Part 1 of MotoGP’s latest worst-kept secret is out: Valentino Rossi is to leave Ducati at the end of the 2012 season. Ducati this morning issued a press release (printed below) that their working relationship with Rossi will come to an end at the end of the season. The full press release is after the jump.
Our most beloved sovereignty in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is of course most well known for the race that bears its name, the Isle of Man TT. Traditionally taking place in the first weeks of June, the road race attracts tens of thousands of spectators to the small island, for a fortnight of racing on closed public roads. Words don’t do the Isle of Man TT justice, so honestly you are just better off booking the trip and experiencing this two-wheeled bucket-list carnival first-hand for yourself.
Not as well known as the TT, the Isle of Man plays host to a second road race on the famous Mountain Course, the Manx Grand Prix. Traditionally held in late-August or early-September, the Manx, as it is known, uses the same course as the TT, but only features non-professional racers in its classes (except for the classic class). Changing the Manx’s format to better promote and differentiate it from the more popular TT, the Isle of Man has decided to do away with modern machinery all together in the festival, and the Manx Grand Prix is to become a “Classic TT” according to its organizers, as was the rumor during the 2012 Isle of Man TT.
World Superbike in Brno this race-weekend, the home round for the Czech-based Effenbert-Liberty Ducati team. Once again in the spotlight after its dust-up following the Monza round, Effenbert Liberty rider Sylvain Guintoli took to Twitter ahead of WSBK’s stop in Brno, announcing in a string of messages that that Czech team had breached its contract with him by not providing a bike for the Czech round, and as far as the French rider was concerned, the contract had been nullified.
Giving its side of the situation several days later, Liberty Racing first cited an issue with Guintoli’s technical team, but later amended that statement by blaming Guintoli’s lackluster results as the reason for why the French rider had been sacked. This is of course in spite of the fact that Guintoli has been on the podium three times this season so far, including a race win in Holland. Guintoli is currently eighth overall in the Championship, and is the first Liberty Racing rider to have won a race in WSBK.
HRC has today confirmed the news that has been expected for several weeks now. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez have both signed up to race in the Repsol Honda team for the next two seasons, 2013 and 2014. Both riders are long-time protégés of the Spanish petroleum giant Repsol, so the combination of Marquez and Pedrosa in the factory team was the logical choice.
Once the Rookie Rule had been removed – at the request of the Honda satellite teams, for whom Marquez would have caused problems with crew members and sponsors – Marquez’s move into the factory Honda team was inevitable. As for Pedrosa, the Spaniard has consistently won races every season he has been in MotoGP, and has been in the title race most seasons, though injuries have prevented him from mounting a serious challenge.
With World Superbike’s stop at Monza being massively disrupted by the combination of the track’s demanding layout and Pirelli’s melting rain tires, the Italian tire company has taken the brunt of criticism from fans, teams, and riders for its handling of the two races at the historic circuit. With the long straights and high speeds of Monza proving to be a challenge in even normal conditions, the issue of tires became increasingly important as it was discovered that the compound used in Pirelli’s rain tires could not handle the center-line heat caused by the Italian track, even in full-wet conditions.
WSBK fans watched as riders blew through rain tires in just a matter of two or three laps during the wet Superpole qualifying session on Saturday, and when the rain showed up again on Sunday, the riders had said they had enough of the nonsense. Though not encountering fully-wet conditions, Pirelli’s intermediate tire was ruled out of the equation, as it uses the same compound as the rain tire, albeit with fewer groves. So, Pirelli’s solution to the problem was to take racing slicks of different compound, presumably one that could handle the heat of the track, and cut them to into makeshift intermediate tires. Expecting riders to go two races on a pair, the WSBK paddock was less-than-enthusiastic with this remedy.
With the riders essentially causing a mutiny on the starting grid, Race 1 at Monza was cancelled, while Race 2 was delayed for dryer conditions. Once the rain returned halfway through the race though, riders again raised their arms to signal the stoppage of the competition. Since they completed half of the race, only half points were awarded, but that left for some interesting comments in the paddock. Responding to the criticism of how it handled the Monza weekend, Pirelli has released a press statement that shifts the blame back to the World Superbike teams. Read the company’s statement in its entirety after the jump.
The low-point of a great race weekend, factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz was airlifted out of the Imola circuit, after crashing during a post-race test at the Italian track. Flown immediately to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, Lascorz was diagnosed with a broken 6th vertebra (C6), and was reported to have suffered trauma to his spinal chord. Since the Spanish rider has been moved back to Spain, details about Lascorz’s condition have not been coming forth with regularity, though the latest update from the team is that the rider has been kept sedated to minimize his movement and because he still had fluid in his lungs.
Press interviews that are done internally by the teams themselves are usually very one-sided, glowing, and devoid of any controversial or tough questions, so you have to give a hat-tip to HRC for producing a pretty fair shake of an interview with Gresini Honda‘s Fausto Gresini. The former-racer turned MotoGP Team Manager is heralded as the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP, which is certainly open for debate, though Gresini undeniably has some very note-worthy notches on his belt.
Along with his successes Gresini and his squad unfortunately have also had their fair share of tragedy. Losing Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli at Sepang in 2011, the team has been at the center of two dark chapters of the MotoGP story. Running a black livery in 2012, instead of the team’s customary white color scheme, the absence of Simoncelli still percolates underneath the demure exterior of the team, though the Gresini Honda team is clearly looking forward instead of back.
Taking on the challenge of running a CRT entry for the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Gresini Honda will race with both a factory prototype and with a Ten Kate-prepped Honda CBR1000RR motor in an FTR chassis. At the helm of the CRT machine will be Michele Pirro, the same rider who gave Gresini a dramatic finish to the 2011 season, by winning the final Moto2 round at the Valencian GP. Also new to the team is Alvaro Bautista, who has been our dark horse favorite here at A&R. Fast, but underrated, Bautista’s true potential will be measured this year as he joins an all-star team, and rides “the bike” of the GP paddock: the 2012 Honda RC213V.
While we have been expecting Erik Buell Racing to join forces with a larger company at some point this year, today it comes as a bit of surprise to learn that EBR has partnered with Hero MotoCorp. The deal sees Hero becoming the title sponsor for two teams in the AMA Pro Racing National Guard Superbikes Championship — Team Hero and AMSOIL Hero, while Erik Buell Racing will give Hero design and technology inputs for bikes destined for the Indian market.
In practicality, this partnership would seem to suggest that Erik Buell Racing will help Hero MotoCorp, a company recently freed/dumped from its partnership with Honda, build sporty two-wheelers for the Indian motorcycle market, while the cash-infused Indian manufacturer will help the boutique American sport bike maker continue to go racing in the United States. This news also puts Danny Eslick on the Team Hero EBR 1190RS for the 2012 season, while Geoff May will continue with the AMSOIL Hero EBR 1190RS. Thanks for the tip Kevin!
If it hasn’t become apparent by now, we love us some April Fools here at Asphalt & Rubber, because like Christmas, the real joy in the holiday isn’t in the act of receiving, but in the act of giving. It’s perhaps at this time of year where the media side of the motorcycle industry reaches its zenith of creativity, producing eloquent prose, perfect press releases, and some of the most superb photo re-touches we’ve ever seen. We have in fact many maestros in our presence, and we wanted to share our Top 3 picks of the days festivities.
And our role in all this? Well we’re firm believers in the idea that if you’re going to do something wrong, then it’s best to do it right. Instead of trying to fabricate a story or two, and then convince you that they were real (that’s so 2010 by the way), we decided to switch things up and publish two stories (here & here) that we knew to be fundamentally true, and convince you that they were in fact fake. April Fools.
Ultimate Motorcycling, formerly of Robb Report fame, issued a fun article today (and accompanying press release) about how they’ve become the most popular American-based website for motorcycling out of all the print magazines, surpassing CycleWorld, Motorcyclist, and *gasp* even Asphalt & Rubber (actually we don’t dabble in print, so we guess we’re excluded from this club). This of course is complete, utter, and absolute bullshit, now allow me to tell you why. Ultimate Motorcycling is backing up its claim by citing Alexa.com, one of the most unreliable and easily massaged traffic reporting sites on the internet.
Now while all metric sites should be taken with a fair dose of salt, since they typically indirectly measure a website’s traffic, Alexa is by far the worst of the group. Bought by Amazon in 1999, and then quickly forgotten about by the Seattle company, Alexa has done little since the 20th century to change with the ever evolving internet. While the site was fun back in the days when AOL was still the default landing page for most internet users, Alexa has long since jumped the shark in regards to its credibility in the industry.
There is a nice Wikipedia article that explains basics of Alexa, and TechCrunch gives a good example on how inaccurate Alexa reports really are (YouTube bigger than Google? Really!?), but the boiled down version is that Alexa collects the majority of its data through its own Internet Explorer toolbar and Firefox/Opera add-ons, and given how few people actually use these toolbars the sample sizes are woefully small and statistically insignificant. Further proof of this is the fact that Bulgaria is shown at Ultimte Motorcycling‘s top ranking country…yes, Bulgaria (we apologize to all 600 of our Bulgarian readers for this slight, but come on!).
The worst part about Alexa’s rankings, is how easy they are to game. Remember, these stats are coming from a toolbar that only a handful or readers are actually using, so to inflate them all you need to do is have a few more people visit your site using the toolbar. Having litterally two or three more people visiting Ultimate Motorcycling‘s website with the Alexa toolbar installed can drastically skew the data results the company uses, and for instance say…making someone’s writing staff install Alexa on their work computers could just as easily raise the traffic figures (not that we’re suggesting such an unethical thing has actually occured).