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GP Week : Issue 51
HIGH SIDES n James Toseland is being touted for a possible return to World Superbikes, unless he can turn around the slide in MotoGP results. A best of seventh in Italy did not carry over to Catalunya, where he again struggled for the top ten. n Red Bull described as “absolutely untrue” rumours that they are planning to replace Repsol as sponsors of the Honda factory team. The company has no intentions of sponsoring a MotoGP team, said a spokesman last weekend. n Repsol plans to stay with Honda, but at a cut price, according to sponsorship manager Arturo Sis. Turnover, consumption and profits were down, he said. “That is why we want to negotiate a smaller fee. But the brand has become so strong in 15 years, we shall stay together for sure.” n Displaced Superbike rider Roberto Rolfo has found a niche testing Moto2 prototypes. After running the Blusens bike in Spain, the Italian former 250 GP winner went back to test the rival La Glisse machine. n GPWeek could find no substance to rumours that F1 rebels FOTA have turned to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to run the planned breakaway race series. n Weather-hit World Superbike racers at Misano had their first bike-swap race at the weekend, when conditions started wet on a drying track. The flag-to- flag system was pioneered in MotoGP, first used in 2006, with two such GPs already this season. It has now been adopted by SBK. 14 Can new Suzuki save Ve AUSTRALIAN MotoGP star Chris Vermeulen, a former GP winner and World Supersport champion, has asked his factory Suzuki team if he can use the latest updated engine at next weekend’s Dutch TT, as he strives to make a better impression on the 2009 season. Vermeulen is one of several riders whose MotoGP futures are up for question, with several fast youngsters knocking at the door; and while team- mate Loris Capirossi is said to be close to signing to stay with Rizla Suzuki next year, the team is keeping all options open for its second rider. And while Capirossi has scored a couple of fifth places after some strong rides, Vermeulen has struggled to get in the top ten, not helped by sundry machine problems. At Motegi an electronic gear-shift fault dropped him to tenth; he dropped to the same position at Mugello after leading early on in the wet, unable to find grip; and Test of highs and lows fo DUCATI had mixed results at the Catalunya test. Lead rider Casey Stoner was still suffering cramps as in the race, but ran fast anyway. But while team-mate Nicky Hayden plumbed new lows, class rookie Mika Kallio claimed a stunning fourth overall. The Finn was beaten only by the Fiat Yamaha pair and Dovizioso, as he tested new front-end settings and the factory carbon-fibre swing-arm for his satellite Pramac Ducati. But Hayden was the only rider who failed to improve on his race lap time. Stoner described a positive test, in spite of running no more than 38 laps, the least of anyone. “I was not in perfect shape and I couldn’t make more than a couple of runs at a time, but we managed to test what we needed to test,”he said. He placed fifth, slower than his qualifying time and half a second off Dovizioso. Kallio and Hayden had the equal highest number of laps, with 98 apiece, but with very different results. Kallio put himself firmly back on track, after his promising early race results had tailed off. He’d been on form again and ninth on Sunday. “Compared with then, we have clearly improved and this gives me a lot of trust for the rest of the season,”he said. The stiffer swing-arm boosted his confidence, while setting changes took him a stage further. Hayden had run sixth fastest on Friday, after a raft of changes seemed to suit his style. But he went downhill from there, although tenth was his season’s best finish. At the tests, his time dropped him to 14th as he ran two seconds slower than the leader. Only MotoGP beginner Gabor Talmacsi was slower. “It wasn’t the day I had hoped for, seeing the progress we had made over the weekend. I don’t know why, because we worked so hard,”he said, clinging to the hope that at least the data he’d collected over almost four full races would help the engineers find the key to his problems.