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GP Week : Issue 43
HIGH SIDES n Qualifying in Japan was cancelled for all classes as drenching rain fell on Saturday, flooding the track, with grid positions taken from the two free-practice sessions. Since only Friday’s practice was dry, that determined all the grids. Baffled officials revised the time schedule four times before calling it a day. n For the first time in Japanese GP history there was not one wild card entry in the MotoGP class, although several in the smaller classes. Previous wild card wonders there have included 125 debut GP winner Noboru Ueda and future 500cc winner Norick Abe. n Marco Simoncelli was worried that his wrist might not last race distance, less than three weeks after a broken scaphoid bone was pinned. “After five laps it is painful and I lose power,” he said. His race puncture never put it to the test. n Rumours have surfaced of another Yamaha team next year, with 125/250 team owner Jorge ‘Aspar’ Martinez and his star rider Alvaro Bautista on board. Aspar has already been in failed discussions with Suzuki and Kawasaki, and is still keen to move up; Yamaha are also interested to up their current four-bike presence. n Nicky Hayden’s difficult first Ducati season got no easier at round two, as he qualified only 12th. Happy to move up to sixth in the wet session, he was looking forward to repeating his “45- minute test run” of Qatar in the race. Instead he was simply punted off by Japanese class rookie Yuki Takahashi. His gestures as he lay in the gravel had not been pain, he said: “I was trying to throw gravel at him.” 14 British GP in double jeopardy The British GP, scheduled for July 26, faces cancellation, threatening a further cut to the MotoGP calendar, as a high-profile victim of a £2.5- million legal action against the new circuit operators Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd. Circuit owners Wheatcroft & Son Ltd, which granted the company a 150-year lease in January, 2007, are suing to recover unpaid rent, and to have the lease cancelled. But the day after the case came before the Derby County Court on Thursday Donington Ventures issued a “business- as-usual”counter-statement, promising that all major scheduled events for 2009 will go ahead as planned. These include not only the MotoGP event but also the World Superbike round a month earlier. Kevin Wheatcroft’s statement the day before had explained his position. “It is with great reluctance that we have taken this decision. Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd owe us nearly £2.5m in rent dating back to September 2008. “Despite receiving numerous reassurances over a number of months they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease. “We have held off taking legal action for as long as possible, but have been left with no choice but to commence proceedings to recover the outstanding rent and forfeit the lease.” The next day, a statement from “Donington Park staff” insisted there would be no interruption when racing resumed in May. “Race fans and competitors are assured that the scheduled programme of car, motorcycle and truck racing also continues to access a huge global audience ADVeRTISe in gPWeeK as planned,” it read. DVLL is headed by Simon Gillett, and the company has made waves in British motor sport, snatching the F1 car GP from Silverstone from next year for ten years. At almost the same time, Silverstone made a successful bid to regain the MotoGP event from 2010. Gillett announced extensive £147-million plans to update the parkland circuit, where heavy construction work has already begun. Even without the legal action there were questions about the forthcoming bike GP, and other races, because these works had robbed vital run- off area from Coppice Corner, rendering the track unsafe. Now the Derby council has also threatened to withdraw permission for the reconstruction because Gillett has failed to provide a promised traffic plan.