MCN MotoGP reporter Matt Birt exclusively shares hs views on the upcoming race at Estoril in Portugal. Matt has spent years living out of a suitcase to follow the MotoGP circus around the world, to get the inside scoops for MCN...
Estoril gets underway
Just made it back from the rugby scrum that was the launch of the new Ilmor 800cc bike.
We all got chance to cast an eye over the bike for the first time and it looks futuristic and features some complex electronics not seen before in MotoGP. These launches are always funny just to see what other people they attract from the paddock. There was certainly a couple of interested Kawasaki technicians present, snapping pictures at close quarters. Hardly surprising given the fact that chassis designer Eskil Suter used to work for Kawasaki!
The words steep, learning and curve were used frequently in a packed press conference but the only real judge of it will be out on the track, and not tomorrow but in a few months time when the bike has undergone a full winter testing schedule.
Somebody did point out though the bike will debut on Friday the 13th. Hope that's not an omen.
I caught up with Garry McCoy earlier on, as it's been a couple of years since I've bumped into him. He talked enthusiastically about the project but he's too old and wise to start making brash statements about what the bike might achieve.
Asked if he'd be tempted back to MotoGP full-time next season if given the chance he said he'd definitely consider it.
Today has been a hectic day as I grabbed Marco Melandri to discuss his recent signing with Honda, rejecting a big-money offer from Ducati. As we revealed in yesterday's MCN, assurances of better technical support was what ultimately swayed his decision. Does that mean the same factory 800cc bike as Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden then? That remains unclear at this stage according to Melandri, who was to meet team boss Fausto Gresini to find out exactly what HRC has promised. And what about the possibility of running Bridgestone tyres? That's something to be discussed at the final round was Melandri's response.
Valentino Rossi was coolness personified in today..s press conference. Nicky Hayden hardly resembled a man quaking in his boots as the title rivals sat next to each other, but Rossi was exuding confidence.
I grabbed him in his usual debrief afterwards and he said perhaps now the pressure more on Nicky, while both agreed that the title wouldn't be decided until the last lap in Valencia. Bring it on. As for Nicky, he confirmed he's got new clutch plates to try tomorrow in the hope they will solve the long-running starting and back-shifting problems that are seriously threatening to undermine his title challenge. He was bombarded with questions from Italian journalists about Rossi and the title race.
Rossi also confirmed he's doing the Rally of New Zealand next month, though not necessarily with Subaru as expected. Unbelievable, the guys even got people fighting over him in the world rally championship!
I met Eugene Laverty for the first time this afternoon too so had a quick chat with him about this proposed Honda 250 deal with Casey Stoner..s LCR squad.
Fair play to him, he's taken a massive gamble by knocking back some top factory British superbike rides when this GP deal is not 100 per cent confirmed. That shows his hunger and desire to get into the world championship. The easy option would have been to stay at home, but how many times does a chance to go to the world championship fall in your lap?
Elsewhere, I know Hiroshi Aoyama had a meeting with Kawasaki today. Other rumours are that Carlos Checa might be going to Marlboro Ducati in what would be a dramatic U-turn. I know he was locked in meetings for over an hour this morning in the Marlboro hospitality unit. Remember, it was only a year ago the same team sacked him. I..ve heard Casey Stoner, Alex de Angelis and Andrea Dovizioso all linked with Ducati, today but haven..t yet caught up with team boss Livio Suppo to nail down that mountain of speculation.
I bid farewell for now as I was up with the milkman this morning. Not literally of course, that would be hideous. I mean I was on the red-eye Easyjet express out of Luton and feel shattered now. Trust me, you get the M1 to yourself at 3.30am. I got this hire car in Lisbon that's this new environmentally friendly Honda that runs on petrol and electric. I'm all for doing my bit for the protection of the planet, but I'm doing nothing to prevent noise pollution the amount of times I got beeped at.
Basically it cuts out every time you stop, but doesn't restart immediately. I landed smack, bang in the middle of the Lisbon rush hour and if I had a quid for every time I got beeped I'd be writing this from the Bahamas.