One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.
Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.
When Suzuki announced that they would be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2011 season, they were keen to emphasize that the withdrawal was only temporary, saying they were planning a return to MotoGP in 2014. Though many paddock regulars were sceptical about such a suggestion, Suzuki is sticking to its guns, it seems. In an interview with Italian website GPOne, Suzuki Racing’s technical director Shinichi Sahara reaffirmed that they were still working towards a 2014 return to MotoGP, based on the motorcycle the factory had been developing before the decision was made to pull out.
After watching factory rider Álvaro Bautista jump ship to Team San Carlo Honda Gresini, it looks like the shoe has finally dropped on Suzuki’s involvement in MotoGP for the 2012 season, as it is being reported that Rizla Suzuki team members were emailed Friday that the factory squad would not enter next year’s MotoGP Championship.
Suzuki had been handed an ultimatum by Dorna, demanding that the Japanese company make a decision on its 2012 involvement by Friday of last week. With nary an announcement coming forth, the signs in the tea leaves pointed to Rizla Suzuki’s departure from the series, which has been further confirmed today. Though Suzuki is said to be continuing its 1,000cc MotoGP testing program, reports peg the company’s return to GP racing as soon as 2014, if at all.
UPDATE: Álvaro Bautista has signed with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team for the 2012 MotoGP season. The Spaniard is not expect to have a factory support within the team.
Rizla Suzuki has announced today that rider Álvaro Bautista has left the factory Suzuki team for the 2012 season. It has not been announced where Bautista will race next next year, though best guesses would peg the Spaniard as headed to the LCR Honda squad. Certainly linked to this news, Randy de Puniet was given the opportunity to test the 2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R yesterday, and the Frenchman has already made some impressions.
Fourth fastest on yesterday’s time sheets, de Puniet has been keen to get out of the Pramac Ducati garage, and onto a more competitive package. With Bautista, de Puniet, and John Hopkins all playing musical chairs around LCR Honda and Rizla Suzuki, Bautista’s departure at least progresses the game forward. The big question still remains though, with Bautista leaving the Rizla Suzuki squad, does that signal another rider’s entry into the factory team, or does it mean the Japanese company’s departure from MotoGP racing?
It’s starting to become a bad joke for the Anglo-American rider, but John Hopkins has had to withdraw another wild card opportunity. Citing complications with the finger he broke back the Czech GP, Hopper has unfortunately had to call it quits in Sepang before Sunday’s race. Re-breaking the knuckle on his third finger on his right hand, Hopkins awoke yesterday to a swollen and immovable joint, which made riding the Suzuki GSV-R an impossibility.
Surely a disappointment for the talented rider, who has made no secret about his desire to get back into MotoGP, the move is also a blow to Rizla Suzuki, which as hoping to get some buzz this weekend, as the team negotiates plans for the 2012 MotoGP season with the Japanese factory. Hopper will stay in Malaysia to support the team throughout the race and cheer on teammate Alvaro Bautista, before he heads back to America for surgery.
Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.
Rizla Suzuki has announced that John Hopkins will return to MotoGP action for another race, riding again as wild card entry, this time at Sepang. The Malaysian GP will be Hopper’s third stint in MotoGP this season, as the Anglo-American filled-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez and was entered as a wild card for the Czech GP, where he unfortunately injured his wrist in a crash during Free Practice.
Currently leading the British Superbike Championship with the Samsung Crescent Racing team, Hopper will be looking to button-up the BSB Championship next weekend at Brands Hatch. Making a remarkable showing during his rookie year in BSB, this wild card ride with Rizla Suzuki is surely a reward for Hopkins’ determination this season, which has seen him make an appearance in World Superbike, on-top of his extracurricular MotoGP activities.
Though threatening with strong winds and the possibility of rain, the weather held out for MotoGP riders at the Aragon GP. As the Spanish track played host to the premier class of motorcycle racing, the Aragon GP proved to be a Honda affair during qualifying, as Casey Stoner took yet another pole position, while teammate Dani Pedrosa followed closely behind as second on the grid. With Jorge Lorenzo struggling at Motorland Aragon, Ben Spies carried the Yamaha banner to the front row, qualifying third on Saturday.
The first to break the six engine rule allotment (we should add, without a special dispensation) Valentino Rossi took his seventh motor of the season, and thus was relegated to starting from the pit lane, 10 seconds after the start of the Aragon GP. Perhaps the friendliest track to take such a manuvear, Ducati Corse is clearly not only thinking for the long-term of this season, but also for the 2012 season as well. How would starting from the rear affect the nine-time World Champion, and would Jorge Lorenzo continue his pursuit of Casey Stoner at Aragon? Find out after the jump.
With power issues plaguing Friday’s Free Practice sessions, MotoGP took to the track Saturday in full-effort as riders and teams scrambled to make up for lost time. One of five races remaining in the season, the Aragon GP continues Jorge Lorenzo’s do or die point of the season, as the reigning-World Champion is on a campaign to claw back Casey Stoner’s 35 point lead in the MotoGP Championship standings. With the Yamaha’s struggling at Motorland Aragon, the Spaniard certainly has a tough a weekend ahead of him, especially since both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa looked to be well on top of their game in the two practice sessions.
News has been percolating for Ducati as well, as Valentino Rossi will finally ride on the much rumored aluminum chassis this weekend. While Rossi and the Corse crew struggle to adjust to yet another major modification to the Ducati Desmosedici, Randy de Puniet proved to be the fastest Italian bike man at Aragon leading up to qualifying. Also showing strong improvement in this homestretch of the season, Alvaro Bautista has been on a tear lately, and will be man to watch come Sunday’s race. Check after the jump for Qualifying results at the Aragon Gp>
With only rare exceptions, you don’t get to the top level of motorbike racing without being fast and having proven your raciness in the lower classes. Former 125cc World Champion and 250cc runner-up Álvaro Bautista is an example of a great rider on a bike that simply doesn’t allow him to show all of his talents.
After fantastic seasons in 125s and 250s, Bautista joined MotoGP in 2010 on the struggling Rizla Suzuki team aboard a bike that was flat out uncompetitive, managing a pair of 5th places for his best results of the year. He began 2011 as the team’s sole rider by breaking his leg in Qatar and missing the first two races, returning at Estoril while still mending. Since then he has managed a variety of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place finished as the 800cc Suzuki shows signs of life just at it reaches the end of its duty.