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GP Week : Issue 25
HIGH SIDES n Stoner was stoned at Brno. After his race crash, his first with Ducati, the throttle mechanism was jammed, preventing him from restarting … by a stone so accurate in size it might have been made to do just that job. n Suzuki pair Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi liked the prototype new chassis tested at Brno so much they asked to start racing it immediately, from the next round at Misano. n Tousle-topped 250 titan Marco Simoncelli is on Ducati’s wish list for their satellite MotoGP team next year, along with impressive young factory tester Nicolo Canepa. n The bid by Alberto Puig – eminence grise behind Dani Pedrosa – to get Michelin teams to pull out of the Czech Republic GP “on safety grounds” foundered after the French company’s chief Jean-Philippe Weber assured all riders that though grip might be in short supply, safety was assured. n John Hopkins pulled out of Brno tests with yet more injury problems, after revealing he had raced with a painful rib injury. This was incurred in one of two crashes on the first day of practice. Fortunately, his bad knee injury from Assen was not affected. n Chris Vermeulen is now almost certain to stay put at Suzuki, after the factory team had been dragging its feet. At the same time, Ben Spies is considering a Ducati World Superbike offer, with no further news on his proposed Honda MotoGP move. 12 Riders back single-tyr THE MotoGP tyre crisis deepened in the days after last weekend’s Czech Republic GP, when post-race tests brought no relief to beleaguered Michelin riders. Now, Dorna will propose a single-tyre rule for the 2009 season, after riders unanimously supported the suggestion at a Brno safety summit. The short-term problem remained acute, and the gulf between the factory Repsol Honda team and its long- time tyre suppliers Michelin widened, after Dani Pedrosa walked out on Brno tests. He completed only 11 laps, abandoning Honda’s latest pneumatic-valve-spring machine in the process (see separate story). And Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta was preparing the rights-holding company’s proposal to switch to a single tyre rule for 2009, to be put to the GP Commission at the Japanese GP. Ezpeleta has a mandate from the riders, after unanimous support for this move, in a special meeting he called at Brno. What was previously seen as a dumbing down of the world’s premier motorcycle championship has gained favour in the paddock, after a topsy-turvy year in which Bridgestone has moved clearly ahead of the previously dominant Michelin. The consequence was to ruin what started out as a very promising championship. Factory-team Michelin users Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) both led on points in the early stages, but a string of three bad Michelin tracks in a row has eliminated them from contention. The first was in Germany, when rain on race day revealed the weaknesses of Michelin’s wet-weather tyres, and Pedrosa was the major victim, crashing out of a substantial lead and suffering hand and wrist injuries that put him out of the next GP. The US GP was unmitigated disaster, with riders resorting to intermediate tyres in practice because too-hard slicks could not be brought up to temperature; and at Brno front-tyre grip (for Pedrosa also rear grip) scuppered the rider’s chances. Michelin supply seven riders, adding the Tech 3 pair plus Dovizioso and de Puniet to both factory Repsol Hondas and one factory Yamaha. While the tyres are inferior to Bridgestone, it is a relative matter: Michelin’s 2008 tyres have been consistently faster than those of last year. A single tyre rule might yet work in the French company’s favour, however, for it was willing to supply tyres for 2008, when the same question arose at the end of 2007. Other obvious candidates include Dunlop and Pirelli, which currently supplies World Superbikes. Bridgestone chief Hiroshi Yamada said at Brno that the company had made no decision on whether they wished to be the sole MotoGP supplier, a role it fills in Formula One. However, when invited to tender for the renewal of the SBK contract, they had not been interested. On other powerful draw to a single tyre rule would be in cutting costs. The current restriction to 39 tyres per weekend has done little in achieving this aim, since tyre companies must still have a large number of different tyres available for pre-event selection.