Assen, The Netherlands
Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati was a match made in marketing heaven, the combined selling power of the world's most famous motorcycle racer and the world's most iconic motorcycle brand would surely prove to be a veritable sales steamroller. Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come.
If sales of merchandise are anything to go by, then the move was definitely a success, MotoGP circuits coloring red as Rossi fans stocked up on Ducati gear, the red still tinged with Rossi's traditional yellow. But a look at the results sheets tells a different story altogether. Though the Italian is 5th in the championship standings (and just 2 points off 4th), Rossi has consistently crossed the finish line between 25 and 30 seconds after the winner took the checkered flag. So far, Rossi has taken just a single podium - arguably gifted to him, with Dani Pedrosa being taken out by Marco Simoncelli, and then Simoncelli being punished with a ride-through - and has found himself in the battle for 5th or 6th. By any measure, Rossi's move to Ducati must be counted a disaster, the combination a massive disappointment to fans, followers and even fellow riders.
2011 Mugello MotoGP Friday Roundup: Wet Weather, Fast Hondas, Pedrosa vs Simoncelli, And The Prospect Of More Tires
Herve Poncharal joked at Assen that if the MotoGP series wanted to find an extra source of income, it should offer to organize events in drought-stricken areas, as a MotoGP race appears to be a guarantee of rain this year. Mugello is no different: the locals say there has been no rain for weeks now - though the rich verdant green of the countryside would appear to suggest otherwise - and as soon as the MotoGP circus rolls into the Tuscan hills, the heavens part and rain falls.
The day started well enough - stunningly so, hot temperatures, clear skies - but as the morning neared an end, the clouds started to roll in. The 125cc class started with a few spots of rain, getting heavier as the MotoGP class started then drying out towards the end. So the MotoGP riders lost the best part of a session, while the wily Andrea Dovizioso posted a positively scorching time on the very last lap of the session, just as the track had dried enough to put in a good time.
With seven races of the season gone, we can start to draw some conclusions from the engine allocation lists provided by the teams so far. Below is a factory-by-factory rundown of the engine situation, together with a table of the engine usage so far.
The story of Ducati's engines is a tale in two parts: the present, represented by the satellite machines; and the future, represented by the factory riders of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi.
The engine usage of the satellite teams shows that Ducati learned its lessons from last year and are producing pretty solid satellite engines. All of the satellite riders are just about right on schedule, with all of them having taken 3 engines each, and all 3 of those engines active. The only question mark hangs over Hector Barbera's #1 engine, which has 31 sessions on it and has not seen action since Silverstone.
The 2011 MotoGP season has been among the most controversy-filled seasons in recent memory. While the races themselves have been far from memorable, the off-track rhetoric - fueled in part by a few on-track clashes - has been scintillating, with barely a week going by without riders accusing each other of a wide spectrum of misdemeanors and various crimes. But the rhetoric has generated much heat and little or no light: once the riders return to the track, the arguments and incidents continue unabated.
To put an end to this situation, former 500cc rider and legendary founder of the Riders for Health charity Randy Mamola has called for MotoGP to institute a compulsory riders' meeting at the start of every race event. At that meeting, the riders would be able to talk through the issues that are worrying them and confront each other about their behavior on track, and do it behind closed doors and away from the glare of the media, Mamola suggested. Only by having such meetings - similar to the compulsory driver meetings held in Formula One - will the riders be able to clear the air and leave their disagreements behind them, freeing them up to focus on the racing, instead of on who said what about whom.
Press release from Bridgestone, discussing the problems that occurred at Assen, and what Bridgestone did to try to alleviate them:
Dutch TT debrief with Hirohide Hamashima
When Dani Pedrosa finally returns to the MotoGP paddock, he is in for a very rough ride. Pedrosa's injury has been shrouded mystery - at least, it has been since he was photographed at a bowling alley in Barcelona, only to announce he would be missing his home race at Montmelo, just a few miles away, a couple of days later. Rumors that he had reinjured his collarbone in a training accident - possibly involving a supermoto bike - emerged on the Spanish website Motocuatro.com in the days between the Barcelona and Silverstone rounds of MotoGP, fueled further when it was announced that Pedrosa would have yet more surgery to fix a loose piece of bone in his collarbone after Silverstone.
Saturday's MotoGP race was either a real snoozer or a fantastic spectacle, depending on your point of view. For the racing purist, the kind of fan who appreciates seeing masterful riding, watching someone push the bike to the limit constantly and precisely for full race distance, there was plenty to marvel at. For the casual fan, someone who wants to watch several riders giving it their all in a close battle right to the end, it was dull as ditch water, the first-lap crash giving ultimate winner Ben Spies a gap that he could exploit, and one more pass for the podium positions on lap two settling the race.
Press releases from the 125cc and Moto2 teams after the race at Assen:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the Assen race: