The rumormill regarding whether Repsol Honda’s three rider-team will endure for the 2012 MotoGP season has been in full-swing lately, and paddock rumors have pegged Andrea Dovizioso, the only Repsol Honda rider whose contract is up at the end of the season, as moving out into a satellite Honda team. Whether that means Dovizioso lands in LCR, Gresini, or some other team has been the subject of much gossip, rumor, and speculation. Though an answer appears to be coming this weekend, according to Dovi.
American rider Ben Bostrom will have double the duties this coming weekend at the US GP at Laguna Seca, as he’ll ride as a wild card in MotoGP with the LCR Honda team, alongside Toni Elias. Bostrom will also be honoring his commitments with the Jordan Suzuki AMA team, riding the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the AMA Pro Superbike races held in conjunction with MotoGP’s first US stop of the season.
“Words can’t express how excited I am to get this amazing opportunity to race on my home track in front of the whole world,” said Bostrom. “I have to thank Michael Jordan Motorsports and American Suzuki for allowing this to happen. The collaboration between Lucio, LCR and the MJM team has been terrific. I’m going to get on the GP bike and put it as close to the front as possible. Then I’m going to hop on my Jordan Suzuki bike and try to create even more magic.”
After his abysmal finish in the Italian GP at Mugello, rumors are swirling in the MotoGP paddock that Toni Elias has been given two to three races (it depends on which Spanish journalist you want to believe) to turn around his flailing MotoGP season. Affixed to the back of the pack, speculation that Dorna will charge Elias rent on the back-row grid position is exaggerated, but not far from the truth. A true backmarker, the Spanish rider has essentially been left high & dry by his team, as a struggle has emerged in the LCR Honda garage over where to take Elias’s RC212V in its setup.
With Elias and his crew butting heads over how to make the satellite Honda go faster, the reigning Moto2 Champion has been left to sort out his own chassis and suspension settings on race day, which means a lot of rider one-on-one time with the Öhlins truck. While the LCR Honda crew has been making the changes that Elias ultimately wants, the team hasn’t been offering any input on arriving at those settings, essentially letting the Spaniard sink or swim on his own accord. This game of cat and mouse is apparently over however, and the death clock on Toni Elias’s MotoGP career appears to be ticking.
MotoGP race team LCR Honda has been caught dabbling with one very trick Honda CBR1000RR. While we’re having a hard time believing the rumors that LCR Honda intends to use the bike as claiming-rule team (CRT) entry in MotoGP, the LCR Honda CBR1000RR is an exercise on what one can do with enough money and access to HRC’s secret stash of motorcycle racing parts.
Raiding the HRC parts catalog, Lucio Cecchinello and his crew have boosted the Fireblade’s output to 200hp, and completing the kit are 2010 Öhlins MotoGP forks, Brembo carbon fiber brakes, Marchesini wheels, and of course a Playboy replica paint scheme (naturally). One of the most impressive CBRs you’ll find, we caution you not to believe other reports that state this is all a part of LCR considering a CBR motor as the basis for a CRT entry.
The Honda boys were out in full-force today, as MotoGP testing continued at Sepang. With only Toni Elias outside of the Top 7, Honda’s race package for the 2011 season is looking very stout, despite the fact that chassis selections still haven’t been finalized. While landing at the top of the results list is about as useful as yelling “first” in the comments section, Casey Stoner just barely snatched the honor away from Dani Pedrosa in his final lap around the Malaysian circuit, leaving only .058 seconds between the teammates.
Like yesterday, the Yamaha Racing factory squad looked in good form as well, with Spies showing marked improvements despite crashing in one of the sessions. Jorge Lorenzo spent some time on two different bikes, confirming the direction his crew was going with developing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the new season.
Things weren’t progressing as well in the Ducati camp though, as all the teams struggled with front-end issues. Notably absent from the day was Valentino Rossi, who has come down with cold/flu like symptoms. He retired to the hotel, in the hopes of being well enough to ride in tomorrow’s last day of testing. Carrying the Corse flag alone, Nicky Hayden had a tough day that ended with gearbox problems. Still, the ever-positive American was hopeful for better fortunes on Thursday as the team seems to have worked out some chatter issues.
Testing has already gotten underway and concluded at Sepang today, meaning the teams of MotoGP have released their livery for the next season with varying degrees of fanfare and showmanship. It’s no surprise then that we found a couple photos of the LCR Honda RC212V adorned with a seductive Playboy bunny affixed to it, in what surely has to be the best GP team launch in 2011.
If you read Asphalt & Rubber on a religious basis (we are your motorcycling zen temple, right?), you’ve likely divined by now that I’ll chastise just about any company that uses the premise that “sex sells” (nothing boils my blood more than this cleverly short, yet misguided maxim), and that I love a good scrappy startup that’s got more hustle than funding (case in point: A&R is a penniless motorcycle startup trying to make it in this crazy online world).
So how does a the multi-million dollar motorcycle racing team with half-naked women draped all over their machinery get such accolades from our humble motorcycle blog? Because LCR Honda is the epitome of innovation on the business side of MotoGP racing.
It’s a bit of irony that Casey Stoner was the first MotoGP alien to to make his move in the 2010 silly season, yet is the last MotoGP alien whose fate we know completely. Signing with Honda it was assumed that Stoner would be a part of a three-man team within Repsol Honda, with HRC saying as much during its press announcement with the Australian rider. When the budget necessary to field a three-man team failed to materialize from Repsol, HRC began looking for other options, with the most prominent being a single-man team (likely with Casey Stoner), possibly sponsored by Red Bull. Unable to get the energy drink company to foot the bill, HRC then turned to satellite squad Gresini, where Marco Simoncelli, another HRC contracted rider, currently resides.
Andrea Dovizioso seemingly drew the short-straw in that arrangement, with HRC pressuring the Italian to move into Gresini with the promise of factory support being made for both riders. Dovizioso is reported as having a performance clause in his contract that guarantees him a seat in a factory team should he meet certain criteria. With Dovi honoring his end of the agreement, he looked to HRC to honor its side of the contract, and a Honda Gresini ride is not what the Italian had in mind. Making matters worse is HRC’s history of not honoring support agreements to riders once they leave the folds of the factory team. As such Dovizioso held his ground, and rightfully so.
With the 2011 season likely to see four factory-backed Honda riders, something had to give, and that something seems to be Repsol Honda. According to MotoWorld, Repsol Honda agreed at the Australian GP to up its MotoGP funding from €10 million to €15 million, and support a three-man Repsol Honda factory team. With Stoner, Pedrosa, and Dovizioso tucked away under one tent for the 2011 season, and Marco Simoncelli staying in Gresini Honda, that leaves a vacancy in the quasi-satellite team that will surely be filled by Hiroshi Aoyama.
Emptying out the memory cards from the Red Bull US GP weekend, we came across a few blooper shots that we just had to share with you (like this one of Aleix Espargaró re-enacting “The Pass” that Rossi pulled on Stoner in the 2008 US GP). We often place MotoGP riders on a pedestal, looking to them as gods, but it’s good every now and then to remind ourselves that they are mortal men after all. Flip through this short series of photos after the jump for a couple of laughs.
God bless Randy de Puniet. For whatever reason, the French LCR Honda rider has wormed his way into our hearts here at Asphalt & Rubber. At first it was because de Puniet had a penchant for crashing, perpetually misplacing his shirt, and well…being French. As the leading satellite bike rider in the 2010 season though, Randy de Puniet has found a new consistency with the LCR Honda, and has even given the factory Repsol Honda boys a run for their money on more than one occasion. We have to admit, we’ve been impressed with de Randy 2.0 this season.
de Puniet has also stayed mostly out of the gravel traps for 2010, showing a new maturity. He’s still French, pompous, and generally comes across as a playboy, but we sort of like that in our French men. Afterall, if Parisians were courteous to American tourists, the city would feel a lot like Atlanta: hot, dirty, and full of people who talk funny.
So when Randy de Puniet broke his leg during the German GP, we were crushed to hear that our favorite rider in the paddock would be out until Brno, and miss the Laguna Seca round. Our concerns of course then immediately turned to Randy’s well-being as he was being carted off for examination at Clinica Mobile.
Was he ok? Did his broad shoulders fit through the clinic’s meager doorways? Who would hold his brave hand while Dr. Costa poked and proded him with his medical “science”? We now know those answers. Video after the jump.