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 the qualifying practice for the Moto2 class at Jerez:
Results and summary of Qualifying Practice for the MotoGP class:
Results of the 125cc Qualifying Practice Session:
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.
Columbian rider Yonny Hernandez topped the timesheets after the second session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Jerez, the BQR rider putting on a spectacular display of sliding his way around the Spanish track. Hernandez finished just ahead of Qatar race winner Shoya Tomizawa on the Technomag CIP Suter, and Tom Luthi on the Interwetten bike. Yesterday's fastest rider Alex Debon finished in 3rd on the FTR, ahead of former MotoGP rider Alex de Angelis.
The session was extremely hectic, the 42 bikes out on the track making finding a spot of clear track extremely difficult. Riders were resorting to almost race tactics, bumping each other out of the way to make some room, the most blatant incident being Ant West stuffing his MZ up the inside of Luthi, forcing both men to back off a fraction and start all over again. Toni Elias - 8th in the session - ended up in the gravel, folding the front wheel at the end of the back straight, after not quite making the corner. Elias was unhurt, luckily for the Gresini rider, as he is still recovering from broken ankles suffered before the start of the season.
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.
Pol Espargaro continues to lead the 125cc class, topping this morning's second session of free practice. The Tuenti Derbi rider just edged Marc Marquez, while Aspar's Nico Terol finished in 3rd. The Bancaja Aspar bikes picked up the pace today, with Bradley Smith closing a full second on Espargaro, to finish the session in 4th.
Whenever groups of people band together, they inevitably start to take on each others habits, mannerisms and perhaps most especially, appearance. The MotoGP paddock is no different, and the dress adopted by its members means they all bear a remarkable resemblance to one another. The fact that many of the people in the paddock are restricted to wearing team uniforms merely underlines the uniformity. So here's your guide to the latest in MotoGP paddock chic:
Your model for today is Tom Tremayne, Bridgestone's extremely helpful and knowledgeable press officer. Let's walk through the key items of Tom's dress:
Alex Debon was the fastest rider during the first session of Moto2 free practice, the Spanish FTR rider leading for most of FP1. Another FTR - albeit the heavily modified Speed Up version - ended the day in 2nd, Gabor Talmacsi just pipping American Kenny Noyes on the Jack&Jones bike in the final moments of practice. Tech3's Yuki Takahashi was 4th quickest.
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.
MotoGP has returned to Jerez , and the bikes are out on track once again. First up on Friday - after the Red Bull Rookies, who are running as a support class here in Jerez - were the 125 class, where Pol Espargaro took first blood on the Tuenti Derbi, just pipping Red Bull Ajo's Marc Marquez in the dying seconds. Espargaro's teammate Efren Vazquez rounded out the top 3, while Sandro Cortese made it a clean sweep for Derbi in the top 4.
The most notable thing about the 125s, however, was the difference in times. The top three are all within a quarter of a second, but Cortese is over a second behind in 4th, and Alberto Moncayo in 8th place is fully 2 seconds behind Espargaro, and just ahead of Bancaja Aspar's Bradley Smith.
With MotoGP reconvened at Jerez, after being forced to skip Motegi due to volcanic ash grounding flights in Europe, the paddock in Southern Spain is filling up once again. Hospitality units are up, and team members forced to skip Qatar to cut spending are all back in the paddock, giving the place a more homely feel. "It feels like the first day back at school," MotoGP technical guru Neil Spalding said, upon entering the media center this morning. "Qatar just isn't the same."
That is in part because Qatar is an overseas round, where the teams are housed in rows of temporary huts, all identical and impossible to distinguish one from another. At Jerez, the hospitality units are back, adding color and visual interest to the paddock, and creating an easily navigable route for finding your way about. Most of all, though, is the return to a normal schedule, with activity taking place during daylight hours, rather than starting as the sun goes down and the day ending as the sun returns again.
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.