How serious is Honda about winning the 2011 MotoGP World Championship? At Team Gresini’s MotoGP launch at Monza today, it was quietly confirmed that the San Carlo Honda Gresini squad has been given the keys to the candy store, turning the team into a factory-backed effort. While Marco Simoncelli was already assured factory support from Honda for the 2011 season, the move adds Hiroshi Aoyama to the factory rider list, and likely makes Gresini’s life infinitely less complex by not having to manage between a factory and non-factory split garage.
Chris Vermeulen is finally back on a racing bike at the official Kawasaki test in Sepang this week, after only beginning to walk “a couple of weeks ago,” according to his personal Twitter account. According to Kawasaki on this first day of their week-long winter test, “Vermeulen had never ridden the new bike before today and was instantly impressed with it.” Both factory teammates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes had already ridden their Kawasaki World Superbike machines, but had not used the Sepang facility as Vermeulen has.
The factory team is joined by Team Perercini riders Gabor Talmasci and Roberto Rolfo, as posted at A&R last week. This is Vermeulen’s first time on his new WSBK ride after his knee surgery. He was quoted by the team as saying, “I eased into it today and only did a limited number of laps, over three separate runs…The last bike I rode around Sepang was a GP machine, so to be impressed with this motorbike already shows it is a very good start.” He also made a point of praising the team for their hard work and good development.
Yamaha Racing announced this week that Davide Brivio, the Team Manager for Valentino Rossi’s side of the garage, will be leaving the team at the end of the season. Taking on a management role in Rossi’s VR46 brand, Brivio will be replaced by Massimo “Maio” Meregalli, the former factory Yamaha World Superbike team manager. Meregalli’s appointment to the position likely has to to with the entry of Ben Spies into the factory team, as he and Spies reportedly became close during the Texan’s WSBK stint with Yamaha.
Yamaha Racing announced this morning in Motegi, Japan that they have finally come to an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo, which sees the Spanish rider signing a two-year contract with the factory team. The announcement isn’t a surprise, as Lorenzo has made it clear over the course of the season that his goal was to remain at Yamaha, with the Japanese company making similar overtures.
Lorenzo is however the last MotoGP alien to sign-up for next year, with the delay likely being due to salary negotiations and other perks within the team, like developing the YZF-M1 to suit his riding style. Lorenzo is currently 56 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa for the MotoGP Championship title, and is heavily favored to win the accolade this year for Yamaha, after finishing second last year to teammate Valentino Rossi.
Alstare Suzuki announced this morning that Leon Haslam has been let out of his contract with the “factory” Suzuki World Superbike team. Although only halfway through a two-year contract, Haslam is said to have a clause in his contract that guarantees him factory support within the team. With Suzuki’s involvement being brought into question for next season, Alstare team principal Francis Batta has had no choice but to release Haslam from team obligations after Magny-Cours. Although no announcement has come forth, Haslam is widely believed to be taking Ruben Xaus’s seat at BMW for the 2011 season.
Noticeably absent from the silly season slogging has been the factory Suzuki MotoGP team. Although we know that Suzuki intends to stay in MotoGP for at least one more season, despite a continued tradition of mediocrity, very little other information has come forward. Perhaps at the top of the rumor heap is the speculation that Rizla Suzuki will potentially field only one bike in the 2011 MotoGP season, electing not to replace Loris Capirossi who has been linked to the Pramac Ducati team.
Rumors are intensifying about Marco Melandri’s possible switch to World Superbike next season, as BMW Team Manager Davide Tardozzi told Italian news site GPone, “we don’t have the signature, and that is the most important part, but I received a very positive impression from Melandri.”
As is the case with many riders leaving MotoGP for WSBK, money seems to be less of an issue, than returning to a racing format where non-alien riders can be competitive again. Continuing in his statement, Tardozzi said, “We never talked about money, only about how competitive we would be. Marco wants to win and show that he is still a top rider, and I think this is the right philosophy for Superbike.”
Another one of the worst-kept secrets in the MotoGP paddock is the graduation of Ben Spies from the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team to the factory Yamaha squad. With Valentino Rossi now officially out of the Yamaha picture, Spies’ opening in the factory squad is finally vacant.
With Spies testing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 at Brno two weeks ago, more fuel was added to the fire that an announcement from the Texan was imminent. Dodging an official statements during Thursday’s pre-race conference at Indianapolis GP, Spies still all but confirmed where he would be for next season.
Just because Ducati won’t announce that they’ve signed Valentino Rossi, doesn’t meant that silly season in the MotoGP paddock can’t continue. The latest rumors coming out of GP racing is the departure of Marco Melandri to World Superbike, supposedly to a BMW ride, and Andrea Dovizioso finding himself riding with Gresini Honda, on a factory supported Honda RC212V. The move apparently comes because of Honda’s obligation to Dovizioso, and desire to keep the currently #2 rider in the world: Dani Pedrosa.
This is a busy week for Yamaha Racing, with its MotoGP squad headed to Estoril and WSBK getting ready for its second-to-last stop in Magny-Cours. Fresh from the tuning fork brand is another announcement for its 2010 rider line-up, and this time around it concerns James Toseland.
Coming straight from Yamaha HQ, James Toseland, the former World Superbike Champion and current MotoGP satellite rider, will be headed back to World Superbike for the 2010 season, taking the place of Ben Spies who will be moving into Toseland’s now empty seat at Monster Tech3 Yamaha.