2011 Jerez MotoGP Race Day Round Up Part 2: Strategy Begets Tragedy

Race days like Sunday, full of incident and intrigue, leave MotoGP writers such as myself feeling starkly inadequate. So much happened at Jerez, in every single class, both during and after the race that it is impossible to do the weekend justice and give a comprehensive account of events without collapsing from exhaustion at about five in the morning. This weekend also made it clear to me that my fitness is not up to scratch, as I did not make it much past 1:30 am.

Fortunately, there is a four-week gap between the race at Jerez and the following round at Estoril. The riders may not much like it ("too long!" Andrea Dovizioso exclaimed), but that does leave plenty of time to fill out the stories that emerged at Jerez.

Rather unsurprisingly, many of those stories revolve around the incident involving Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. Debate on the issue is already extraordinarily heated, as was to be expected given that the riders who were party to the incident are the undisputed lord and master of MotoGP, and the rider who most polarizes opinion among racing fans.

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2011 Jerez MotoGP Race Day Round Up: The Feeding Frenzy

I'm sure I can take a pretty good guess at what you'd all like me to write about, but with your permission, I'll come to that in a minute. Valentino Rossi's excessively optimistic dive up the inside of Casey Stoner, and the ensuing fallout in its many varied forms will generate many millions of words in the future. It may even end up being the decisive moment in the championship, though we won't know that until November. But that crash will overshadow a few stories which deserve a little limelight of their own.

The rain at Jerez was the worst kind, the kind that makes the track greasy and wet, without providing a nice layer of water to help keep tires cool. The rain started early, a few spots appearing at around 8am, becoming gradually heavier over the course of the day, only stopping once the racing was done.

The conditions made the already slippery track absolutely treacherous, and though it produced a bizarre crashfest spectacular, those conditions also revealed an intriguing insight into the art of motorcycle racing. Grip was minimal, tires - especially the soft-compound Bridgestone wets - ran hot and stripped rubber, and mistakes and arrogance were punished mercilessly, intelligence, tire management and racecraft rewarded all the more.

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2011 MotoGP Jerez Saturday Roundup - On A Lighter Note ...

If there are two facts that you need to know about the Jerez circuit - apart from its wonderful setting in one of the nicest parts of the world - it is these: The track is difficult in terms of grip, and the circuit demands a lot of the front end of motorcycle races. If you were unaware of those two facts, then watching qualifying - for any of the three classes that race in the MotoGP series - would be enough to acquaint you with them.

In the MotoGP class, Valentino Rossi crashed, Hiroshi Aoyama crashed, Ben Spies crashed, Randy de Puniet crashed. It would be quicker to sum up who didn't crash rather than who didn't end up on the floor. Even Casey Stoner managed to topple over in the gravel trap, though the Australian's incident was the least serious of the session, and had more to do with misjudging the tire rather than pushing the front beyond the limits of endurance.

Not so for both Ben Spies and Valentino Rossi, both men confessing to having asked too much of their tires. Spies admitted to getting into Turn 1 just far too hot, and his hope of being able to save the situation turning out to be far too optimistic. Spies laid it down and slid off, acknowledging that his luck had lost out to physics.

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2011 MotoGP Jerez Friday Round Up - The Slippery Slope

It's Friday, the bikes have been out on track, and very much as expected, the Repsol Hondas are a class apart. Or rather, two of them are, Casey Stoner going fastest in the morning, while Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets in the afternoon. The third member of the Repsol Honda team had a day to forget: after a crash in the morning, Andrea Dovizioso lost all confidence in the front end of his RC212V, and struggled for the rest of the day. "We don't need to study what happened," Dovizioso said, "we just need to stop and forget all about it."

Dovizioso did not suffer alone: everyone complained of the same thing, that the track had a lot less grip than in previous years. What that came down to was a combination of track temperature and the wind, the gusts making the track easier in some parts, harder in others. Every rider I spoke to complained of a lack of confidence in the front end, and both sessions were marred by crashes, especially in the tricky section including turns 11 and 12, which are both very fast and very bumpy, and require confidence in the front end and a healthy dollop of courage to keep pinned.

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2011 MotoGP Jerez Thursday Round Up - Patience, Patients And Parts

In the heart of Spain, all talk is naturally of Spanish riders, and the man who has been at the center of a veritable media - and medical - whirlwind is Dani Pedrosa. Since the numbness and weakness in his arm reappeared at the race in Qatar, a result of the broken collarbone he suffered at Motegi last year, the Spaniard has undergone a series of tests and examinations to try and get to the root cause of the problem. And as a result, has faced enormous media scrutiny about the issue as well.

The Repsol Honda team has tried to ease the media pressure on Pedrosa by issuing press releases every couple of days with updates on his condition, but the problem has been that those press release have contained conflicting information. That in itself is because the cause of Pedrosa's medical complaint has been so very difficult to pin down.

The mixed messages coming out of the Repsol camp has actually ended up being counter-productive, and Pedrosa has faced even more questioning than usual over the problem. In the end, the normally polite and well-mannered Pedrosa snapped when asked by one veteran reporter in the pre-event press conference to clarify the cause of his problems. "Did you read the press release?" he barked at the reporter, then back-tracked and added he was so tired of the whole issue. "It's already been one-and-a-half weeks for me about this issue," he said, looking utterly fed up, "I am tired of it. I just want to talk about the Grand Prix."

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2011 WSBK Donington Race Round Up - Changing Codes Pays Off

What a strange and interesting weekend the World Superbike round at Donington has given us. That Carlos Checa should win at least one race at Donington was to be expected, but the strong results from the Yamaha camp - in both Superbikes and Supersport - was a bit of a surprise, while the complete meltdown by Max Biaggi was shocking.

To Biaggi first. The Alitalia Aprilia rider started off well, sitting on provisional pole after the first qualifying session on Friday, and joking about how it was both unusual and nice to have people talking about him on a Friday. It all went downhill from there: an on-track run-in with Marco Melandri saw a furious Biaggi stalk into the Yamaha garage, issue a couple of comedy slaps on Melandri's cheek (both meant and received as an insult), getting himself hauled in front of Race Direction and issued a fine (for the slap) and a warning (for blocking Melandri on track, a punishment Melandri also received).

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2011 WSBK Donington Day 2 Round Up - The Handbags Edition

After the second day of practice at Donington Park, we should be talking about the way that Carlos Checa blew everyone away on the Althea Ducati. About the way that Checa got perilously close to posting a lap of 1'27 round the revised Donington track. About Leon Haslam's strong 2nd spot on the grid after qualifying, or Tom Sykes' outstanding 3rd fastest time. Maybe we should even be talking about Eugene Laverty's narrow escape when he had a huge crash at Craner, writing off his Yamaha R1. But we're not.

Tonight, all the talk is of a minor scuffle in the Yamaha pitbox, when Max Biaggi strode in to complain about being balked by Melandri during superpole and issued his fellow Italian with a light double tap, before stalking back to the Aprilia garage:

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2011 WSBK Donington Day 1 Round Up

After a layoff of nearly a month, World Superbikes are back in action this weekend, taking a bold - and some would say foolish - gamble to head to Donington Park in the English Midlands at the end of March. But gambling on both England's fickle weather and the state of the Donington circuit, so close to bankruptcy over the past couple of years, has paid off, and the first day of practice took place under sunny skies and surprisingly pleasant temperatures for the time of year, on a track that was bumpy but ready to race on. The modifications to the track have been well-received in general, with the Foggy Esses having been opened up a little, and now a little faster and smoother.

Max Biaggi is on provisional pole, not usually the place the Roman Emperor is to be found on a Friday afternoon, usually taking another day to get bike and body dialed in and ready to race. While Biaggi will be happy to be competitive this early, it is the Yamahas who are looking strongest, with both Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty on the front row alongside Biaggi. Melandri's transition to World Superbikes has gone off without a hitch so far, and Laverty has also shown little trouble adapting to the 1000s after spending so long in Supersport. The Yamahas are up to speed far earlier than they were in 2010, and showing plenty of promise this year.

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Racing With A Shoulder Injury: Kenny Noyes Speaks From Experience

Ever since Valentino Rossi joined Ducati, the burning question of just how competitive the Desmosedici GP11 is has been clouded by Rossi's shoulder injury. The weakened shoulder - a result of training accident in which Rossi hyperextended his shoulder, fixed by surgery in November of 2010 - has made it very difficult to judge how fast Rossi could be on the bike if he could ride the Ducati unhampered by his shoulder. As a consequence, debate has raged among fans and pundits over how much or Rossi's deficit to put down to the shoulder, and how much to the bike.

Such shoulder injuries are relatively common in motorcycle racing - at Qatar, the list of riders recovering from post-season shoulder surgery was alarmingly long - as being thrown from a moving motorcycle at speed almost invariably causes some kind of damage to shoulders, arms and hands. Add to this the fact that the shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body, and certainly the one with the largest range of motion, and you begin to understand just how big an effect a shoulder injury can have.

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2011 MotoGP Qatar - Race Day Notes And Queries

The night race at Qatar produces a strange rhythm for the riders and teams, but it hits the media heaviest. The press are often here till 4am or later, filing stories ready for the next day's papers or to hit the web. Sunday night is the worst, as early morning flights leave you rushing to get things done before heading out to the airport.

So with my 8am flight just a couple of hours away, no time for a full round up of the day's events. Instead, the big things I noticed after this evening.

First and foremost, we got ourselves more of a race than we bargained for. We all expected the Repsols to battle over victory, we all expected Casey Stoner to come out on top of that scrap. What we did not expect is for Jorge Lorenzo to keep Stoner and Pedrosa in sight throughout the race, eventually beating Pedrosa and having a hint of a chance of catching Stoner. Lorenzo celebrated his 2nd place like a victory, and given the right royal kicking the Hondas had been handing out earlier to all and sundry, running with the Repsols is a real achievement. Once we get to tracks with less emphasis on speed and getting drive out of corners, Lorenzo looks capable of mixing it up with Stoner and Pedrosa.

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