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GP Week : Issue 59
HIGH SIDES n Honda was set to break a tradition of many years in order to test Öhlins suspension today, the day after the Brno GP. Until now Honda has stuck with Showa suspension, made by a wholly owned subsidiary company. Öhlins used to belong to Yamaha, but was recently bought back by founder Kent Öhlins, freeing Honda from embarrassment if it were to join the rest of the MotoGP grid on the Swedish suspension. n Current 250 rider Mattia Pasini, whose Team Toth is on shaky ground financially and taking part virtually race-by-race, was to test a MotoGP Ducati on the day after the Brno GP, with a view to racing Kallio’s bike while the Finn is substituting for the absent Stoner in the factory team. The Pramac bike was ridden by Ducati factory Superbike rider Michel Fabrizio at Brno for one race only (he retired), and Pasini might take over the ride at Indianapolis, and for as long as Stoner is away. “I like hard challenges,” he said. n Cost-cutting moves this year were meant to include riders’ salaries – which would have taken effect from next year, after contracts already in place had expired. But HRC director Tetsuo Suzuki was not so sure it could be achieved, in his negotiations to keep Pedrosa and Dovizioso on team strength: “We will have to pay what the riders are worth,” he said. Nor would he admit any overall budget cuts at HRC: “We want to win – I don’t like to talk about budget cuts,” he said. n Suzuki had significant engine revisions at Brno, reconciling the opposite requirements of longer engine life and increased power. The riders liked it, and technical chief Shinichi Sahara said that the improvements had been achieved without reducing the rev limit. n With long-life engines in place for the first time (five per rider for the rest of the year), Rossi said his new machine felt “tired” by comparison with the old one. The performance loss was slight, but the machine was less enjoyable to ride, he said. Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden said they could notice no significant difference. n Valentino Rossi may still be short of Giacomo Agostini’s total of victories, at 102 to 122, but he passed a milestone at Brno with his 160th career podium, one more than Ago. 1 Lorenzo in the Cat-bird seat again Could Stoner’s absence open the Ducati door? YAMAHA and Jorge Lorenzo had reached broad agreement for the Spaniard to stay on as Valentino Rossi’s team-mate next year. But with no ink on any contracts, the possibly permanent departure of Stoner has radically changed the position, and Lorenzo is now top of Marlboro-Ducati’s shopping list, in a position virtually to name his own price. His Yamaha agreement had fallen short of his demands to be paid on the same scale as Rossi (rumoured to earn $18-million per annum from Yamaha alone), but he had swallowed his pride in the interests of his long-term future. Yamaha might now come to regret having tightened the purse strings. Ducati’s fortunes have rested almost entirely on Stoner’s shoulders since he joined in 2007, winning the title in his first year. Team-mates Capirossi, Melandri and now Hayden have fallen far short of his race-winning performance, and his absence leaves the independent Italian factory team bereft of race-winning potential. Team chief Livio Suppo firmly denied on Saturday that he had had any contact with Lorenzo, and the rider likewise. But strong rumours from within the pits were more plausible: that he had been offered $8-million to switch to Ducati next year … a figure that is likely to rise the longer the game goes on. “I am still free, but Yamaha is my first choice,” Lorenzo told GPWeek on Friday, declining to be drawn further as the weekend wore on.