One day after the last-lap thriller of a Spanish Grand Prix, the MotoGP riders were back on track for a one-day test at the Andalucian track, the first of two scheduled for the season. As on Saturday during qualifying, it was the Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa which was fastest, finishing ahead of the Fiat Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Differences were small, however: the top 12 riders finished inside 1 second, and just 1.5 seconds covered the entire field.
The riders had plenty to test. Yamaha were testing minor chassis modifications, some electronics and a revised engine which provides improved acceleration, which both Rossi and Lorenzo declared a slight improvement. Lorenzo spent a lot of time working on his starts, which have so far been his weak point, while Rossi also found some setup changes which solved a rear grip problem.
After Sunday's MotoGP race at Jerez, here's Nicky Hayden had to tell the press:
This is what Casey Stoner had to say after Sunday's 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]."
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.
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.
In the weeks and months before the races, both Miller Motorsports Park and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been organizing press conferences with leading names in the World Superbike and MotoGP series respectively. This week, it was the turn of Indy, and with the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi being called off unexpectedly, we had the chance to talk to Marlboro Ducati rider Nicky Hayden, moderated as ever by IMS' press chief Paul Kelly. During the teleconference, Hayden talks about how much more ridable the 2010 Ducati Desmosedici GP10 MotoGP bike is, how the revised tire allocation procedure has affected the team's buildup, and how he still aches to win a dirttrack mile. Here's what the Kentucky Kid had to say to a bunch of journalists:
Every year, as the MotoGP season commences, a veritable jungle of MotoGP Fantasy Leagues springs up around the internet, give fans the chance to test their skills in running a MotoGP team against like-minded individuals. Although we're big fans of those kinds of games, MotoMatters.com wouldn't be MotoMatters.com if we didn't do things just a little bit differently.
Although the loss of the live video feed from the World Superbike website is greatly lamented, Infront Motor Sports has some small consolation. On the World Superbike Youtube channel, IMS have put up highlight reels from this weekend's racing, showing the best of the action from both World Superbike races and the World Supersport races at Portimao. What better way to start the week than with a quick recap of the races?
World Superbike Race 1 highlights:
World Superbike Race 2 highlights: