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GP Week : Issue 154
at BRIEFLY » Chris Vermeulen’s return to GP racing after two years absence yielded no points or results – but was a step in the right direction for the Australian, a former winner in the wet at Le Mans. Vermeulen spent the last two years in the Kawasaki World Superbike team, but was plagued with injury. He finished 17th and two laps down on the Suter-BMW left vacant by Colin Edwards’s injury two weeks ago, “but I think I helped the team with some development ideas,” he said. “I don’t know if Colin will be back in Barcelona,” he said, but there was a possibility he might return as a test rider for the NGM Forward team. » Honda is seeking to redress the balance of horsepower in Moto3, with the high ground until now held by rivals KTM. Top riders Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira and Romano Fenati all had new cams and valve springs at Le Mans, and for the first time Vinales posted the highest top speed – 214.4 km/h. » At the other end of the new Moto3 class, replacing 125 two-stroke singles with 250cc four- stroke singles, independent engine manufacturers are struggling. One is the two-rider Ioda team, where rider Luigi Morciano broke his fifth (of eight) sealed engines out for the race. The other is the Italian manufacturer Oral, dropped (in spite of official denials) by the Ambroglio Next racing team. At Le Mans they arrived with Suter Hondas for riders Simone Grotzkyj and Giulian Pedone. This leaves only the Indian Mahindra team using the Oral, where oil leaks and engine failures continue to plague riders Danny Webb and Marcel Schrotter. With all top riders out of contract at the end of this season, the loss of Stoner has thrown a big rock into already troubled water, and triggered fevered speculation as to how Honda will replace him. It is good news for Dani Pedrosa, whose place in the Repsol-sponsored team was looking less secure. Good news also for Jorge Lorenzo, whose asking fee might gain a considerable percentage. Asked if he had been contacted by Honda, Lorenzo gave a firm “No” . Lorenzo is the obvious candidate, and Honda have deep enough pockets to outbid Yamaha. But there may be objections to two top Spanish riders in the team, while the expected arrival of Marc Marquez in MotoGP next year further complicates the issue. The rookie rule dictates that new riders in the top class may not ride for a full factory team, and Dorna chief Ezpeleta has insisted the rule will not be changed. But Marquez is earmarked by Repsol for Honda in 2014, so Stoner’s replacement may have only a year to establish himself in the team. Candidates include new Honda satellite rider Stefan Bradl, who has made a good impression in his first four races; and Gresini satellite rider Alvaro Bautista. Cal Crutchlow may also be in line for the job. The same possibilities shift over to Yamaha if Lorenzo does make the move. Dovizioso is working hard to move from the satellite squad to the factory team; while Crutchlow is well- placed as well. Valentino Rossi has repeated his promise to race on in MotoGP for two more years after the end of this one, saying that in spite of rumours that he had been contemplating quitting at the end of this year, “I have never thought of retiring.” He was puzzled as to how the rumour, reported in Britain’s The Daily Telegraph, had started. “Sincerely I have not spoken about this to anybody. “I will be in MotoGP for two more years,” he insisted. “To stop at the top is the dream of every sportsman, but for me the price is too high,” he said. “I like a lot the racing life, the weekend of the race, and everything.” Dani Pedrosa had a different view. “Every rider thinks about this at some times,” he said. “I did last year, after my crash here with Simoncelli. But you have to take a balanced view.” Nicky Hayden was as surprised as anybody. “Casey is his own guy and doesn’t do anything by the book. But if he’s winning everything, I can’t see why he wouldn’t be loving it,” he said. Lorenzo commented privately: “Casey will stop, but MotoGP will not stop.” RIDER MARKET IN TURMOIL Stoner’s departure leaves a big hole at Honda ROSSI CONFIRMS TWO MORE YEARS Rival reacts to Stoner shock MOTOGP >>> NEWS 12 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: