2011 Silverstone MotoGP Monday Round Up - Tires, Elias, Moto2, The Twenty One-Three
The big surprise at Silverstone was not so much the crashes - given the conditions, it was just a matter of waiting for them to happen - it was the riders who crashed out. That Marco Simoncelli went down is less of a surprise - the Italian is fast, but still errs on the side of bravery, with predictable consequences - but putting money on Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies to crash would have got you long odds indeed, and given a tidy return.
The problem was, of course, the Bridgestone rain tires. Undoubtedly superb in the wet, the cold temperatures in Silverstone (remember, this is mid-June, supposedly the start of summer) combined with the wet meant it was hard to put and keep the heat in the tires during the race. Every lap was like an out lap, Valentino Rossi said, the best description of the situation, describing the need to both simultaneously tiptoe around and not get caught out by the tires, and push hard to try to get some heat into them. Some teams had decided to run two sighting laps to heat the tires before putting them into the tire warmers, but others felt it was too risky, given the length of the Silverstone circuit and the brief period before the pit lane closed. Ramon Forcada had decided that it was too much of a risk, and had sent Lorenzo out on a single lap, and Lorenzo had struggled with heat in the tires all race long.
One rider who has struggled with heating the tires all season has been Toni Elias. The reigning Moto2 champion has had a miserable return to MotoGP, struggling around at the back of the pack on the LCR Honda. Rumors of an early exit from the series have been persistent in the paddock, though question marks remain over who would take over the Spaniard's ride.
But Elias' fortunes have improved a little at Silverstone, helped in no small part by the weather. The gap to the rest of the field has declined significantly, Elias sneaking into the top 10 in the weather, and ending comfortably ahead of Loris Capirossi in the dry, and not far off the other satellite Ducatis. Members of the Spanish media are reporting that Elias has been given two races to turn his situation around, before the sponsors pull the rug from underneath him. His problems appear to arise from a conflict with his pit crew, who have been trying to force him in a particular setup direction. They have now relented, and are letting Elias find his own setup, the problem being that while they will not prevent him from making any changes he wants, they will not help him either. Consequently, Elias is chasing around the Ohlins truck himself, forced to work his setup out for himself.
Back in Elias' old class, there are plenty of rumblings of discontent. Much of the complaints have been aimed at Suter, the Swiss Moto2 chassis builder facing a barrage of complaints that the chassis is not competitive this year. Thomas Luthi, competitive on a Moriwaki last year, is now firmly ensconced mid-pack on a Suter, and accusations of favoritism surround the Swiss firm. Many of the teams who thought they might have a competitive package have been keeping a close eye on Marc Marquez' garage, angling for information on whether the Spaniard is using the 2010 or 2011 chassis, and which swingarm they have chosen to go with the chassis.
The most immediate - and high-profile - threat of defection could come from the Speed Master team. Andrea Iannone is believed to be very unhappy with the Suter, and is rumored to be in talks with another chassis manufacturer to switch chassis, and given Iannone's history with the Speed Up team, that chassis manufacturer is rumored to be FTR. So far, there is little more than rumors, with nothing said to be signed, but in this case, it appears that where there is smoke, there is fire. The problem with the Moto2 paddock is that there is so much smoke from the rumors circulating that it is hard to discern the fire unless it turns around and burns you.
Of course, right now, the hot ticket in Moto2 is the Kalex, with several teams rumored to be talking to the German Moto2 chassis manufacturer. The bike is clearly very good this year, with Kalex on top of the manufacturer standings, and a Kalex rider dominating the series. What the typically short-sighted Moto2 paddock appear to be overlooking is that Bradl's domination of the class is not just down to the German's strength this season - and Bradl has been outstanding so far - but also due to the failure of his rivals. Simone Corsi, the man in 2nd place, has only a single podium, with a bunch of 4th, 5th and 6th place finishes netting him points. The riders with the real podium potential - Andrea Iannone, Yuki Takahashi, Julian Simon, Marc Marquez - have all managed to trip themselves up in one way or another, either by qualifying poorly or crashing out of races. If Bradl starts to face a concerted and consistent attack, he may not be quite so comfortable atop the Moto2 standings.
Held over from Barcelona, there is bad news for superstitious Honda riders. The 2012 Honda MotoGP machine (capacity unknown, but believed to be pretty close to the 1000cc limit) is almost certain to be called the RC213V. I checked with Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC vice-president, and he explained that the 2012 machine will most likely follow Honda's usual nomenclature system. The RC designates a racing machine, the 21 marks the machine out as being from the 21st century, and the 3 denotes that this is Honda's 3rd generation racing machine in the MotoGP era (the V denoting that the engine is a V4).
I pointed out that some riders would not be happy with the name: the RC211V and RC212V are colloquially referred to as the two-eleven and the two-twelve respectively, meaning that to most people, the RC213V will be simply known as the two-thirteen. Nakamoto-san said it was not something he had considered, but joked that this was merely because we were looking at the race designation incorrectly. "This bike is not an RC two-thirteen," Nakomoto said, "this bike is a twenty one - three!" Having witnessed one Spanish journalist plead with others to swap his media vest (allowing access to pit lane and the grid during the race) because the number on the back was 513, I can see that this argument will not wash with the more superstitious parts of the paddock.