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GP Week : Issue 34
HIGH SIDES n Nine-times GP winner Sete Gibernau’s MotoGP return was confirmed at Valencia, with the launch of the new Grupo Francisco Hernando Onde 2000 Ducati team. n An unfortunate translation in the team’s launch Press release told how Onde 2000, after one year in 125s, was moving up to “the Queen Class.” In Spanish this is correct. In English, the implications are very different! With the recently divorced Gibernau known for his love of hairstyles, posing, designer shades and T-shirts with the arms ripped off, some were already calling him “the Queen of MotoGP" ... n Yamaha will supply engines for the 600cc four- stroke class taking over from 250s in 2010, but will not take part at factory level. “We agreed at the manufacturers’association that we did not want this to become a contest between the factories,” said a spokesman. n Several teams adopted a special livery for the last race. Lorenzo raced with his Fiat Yamaha in white, adorned with the flags of many countries and the legend 'Lorenzo’s Land': everywhere he has won a GP in his career. The Repsol Hondas had a retro white scheme with blue stripes, replicating Repsol’s first motorsport sponsorship colours 40 years ago in 1969. n The 2009 calendar was changed on the weekend, with the GP at Misano moved forward a week from September 13 to September 6. This avoids a potential clash with the Imola F1 race. 12 Testing establishes new alliances THE 2009 season began the day after the Valencia race, with a number of new alliances formed and relationships established. The most important changes were at Ducati and Honda, with 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden moving from the factory Repsol Honda squad to Marlboro Ducati, and Andrea Dovizioso stepping onto the pneumatic-valve-spring Honda in his place. “I’m almost more nervous about that than the race,” said Hayden in advance. He is concerned that only Stoner has been able to go fast on the Italian Desmosedici V4, and agog to see if his sliding style will work on the heavily electronically controlled bike. New team-mate Stoner was keen also to try the 2009 machine, having delayed essential wrist surgery for the opportunity. Dovizioso will not find the factory bike so unfamiliar. New team-mate Pedrosa would be continuing tests begun after Motegi but cut short by rain, of a 2008 Honda with engine modifications. Marco Melandri was glad to leave Ducati after a disastrous season, but unsure of what to expect from the Kawasaki. “The main thing is that I believe the factory team will be able to work to make the bike feel good for me,” he said. But he will be riding the 2008 rather than the 2009 bike, which proved a tricky tool both for John Hopkins and the man Melandri will replace, Anthony West. Another to depart Ducati was Toni Elias, who will re- familiarise himself with the Gresini Honda; while ex-250 rider Mika Kallio would make his first acquaintance with the Ducati, alongside new Alice team-mate, GP rookie Niccolò Canepa, who has tested the bike extensively. Rossi was scheduled for his first test on the “2008-point- five” M1 Yamaha, which he was prevented from testing at Motegi by bad weather. A major point for all riders was the new control Bridgestone tyres. “We don’t know what to expect until we try them,” said Stoner. It would be the first time on Bridgestones for Michelin users Jorge Lorenzo and Randy de Puniet, as well as Hayden. But the other two, Colin Edwards and James Toseland would have to wait until tests at Jerez to try the new tyres, with the Tech 3 team pulling out of the tests. Honda, Hayden and the hypocrites NICKY Hayden had a special sticker on his fairing for Saturday morning’s free practice. His usual “N Hayden”name- tag was replaced by the legend “N HYPOCRITE.”By the afternoon, it was gone … but the effect lingered on. It was a public continuation of the feud with Dani Pedrosa’s manager Alberto Puig: which began after the Australian GP. Hayden gave an interview with a Spanish newspaper, naming former GP winner Puig as the real manager of the Repsol Honda racing team: in the wake of decisions such as the mid-season switch by Pedrosa from Michelin to Bridgestone. Puig hit back with the connivance of his Spanish compatriots at Dorna, with an outspoken and one-sided interview, published (rather surprisingly) on the official MotoGP.com web-site. Among other insults, he called Hayden “a hypocrite,”saying he had been taking Pedrosa’s data, because he has no clue of his own on how to set up a bike. This was too much for Hayden, who pointed out at the next race that in truth he had never seen Pedrosa’s data, while Dani has access not only to Nicky’s, but also that of any other Honda rider who may be going well. “I guess I’ve got to stop being a hypocrite,”he said. The Valencia sticker, in his last race, was not meant to be malicious, he told the post- practice Press Conference. “My buddy called me ‘a hypocrite,’ and the sticker guys made them up as a joke. It’s kind of funny. I’m not being a big punk.” By Saturday afternoon the sticker had gone. “A request came to take it off. I guess some of the (Honda) bosses didn’t like it,”laughed Hayden. Pedrosa, sitting alongside, was asked if he had any comment. “I’m not involved in that. I said nothing about it,”he said. Feelings were still running high about the insult to one of the most popular riders on the grid … but the scorn was not so much directed at the somewhat eccentric Puig, who is only trying to do the best for the rider he manages, nor to Repsol, which has remained discreet throughout. The target now is more Honda, with people asking once again how the world’s largest motorcycle company can allow this sort of public strife within its top team; and wondering who really does run the show.