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GP Week : Issue 37
>>MOTOINSIGHT Lean, but still mean ... M Budget cuts, less testing, and fewer races – everything in MotoGP is a little smaller in 2009, although the fight for the title will still be huge. ByMICHAEL SCOTT OTOGP’S closed season has been a bit different from usual. The series that will begin at Qatar on April 12 has been facing up to hard times, along with the rest of the world. It has emerged considerably leaner, in all sorts of ways. The biggest cut has been in terms of track time, both at race weekends and with testing severely cut back. The calendar is down by one race, to 17. The MotoGP grid has shrunk by one manufacturer with the departure of Kawasaki. But grid numbers have been maintained at 18. And, unless there are more shocks to come, we’ll all soon be going racing. What a relief it will be, from the gloom and doom. And, so far at any rate, there has not been a significant sponsor drain. The reverse, in the case of the satellite Yamaha team, Tech 3, which has inherited Monster soft-drink backing after several unsponsored years The biggest technical change is the switch to a single tyre supplier. Bridgestone now supply the whole grid. This hands some advantage to those already experienced with the Japanese rubber. That apart, important things have generally stayed the same. The main protagonists of last year are all back in the same teams as last year. This means Rossi and Stoner set to rejoin battle; Pedrosa and Lorenzo ready to upset the duet. We also have Dovizioso and Toni Elias on factory bikes, and the usual cast of would-be heroes snapping along behind, and looking for the fluke. The abbreviated calendar is the result of a false start in Hungary. The Lake Balaton circuit will not be ready: bad weather is taking the blame, but financial uncertainty is another major factor. This race was to have replaced the short-lived Chinese round. More money saving is behind the drastic cut in track time, affecting all classes. The moves were ratified at a special February summit meeting. Pre-season testing had already been slashed. Now the usual post-race testing days at a number of tracks have also been cancelled. Factory teams may test, but not with regular riders, and only to develop next year’s equipment. Race weekend mileage has also been cut: Friday morning sessions are no more; while the usual hour for MotoGP has been cut back to 45 minutes. The smaller classes have similar reductions. From the midpoint, the Czech Republic GP, numbers of machines will be restricted – each rider getting five bikes for the remaining eight rounds. More restrictions will follow next year. The aim is to increase engine life, cutting costs directly by eliminating the one-engine-per-race practice now almost universal. A side effect is that revs have been limited: the satellite Honda teams now have pneumatic- valve-spring engines like last year’s factory prototype, but are limited to a mere 18,200rpm, not much more than the steel-spring engines. The regulations will drive a further wedge in between the haves and the have-nots. Riders, for 33