The Aliens. That's what Randy de Puniet calls them. The Frenchman can find no other logical explanation for why Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner should be so much faster than the rest of the field. Certainly, the Yamaha is the best bike of the field, but in the hands of two-time World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards, it isn't half a second a lap or more faster. The Honda was the best bike of the 990 era, but only Dani Pedrosa has been able to win races on its 800cc cousin, even podiums being a rare event for anyone else riding the bike. And as for the Ducati, it has been the kiss of death for anyone who isn't called Casey Stoner.
Even better than the fact that these four are faster than the rest of the field is the fact that they are all pretty evenly matched. They may be half a second quicker than the 13 other MotoGP riders, but there's only tenths or fractions of tenths separating the four of them. The results reflect this: the margin of victory has been falling, from an average of 4.5 seconds for the first 9 races last year to just over 4 seconds this year, but that includes the monster 17.7 second victory by Jorge Lorenzo at Le Mans this year, where last year the largest gap was just 10 seconds.
As the gaps have closed, so the racing has become tenser. On any given day, any one of the Aliens can win, something they have all done at least once this year. It's clear that the Fantastic Four are on a showdown for the title and that a clash between the four is looming, but each time it looks like the fans might be in for the treat they've been waiting for, something has always conspired to prevent it. At first, it was Dani Pedrosa's recovery from a skin graft on his knee that left the Spaniard out of contention. Then Pedrosa had another crash, fracturing the top of his femur, and leaving him to struggle in races.
As Pedrosa began to recover, Casey Stoner suddenly started to suffer from vomiting and chronic fatigue, and was diagnosed with anemia and gastritis. The effort of racing beyond half distance has become too much for the Australian, taking him out of contention too early. And last time out at Laguna Seca, Jorge Lorenzo threatened to take himself out of the equation, dislocating a collarbone in a giant highside.
And so MotoGP fans have been left wanting, kept hungry at the prospect of the proper four-way battle they know awaits them. Like Tantalus, the race that would sate their appetite seems forever to be just out of their reach.
That did not stop MotoGP fans descending on the steeply wooded valleys of Saxony in their hundreds of thousands. The German track has provided great spectacle before, and the fans hoped it would do so again, and maybe this time, Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Stoner would put on a race.
At every press conference, in every interview, in fact just about any time Valentino Rossi answers questions in public, the same question comes up again and again: "Why do you stick your leg out when you're braking for a corner?" And every time, Rossi shrugs and explains that he doesn't really know; "it just feels natural to do" is the answer he usually gives.
The move - taking his foot of the footpeg, dangling it as if almost preparing to slide it on the ground dirt-track style, before finally picking it up and putting it back on the footpeg, ready to help tip the bike into the corner - has become Rossi's trademark, but he is no longer alone in his leg waving. One by one, the rest of the grid have taken on the move, and it has spread to riders in every class, from MotoGP to 125s to World Supersport. First Marco Melandri and Loris Capirossi followed Rossi's example, then Max Biaggi, then the current generation of Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo. Now, just about everyone is doing it, all the way down to club racers.
With no explanation forthcoming from the originator of that distinctive dangle - usually dubbed "the Rossi Leg Wave" - observers have turned to a mixture of speculation and the other riders for an answer to the puzzle. Other proponents of the leg wave such as Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa claim that it helps them balance the bike as they approach the corner on the brakes, and armchair pundits follow a similar line, offering a range of theories grounded only very vaguely in physics concerning balance, leverage and weight transfer. It is clear that the debate over the subject has entered that most dangerous phase, the point where speculation based on science ends and darker, more occult attribution begins.
There's only so many compact flash cards that a photographer can carry, and the number of photos they can process is even fewer. So for now, here are the last of Scott Jones' Fab Photos frmm Germany
It should be obvious by now that MotoGPMatters.com's shooter Scott Jones has a nose for the right place to stand in. After capturing Mike di Meglio's practice crash in perfect detail, Scott also grabbed Bradley Smith's second lap pile up with Finnish wildcard rider Eeki Kuparinen. Here's how it went:
Bradley slides off inside Kuparinen
They both hit the gravel
Bradley hanging on to his Aprilia
If you enjoyed the previous instalments of photos from the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, you'll love the final collection from Scott Jones. If you want more after that, you'll have to wait until Donington, like the rest of us.
Yet more photos from Scott Jones, this time of the rain-soaked qualifying session. The conditions may have been horrific, but this did not deter either our intrepid photographer or the subjects he was shooting.
Remarkable news surfaced at the German Grand Prix. According to knowledgable sources in the paddock, Aprilia is about to make an about turn on its previous resolution to walk away from the Moto2 class, and submit an entry. Work is apparently already underway, and the bike should be ready within the next month or so.
The news is little less than astonishing, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the introduction of four cylinder 600cc bikes as the Moto2 class, slated to replace the 250cc bikes at the start of next season, was taken against the express wishes of both Aprilia and KTM. KTM pulled out of the 250cc class a year early, stating their disgust at the way the decision had been forced through in the Grand Prix Commission as their main reason. The cynics in the paddock - of which there are plenty - pointed to KTM's failure to win a title in the 250cc class, and the severe financial constraints forced upon the Austrian factory by the global economic crisis.
Secondly, an Aprilia Moto2 entry would be powered by a Honda engine, the Japanese racing giant having been awarded the contract to produce and tune the engines. Just how Honda would feel if Aprilia starts winning races, claiming victory for the Noale factory while powered by a Honda lump, remains to be seen. The prospect of a Honda-powered Aprilia raised a myriad of questions about the prominence that Honda will be given on the bike, and just how that will fit in with the rest of the Moto2 team's sponsors. The thought of a bike with a huge Aprilia logo splashed across the fairing, and a tiny little sticker with Honda on, is both highly entertaining and deeply puzzling.
Over the past few weeks, the motorcycle racing press has been set ablaze by the rumors of Jorge Lorenzo's future. The talented Mallorcan's contract with the Fiat Yamaha team runs out at the end of this year, and although Yamaha have offered Lorenzo a new contract - rumored to be around the 3.5 million euro mark - Lorenzo has been holding out for more. He has some very serious leverage to help his side of the argument: Lorenzo says that all of the current manufacturers have offered him a contract.
The only realistic prospect for Lorenzo is of course Honda - Ducati is too much of a risk, and the chances of Suzuki meeting Lorenzo's rumored 5 million euro salary demand are very slim indeed, given the somewhat parlous state of the factory's MotoGP program. The elephant - nay, the brontosaurus - in the room in any discussion of a Lorenzo move to Honda is of course the fate of Dani Pedrosa. The two Spanish title rivals have been bitter enemies since a series of incidents during the 2005 250cc Championship season, and the prospect of the two men on the same team has usually been seen as almost impossible.
Things were made a little easier between the two after Lorenzo fired his long-time manager Dani Amatriain at the end of last season, as the rivalry between Amatriain and Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig was even more intense than that between the two riders. But now, according to GPOne.com, a solution has been found by HRC which would help remove any last obstacles to securing the services of both Lorenzo and Pedrosa.
Results of the MotoGP race at the Sachsenring:
Race result and summary of the 250cc German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
The 250cc race at the Sachsenring was red-flagged on the 2nd lap, after rain started to fall and Jules Cluzel crashed at the horrifically fast Turn 11 at the top of the hill. Marco Simoncelli had got away and was leading comfortably at the time, but Race Direction considered the conditions too dangerous to allow the riders to continue on slicks.
Rain is still falling, though only very lightly, and the track remains mostly dry. Teams are mounting rain tires, but the sky here is light, and not looking like there will be serious rainfall just yet. The race is scheduled to restart at 12:45, and will be just 19 laps rather than the 29 originally planned.