Ben Spies sits on top of the leader board at today’s qualifying at Phillip Island, and is the first winner of World Superbike’s new Superpole system. Quashing any comments from naysayers who still harbored considerable doubts about Yamaha’s recruit from the AMA, Spies showed that he is the real deal in WSBK and could be one of the riders to watch in the series. Tomorrow, he gets two chances to show what he can do it in the race. Max Biaggi follows the American rookie with a strong showing for Aprilia’s WSBK comeback, which has on exactly how similar it is to the production version of the RSV4. Continue reading for times from qualifying.
Controversy has hit Aprilia after Max Biaggi took second place in the Superpole shoot out. Alstare Suzuki owner and team manager, Jean Francois Batta told Italian network La7 that: “Everyone knows that the RSV4 is a prototype and shouldn’t be racing here in SBK. After the race I’m going to the technical commission and lodge a complaint.” According to paddock gossip the Alstare techs seem to have had a tiny peek at Aprilia’s fuel system and saw something that did not convince them. Fuel systems according to Superbike regulations have to be identical to the road bike version. Since Aprilia’s return to the series, several teams have quietly expressed concern regarding Aprilia’s new superbike, deeming it not yet a true production bike.
The FIM MotoGP World Championship will arrive in Bulgaria as of 2012, following a preliminary agreement reached between the Bulgarian Motorcycle Federation and Dorna Sports, the commercial rights holder for MotoGP. The new five year deal, which will take MotoGP to Bulgaria from 2012 to 2016, marks another step into Eastern Europe for MotoGP, and who recently signed a similar deal for a Hungarian GP.
It is now official, Marco Melandri will be on the grid at Qatar for the start of the 2009 season with a factory supported Kawasaki. Kawasaki issued a statement earlier today, stating that the agreement to provide support for the team had come because of “the necessity to come to constructive solutions for all related parties.” Kawasaki throughout the entire saga has had tremendous pressure from Dorna to stay in the racing series, and Dorna was under considerable pressure from FIM to field enough bikes to keep its “Championship” status. Both of these issues seem now solved with Kawasaki’s announcement as the minimum quota of 18 riders is now met.
Yamaha Motors has announced it will cut motorcycle output at its Japanese factories by almost a one quarter, or nearly 87,000 units, this year. This will mean that Yamaha will produce just over 260,000 units for the year, Yamaha’s lowest output level in nearly forty years. According to Reuters, the Japanese firm will halt production at its main assembly plant, to reduce output by 13,000 motorcycles as a starting point, with further reductions in production expected over the coming months. It is unclear what model bikes will be reduced the most, but certainly the reductions will touch every segment.
Track modifications at the Silverstone circuit look set to make it one of the fastest circuits on the MotoGP calendar, when the MotoGP series heads to the Northamptonshire venue from 2010 onwards. The new Silverstone circuit, which will feature a spectacular new section of track running from the approach at Abbey corner to a tightening ‘Arrowhead’ hairpin at the inside of Becketts, will measure 3.5 miles in length, a third of a mile longer than the existing Grand Prix circuit.
Based on mathematical simulations, HOK Sport, one of the world’s leading sports architecture firms, has calculated that the average lap time for MotoGP riders around the new track would be 1’51.456, racing at an average speed of 113 mph, almost 2mph faster than at Phillip Island, which is currently the fastest circuit in MotoGP.
Marco Melandri has announced on his Facebook profile his intentions for the upcoming MotoGP season. According to the Italian press, Melandri wrote “for the moment, we will test the bike at Losail, we will see whether it’s going to be worth racing the bike after the test: if the bike’s a disaster, we will all go home.”
Furthermore, GPOne.com is reporting that the Italian will be riding an updated version of the 2008 bike at Qatar, which was tested at Valencia and Phillip Island earlier in the testing season. Melandri had previously rejected trying to race this bike, but as this point riding the quasi-2008 bike is better than no ride at all.
Whether this is just idle speculation or a genuine plan, we will see soon enough. The Qatar tests take place at the end of next week, and if Melandri is there on a Kawasaki, we will finally get an inkling of how this story will end.
The last day of testing at Phillip Island has ended with Ducati on top of the time board. After losing Troy Bayliss to retirement last year, Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga have stepped up to show that they are ready to defend the Ducati crown. Fabrizio ended the day the fastest, with a time of 1’32.19 it was well under Bayliss’ winning lap time from last year’s race. Team mate Haga was not far behind, just fractionally ahead of new boy Ben Spies. The American took a second off his time from yesterday, on only the second day of riding at the track.
While we have lamented about how Oberdan Bezzi is a motorcycle artist and not a motorcycle journalist, despite the fact he is often cited as if he were one, the Italian artist has posted information on his blog (alongside a render of course) that Yamaha is rumored to be building a Moto2 bike which will be ready to compete when the series replaces the 250 class, either in 2010 or 201.
It is with sad news that we report that yesterday, February 20th, that entrepreneur and philanthropist Larry H. Miller passed away at the age of 64 from complications due to type-2 diabetes . Miller owned the Utah Jazz, numerous car dealerships, movie theaters, and commercial real estate properties, but in the world of Asphalt & Rubber he was most known for building the Miller Motorsports Park that opened in 2006. The track, located in Tooele, UT, quickly garnered a reputation as being one of the premier venues in the country and hosted ALMS, Grand-Am, NASCAR, and AMA Superbike races. In addition to his business ventures, Miller was well known for his generosity. He and his wife provided close to 300 college scholarships every year and donated millions of dollars to local colleges and universities. Press release after the jump.