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GP Week : Issue 16
DONINGTON Park was Come- back City for at least three MotoGP riders. Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden finally got the pneumatic-valve motor he’s been awaiting, and was back with the fast guys directly. Casey Stoner resumed the dominant practice and qualifying form of last season, after testing uncovered a new electronic setting that tamed his 2008 Marlboro Ducati’s wilder traits. And beleaguered Kawasaki rider Anthony West, fresh from special tests in Japan, moved suddenly from the back to well in the top ten after radical set- up revisions. Hayden’s mood improved over the two days before the race. Second-fastest in the dry on Friday, he said: “I’m pretty happy, but I’m not jumping up and down yet”. It got better. He was fourth- fastest in the wet, his fears allayed that the more sudden throttle response might make the bike difficult on a slippery track. Just as well: Honda was reluctant to give him the engine, and had told him that if he didn’t like it, there was no going back. Hayden also had a new chassis which team-mate Pedrosa had used to win at Barcelona, which he liked at once. With a different vee angle and changed weight distribution, the new engine also has “a different kind of power. At the bottom in places it’s got less, which makes it a little bit aggressive and the bike unstable on the exit. But once you get it picked up and hooked up, certainly it’s got a little bit more juice. Not a lot, but enough that I like it,” said Hayden. “I know a lot of people didn’t want me to use it, but I threw a pretty big fit at Barcelona,” he added. Stoner was back in the cat-bird seat after electronic adjustments. “We’ve had trouble getting power to the ground. Every time I opened the throttle the bike wanted to buck, and that made the chassis look a lot worse than it was,” he said. “At Barcelona we tried something with the electronics that the test rider and I liked straight away – not new software, but something we had all along and hadn’t tested. It makes it sweeter at the bottom end. It’s great to see the improvement has transferred here to Donington,” he said. West’s changes were all to the chassis, getting it more like last year’s machine. The seating position had been changed and the bike shortened, including a swing-arm as much as two centimetres shorter. “Until now I’ve just been riding speedway style, with wheelspin and no traction. The other guys just accelerate away,” he said. Being frequently last on the grid “is the worst feeling I’ve ever had”. The engine had also been reprogrammed to soften the bottom end to reduce wheelspin. “It wheelies a lot more – but I’ll live with that,” said West, who is riding to save his job after a dismal start to his first full year. “The problems have not all been Anthony’s,” said team chief Michael Bartholemy. “Maybe we tried to go too far forward with development, and we’ve taken a step back now.” Welcome to Come-back City n The Silly Season is already in full swing, with several rider moves strongly rumoured. These include a switch to Ducati for Nicky Hayden, although Ben Spies is also after the disappointing Marco Melandri’s ride. Andrea Dovizioso is expected to take over Hayden’s factory Honda seat. Chris Vermeulen, unhappy at the slow progress at Suzuki, may seek a return to World Superbikes if nothing better turns up. Marco Simoncelli is earmarked for a future Yamaha MotoGP ride. Colin Edwards is treating with Kawasaki, as well as his present Tech 3 Yamaha squad. n Rizla Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi will make a racing return at Assen, after being passed fit at Donington by GP medic Dr Claudio Costa. Capirossi was still wearing a cast on his right hand at Donington. This means American Ben Spies will not get the second GP ride he had hoped for. n The paddock has a new buzz-word, in the wake of Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta’s extraordinary declaration that a production-engined 600cc four-stroke racer could nonetheless be classed as a prototype. Ezpeleta made the claim at the last round in Catalunya. Now insiders are talking of a new category … the Dornotype. HIGH SIDES 12