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GP Week : Issue 3
n MotoGP has been taking in the news that the BBC will regain Formula One from the commercial channel ITV, and wondering what effect it may have on MotoGP. The Beeb took up with two wheels in 2003 after losing F1 to their commercial rivals, and has increased coverage ever since, with most races shown live. Will the interest be maintained now the cars are coming back? n Nicky Hayden will be the first MotoGP rider to ride a lap at the new motorcycle circuit at Indianapolis, scene of the first GP at the Brickyard on September 14. But America’s most recent world champion will not gain any advantage … he will be riding a 1909 Indian board-track racer for the official opening on April 7. n The satellite Yamaha team may beat the factory Honda team in the race to get pneumatic valve activation. Tech 3 Yamaha riders Toseland and Edwards hope to get the trick cylinder heads (already used by factory riders Rossi and Lorenzo) for round three at Estoril; HRC riders Hayden and Pedrosa will have to wait until tests the day after. that race. n Riding a road Ducati 848 at Jerez was a busman’s holiday for champ Casey Stoner. “It’s been a good relax after the excitement of the GP,” he said, after he and factory team-mate Marco Melandri had run demo laps at the launch of Bridgestone’s new Battlax BT-016 Hypersport tyre. n MotoGP teams will stay on after both of the next two GPs in Spain and Portugal for testing. “There’s too much testing,” opined Stoner recently. The other riders, trying to catch up with him and Ducati, do not agree. HIGH SIDES 12 THE future of the 250 class will be the prime item on the agenda at the forthcoming GP Commission meeting at Jerez during next weekend’s Spanish GP. But rumours suggest that a move to production-based 600cc machines is already a fait accompli. Rights-holders Dorna are scheduled to submit a formal proposal and time schedule for a formula to replace the two-stroke quarter-litre machines at the meeting. In due process, this will be discussed by members, especially the all-important MSMA (manufacturers’ association), responsible for technical regulations, who will then come up with a firm proposal at the next meeting, before the summer break. But, according to one report, Dorna and the FIM (the sanctioning federation) have already combined to force an early solution, imposing 600cc production engines in a new cost-cutting formula for 2010. The unattributed report, on the website of German- language Motorsport Aktuell magazine, suggests that the deal was finalised behind closed doors at the Qatar GP, between new FIM president Vito Ippolito and rights- holders Dorna. If they work the politics right, they will be able to force the MSMA to accept the proposal for production-bike motors in prototype chassis. When previously aired, this proposal was met with some ridicule. The FIM/Dorna plan is understood to specify over-the-counter 600cc engines with strictly limited modifications. As well as a strict fuel limit a la MotoGP, and a rev limit will be applied. Chassis and cycle parts, however, will be free – allowing a fully adjustable prototype racing motorcycle in every other respect. The rule may suit the Japanese manufacturers, all of whom have ultra high- performance 600s in their model range; but is likely to be vigorously opposed by European 250 manufacturers Aprilia and KTM, currently dominant in the two-stroke ALL eyes will be on the performance of the Bridgestone tyres at next weekend’s Spanish GP at Jerez, after Michelin’s strong fight-back at Qatar. And the French company is hoping that cold weather sweeping Europe will help it again. Stoner won the Qatar race on the Japanese tyres, but the next best was Rossi in fifth, with Michelin runners packing the top ten. Bridgestone attributed its unusually poor showing (it supplies tyres to 11 of the 16-strong field) to the low temperatures of the desert night, and Michelin chief Jean-Philippe Weber expects more of the same in Spain. “Our tyres performed very well in Qatar, even in low temperatures,” said Michelin chief Jean-Philippe Weber. “This could be important at Jerez, because it’s still quite early in the year, so the track could be quite cool.” The first European round is viewed by some as the true start of the season, but it is not always an indicator of what is to come. Last year, Stoner was fifth, one of only four times the champion did not finish on the rostrum; while it was one of only four wins for Rossi. At the recent Jerez tests, 2006 champion Hayden was fastest on Michelin qualifying tyres in the dry, and with factory Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa gaining fitness for his home race, the pair could also be a factor; along with fast ex- 250 rookies Lorenzo and Dovizioso. The nature of the track levels out the horsepower and puts more emphasis on riding skill and handling. Strings of medium-speed corners demand high corner speed for a good lap time, requiring a combination of smoothness and aggression. “It’s a real rider’s track,” said Weber. The outcome of the race is important for Rossi, beaten by the two hot rookies as well as Stoner and Pedrosa at Qatar. “We need to forget all our Michelin settings and start again from zero,” he said after that race. Rossi, who switched from Michelin at the end of last season, does have something of a start at Jerez. He was fast on race tyres at the Jerez tests and second in the wet prize session, but eighth on qualifying tyres.