MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Homage to Catalunya
In September Scotland will decide whether it wants to split from Great Britain, after three centuries together. Two months later the Catalan people will vote in a referendum to decide whether Catalunya will split from Spain, also after 300 years together, following the conquest of the region by the Bourbon kings.
This is a huge political issue, much bigger than anything to do with motorcycling, but if Catalunya does gain the independence it craves it will become the greatest bike racing nation on earth, even greater than Spain.
If half a second is a long time around Misano, seven tenths of a second is almost a geological era. Jorge Lorenzo was lacking grip and braking stability on Saturday; on Sunday morning, Ramon Forcada stiffened the front to improve Lorenzo's braking, and the factory Yamaha man crushed the opposition in the warm up. Four hours later, the reigning world champion did exactly the same again in the race, destroying his rivals in the first three laps, and holding on for a victory that was both overwhelming and important.
The first three laps? Lorenzo probably won the race in the first 100 meters off the line. Lorenzo had fluffed his practice starts on Saturday, bogging down and not really getting off the line. On Sunday, he was so fast away off the line that he had two bike lengths before he had even changed up into second gear. By the time he crossed the timing line at the end of the first sector, he was already 0.4 seconds ahead. By the end of the first lap, he was 1.2 seconds ahead. It was already game over.
There was the small matter of the remaining 27 laps, of course, but Lorenzo controlled the race imperiously. Every time one of the Repsol Hondas chasing him got a little closer, Lorenzo responded, upping his pace to match either Dani Pedrosa or Marc Marquez, depending on who was leading the chase. The gap climbed to three seconds, dropped to two seconds, climbed again to four before Lorenzo crossed the line nearly three and a half seconds ahead of Marquez. It had been a typically Lorenzian performance, ruling the race with an iron fist, crushing the opposition before it even had a chance to consider trying to put up a fight.
The Simoncelli family issued the following press release, on the opening of a gallery to commemorate Marco Simoncelli in the House of Culture in Coriano, home of the Simoncelli's:
New opening of Marco Simoncelli’s Gallery “The SIC History”
Saturday, December 8th at 11:30 a.m. in Coriano (Rimini, Italy)
“What a History!”
Saturday, December 8th at 11:30 a.m. in Coriano (near Rimini, in Italy) in the “House of Culture” in Via Garibaldi, 127 opens "The SIC History" Gallery, a trip along the deeds of the great Marco Simoncelli, a Museum Gallery opened with the great help of Marco’s friends, Simoncelli’s Family and Coriano City.
“The Sic History” Gallery is located inside the “Palace of Culture” in Coriano and it is divided into thematic rooms, arranged by Aldo Drudi, a great friend of the pilot and the graphic designer of all his helmets.
Visitors can interact with the objects inside the tunnel and touch them by hands: from helmets or overalls; the aim is to create a "contact" between the public and Marco’s world. Guests can experience the most memorable moments of Marco’s career thanks to special photographs donated by the best and greatest photographers in the racing world .
The Sepang round of MotoGP could see all three championships clinched this weekend, with Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Sandro Cortese all closing in on their respective world championships. The job is easiest for Cortese, all the German has to do to become the inaugural Moto3 champion is finish one place behind Maverick Vinales and the title is his. After getting a little too excited at Motegi, Cortese will doubtless be heading to Sepang in a much calmer frame of mind.
Marquez also faces a relatively manageable task, but unlike Cortese, he does not have his fate entirely in his own hands. If Pol Espargaro wins at Sepang, then the earliest Marquez could be crowned champion would be at Phillip Island. If Espargaro does not win, the Marquez is in with a very good chance: should Espargaro finish the race in third or worse, then Marquez only has to finish directly behind him; if Espargaro finishes second, then Marquez has to win. On current form, it would be hard to bet against Marquez, but Sepang was the circuit where the Spaniard was badly injured last year, suffering damage to his eyes which limited his vision and threatened to end his career. It will be interesting to see whether the memory has spooked Marquez, but judging by his performance this year, that seems faintly ridiculous.
The return to Misano was always going to be an emotional affair, the first time MotoGP has returned to Marco Simoncelli's home circuit - now renamed in his honor - since the Italian fan favorite was killed in a tragic accident at Sepang last October. Though Simoncelli is being remembered in many different ways during the weekend - nearly all of the riders in all three classes joined for a lap of the track by bicycle this evening - the remembrance has been cheerful rather than mawkish, a celebration of his life rather than mourning at his death. Fans, riders, mechanics, photographers, journalists, many have made the pilgrimage to Coriano, Simoncelli's home town just a few short miles from the track, paid their respects and headed to the circuit feeling better for the experience. Simoncelli's ghost may haunt the paddock at Misano, but happily, he does so in the guise of Casper rather than Banquo.
There is more than enough to keep the minds of those present engaged. Uppermost in most people's minds is Ben Spies decision to go to Ducati to race in the Ducati junior team to be run by Pramac. Both of the 2013 factory Ducati riders welcomed the signing of both Spies and Andrea Iannone, with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden saying it was a good decision by Ducati. Both Spies and Iannone had proven their speed, and Spies experience at the factory Yamaha team would be very valuable to Ducati in helping to develop the bike. There was surprise at Spies' decision - "I thought he would go to World Superbikes" Dovizioso told reporters - and both men were interested to see how he would perform on the Ducati.
With the MotoGP paddock about to descend on Sepang, a circuit they left with much sadness after Marco Simoncelli was tragically killed there, now is a good moment to reflect on Simoncelli's life. Top MotoGP photographer Andrew Wheeler has produced his own personal tribute to the Italian, a beautiful photo book containing 58 photos of Simoncelli. More information about the book below:
58 of #58 - Marco Simoncelli
The death of Marco Simoncelli at Sepang earlier this year was utterly tragic, but some good will yet come from the popular Italian's demise. On Thursday, Simoncelli's parents, girlfriend and sister announced that the final documents had been signed to create the foundation set up in Marco Simoncelli's name. The Marco Simoncelli Fondazione has been set up as a non-profit organization, with the aim of helping those in dire need.
Exactly which projects will receive funds gathered through the foundation is yet to be decided, though Paolo Simoncelli, Marco's father, is keen to use the money as effectively as possible. According to GPOne.com, projects could include helping children with special care needs, such as extremely rare diseases, receive treatment and care. Paolo Simoncelli also said his initial impulse was to support large projects, but that such projects were fraught with danger. The foundation could instead support a few much smaller causes, as it is easier to exercise more control over such initiatives and ensure that the money is spent directly on helping those in need.
Marco Simoncelli is to receive a fitting tribute at Valencia on Sunday. Paolo Simoncelli, Marco's father, had asked for a minute of "casino" (an Italian word that translates as chaos or noise) instead of a minute of silence, but Marco is to get all this and a little more. At 10:10 local time (find that time in your timezone using this link) riders from 125, Moto2 and MotoGP have been invited to join a lap of honor at Valencia, led by Kevin Schwantz aboard Marco Simoncelli's Honda RC212V.
The lap of honor will be followed by the noise in Simoncelli's name: once all of the bikes have come to a standstill in front of the massed paddock, led by Simoncelli's family and his San Carlo Gresini team, two minutes of Valencian fireworks will ensue, a deafening racket of firecrackers.
It's a good thing that we're going to go racing again. Marco Simoncelli's tragic death at Sepang has cast a very heavy and very dark pall over the MotoGP paddock, and two weeks of inaction - the one thing that motorcycle racers cannot bear, along with just about everyone else in the paddock - meeting again at Valencia with the purpose of racing has given some direction again. Walking into the paddock at lunchtime today, the atmosphere was subdued, with journalists and team members holding quiet conversations everywhere, mostly on the subject of Marco Simoncelli, the crash in Sepang and their memories of the Italian.
The process of talking and the unfurling of tributes to the fallen Italian have been cathartic. His team had his bike in the pit box with the text "It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you" on a banner behind it, they also unfurled a banner above the media center with this number on it, the Ducati hospitality trucks have his number on them and the message "always in our hearts" and the number 58 is on stickers, badges and bikes everywhere. The activity, the discussions, the shared memories have started the process of healing the pain.
The Misano World Circuit is to honor Marco Simoncelli by renaming itself after the Italian, who died in a tragic accident in Sepang. In a press statement issued today, the track announced that it was in talks with Simoncelli's family, the foundation that has been set up in his name and with the fan club to find the best way to name the circuit after Simoncelli.
Misano was Simoncelli's home circuit, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider living in Coriano, just a few kilometers from the track. After Simoncelli's death, there were immediate calls to rename the track after the Italian, but the board of the circuit held off to discuss the best way to honor Simoncelli. The board has now agreed to rename the track, but will do so in such a way as to avoid any associations in its marketing and branding, to avoid any appearance of exploiting his name. The question will be dealt with as senstively as possible, in accordance with the wishes of Simoncelli's family.
The circuit has now started the process of renaming the circuit, but this will take some time. A formal announcement is expected at some point in the future, once all of the legal implications have been dealt with.
The paddock is about to reconvene at the final round of the year at Valencia and return to the normal business of racing, or at least, as normal as possible less than two weeks after the death of Marco Simoncelli in a tragic accident at Sepang, and there are still a few empty seats to fill on the 2012 MotoGP grid. The slots at the Ducati, Honda and Yamaha factory teams are filled, as are the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha satellite seats, and of course Karel Abraham at the Cardion AB team, but beyond that, MotoGP's silly season for 2012 is still in full swing.
In a stroke of bitter irony, Marco Simoncelli's death gave the rider merry-go-round a bit more impetus. Simoncelli's place in the San Carlo Gresini Honda team had already been confirmed, complete with factory Honda RC213V and HRC contract. His death blows everything wide open again, and adds a massive number of complications. Though it is far too soon for Gresini to be signing contracts - Fausto Gresini was hit particularly hard by Simoncelli's death, as he was close to the Italian personally, and this was the second rider he has lost to a fatal crash, after Daijiro Kato back in 2003 - rider managers will be circling the Gresini pit box and making cautions enquiries as to the team's plans for 2012. As tragic as the loss of Marco Simoncelli is, life goes on, and riders will be racing next year, one of them from the garage destined for Simoncelli before his demise.
The official press release from the Gresini Press Office announcing they will be racing at Valencia: