Team Yamaha Ricci's Nicolas Aubin ended an impressive breakthrough season in which he won his first Grand Prix, finished a career-best sixth in the MX2 World Championship and by assisting France to second place in front of a huge 74,000 crowd packed into the impressive Budds Creek circuit, Maryland USA for the 61st Motocross of Nations.
On a typically American track that was quick, technical, lined with jumps and blessed with hot sunshine. The temperatures in the mid 30's gave the racing an extra physical edge and tested the best riders (three per Nation with one representative each in MX1, MX2 and MX Open classes) from around the globe with twenty countries entering the gate for the three 30 minute and 2 lap motos mixing the categories. The scoring system worked in reverse compared to a Grand Prix with the first classified participant taking one point, second position two points and then continuing down the order to last place. The Nation will the lowest score from five accumulated results (the worst finish can be discarded) earned overall victory. On this occasion it was the USA for the third year in a row.
Rizla Suzuki's Chris 'Stalker' Walker put on a determined display of riding in today's 12th round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Donington Park, finishing with superb fourth and sixth places results.
Stalker, starting from second on the grid, got the holeshot and led both races from the off. In the first event he struggled with front grip and dropped back to sixth; in the second race he spent 20-laps competing for the podium and was in contention right until the chequered flag, eventually finishing fourth.
Cal Crutchlow showed enormous promise during the practice sessions but his luck ran out in the races: In the opener he was less than a second from the lead and battling for his first podium when he found a false neutral and ran into Ryuichi Kiyonari with both falling off. In the second race he was comfortable in fifth when he was forced to retire.
Ducati's Leon Haslam won both races.
Weather and tyre issues brought about an end to Valentino Rossi's slim title chances today, as he finished 13th in Motegi despite a heroic ride which saw him lead the race at one point. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards suffered similar problems in what was an extraordinary race, finishing one place behind Rossi in 14th.
With the asphalt still wet after a morning of light rain, the riders started with wet-weather tyres on a fast-drying track. Rossi got a poor start from second on the grid and crossed the line for the first time in seventh place, with Edwards behind him in eighth. An outstanding ride from the seven-time World Champion then saw him fight his way back to the front, making up five seconds on the leaders and taking the lead on lap 14. The racing line by now was almost completely dry however, and behind him most riders had already opted to pit and change onto their second bikes with slick tyres. When Rossi eventually came in to change one lap later he had built up such a lead that he was able to re-join the race in second place, behind eventual winner Loris Capirossi, but Yamaha's jubilation was short-lived as Rossi immediately ran into serious issues with his front tyre and was forced to pit again. He rejoined the race in 15th but was able to make up only two places to the finish as he struggled with grip. Edwards, who was in third place when Rossi came in for the first time, rejoined in eighth but had similar tyre problems and also dropped back through the field to cross the line two seconds behind his team-mate.
Red Bull KTM 250 star Mika Kallio rode to his maiden 250 cc victory in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix to score a hat-trick on the Motegi circuit, an appropriate way to also mark the birth of his first child, a baby girl born last Sunday Kallio won the 125 cc races on this circuit in 2005 and 2006. "It looks like Motegi is a very good track for us," he said. The 24-year-old Finn had a great start from the second row of the grid, but calculated his moves very carefully in tricky and damp conditions, before opening a lead of almost five seconds by the end of the race.
"By mid-race, I overtook Dovizioso and continued to push, but I was always followed very closely. There didn't seem to be any change to get away so I decided to just ride at my own rhythm. Then it started to drizzle again, which was disturbing, but I was able to keep my speed. I only noticed in the last lap that Dovizioso was the only one left behind me and the fact that he slowed made it easier in the end."
Kallio's performance also drew praise from Technical Director Harald Bartol. 'His race was a tactical masterpiece. In the beginning, he was looking carefully how the grip level was and how the tyres were doing, and in the end, he had an ace up his sleeve that he pulled out in the right moment.'
Coming from a racing family, Ratthapark Wilairot is the Thai rising star in the world of motorcycle racing. Being the eldest son of motorcycle Champion Christmas Wilairot, Ratthapark (Film), who has been officially named to represent Thailand by the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Christmas Wilairot has two sons Fort and Film who both race for their father's racing team, with Film (Ratthapark Wilairot) now racing for AP Honda in the All Japan championships and GP250. Ratthapong Wilairot (the youngest son) doing some Thai domestic 125cc road champion racing.
Ratthapark Wilairot, 19, from Chonburi started to ride motorcycle when he was between 5 or 8 years old and quickly became under the guidance of his father as a skilled rider.
Rizla Suzuki's Chris 'Stalker' Walker took his best qualifying position of the season securing second place on the grid at the 12th round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Donington Park today.
Stalker spent three practice sessions building up his effort, slashing his lap times every outing on circuit. He started strong in qualification but left his best effort to the final minutes, setting a blistering pace at the 2.5-mile long twisting and challenging circuit.
Cal Crutchlow was vying for the top spot on the time-sheets during every session and was challenging again in qualification but was held up by traffic on his quick laps, eventually ending up fifth fastest and heading up the second row.
Valentino Rossi sealed his tenth front-row start of the season ahead of tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi today, the Italian taking second place on an all-Michelin front row in between Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden. Colin Edwards also had a good session, qualifying seventh at the head of the third row.
After making a poor start to the weekend by finishing 14th yesterday, Rossi made a step up this morning and put in the second fastest time in free practice. His qualifying session did not get off to plan however as he made an off-track excursion in the opening minutes and then found himself down in 18th place mid-way through. Edwards meanwhile, was doing little better in 17th, but both began to steadily improve as they worked on refining their race settings and finalizing their tyre choices for tomorrow
Once it came down to qualifying tyres it was clear that Rossi especially was on top form and his first run put him in second place, before improving again with his second tyre and moving one place higher
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Anthony West overcame soaring temperatures and exhausting humidity at the Motegi circuit this afternoon, to qualify their Ninja ZX-RR machines on the second row of the grid for tomorrow's 24-lap Japanese Grand Prix.
Kawasaki wild card rider, Akira Yanagawa, will be chasing his team mates from the seventh row of the grid, after qualifying in 19th position today.
De Puniet opened proceedings this afternoon by switching to a qualifying tyre just before the halfway point in the session, capturing pole position with his first attack lap. The 26-year-old Frenchman held onto the top spot until the final six minutes, before finally being deposed by eventual pole sitter, Dani Pedrosa.
Rizla Suzuki's Cal Crutchlow set the third fastest time in the dry morning practice before the rain fell in the afternoon at the 12th round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Donington Park in Derbyshire.
He was just 2/10ths of a second behind the fastest rider in the morning and while the second session started dry the rain started to fall with just under half-an-hour remaining, scuppering his chances to improve. He was seventh fastest in the weather interrupted afternoon practice.
'I'm very happy with my pace in the dry," explained Cal. "I started with my Rizla Suzuki set up exactly as I left it at Cadwell Park and tried a couple of tyres this morning. It was extremely windy so I had to be careful. In the afternoon I started on a used tyre with softer suspension and it was comfortable but never had a chance to try fresh rubber and go for a lap time before the rain fell.'
Scorching sunshine welcomed the MotoGP paddock to Motegi today as the fifteenth round of the season got underway at the Japanese track. Temperatures reached a maximum of 34 degrees during this afternoon's free practice and it was a difficult day's work for the riders and teams alike, with Fiat Yamaha pair Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi finishing the day 11th and 14th respectively in the combined standings, which were topped by Dani Pedrosa.
Just five days after his spectacular victory in Portugal, Rossi got off to a less auspicious start today, finishing the morning session fifth but dropping to fourteenth this afternoon after his number one bike suffered a technical problem and he was forced to complete the hour on his second machine. Edwards meanwhile did not fare much better, finding himself down in 13th this morning and climbing just two places in the second session, despite making some improvements to his set-up this afternoon.