Analysis

2011 Silverstone MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Three Point Seven Six One Seconds

There is plenty to talk about after qualifying on Saturday - both here in Silverstone and over in Misano in Italy - but there is only one topic of conversation throughout the paddock. The magic number being bandied about is 3.761, the gap from Valentino Rossi - in 13th (yes, you heard that right, 13th) place on the grid - to the polesitter for Sunday's race Casey Stoner. A quick straw poll of the media center suggested this was the largest gap between Rossi and pole in recent history, with most journalists saying it is probably his biggest deficit ever in Grand Prix, and maybe even of his racing career.

So what is a nine-time World Champion doing so very far off the pace? Rossi knows exactly what the problem is - the Italian is struggling on corner entry, can't carry the corner speed he wants to and can't get the bike to to turn - but finding a solution is a completely different matter. Jeremy Burgess and his pit crew tried a bunch of solutions throughout practice and not one of them appeared to work. Whatever they did, Rossi stayed resolutely stuck near the bottom of the timesheets, and many, many seconds off the pace.

Back to top

2011 Silverstone MotoGP Friday Round Up: Stopping Casey, And Selling Jorge

We're in England, so naturally, all the talk is of the weather. The morning saw all three classes get in a completely dry session, but the rain which had been threatening all day finally fell in the first few minutes of the 125cc session. It rained properly, wetting the track completely, and then promptly stopped. That left the MotoGP riders on a track that was progressively drying, but oddly, only in the second half of the circuit, making for very tricky conditions.

Tricky or not, morning or afternoon, wet or dry, Casey Stoner was fastest, and by an embarrassing amount. The Repsol Honda rider was over six tenths quicker in the morning, then put in a final blitz in the afternoon to put eight tenths on the man in 2nd place, Marco Simoncelli. If you need an illustration of just how great Stoner's domination is, you need only look at the final sector times. While the Australian is either a little bit faster or just a little bit slower than the rest through the first three sectors of the track, his advantage in the final sector - from Chapel through Stowe, Vale and Club over the line - is eight tenths of a second, a huge gap in a forty second section.

Back to top

2011 Silverstone MotoGP Thursday Round Up - On Scheduling Conflicts, New Buildings And Dani Pedrosa

This may sound a little strange at first, but if you're a motorsports fan, then this is a terrible weekend for you. How can this be? I hear you cry - there's MotoGP from Silverstone, World Superbikes from Misano, Formula One from Montreal and the legendary 24 hour sports car race from Le Mans. Plenty to go around, you would think, but then again, there is so much going on that there is a huge amount of overlap, and bike fans especially will be losing out.

British Eurosport commentator Toby Moody pointed out that bike racing was the big loser this weekend, a point he also made to FIM president Vito Ippolito at Barcelona last week. The first race of the day at Silverstone is a 11:15 local time, or 12:15 European time, which is 15 minutes after the first World Superbike race starts at 12 noon at Misano. The MotoGP race then starts at its usual time of 2pm CET, or 1pm local time, right in the middle of the World Supersport race. The last race of the day at Silverstone, the 125cc class, starts at 3:30 European time, at exactly the same time as World Superbikes. But both of those races will be hard to see on TV, as the 24 hour Le Mans race concludes at 4pm European time, and the final hour of the race is traditionally fully televised. There might be lots of racing going on, but the bikes, in particular, won't be getting much of a look in.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

Pages