This is what Dani Pedrosa had to say to the press after the thrilling end to Sunday's MotoGP race:
After Sunday's thrilling MotoGP race at Jerez, here's what Jorge Lorenzo had to tell the press:
Result and summary of the MotoGP race at Jerez:
Saturday afternoon at Jerez saw a scintillating battle for pole in all three classes, worthy of the pressure cooker atmosphere at the Andalucian track. After qualifying was over, we made the daily rounds of rider debrief and qualifying press conference, to hear what the top riders had to say about the day.
MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission met today, and as expected, did nothing to clarify the 2012 MotoGP rules, and especially to provide a definition of exactly what constitutes a Claiming Rule Team. Instead, what they came up with was a relaxation of the penalty for infringing the engine allocation rules: Instead of starting from the pit lane 20 seconds after the red lights go out for the start, any rider using a 7th (or 8th, or 9th) engine during the 2010 season will have to start just 10 seconds later.
During the evening rider debrief, one senior journalist asked Nicky Hayden what he thought about the rule, and his answers surprised the journalists present. "Well, it depends where it happens," Hayden said. "If you were at Le Mans, you'd be way back. But start at the end of the pit lane at Sepang, and you'd be right there!" The Ducati Marlboro mulled the question a little more, telling reporters "I'm just going through them all in my mind," before going on to say that starting from the pit lane at Laguna Seca would allow riders to cut out all of Turn 1 and most of Turn 2. The other US Grand Prix would be less fortuitous, however. "Indy would be terrible, you've got a tight little hairpin [on the exit to pit lane]."
Results and summary of Qualifying Practice for the MotoGP class:
After dominating practice at Qatar, Casey Stoner's MotoGP season got off to a difficult start when he crashed out of the lead at the first race. The loss of 25 points is costly, but with engines limited to just 6 for the entire year, the crash itself could also be costly. The Marlboro Ducati rider then compounded his problem by crashing again during the first session of free practice at Jerez on Friday, lowsiding into the gravel.
But the crashes were no cause for concern, Stoner told the media on Friday evening. When asked if he was worried about engine damage, the Australian replied that he had been prepared for such an event. "I switched it off today, just to make sure," Stoner said. "I was warned before Qatar by the guys just to switch the engine off as quick as you can if you're not going to get up and rejoin the race," he explained. "I just wanted to make sure at that point and switch it off as quickly as I could."
The issue of crash damage is the one question mark hanging over the entire engine allocation rules. Unlike in Formula One, which has adopted similar rules, engines are very easily damaged in a crash. The engines have been modified slightly to reduce the amount of damage they are exposed to during a crash, but it is hard to rule it out altogether.
Jorge Lorenzo seized control of the MotoGP class during the second session of free practice at Jerez, taking over the lead twenty minutes into the session and then cranking up the pace. The Fiat Yamaha rider had a comfortable lead for most of the session, but put in a blistering lap in the dying seconds to end the session nearly half a second ahead of the competition. That competition came from Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider finding a burst of pace at the end of practice to grab 2nd place, not far ahead of Marlboro Ducati's Casey Stoner, who had led during the early running.
Pedrosa's Repsol teammate Andrea Dovizioso ended the day in 4th, ahead of Valentino Rossi, who is clearly still suffering with his shoulder. Monster Tech 3 rider Ben Spies ended the session in 6th, having improved his time from yesterday by 1.2 seconds, again showing how quickly he learns tracks, this being his first visit to the Andalucian track. Nicky Hayden was quick early on, but had a nasty crash in turn 7, tumbling through the gravel. His bike was pretty badly damaged, but Hayden himself was merely shaken up. After sitting in the pits for 10 minutes or so, he was soon back out on the track.
Casey Stoner picked up at Jerez where he left off at Qatar, by grasping the first session of free practice for the MotoGP riders by the scruff of the neck and leading almost from his first lap. The Marlboro Ducati rider remained virtually unchallenged throughout. Stoner's only mistake was losing the front at the Dry Sack corner, sliding out unhurt with just a few minutes of the session left.
But the big lead that Stoner pulled out in the early part of the session did not last. Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo whittled away at it slowly, taking off a tenth here and a tenth there until he ended the session in 2nd spot, just 0.144 seconds off Stoner's time. Nicky Hayden's form from Qatar also continued, setting the 3rd fastest time, four tenths behind his Australian teammate and just ahead of Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa looked a good deal smoother here than at Qatar, the bike bucking and weaving significantly less than three weeks ago. Valentino Rossi's shoulder appears to be slowing the Fiat Yamaha rider down, the Italian ending in 5th place, just over six tenths off Stoner's time.
With MotoGP ready to kick off once again at Jerez, Thursday saw the usual press conference take place on the eve of practice. The conference featured Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Aspar Pagina Amarilla's Hector Barbera.
Apart from the usual platitudes uttered at every race weekend, about how the riders are looking forward to the race, and will once again give their all, and the genuine sense of anticipation and excitement at Jerez' unique atmosphere - so loud are the crowds, the riders say, that they can hear the cheering above the noise of the 130dB MotoGP engines, and through helmets and earplugs - the press conference did throw up one or two interesting tidbits.
Saturday is going to be a big day for MotoGP. Obviously, there will be the thrill of two Spaniards fighting over pole in front of tens of thousands of crazed local fans, but in an office inside the paddock, a meeting will be held which is set to decide the future of MotoGP. For on Saturday, the Grand Prix Commission is due to meet to - ostensibly at least - finalize the regulations which will control the sport from 2012 onwards.
The outlines are clear: MotoGP will consist of three different types of motorcycle:
- Prototype 1000cc bikes, limited to 81mm bore, 21 liters of fuel and 153kg minimum weight
- Prototype 800cc bikes, limited to 81mm bore, 21 liters of fuel and 150kg minimum weight
- Bikes run by "Claiming Rule Teams" - basically, 1000cc bikes based around production engines in prototype chassis - limited to 81mm bore, 24 liters of fuel, 153kg minimum weight. The teams will also be allowed to use 12 engines during season, as opposed to just 6 for the prototype teams.
MotoGP's huge popular success cannot disguise its Achilles' heel, the ability to raise sponsorship. With just 17 bikes on the grid, many of the existing teams straining to keep ticking over and the Grand Prix Commission continuously looking for ways to cut costs, money remains a problem for the sport. One of the key figures inside MotoGP who has been most successful at raising sponsorship is Livio Suppo, formerly of Marlboro Ducati, now of HRC. Suppo was brought in to Honda to find ways of raising more sponsorship, and repeating the trick that the Italian pulled off at Ducati, securing enough funds to cover the factory's racing expenses.
Here at MotoMatters.com, we have made no secret of our fascination with the process of funding MotoGP, and especially of trying to find out why that should be so difficult. So we grabbed Livio Suppo at Qatar, to ask his opinion on the challenges facing him and MotoGP as a sport in trying to raise money. He talked about the opportunities he sees for business-to-business sponsorship, the need for more nationalities in MotoGP, and how hard it is to compete with TV advertising. It was a fascinating half hour:
MotoMatters.com: I wanted to talk to you about the process of raising money and why it is so difficult for MotoGP. People say in the paddock that you were responsible for just about every sticker on the bike at Ducati.
Livio Suppo: I started at Ducati as a marketing guy, for Ducati Corse, so, we loved the structure of Ducati Corse in marketing, and everything was related to all the people who work in that department. Anyway, let's say that first of all, it's not just a difficult time for MotoGP, it's a difficult time for every sport. It's not easy to get sponsorship money for anyone. If you see also Formula One at the moment, there's a lot of cars with no stickers. So of course, the economic situation, as we all know, it's not finished, the problem. And therefore everybody involved in these kinds of activities need to be more pro-active, and think about something innovative, I guess.
I was lucky in more ways than one that the Fiat On The Web team invited me to go to Qatar. Attending the race - something that our budget would not otherwise have allowed - was of course a great experience, but the timing of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano meant that I got home before the ash cloud stopped people flying. Other members of the team were slightly less lucky: they had already flown out to Japan, ready for the Motegi MotoGP race, only to find themselves stranded there with no race to attend. Fortunately, they made themselves useful by sending back some photos from Yamaha's Japanese headquarters, and a snapshot of the history of the company:
After a torrid preseason of testing, with Dani Pedrosa finishing well down the order during several sessions at the official MotoGP tests at Sepang and Qatar, speculation started as to the causes of Pedrosa's mediocre performance. And when Pedrosa finished just 7th at Qatar, the buzz really started about whether one of MotoGP's aliens had finally gone missing.
Anyone watching practice and the race could quite clearly see what Pedrosa's problem was, however. His Repsol Honda RC212V shook and weaved going into corners, and again coming out of corners, causing the bike to shake its head all the way along Qatar's long straights. After qualifying, in a press debrief, when asked how it felt to ride a bike bucking and weaving like that, Pedrosa fixed his interrogator with a beady eye, before replying that it felt awful.
Much of the Spaniard's problems have been put down to the adaptation process to the new Ohlins suspension that Honda are using on all their bikes, but in a story on the website of Spanish sports daily AS.com, journalist Mela Chercoles explains that the suspension is not the issue. The problem, Chercoles learnt from Pedrosa, was the chassis and the swingarm. Pedrosa has asked HRC for a stiffer frame and a stiffer rear swingarm, to allow the Spaniard to gain the rear traction that Pedrosa and his crew have been chasing, while making the bike more stable under braking and on corner exit.