Andy Rixon, Kel Edge
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Ducati factory test-rider Vittoriano Guareschi, who has steadfastly carried out this role since 2002, took to the track with the new 800cc powered prototype machine, marking the start of the first track test of the Desmosedici GP7 that will continue until Thursday.
The scene for the shakedown test was Ducati's 'home' circuit of Mugello, which was the venue for the debut of the first version of the Desmosedici way back on August 1, 2002.
Filippo Preziosi (Ducati Corse Technical Director) - "Today the new 800cc engine finally moved from the dyno to the track and we are quite satisfied with this debut. We started off by running a check on all the components of the new bike and over the next two days, if we don't encounter any particular problems, we will move on to phase two and begin the first set-up work. Today is certainly very important, but it is just the start of a long path that we know lies ahead of us. A special thanks goes out to all the guys in Ducati Corse who have worked hard over the past few months to get the bike, with which we will race in next year's championship, out onto the track today, as well as all of our suppliers and technical sponsors, above all Shell Advance, who with their technology, experience and availability are making a decisive contribution to our project."
Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati Corse official test rider) - "I have to admit that the first lap with the GP7 was really exciting. I am used to testing new solutions on our bikes, but this was different to the others: it is a totally new machine, and so it's even more exciting than usual. It seems just like yesterday that we were testing the Desmosedici GP3 here at Mugello for the first time, but four years have gone by! Today we made another important step forward in the MotoGP project: it is as if our family has given birth to a second 'baby' and the first noises it has made are not bad at all!"
Marco Melandri (center) repeated his Turkish MotoGP victory from last year. Youngster Casey Stoner (left) lead much of the race and was a close second, while American veteran Nicky Hayden who has yet to win a MotoGP was handed 3rd podium spot when team mate Dani Pedrosa slid out on the final lap.
Melandri on Top in Turkish MotoGP Thriller
Melandri's victory came in dramatic circumstances, when it had looked as if it would be a straight battle between Stoner and Dani Pedrosa in a repeat of last year’s 250cc race. However, Pedrosa crashed on the start of the last lap in a heartbreaking moment for the rookie Spaniard.
The final lap came down to Casey Stoner (27) and winner Marco Melandri (33,) with Danni Pedrosa having just slid off the track.
Meanwhile, Stoner was close to becoming the joint youngest winner of a MotoGP race, but the Honda LCR rider had to make do with his first podium in the premier class. In what is only his third race in the class, the 20 year-old Australian was unable to hold off Melandri's hard pass with three tight corners remaining, and the Italian ran out the winner in the drag to the line.
Nicky Hayden, who had been run wide by Melandri when he looked to be shaping up to make an overtaking manoeuvre, continued his run of seven consecutive podium finishes. The third place also put him at the top of the tree in the overall classification, a momentous occasion for the American.
Valentino Rossi was largely anonymous at the start of the race, dropping to 14th after running wide. However the reigning World Champion picked his way through the field diligently to come close to taking third from Hayden’s grasp, bringing Toni Elias along for the ride as the pair took fourth and fifth.
Loris Capirossi was off the podium for the first time this season in sixth, ahead of pole-man Chris Vermeulen. The Australian did superbly to hold off the field on the first lap, and pushed his Suzuki to the full in order to avoid dropping down the order, eventually clinching a morale-boosting seventh place.
Shinya Nakano, Colin Edwards and Makoto Tamada completed the top ten, on a day which was dry apart from a few light drops of rain during the MotoGP race itself. 38,123 spectators had flocked to the Istanbul Park Circuit, and none of them will have left disappointed, with all threeraces of the highest quality at one of the most exciting circuits on the MotoGP calendar.
“Obviously conditions were very different today, " said Chris. We had a quite a good morning practice and made a few changes to the set-up, the tyres and with the engine management system and it all seemed to work really well. From the start of the qualifying session the bike was working really well and it was comfortable to ride, even when the conditions got pretty bad and grip was hard to find. I did a few laps and then came back in and just watched the weather to see how much rain was about. I tried to go out in the better conditions and it turned out that it was best at the end. I just stayed out and tried to be as fast as I could and in the end I was faster than everybody! For my team, Bridgestone and all the team’s sponsors, this is the nicest way to say thanks!”
Vermeulen's team mate John Hopkins (2’05.700, 22laps) also rode a very strong qualifying session to put his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R on the middle of the second row in fifth place. He was only one second off his team-mate and will be sure to make an impact in tomorrow’s race whether it is wet or dry. The hard riding Anglo-American lost none of his fire because of the conditions as he made continuous improvements to power his bike up the field. The team’s Bridgestone wet weather tyres worked extremely well in today’s atrocious conditions, a fact that was emphasised by all six of the Bridgestone shod bikes qualifying in the top eight positions.
Vermeulen (71) leads the start into turn one ahead of Sete Giberneau (15) who would pass quickly to lead the first half of the race before droping back.
A Multi Brand Race Thriller Ends With Hondas Topping the Podium
After yesterday’s rain, the clouds threatened but failed to deliver another deluge and the 22-lap MotoGP contest got underway in dry conditions. Poleman Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) got the holeshot into turn one followed by Sete Gibernau (Ducati) and early front man John Hopkins (Suzuki).
But behind this early lead trio lay the eventual bosses of this race: Hayden in fourth, then Stoner and Melandri. Dani, who started from row six after a fruitless qualifying effort had already fought his way his way to 13th by the end of lap one. Melandri, who endured a fifth row start after an equally troubled qualifying performance had shot up to sixth via a lightning-quick launch.
Gibernau had assumed the lead by the end of lap one with Hopkins and Vermeulen in second and third followed by Stoner, Melandri and Hayden. Dani was still scything though the field and by lap three he lay ninth. He then set an early fastest lap of 1m 53.884s on the next circuit of the 5.430km track.
As Vermeulen dropped off the pace Stoner, Hayden and Melandri matched it, then bettered it to put the chase on the lead duo of Gibernau and Hopkins. As the early pressure began to tell, the group of nine riders who had been covered by just three seconds in the early laps began to drift further apart.
Gibernau still held the initiative at the front, but Stoner’s pressure on Hopkins began to tell and by lap eight, the order was Gibernau, Stoner, Melandri, then Pedrosa, who had now slotted in another fastest lap of 1m 53.305s. By lap ten Dani was third.
Exactly on mid-race distance the pattern was set as Gibernau faded and Melandri led the pack into turn one on lap 11. Pedrosa lay second, Hayden third and Stoner fourth. Then Dani turned the screw and stole the lead from Melandri at the final turn complex at the end of lap 11.
Four Honda riders now controlled the race from the front and with eventual fourth-place finisher Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) sitting in fifth, more than six seconds adrift of the leaders, it was clear that, barring a mass crash, the podium places would be disputed among the fast foursome.
With three laps to go Stoner held a 0.6 second advantage over Melandri, with Pedrosa in close attendance and Hayden losing touch by a second and a half as the finale loomed. Melandri had tasted his first ever MotoGP win here last year and there was a feeling his experience might count on the last lap.
Sure enough mistakes were made. Dani lost the front on the entry to turn one and crashed out to remount and finish 14th. It was a sad end to a glorious ride. Stoner now had only Melandri to deal with, but ‘Macio’ is a tough customer with two years’ experience in the class. He made it tell with a rugged out-braking manoeuvre into the final complex and Stoner could do nothing to resist.
Melandri said, “I thought that would be a good race and I was right. But from row five I had no idea I’d be involved at the front. I got a really good start and the bike was great in these conditions on the day. But Casey is hard to beat and now it’s going to get harder and harder, he rode amazingly well today.”
Stoner seemed happy with second, even though he so narrowly missed out on matching the record of Freddie Spencer as the youngest ever winner of a premier class race at 20 years and 196 days old.
He said, “I didn’t know how big the group was, and when I realized there was only a few of us, I ran the race knowing I’d have to close on people at some stage. It was great riding with all those others and seeing how much they all move about. You’ve got to be a bit careful with these bikes because they don’t stop as fast as a 250 either.”
Nicky was sanguine about his third place. “I had a front brake problem on the startline when the tyre warmer melted onto one of the brake discs. The brakes were never right and I was missing apexes everywhere. I couldn’t get into a rhythm so I’m a bit disappointed overall. But I suppose leading the World Championship by a point is a consolation.”
Dani said, “Until the last lap I think the race was good. I got a good start and recovered a lot of positions at the beginning. Then I got into a very good rhythm and I was able to overtake riders and catch the leaders, which was the main plan before the race. Near the end it was difficult because I lost some time and there was a little gap to the leaders so I was not completely with them. Then I crashed as I was entering the first turn. I’m sorry for my team because they were really good for the whole weekend.”
Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V), in fifth, said, “I didn't get a good start but bit-by-bit my rhythm improved and as the laps went by and the fuel tank got lighter I got more comfortable with the bike. Together with Valentino we cut through the pack and that helped me to finish fifth. On the final lap I tried to pass him but it was impossible. I’m satisfied with the way the race turned out but I’m still not quick enough over the first few laps so I have to work on this. I want to congratulate my team-mate Marco for his great performance today.”
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V), in tenth, said, “After a good start I risked crashing at the first corner and for this reason I lost some positions. I did not have very good grip with the rear tyre so I was never been able to run at a particularly quick pace. Although I did manage to overtake Gibernau quite near the end, in the last series of corners preceding the straight. In comparison to Qatar, the positive note is that the feeling with my RC211V seems to be about to return to a good level.”
Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V), 13th, said, “I had to struggle out there today I just didn’t have the reserves. I was running low 1m 56s lap times and it was only at the end that I started running consistent laps in 1m 55s. In fact I set my fastest lap time with two laps to go. We just don’t have the corner entry speed we need. We don’t have grip, it’s as simple as that. We have the same engine and tyres that won the race so we have work to do.”
Pole Position: Chris VERMEULEN 2'04.617 154.264 Km/h
World Championship Positions:
250cc GP: Aoyama Scores KTM's First Ever Victory!
Barbera fared better from the manoeuvre, keeping his bike going to take second place. Andrea Dovizioso, who had exchanged the lead on a number of occasions with Barbera, De Angelis and Aoyama, completed the podium places, and now leads the championship by two points.
After a first corner melee knocked pre-race championship leader and favourite Jorge Lorenzo out of the race on the first corner, there was a guaranteed new winner for the 2006 season. Roberto Locatelli once again made a dramatic comeback through the field, and would eventually finish the race in fourth, Yuki Takahashi and Sylvain Guintoli completed the top six.
Pole Position: Jorge LORENZO 1'57.841 163.135 Km/h
World Championship Positions:
Another Superbike Double for the Youngster
American Honda's Jake Zemke ran a very lonely 3rd place both days. While a good distance behind Jake there were mild scuffles going both days for 4th spot between Miguel Duhamel, Tommy Hayden , Neil Hodgson and Ben Bostrom, and Aaron Yates.
This was the best ever attendance weekend in the 5 year history of the AMA Nationals at California Speedway with a fairly accurate estimate of 7,000 people attending for the weekend including riders and crews, thanks in part to a large turnout of Pro only teams for Saturday's AMA Supermoto Nationals. We physically counted some 3,000 people there on Saturday and again on Sunday, and might guess around 1,000 were there for Friday practice. This was a huge increase from the last 3 years were not much more than 1,000 spectators were there each day. After the first 2 years of poor attendance for the AMA Nationals at California Speedway in Southern California, ironically the sportbike capital of the America, the Speedway closed the main grandstands to spectators as it wasn't cost effective to staff and open them.
This year's AMA National weekend at California Speedway saw a revision to the paddock layout with the Venders Midway moved to the smaller front paddock parking lot to make it feel more crowded and exciting, while the Pro Supermoto Pits were expanded down the entire back side length of the Paddock.
The major metric motorcycle manufacturers were there to support the National weekend with their big rig new bike displays, and were now begining to copy Ducati with owner hospitality areas providing their customers free lunch and beverages (much to the dismay of the numerous food concessionaires). Plus Ducati offered the only rider autograph signing with their riders Neil Hodgson and Ben Bostrom. The track even had a girl rock band in the vender midway to try and capitalise of the theme of our successful FastDates.com LA Calendar Motorcycle Show. But this is what it takes to draw enthusiast to race, particualrly in the entertaiment capital of the world. Unfortunately there were just a few retail venders there, and Tom Hicks from Southern California Motorcycles was the only dealership in attendance and he stepped it up nicely with 2 very cute and scantilly clad spokesmodels in his display area.
Unfortunately, California Speedway is still handicapped by having the worst road race course in the world as it snakes through infield parking areas and a plastic rumble strip making up Turns 1 and 2 coming off the front banking, offering very limited viewing for spectators. The adjoining Pro Supermoto Course in the infield had beenexpanded nearly 3 times in length over past years, but like the roadrace course, spectators again were limited to seeing only about 1/3rd of the course from any one vantage point. The other big deficiency was the fact there was nonoticeable announcing or PA system anywhere in the infield and paddock. If you didn't wear a watch and buy a Race Program you were Shit Outa Luck as to what was going on and when.
Saturday Superbike Race 1 - Spies tops his Yoshimura Suzuki Teamates
Starting from the pole, the Yoshimura Suzuki star leapt out into the lead at the green light only to run wide near the conclusion of the opening lap. The mistake opened the door for his teammates Mat Mladin and Aaron Yates, along with American Honda’s Jake Zemke, to rush past. Spies quickly collected himself and dispatched of Zemke and Yates in successive laps at the end of the back straight, taking the Honda rider up the inside and the Suzuki runner around the outside.
By lap 3 Spies was focused on tracking down his escaping teammate, Mladin. The 21-year-old closed down the second-plus gap in a handful of laps and was applying the pressure by lap 8 of 28. He finally made his move as they opened lap 15, reclaiming the lead by powering past Mladin at the end of the front straight. Once out in front, Spies immediately opened up an advantage; Mladin proved unable to match the pace while struggling with tire woes. The Texan went onto build a near nine-second lead before easing off and cruising to his third consecutive AMA Superbike victory.
Asked about his opening lap bobble, Spies said, “I really don’t know what happened. Sometimes when you don’t have the tires completely broke in they’ll just break loose and that’s kind of what happened. I really wasn’t pushing because I could tell off the start Mat was right behind me in second so it wasn’t like I was going to check out. I was just trying to get us away from the field early and just tipped it in and it stepped out. I knew I wasn’t going to crash, but I definitely wanted to make the corner so I stood it up.”
Commenting on the remainder of the race, he continued, “Mat got a couple seconds on us and I knew that he might try to hammer down and get away. We just tried to pick through everybody and get up to his rear wheel. I tried to save my rear tire and I was being real easy and actually giving up a bit of time coming out. It paid off in the end.”
This is the first time since 2002 that Mladin has gone three successive races without a win. While certainly unhappy to be finishing second the six-time champ is looking forward to countering the challenge of his fast emerging rival.
“Ben is riding good,” the defending series king admitted. “Today we just chose the wrong tire and went backwards halfway through the race. Ben is putting the pressure on and we need to go out and find something to help out a little bit. It was a pretty good race today; we had some good pace. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold it to the end. That’s the way it goes, mate. I can only control what I do. I can’t control the way Ben rides and he’s riding great at the moment. We have to try and figure something out.
“We’ll try to change a few things tomorrow and try some different tires and try to make it happen. It just wasn’t our day today and we’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can’t get another win. Of course I’m accustomed to doing some winning, but as I’ve said a number of times this year, the way I’ve been winning over the past few years isn’t normal, and it’s good that some of these guys are stepping up and finally putting a race up there. I’ll be totally honest with you, it’s a lot more fun for me than winning by twenty seconds, I can assure you, to actually have a race and try and improve myself. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Zemke fought for nine hard laps to work his way past Yates, but once he did he cleared away in third. The Californian went onto claim his second podium finish in as many weekends as the American Honda team continues to make obvious progress with their Stateside-developed CBR1000RR.
“The race went well in a way,” Zemke said. “It just took me too long to get around Aaron. Once I did I was about to get away from him a little bit slowly. Ben and Mat had already split at that point so it was just kind of a lonely cruise home in third.
“We’ve gotten better in the areas where we’re struggling over the weekend and it’s bound to get better tomorrow. We’ll keep rolling forward with it and hopefully we can get something working a little bit better tomorrow.”
Arguably the most interesting battle of race was waged one position fourth-place finisher Yates. Parts Unlimited Ducati pilots Neil Hodgson and Ben Bostrom scrapped with second works Honda entry Miguel DuHamel and Team Kawasaki’s Tommy Hayden for fifth for practically the entire distance.
Former World Superbike king Hodgson eventually took the honors aboard his 999F06 after bouncing back from a dreadful start that saw him complete lap 1 running outside the top ten. DuHamel aced long-time fifth-place runner Bostrom to scoop up sixth late, while Hayden took a close eighth on the developing ZX-10R.
Jordan Suzuki’s Jason Pridmore narrowly Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram for ninth, just fending off a drafting attack at the flag.
Spies saw an opportunity at the end of lap 17. He rushed past at the start/finish line and put his head down with hopes of making a break. His bid worked. Prior to lap 18, the two never crossed the stripe more than 0.288 seconds apart. On Spies’ first full lap back in the lead, he ripped open more than a half second. He continued to build from there, eventually dropping Mladin more than four seconds behind him by the time he took the checkered flag.
Spies claimed he wasn’t as shocked by his triumph this time around. “Fontana has always been a good track for me. Barber was definitely more surprising to me. Here we caught a little bit of a break. Mat had some problems yesterday and today we had to work for it. It’s all I had to stay behind him and I could see he started having a little bit of trouble in the middle of the race. I wanted to try and keep the pace and keep going and see if I could stretch it out. I didn’t know. I just got in the lead and the gap slowly started going up.”
Spies talked about his evolving AMA Superbike dominance, “Winning four in a row -- I guess after the first week at Barber I felt the pressure was still on Mat a little bit to come back and stop me. And now we did it again. If it keeps going -- he’s a six-time champ and he’s obviously coming to come back and train even harder -- the pressure will be on me more. Now I’m running up front at a couple tracks we’re going to so I’ve got keep going, got to keep putting it on top or right there.”
The 21-year-old also talked about having to overcome being starstruck while competing against a legend. “Half the race I was looking back at a huge #1 that says ‘Mladin’ -- a guy I’ve been watching since I was eight-years-old. He’s one of the guys I looked up to and now I’m racing with him. It’s tough. It makes you nervous even when I’m following him let alone when I’ve got a second on him. We’ve got to get past that and race the race and race the track, so we’re going to work on that.”
Mladin was again gracious and pragmatic in defeat. “We just didn’t have it today and that was it. We felt pretty good there until lap 15 or 16 and then right around that area to do the lap times -- to stay in the ‘4s -- got to be harder and harder work. It’s the fifth race of the year and I tried to give away a big points lead in Barber and got lucky. I didn’t want to do it again today. We just had to shut it down a little bit and try to bring it home. We had nothing for him today.
“Like I said yesterday, it’s one of those things; I’m not that used to having somebody to challenge at every race and obviously over the years when you win some races and some championships -- I’m not going to say ‘easy’ but we had it our way for a long time -- certainly you get a little bit rusty around the edges. It’s good to have someone there to help pick up my game and make me a better rider as well. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m looking forward to the next race.”
Zemke’s early success in clinging onto the departing Suzukis pulled him away from the fray behind him. The Californian put in a steady ride to pick up his third podium finish of the ’06 campaign. “It was very lonely," the Honda ace said of his ride. “I was actually happy to see lappers for once. ‘Alright, I have something to do now!’ Ben and Mat were able to set a great pace and luckily I was able to at least see them for the first few laps, which is more than we could say up until now.
“The bike is coming better. The guys put their heads together last night and came up with a set-up that at least allowed us to see the front of the race for a couple laps. We didn’t make any inroads but they seemed to have about a second on me and I could just see them right there.
“Hats off to those guys, they rode a great race. We’ll keep working. I like the company I’m keeping up here, I just don’t like sitting on the end. Suzuki has done their homework and they have a really good motorcycle right now and they’ve had a good package for the last few years. We’re working to make it more than a two-rider race at the front. We’re going to keep plugging away at it until we get there.”
The only interesting race of the day centered on American Honda’s Miguel DuHamel, Parts Unlimited Ducati’s Neil Hodgson, and Team Kawasaki’s Tommy Hayden fought an intense battle for fourth to the flag. The crafty Canadian picked up the spot in the end. The former World Superbike champ took fifth, followed by the Kentuckian who continues to prove he belongs with the ‘big boys’ in the Superbike category.
Third works Suzuki runner Aaron Yates and second Ducati entry Ben Bostrom both spent time in the fourth-place battle as well before separately fading into a scrap for seventh that also included Jordan Suzuki’s Jason Pridmore. Bostrom, who ran in fourth for several laps, dropped back to ninth before charging up into seventh at the stripe. Yates took eighth with Pridmore finishing ninth. Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram just edged Pridmore’s teammate, Steve Rapp, for the final spot in the top ten.
Following another tremendous weekend, Spies opened up his early-season points lead from eight to 19 following five of 19 2006 AMA Superbike races. The increasingly intriguing title race picks up in three weeks time at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA on May 19-21.
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