Analysis

2011 Silverstone World Superbike Sunday Round Up: On Championship Contenders, A Single Bike Rule, And Equalizing Twins Vs Fours

It's on days like these that championships are won. In both the World Superbike and World Supersport classes, the championship leaders came in with differing expectations, met with wildly different experiences through practice, yet both Carlos Checa and Chaz Davies leave Silverstone with their lead nicely consolidated and comfortably in charge of their own destinies. They confronted the circumstances that crossed their paths and turned them to their advantage.

In the World Superbike class, Silverstone was supposed to be a tough track for Ducati. A couple of high-speed straights would favor the four-cylinders - especially Aprilia's brutally powerful RSV4 - leaving the Ducatis with too much work to do in the twisty sections to be able to match the fours. The best that Carlos Checa could hope for at the UK round was to limit the damage in both races and see what remained of his lead when he left here for the next round.

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2011 Silverstone World Superbike Saturday Round Up: Wasn't This Supposed To Be A Bad Track For Ducati?

Things haven't quite turned out as expected at Silverstone. Going into the weekend, everyone - fans, pundits and the Ducati teams themselves - were downplaying the chances of the Ducatis at Silverstone, with its fast layout and high-speed straights, and estimating how many points that championship leader might be forced to concede to the faster four cylinder bikes of Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri. But if anything, it has turned out to be the opposite, with Ducatis at or near the top in both the World Superbike and the Superstock 1000 classes. Indeed, so strong have the Ducatis been in Superstock that they sit in the front three places of the grid for tomorrow's race, Danilo Petrucci taking pole ahead of Davide Giugliano and Niccolo Canepa.

Pole was not on the cards in the World Superbike class for a Ducati rider - that honor falls to an outstanding John Hopkins, entered as a wildcard on board a Samsung Crescent Suzuki GSX-R 1000 - but with Checa on the end of the front row and Effenbert's Sylvain Guintoli at the head of the second row, they are well-placed to be competitive at Silverstone. Checa's race pace is punishing, especially when the track is a little cooler as it is expected to be on Sunday.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Sunday Round Up - That's Racing

The race at Laguna Seca underlines the lessons from the last race at the Sachsenring. There are currently three riders in this championship who are head and shoulders above the rest (there should be four, but the fourth one is currently handicapped by his machinery, more of which later), with virtually nothing to choose between them. Minor setup tweaks and injuries make the difference between first and third place, and the racing has been pretty good because of it.

The Sachsenring was a genuine thriller, which Laguna Seca would have had a hard time living up to, but it still threw up a pretty interesting race. Spectacular? Perhaps not, but tense, close, and balanced on a knife edge until five laps from the end. The final gaps between Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were huge, but less than a second had covered the threesome for the first half of the race, and the gap between Stoner and Lorenzo only grew once Stoner got past the Spaniard.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Saturday Round Up - An Untouchable Lorenzo, And The Perils Of Electronics?

After qualifying at Laguna Seca, there should be few doubts left over who is the favorite for the race on Sunday. Jorge Lorenzo left pit lane and proceeded to put down such a scorching pace - a 1'21.9 on just his second full lap - that left the rest breathless and unable to match him. Lorenzo then blasted out a huge string of high 1'21s - race pace, according to Ben Spies - before pitting and going on to set pole. As Spies put it to reporters, "Everybody's scratching their heads over Jorge's race pace. Casey got down there for one lap, but Jorge did five of those in a row."

Even Casey Stoner had to admit that his fast lap was a "one lap wonder" made by pushing the bike to the limit in an attempt to secure pole. He felt he even had a legitimate shot at pole, but had made a mistake at the final corner, running wide and getting poor drive on the exit. But even starting from pole, Stoner would have been up against it. He and his team have been struggling with front-end feel and drive out of the corners all weekend, and consistently two to three tenths off the pace, the Australian said in the press conference. They had tried a whole host of things to try to fix the problem, but a real solution remained elusive. Stoner still had hope, however: miracles can still happen overnight, and if they can find something in morning warm up, the Repsol Honda man might be able to either stay with Lorenzo, or at least get ahead of the Yamaha rider and try and disrupt his race.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Friday Round Up - A Fast Yamaha, And Two Slow Ducatis

Friday brought typical Monterrey Peninsula weather to Laguna Seca: cool and overcast in the morning, with temperatures rising and the sun out in the afternoon, but surprisingly, the times did not really tumble during the second session of practice. The difference between the fastest time in each of the two sessions was just a quarter of a second, despite a much warmer track.

Jorge Lorenzo was fastest in the afternoon, but more impressive than his best time was the string of fast laps he reeled off: 7 laps in 1'22.2 or better, and a lot better race pace than either Dani Pedrosa or Casey Stoner, despite the two Hondas being just over a tenth off Lorenzo's best lap. Lorenzo was, unsurprisingly, rather happy, though he claimed that there were improvements to be made with the front end, which is a worrying prospect for the competition.

Things are less happy over at Honda, with Stoner is once again struggling with grip. The hotter it gets, the less the grip, and as Stoner is one of the riders who likes the hardest tire he can get, he is having more problems than he would like with the softer mixture of tires that Bridgestone have brought. Last year's soft option is this year's hard tire, and this year's soft tire is another step softer, and Stoner is suffering because of it. Despite some pretty big changes, Stoner is still not competely comfortable with the bike.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Thursday Round Up - Signs Of Progress On Motegi

After a quick hop across the Atlantic Ocean and the North American continent, the MotoGP paddock - alone, the Moto2 and 125cc classes remain at home for reasons of cost and paddock space - has reassembled at the Laguna Seca circuit for the final race before an all-too-brief break for the summer. A long transatlantic flight just a couple of days after the German MotoGP round at the Sachsenring leaves much of the paddock dazed and confused, with some complaining of jetlag while some of the European journalists complain of the difficulties they face making their newspaper deadlines due to the nine-hour time difference between the US Pacific coast and Europe.

The riders, though, seem fit and well, the fact that they are flying westward rather than eastward working to their advantage, and all of them looking forward to riding Laguna, despite it being a horribly tight and twisty circuit unsuited to a 240hp MotoGP machine. Last weekend's winner, Dani Pedrosa, has won at Laguna and arrives with his confidence up, despite still lacking strength in his right shoulder after the surgery to plate his collarbone broken at Le Mans. Like the Sachsenring last weekend, Laguna is mostly left handers, sparing his right side, but the race in Germany took a lot out of the Spaniard. Pedrosa is on a roll, but the question is how well his shoulder holds up.

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Motegi MotoGP: Radiation Doses Explained

One of the things that has come up again and again when discussing whether or not the MotoGP race should go ahead at Motegi is the levels of radiation that riders, teams, journalists and fans might potentially be exposed to, and the related dangers such exposure might bring. As radiation is one of the most poorly understood - by the general public, at least - of risks that humans are exposed to, it is helpful to visualize such exposure in some other way than with raw numbers alone.

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the severe damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant, the extremely entertaining science and computer cartoon blog XKCD produced a handy chart illustrating the exposure produced by a range of activities. Here's the chart (click on the chart for a full-size, easy to read version):

Radiation Dose Charge from xckd.com

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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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