Analysis

2011 Sachsenring MotoGP Sunday Roundup - Great Racing, And Ducati's Future Direction

After days of apparently talking about everything except motorcycle racing, the Sachsenring - nestled in the wooded valleys of Saxony, to borrow a phrase from elsewhere - served up a triple helping of thrilling, fairing-to-fairing racing. All talk of Japan and tires was temporarily forgotten, at least until the warm afterglow of a fantastic day's racing had diminished.

The day began with a riveting 125cc race, with a group of six battling for most of the race, dropping to just three, and then Hector Faubel and Johann Zarco crossing the line at exactly the same time. A video and photo finish could not separate them, and Faubel was finally awarded the win on the basis of having set a faster personal best lap during the race. There has to be some way of separating the riders in the event of a tie, but it was cruel for it to be settled this way. Faubel fully deserved the win - the Bankia Aspar rider rode the wheels of his Aprilia - but then so did Zarco. There was a sigh of disappointment through the press room as the popular Frenchman was denied, but there were few who begrudged Faubel the victory.

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2011 Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Roundup - On The GP11.1's Shortcomings, And The Rider Boycott Of Motegi

On a normal Saturday, we'd be talking about qualifying, who was on the front row, and who will do what in the race. But this was not a normal Saturday. It started going pear-shaped from MotoGP QP, and went downhill from there.

But let's start with qualifying. Your front row is Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, who put in a fast late lap to bump Marco Simoncelli back to the second row. The race looks like it could actually be pretty close, with Pedrosa and Lorenzo both having excellent race pace, though maybe a tenth or so slower than Stoner. Don't discount Andrea Dovizioso either; though the Italian only qualified in 6th, the third Repsol Honda rider's pace on hard tires is very strong, and he should be capable of running with Pedrosa and Lorenzo. The only obstacle to Pedrosa scoring yet another podium in Germany is his shoulder, though the Sachenring's long sequence of left handers is kind to his right shoulder, so he could well last the distance.

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2011 Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Roundup - Tires Cause Consternation Once Again

Bridgestone must be regretting getting that single tire contract around now, as once again, the only topic of conversation in the MotoGP paddock was the tires, and the tone of the conversation was a very long way from being universally positive. Four big crashes during the morning free practice session - two big enough that if circumstances had been otherwise, they could have resulted in serious injury - had everyone complaining of the cold temperature performance of the Bridgestones. But more of that later.

First, to the actual results: In the 125cc class, Nico Terol remains imperious, though Hector Faubel is snapping angrily at his heels and may well give his Bankia Aspar teammate a run for his money. Just seven thousandths separated the pair at the end of Friday. The gaps in Moto2 are similarly minuscule: Thomas Luthi leads Aleix Espargaro by the second-smallest of measurable margins, Luthi setting a time two-thousandths of a second quicker than the Spaniard. Yuki Takahashi is a further eight thousandths back, while Scott Redding lags a relatively massive seven hundredths of a second behind Luthi. Less than a second covers the first 26 riders at the Sachsenring, promising an exciting and probably chaotic race on Sunday.

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2011 Sachsenring MotoGP Thursday Roundup -

Another MotoGP event, another weekend full of speculation about the weather. The rain clouds that seem to follow the MotoGP circus around since it landed in Europe are hanging over Germany, though opinion among both local experts and the weather professionals is divided as to whether it will actually rain or not. The best guess at the moment is that Friday and Saturday should be dry - Saturday expected to be especially good weather - while several hours of rain are expected on race day. Or not, depending on who you believe.

Regardless of the weather, we could see a decent race on Sunday: the Honda riders are as buoyant as you would expect at a track where Dani Pedrosa has dominated for the past couple of years, while Jorge Lorenzo is convinced that going back to the 2010 chassis - or parts of it - and last year's settings have given him the comfortable feeling that he needs to be competitive. Casey Stoner is as confident as you might expect a championship leader to be - though when asked directly whether he expected to win on Sunday, he would say only that he was "more than capable of running at the front." With a stable front end and the drive to help keep the bike turning around the Sachenring's tight and technical layout, Stoner looks like being the hot favorite here, especially as Pedrosa is still recovering from the aftermath of his crash at Le Mans.

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2011 Brno World Superbike Sunday Round Up - The Title Race Is On

With the Brno round of World Superbikes the 8th out of 13, the lines of both the World Superbike and World Supersport championships are starting to become clear. In WSBK, three men have a realistic shot at the title, while in WSS, the championship leader took a big step towards consolidating his first title. Though it is too early to start handing out trophies, we can already start scrapping a lot of names from the list.

The two World Superbike races turned into a rather pleasing allegory for the current state of the championship fight. The three title rivals were the main protagonists in both races, the Italians Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi taking a race win apiece, while Carlos Checa limited the damage by taking two 3rd place finishes. Despite having given up 13 points to both of his rivals in the title race, Checa came away content: at Biaggi's favorite track, and a circuit where horsepower is crucial - and which the Ducati is crucially lacking - the Althea Ducati man still has a 30 point lead over Biaggi, and a 53 point lead over Melandri. He had been able to stay close to the two Italians in both races, and most importantly, he hadn't suffered the kind of punishment he had at Monza, where he gave away points by the bucketload to his rivals.

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2011 Brno World Superbike Saturday Round Up - The Heat Is On

With Max Biaggi on pole for tomorrow's World Superbike races, normal order has been restored. The Czech circuit is Biaggi's favorite track, and the extra horsepower of the Aprilia RSV4 comes into its own round the fast and hilly circuit - much, much steeper in real life than it looks on the TV - which added to the bike's agility, makes it a formidable package. So coming out on top in Superpole - with a masterful lap at the start of the final session - is exactly what you might expect at Brno.

Prior to Superpole, however, things were not running as expected: Carlos Checa and Jakub Smrz had both topped practice sessions, going fast at a track where the Ducatis are supposed to suffer due to the horsepower deficit the twins have against the fours here. Though the four cylinder bikes were clearly competitive - the Yamahas of Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty have right at the front alongside the Aprilia of Biaggi - it has been the Ducatis which have been most impressive at the flowing Czech circuit.

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Is MotoGP's Claiming Rule Teams A Doomed Concept?

The gap was huge: 6.342 separated Mika Kallio on the BMW-powered Suter 1000cc MotoGP machine from Casey Stoner on the 800cc Honda RC212V at the Mugello test on Monday, a difference that would have seen the Suter lapped by a large portion of the field had the bike raced on Sunday. And that was when measured against the factory 800s: Ducati have calculated that the increased capacity of their 2012 machine (the new rules for next season allow a capacity hike to 1000cc) will lap Mugello half a second quicker faster than their current 800cc bike. So does the deficit between the Suter BMW and the factory prototype 800s make the idea of CRT entries a dead duck, or is it a concept still worth pursuing?

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2011 Mugello MotoGP Sunday Round Up - We Had Some Racing, For A Change

What a difference a track makes. At the fast, flowing Mugello circuit, we had three pretty interesting races, two tense duels and a full on battle in Moto2. After a season full of races decided in the first few laps, to see a race day full of overtaking brought some much-needed relief to those suffering with the racing bug.

The 125cc race only saw two passes for the lead, Johann Zarco passing Nico Terol, and then Terol taking the Frenchman back to take victory, but the two protagonists maintained the tension all the way to the end. Never separated by more than a couple of tenths, the race became a case of two men trying to pressure the other into a mistake. Fresh back from having a tendon reattached in his little finger, Terol was the first to crack, running wide in San Donato, the wide, uphill hairpin that comes at the end of the straight. But Terol kept his head, latched onto the back of the Zarco, and waited for the long drag towards the finish line to make his move.

A smart race by Terol, and a strong and smart race by Zarco too: Terol looked to be on a planet of his own, but Zarco came along and joined the party. A strong race, too, by young Spaniard Maverick Vinales: at a track which is as notoriously difficult to learn as Mugello is, Vinales ended his first race at the track on the podium. The rookie sits 3rd in the championship, with big things expected of him in the future. He is, after all, just sixteen-and-a-half years old.

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2011 Mugello MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Italy Awaits

If you want to know what the attendance at a racetrack is, you have two options, the official channel, and the unofficial one. If you want the official tally, you have to wait until Sunday, when the circuit, together with Dorna, publish the number of spectators over the three days of the track. Those numbers are based on ticket sales, though how precisely they are reflect the numbers at the track is a frequent topic of speculation.

If you want a more accurate assessment of how busy a track is, then the best thing to do is to canvas a few of the regular photographers who shoot MotoGP. They spend all day wandering around the track, seeing most of the grandstands and hillsides which overlook the circuit. A trained eye for detail and an excellent memory are key assets for a professional photographer, so they generally have a pretty good idea of how many people are at the track. Their estimates are usually much more accurate than the official numbers, and can differ by a surprisingly large amount from them.

So when several photographers report that the hillsides at Mugello seem emptier again this year, then it would appear that MotoGP has a problem. And given the nature of MotoGP's audience in recent years, that problem has one major cause.

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2011 Mugello MotoGP Friday Roundup: Wet Weather, Fast Hondas, Pedrosa vs Simoncelli, And The Prospect Of More Tires

Herve Poncharal joked at Assen that if the MotoGP series wanted to find an extra source of income, it should offer to organize events in drought-stricken areas, as a MotoGP race appears to be a guarantee of rain this year. Mugello is no different: the locals say there has been no rain for weeks now - though the rich verdant green of the countryside would appear to suggest otherwise - and as soon as the MotoGP circus rolls into the Tuscan hills, the heavens part and rain falls.

The day started well enough - stunningly so, hot temperatures, clear skies - but as the morning neared an end, the clouds started to roll in. The 125cc class started with a few spots of rain, getting heavier as the MotoGP class started then drying out towards the end. So the MotoGP riders lost the best part of a session, while the wily Andrea Dovizioso posted a positively scorching time on the very last lap of the session, just as the track had dried enough to put in a good time.

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