Karel Abraham was the surprise leader at the end of the second session of free practice for the 250cc class. But the Czech rider's position was largely a result of good timing, Abraham getting out and putting in a fast lap just before the rain came. The rain was so heavy that it left the timesheets largely unchanged, though Marco Simoncelli put in a good string of laps in the wet to climb up to 3rd. The wet weather practice will be very useful to the field, as the rain is expected to continue during qualifying this afternoon.
Results of the 250cc FP2 session:
The first batch of images are in from Scott Jones, here at the Sachsenring, and once again, they are real gems. There'll be plenty more to come over the next few days.
Jorge Lorenzo led the field during the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class at the Sachsenring, crushing the opposition by dipping under the 1'22 barrier, and finishing nearly 4/10ths ahead of Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider had struggled yesterday, but was clearly a good deal more comfortable on the second day of practice.
Behind Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa took the 3rd time, ahead of Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden in 4th and Valentino Rossi in 5th, while a surprising Marco Melandri was 6th fastest in the session. Hayden's performance is a clear sign of progress, with the American leading the session at one point, and continually featuring in the top echelons. Melandri was similarly impressive, taking full advantage of the fact that horsepower is less of a factor at the tight Sachsenring circuit.
The field is once again very close. Lorenzo's gap to 2nd place man Stoner is the only large gap in the top 6, with less than 0.2 seconds separating Stoner in 2nd from Melandri in 6th. Even more impressive is the fact that the top 11 riders all the way down to Colin Edwards are inside Dani Pedrosa's race lap record from 2007.
Results of the MotoGP FP2 session:
Julian Simon topped another damp session of practice for the 125cc session, the track drying out towards the end, allowing Simon to get ahead of his Bancaja Aspar team mates Sergio Gadea and Bradley Smith.
Results of the 125cc FP2 session:
While both the 125cc and MotoGP sessions were badly affected by the weather, the 250cc riders were able to put in a relatively untroubled session of free practice on Friday. Spaniard Hector Barbera finished the session at the top of the timesheets, beating Gilera's Marco Simoncelli by nearly half a second. Behind Barbera, things were incredibly close, with just over a tenth of a second separating 2nd from 6th. Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama could only manage the 7th fastest time, but his main rival at the moment, Aspar's Alvaro Bautista, is well down the order in 11th. But the grid won't be settled until tomorrow afternoon, and by that time, the weather is likely to be completely different.
Results of the 250cc FP1 session:
A drying track turned the first session of free practice for the MotoGP riders into a confusing and thrilling chase for times, lap times tumbling throughout. On the damp track, it was the Ducatis of Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner that led the charts, with Marco Melandri and Andrea Dovizioso constantly close. Around the halfway mark the track began to dry properly, and the top spot started swapping hands at a pace almost too fast to follow. At one point even MotoGP rookie Gabor Talmacsi took over 2nd spot, before the rest of the field started catching up.
Once the track was fully dry - with the exception of a small stream running across the track around Turn 1 - it was Casey Stoner who set the fastest time, smashing the existing lap record in the process by over three tenths of a second. The 2nd spot went to Dani Pedrosa, who had been in and out of the top ten all day, but snatched 2nd in the dying seconds, forcing Valentino Rossi down into 3rd. All of the Yamaha men started the day off slowly, languishing in the bottom half of the timesheets, but as the track dried, all four Yamahas improved.
Randy de Puniet took 4th spot, ahead of a surprising Alex de Angelis, who has a history of good results here at the Sachsenring, while Colin Edwards was 6th fastest on the Tech 3 Yamaha. Toni Elias was 7th quickest, just ahead of Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso. But with just 0.2 seconds separating places 5 through 11, those positions were taken almost at random.
Hayden was unlucky to have been shuffled down into 8th, as the American put on a very strong show for most of the session, regularly topping the timesheets. Hayden has spoken of feeling more comfortable on the Ducati, and his results are starting to show it.
The weather played a dominant role in the 125cc session of free practice at the Sachsenring on Friday, the session starting out hot and steamy, before the black clouds which had been hovering over the forests of Saxony finally broke, submerging the track under a deluge. The rain meant that the timesheets only reflect the first 25 minutes or so of practice, as the riders who emerged after the worst of the storm had passed were lapping much more slowly round the wet track. In the dry, it had been Julian Simon who was fastest, as he has been all year, leading the way ahead of KTM's Marc Marquez and Bradley Smith. The weather is expected to wet on Saturday, with the first chance of a dry day being race day on Sunday.
Results of 125cc FP1 session:
The biggest blockage in the MotoGP rider market right now is Jorge Lorenzo. After a strong debut season, followed by an astounding start to 2009, the Spaniard is in great demand, and is carefully considering his choices. According to the Spanish sports paper AS.com, Lorenzo has offers from all four manufacturers in MotoGP, but his main focus continues to be signing for either Yamaha or Honda.
Despite being happy with Yamaha, he is keen to get what he believes is his market value from any deal. "I'm very happy with Yamaha, it's still a dream to be here, but we know what our value is, and that's what they will have to pay. At the moment, our value is more than what Yamaha is offering, so the negotiations are stalled," Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo's other option is believed to be Honda, and the prospect of Lorenzo sharing a garage with his arch rival Dani Pedrosa continues to occupy the Spanish press. So far, Pedrosa is displaying a distinct lack of concern, telling AS.com "For me, nothing will change. If Repsol and Honda want Lorenzo, they should sign him; I don't own the team and I don't make those sort of decisions. If they think that [signing Lorenzo] would be good for the team, I will look for the best option for me, independent of what anyone else does."
The Hungarian-based Team Toth has had a turbulent year so far. The team's pursuit of glory in the 250 class was boosted by the signing of the talented Italian Mattia Pasini, but signing Pasini meant obtaining top-flight equipment, and so the team obtained a factory-spec RSA 250 from Aprilia, a necessary prerequisite for any rider with title aspirations.
But factory-spec Aprilias don't come cheap. And finding the million euro lease fee is proving more difficult than Team Toth had at first thought. So far behind had the team fallen in their payments that at Assen, Aprilia withheld the ECUs from the team until an emergency funds transfer hit the Noale firm's bank account, leaving both Pasini and his team mate Imre Toth Jr sitting idly in the pits for half of the first session of free practice.
Pasini looked to be in similar difficulties at the Sachsenring, with early reports suggesting that Aprilia was once again withholding vital parts awaiting payment from the team. But this time, Team Toth got a payment of 100,000 euros to Aprilia on time, according to GPOne.com, and so both Pasini and Immi Jr will both be riding from the start of the weekend. But the payment will only cover the costs of the bikes for the Sachsenring, and so the entire soap opera looks set for a repeat at Donington.
In every form of competition requiring a track, the participants travel around the track in a counter-clockwise direction, making a sequence of left turns. In track cycling, athletics, flat track, speedway, greyhound racing, horse racing, NASCAR and a host of other forms of racing, the competitors just keep turning left. There have been many theories advanced for just why this should be - this was the way the Greeks raced; right-handed people prefer to turn left, as they have more strength in their right leg than their left; even the Coriolis effect, which also causes water to go down a plughole counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere - but none have ever proved satisfactory.
The puzzling exception to this rule are road race circuits. The vast majority of racetracks around the globe buck the counter-clockwise trend, going against almost every other form of racing. Of the 17 tracks on this season's MotoGP calendar, 12 run clockwise, and just 5 run counter-clockwise, containing a majority of left handers. The MotoGP circus has just come from one of them - Laguna Seca - and now heads into the next, the tight and tortuous Sachsenring circuit.
As if to compensate for the excess of right-handers which the MotoGP circus faces, the Sachsenring crams a whole raft of lefts into its short 3.67 kilometer length. Just three right handers - the sharp right Coca Cola Kurve of Turn 1, the endless right of the Omega Kurve, as it rounds the tree-crested hump at its heart, then a single, blisteringly fast kink at the crest of the hill which runs down to towards the final two corners. That one right hander makes up for a lot, though. Nicky Hayden described it as one of the best corners the MotoGP circus visits, fast, blind, downhill, 5th or 6th gear; It is a corner to test the mettle of any rider.
Left Turn, Clyde
Joining those three right handers are a long sequence of lefts that start at the exit of the Omega Kurve and make their way over a crest, then up the hill again to that one fast right, before plummeting back down towards the final two lefts, the Sachsenkurve and Quickenburgkurve. The last two corners are the most crucial part of the track, the place where most of the passing gets done.
The Sachsenkurve is the most obvious candidate for a pass, as it offers the longest braking zone on the circuit. But it is also a risky move, the plunge down the hill leaving a lot of weight on the front wheel, and little room left to absorb the extra load of outbraking an opponent. Beyond the corner lies a large gravel trap, manned by a lot of tired marshals whose weekend consists of extracting the bikes of overoptimistic riders who have just discovered where the limit was.
But even if you get past at the Sachsenkurve, there's one more corner to go. And a pass underneath at the Sachsenkurve leaves you on the outside for the Quickenburgkurve, and open in turn to attack. The corner is tight and steeply uphill, and any drive you lose from a pass at the Sachsenkurve kills your speed through the Quickenburgkurve. More than one rider has got past at the first of those two left handers only to find themselves trailing out of the second, and considering a desperate attempt into the tight first right-hand turn.
The abundance of left handers favors riders with a history of turning left. And few have more history in that art than the former flat tracker and son of a flat tracker, Nicky Hayden. Hayden has had something of a resurgence of form over the past few races, his results improving until he scored an impressive 5th place finish at Laguna Seca. Prior to the Sachsenring race, Hayden said that he was finally starting to feel comfortable with the Ducati, after getting off to a terrible start, and regularly struggling just to score points.
At the pre-race press conference for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, Nicky Hayden spoke about the progress he'd been making on the Ducati, after a difficult start to the season. Speaking to a packed press room, under questioning from MotoGP.com's official commentator Nick Harris, the American revealed how the hard work put in by him and the team were starting to pay off. Below is a transcript of part of Hayden's interview:
Your 5th place at Laguna must have given you a great boost.
Last couple of races we've been 10th, 8th, 5th, we've made a lot of progress. That makes me happy that we're moving in the right direction, and we've found a way with the team. I'm enjoying riding the bike more. It's pretty good, and we need to keep going. But now I know that to stick my nose in the next group is when it's going to get real hard. That's the big step, that final group up front. We're going in the right way, just keep our head down and there's a lot of racing left to go.
What made the difference or did it just start to click? You've changed personnel, you've all been working very hard to make it work?
Kenan Sofuoglu made strong progress during the second day of testing for the World Supersport field, to finish the test on top of the timesheets. Sofuoglo took over 2 seconds off his time from Wednesday to just edge out Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow's main title rival, Eugene Laverty, closed the gap with Crutchlow from the first day to just under two tenths of a second.
Overall times after two days of testing:
The second day of testing saw more drama than had been hoped, with Max Neukirchner highsiding off during practice and suffering fractured vertebrae. But it also saw surprises in the timesheets as well. At the end of the day, it was not Michel Fabrizio who was fastest, as on the first day, but Jonathon Rea, the Ten Kate Honda rider getting faster throughout the session, taking over the lead as the end of the test approached. Rea's resurgence saw Fabrizio forced into second place, ahead of the Texan title rival Ben Spies. But Spies had to rely on his time from Wednesday for his standing in the times, as the Yamaha rider had been unable to improve on his time from the first day of testing.
Spies was beaten on Thursday by Lorenzo Lanzi, the Italian who has taken over the DFX Corse Ducati of Regis Laconi who was seriously injured in a crash at Kyalami, but Lanzi's time on Thursday was not good enough to edge out Spies' faster time from Wednesday.
John Hopkins finished the day sixth fastest, but the American was in some trouble. A near highsider on Wednesday afternoon left the American in pain during the night, and after riding in pain during the Thursday morning session, Hopkins decided to have an X ray done to see if he had caused any more damage to his leg. The X ray revealed that calcium was not building up correctly around the bones injured in his hip, and his doctors in the US diagnosed osteoporosis after receiving the X rays by email. The injury leaves Hopkins in doubt for next weekend's Brno round of World Superbikes: If Hopkins decides to ride and crashes, the consequences of a crash could be much more severe.
Overal times from both days of testing:
Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will have a new engine to test at the Sachsenring. The Spaniard told the press conference at the German track that Honda had built a new engine to tame the power delivery of the RC212V. "We have one new engine. It is to improve the delivery of the power, because our engine is always very peaky and we have a lot of spinning in low gears. We want to try and avoid this and get better drive out of the corners," Pedrosa said. Both Pedrosa and especially team mate Andrea Dovizioso have complained all year that the Honda was too peaky, with Dovizioso being most vocal of the power delivery, labeling it as "too aggressive."
The new engine comes in addition to the revised chassis the Repsol Honda riders and Toni Elias have been using recently, Pedrosa and Dovizioso since Barcelona, Elias since Assen. All three of them have lauded the greatly improved corner entry of the new chassis, Dovizioso doing so despite having crashed out of the last two races. Dani Pedrosa demonstrating how successful the improvements had been by using the new chassis to win the previous Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.
Pedrosa also revealed that more parts are in the pipeline, but he felt it was too early to tell whether the changes would pan out in the long term. "It's not easy to say if we are going in a good direction or not," Pedrosa said. "You cannot base all of your comments on one race or one track. You have to keep on trying to see if it's good."
Max Neukirchner started the 2009 World Superbike season full of hope, and widely tipped as a potential title candidate. But 2009 has been uncommonly cruel to the Alstare Suzuki rider, and his season has been plagued by injury. A horrific first-corner pile up at the Monza round in May saw the German break bones all the way down his leg, and after a lengthy recovery, Neukirchner made a return to riding at the official Imola World Superbike test this week.
His return was not to be long-lived. Neukirchner crashed heavily on just the second day of testing, losing control of his Brux Alstare Suzuki as he exited the Tamburello corner and highsiding on to his back. Neukirchner was examined at the Clinica Mobile, then taken off to a local hospital for further examination. At first he thought he had escaped relatively uninjured, saying "that was a proper crash, but nothing like Monza." But X-rays revealed fractured vertebrae, further endangering his season.
According to the UK's Motorcycle News, Neukirchner's injuries mean that he will be out for either a month or for the rest of the year, depending on the treatment. Given that Neukirchner has already missed over half the season, it may make more sense for the German to have surgery to correct the problem fully, without risking further injury. But riders being riders, he is more likely to want to return to racing as soon as possible, and get back into racing rhythm.