Analysis

2011 Catalunya MotoGP Sunday Round-Up: Half-And-Half Races, And Tough Guys And Collarbones

Race day came in Barcelona, and we had one-and-a-half exciting races, and one-and-a-half snoozers. The 125cc and part of the Moto2 race was pretty good, while the lead in Moto2 and the entire race in MotoGP - with the exception of a highly entertaining between three satellite Ducatis for 9th place - was a complete procession.

The 125 race was the best one of the day, with Nico Terol facing an attack from a different quarter than in Le Mans, this time the Frenchman Johann Zarco. Zarco pushed Terol all the way to the wire, passing the Bankia Aspar man on the exit of the final corner, then giving him a little elbow for good measure and forcing him off the track. From the initial footage it just looked like a racing incident, but the front angle showed the move to have had some intent, with Zarco leaning on Terol to push him aside. The move earned Zarco a 20-second penalty, taking his hard-earned victory from him and bumping him back down to 6th. The Frenchman protested his innocence, though one senior journalist in the paddock said the team told him that Zarco had admitted his mistake behind closed doors. Rossi said of the incident that it reminded him of Max Biaggi's move on him at Suzuka, and so it was the right decision to penalize the Frenchman.

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2011 Catalunya MotoGP Saturday Round Up - Hollywood Pole, And Japan Again

It is rather fitting that Paris Hilton should be coming to town, given the scenario that unfolded during qualifying for the MotoGP class this afternoon at Barcelona. It was straight out of a Hollywood script: after taking down the local hero, the Villain of the Piece turns up at Montmelo, faces down the booing crowd, and then steams home to take pole, his first ever in MotoGP.

Of course, in the Hollywood script, Marco Simoncelli would be defeated on the final lap by the guy brought in to defend the honor of the local hero, and if we were to cast Jorge Lorenzo in the role of Dani Pedrosa's avenging angel, then there is a good chance that Lorenzo will at least run the Italian to the line. But this isn't Hollywood, and despite Simoncelli's pole - taken with a brilliant lap, storming through the final sector to just edge Casey Stoner - it is the Australian Respol Honda man who is still firmly in control at Barcelona.

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2011 Catalunya MotoGP Friday Roundup - On Mixed Conditions, Motegi, Moto3 And CRT

The talking is over, the bikes are on the track, and a collective sigh of relief has risen from the paddock. We're racing again - well, practicing, but racing will come - and the pent up frustrations of 85 testosterone-addled, hypercompetitive, overactive young men have finally found release. That's not to say that there wasn't still plenty of talking going on - there was, mostly about Motegi, more of which later - but for once, we could talk about what was going on on track.

And that was pretty much a repeat of Le Mans, in all three classes. In MotoGP, Casey Stoner topped both sessions, and did so in intimidating fashion. His performance in the afternoon FP2 session was particularly impressive: with the track wet from the light drizzle that blighted the circuit on and off all day long, Stoner waited in the pits, watching what the other riders were doing in the conditions; fitted a set of wet tires to his Honda RC212V, went out on a fast lap and put two seconds on the field on his first complete lap out of the pits, did another lap and then came back in. He then sat waiting until conditions improved and the track dried out, then went out to do a few more laps, beating 2nd place man Marco Simoncelli by half a second, nearly nine tenths on Jorge Lorenzo in 4th, and two seconds on Valentino Rossi back in 7th.

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2011 MotoGP Catalunya Thursday Roundup - All Quiet On The Eastern Front

After all the hue and cry over the past month and a half - starting at Jerez with the crash between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, worsening with the public spat between Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli's about the Italian's 'dangerous' riding style, further deteriorating with Valentino Rossi accusing the latest generation of MotoGP riders of being 'pussies', finding its nadir in the crash between Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa and its subsequent fallout, and culminating in Simoncelli's appearance in front of Race Direction at Catalunya - the pre-event day at the Barcelona round of MotoGP has been remarkably muted. It is as if everyone in the paddock has had a quiet word with the riders and told them to try and take some of the heat out of the situation. And given that Marco Simoncelli has received threats of violence at Barcelona, (though admittedly internet threats, which tend in general to result in nothing at all), that was probably a sensible decision.

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2011 WSBK Miller Monday Round Up - The Expected Double

Sometimes the pundits are right: the race weekend at Miller Motorsports Park turned out exactly as predicted, with a convincing double victory for Carlos Checa. The Spaniard put in a repeat performance of last year, with the crucial difference that on Monday, he avoided the technical problems that left him stranded by the wayside in both races. Checa was a little slow off the mark in race 1, taking all of 6 laps to take over the lead and run away with the race, the Althea Ducati rider treading carefully in the still chilly and uncertain conditions. Race 2 was a different matter altogether, Checa taking the lead into the first corner and out of sight by the end of the first lap. The Spaniard barely put a foot wrong all weekend, his only mistake being to slip over in the mud while trying to pick up a Ducati flag from a fan to celebrate victory in race 1.

But while Checa's record is impressive - six wins out of ten starts, with two more podiums thrown in for good measure - his 61-point championship lead is down to more than just his own dominance. Number 2 in the championship is Marco Melandri, who had a very mediocre weekend at Miller after a strong outing at Monza. In 3rd place is Max Biaggi, who seems determined to do everything in his power to lose his #1 plate in the most heartbreaking way possible this year.

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2011 WSBK Miller Sunday Roundup: In A Downpour, Racing Motorcycles Looks Like The Hard Work It Is

A drop or two of rain always adds an extra dimension to motorcycle racing, and Sunday at Miller saw more than a drop or two of rain. That rain had a pretty big impact on the order, with riders such as BMW's Leon Haslam, who had struggled in the dry, suddenly finding themselves near the very top in the morning downpour, then dropping back as the conditions improved a little.

In fact, the rain may have inadvertently highlighted BMW's problem: In the dry, Corser was going strongly while Haslam struggled. In the wet, Haslam positively flew while Corser dropped down the order. As the conditions improved, the fates of the two men reversed, Haslam knocked out of Superpole 2 - crashing while trying to push - while Corser secured a spot on the second row of the grid. The settings of one appear not to suit the settings of the other, and that may go some way towards explaining why the development of the S1000RR has been erratic. The electronics, especially, have been the BMW's bugbear, with the complex system that BMW has developed in-house causing the riders, team and engineers plenty of headaches.

Castrol Honda's Johnny Rea suffered the opposite fate. Competitive in the dry, the Ulsterman was nowhere in the wet, not even making it past Superpole 1. The team's gamble that nominating Miller Motorsports Park as their official test track - allowing them to test at the circuit before the race - would help them on race weekend has failed, thwarted by the weather.

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2011 WSBK Miller Saturday Roundup - Comparisons: Checa vs The Rest, WSBK vs AMA

Carlos Checa picked up on the first day at Miller where he left off after last year's race: running at the front but plagued by technical problems. The Spaniard dominated here last year, but was forced to pull out of both races when his Althea Ducati packed up. So it was a little bit worrying for Checa when, after blitzing straight to the top of the timesheets in FP1, Checa's 1198R packed up on him, with what was apparently diagnosed as an electrical problem. Going out on the second bike, Checa continued to dominate, until his bike packed up a second time in the same session, this time reportedly with gearbox problems.

Despite the painful echoes of 2010, Checa was back out in the afternoon, this time ending the first session of qualifying without any technical dramas, but with an advantage of nearly eight-tenths of a second over the nearest competition. The Spaniard was merciless from the start: his first flying lap during qualifying was faster than any other rider had managed during FP2, and he got quicker from there, eventually getting to within a couple of tenths of the race lap record. If the bike stays in one piece, it's going to be hard to beat Checa at Miller - if the weather stays dry, of course.

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2011 MotoGP Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Impetuosity, Or How The Best Passes Are Saved Until The Last Lap

There has been much lamenting of late that the MotoGP paddock has been full of talk and not much action. There have been plenty of complaints about the dangerous riding of certain riders, and not much evidence to back the accusations up with. Well, that certainly changed at Le Mans.

But before we get to the controversy - and there was plenty of it, and this time, it was real, not artificially stirred up by the media (mea culpa) - it behooves us to talk about the race. For there was a lot of interesting data that got buried under the polemic, which may prove key for the rest of the season.

The winner was entirely predictable, though the difficulty Casey Stoner had in securing the win, at least for the first third of the race, was rather less expected. Stoner, he said, had had about as near a perfect weekend as it was possible to have, blitzing every session and going on to win the race by an obscene amount - though obviously assisted by the removal of Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli from the proceedings. The Casey Stoner we saw at Le Mans this weekend was the Casey Stoner that most pundits had backed at the start of the year, after he had dominated much of preseason testing. With the 2011 Ohlins forks now working for him, Stoner looks like being a very hard rider to catch.

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2011 MotoGP Le Mans Saturday Round Up - Of Fast Hondas, Unwanted Tracks, And Safety

If you switched on for the last 10 minutes of qualifying at Le Mans this afternoon, you were in for a treat. A thrilling finale to qualifying reminded everyone of why MotoGP doesn't really need Superpole, as exciting as that can be on a World Superbike weekend. Casey Stoner finally secured his third pole of the season by just 0.059 seconds, or fractionally more than a bike length. Marco Simoncelli had been using his lanky frame to muscle the San Carlo Gresini RC212V around the track in pursuit of Stoner's time, but the Italian came up just a fraction short. With Simoncelli this close in qualifying, it should be a pretty close race, right?

Ask Colin Edwards, and he'll rid you of that delusion straight away: "I'm willing to make a wager," the Texan told MotoGP.com, "Stoner's going to win hands down unless someone takes him out or something strange happens. Looking at his lap chart, it's just phenomenal, he's doing lap times on the hard tire that I can't even qualify at." And indeed, looking at the race pace the riders were clocking before they put in soft rubber and stowed their common sense for a spot on the grid tells another story altogether: after putting on a fresh set of hard tires to finalize his race setup, Casey Stoner posted a bunch of laps in the mid-1'33s, where the other riders were happy to get close to low 1'34s in race trim.

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2011 MotoGP Le Mans Friday Round Up - Normal Service Resumed

There's an old saying in racing: "When the flag drops, the production of bovine fecal matter stops." Though the phrase "production of bovine fecal matter" is usually replaced by something a good deal more succinct, colorful, and likely to get blocked by some internet filters. So once the bikes rolled out onto the track for a full day of timed practice, the bellow of MotoGP bikes finally silenced the complaining that had been going on on all sides since the bikes were rolled back into the trucks on Monday night after Estoril.

There's certainly no place to hide from the Hondas at Le Mans. HRC came to what has traditionally been regarded as a Yamaha track and has wiped the floor with the opposition. On Friday morning, the four factory Hondas (three Repsols and one San Carlo Gresini) took the top four slots on the timesheets, the nearest non-Honda (the factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo) over a second behind fastest man Casey Stoner. In the afternoon, Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden helped disrupt the party, snagging 4th ahead of Lorenzo, demoting Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso down to 6th. The Ducati and the Yamaha even closed the gap on the top Honda, from over a second to just under nine-tenths of a second.

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