championship takes up much of the provisional national calendar for next year on MA’s website here, with an eight-round series again set to take place.

A major difference is that the series will kick off in March at Horsham in Victoria, moving the Albury round from being the season opener to being the sixth round of the series in June.

Popular Victorian track Barrabool is back on the calendar as round three after its future was cemented in recent weeks, and that is set to be a very memorable round for many in the industry, while a TBA on round five is likely to be in Western or South Australia. Watch this space…

As our best off-road stars take on the world in the International Six Day Enduro competition in Portugal, the location for the 2010 Australian Four Day Enduro was confirmed to be held at Portland in New South Wales on 8-11 April.

Now that it’s not going to be run under the Dirt Bike Promotions banner, the event will be staged in a joint venture between members of the Oyster Bay Motorcycle Club, the MA Enduro Commission and a number of NSW-based clubs to ensure it’s a success.

It was reported that this year’s running of the event was a disappointment from a competitor’s standpoint, so hopefully it can improve for next year and bounce back in the right direction to maintain its strong history in our country.

That’s all for this week.