Analysis

2011 Estoril Moto2 And 125 Round Up - On Too Little Talent, And Too Much Talent

Unsurprisingly, most of the attention this weekend went to the intrigues and infighting which characterized the MotoGP class. But while all eyes were on MotoGP, there were a couple of support races going on, and there was plenty to talk about in those classes as well.

The least interesting, or rather, the least surprising, was Nico Terol's crushing victory in the 125cc class, the Bankia Aspar rider's third win in a row in the third race of the season. To say that Terol is dominating the season would be like suggesting that Osama bin Laden was not generally regarded as having liberal views on religious tolerance. The Spaniard has rarely been off the top of the timesheets this year, commonly topping practice by as much as a second. The races have been even more blatantly unbalanced, Terol usually backing off with a comfortable lead after just one-third distance.

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2011 Estoril Post-Race MotoGP Test Roundup - On Hindsight, Updates And Insults

Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20, and MotoGP tests following a race usually tend to bear this out. Teams suddenly find the time to try the setup changes they had figured out over the weekend but never quite got round to making to the bike to use in the race.

A case in point was Cal Crutchlow, who had had a moderately successful race on Sunday, coming home on Sunday. Crutchlow himself was far from pleased, however; the team were using a 15mm shorter wheelbase on Crutchlow's M1 than on any of the other Yamahas, intending to try a longer wheelbase during warmup on Sunday. The wet track on Sunday morning put a stop to this, so when Crutchlow got a chance to try the bike on Monday with the longer wheelbase, the fact that he rocketed to the sharp end of the timesheets confirmed two things: One, that the revised setup was working; and two, that Crutchlow could be troubling the front group sooner rather than later. Crutchlow's times on Monday were downright impressive, now all he has to do is ensure the team get the setup right on Sunday, and not on the day after at the test.

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2011 Estoril MotoGP Sunday Round Up - Racing Relieves The Parts Other Activities Just Can't Reach

We're finally racing again, and the deafening roar of the MotoGP bikes has silenced the whining that has been emanating from the paddock over the past few days, at least for the moment. Instead of sniping about who had said what about whom, there was an actual contest at Estoril. Even the weather didn't intervene, at least, not once the warmup was finished.

The race was hardly a thriller - the electronics necessitated by the combination of highly-strung 800cc engines and meager 21 liters of fuel have been fatal to racing excitement, for the most part - but it was certainly a fascinating intellectual exercise, and there was much to be learned from Portuguese Grand Prix. The trouble is, of course, that those lessons are most rewarding to the committed student of the sport, the sterile racing now rather too esoteric for the casual fan.

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2011 Estoril MotoGP Saturday Round Up - We Need A Race, Already

Four weeks between races this early in the season is clearly far too long. Since arriving at Estoril, the various members of the paddock have been behaving like sailors on shore leave, getting drunk, chasing women and picking fights with everyone in their vicinity. Well, the getting drunk and chasing women part I made up, but the mood in the paddock is deeply pugnacious, as witnessed by the verbal scraps breaking out everywhere.

On Friday, we had round one of Valentino Rossi in the red corner vs Casey Stoner in the blue corner, with Jorge Lorenzo throwing in some trash talking of Marco Simoncelli as he prepared to face off with the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider. Saturday saw Rossi vs Stoner briefly revisited, while Lorenzo and Simoncelli erupted into a full-scale verbal conflict during the post-qualifying press conference.

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2011 Estoril MotoGP Friday Roundup: Of Insults, Shoulders, And Thunderstorms

"It's like kindergarten." That was how one journalist described the spate of complaints, insults and snide comments that filled the rider debriefs after the first day of free practice at Estoril. Casey Stoner accused Valentino Rossi of following him, then went on to talk again about Rossi's mistake at Jerez; Rossi launched a diatribe against Stoner, accusing him of saying a lot of things which were untrue about his move to Ducati; and then Jorge Lorenzo joined in the fun by attacking Marco Simoncelli, complaining that the Italian was a liability and a danger to others.

Apparently there were some bikes on track too, but in the interests of getting the fluff out of the way first, we'll walk through another day of WWE-style trash talk and petty bickering.

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2011 Estoril MotoGP Thursday Roundup - Of Injuries, Incidents And Electronics

After a month's enforced rest, the MotoGP paddock has reassembled once again at Estoril, and at the press conference, the assembled riders - with one exception - looked as if they hadn't missed the media attention one single bit. The exception was Alvaro Bautista, the Rizla Suzuki rider barely able to believe his luck being back and with a chance of riding, just 41 days after breaking his femur in a horrific practice crash at Qatar.

Bautista positively beamed, speaking enthusiastically about the chance to start riding again, though still only cautiously optimistic he would be able to ride properly, the fracture still a little painful and without full motion in his leg. However, anyone who has followed Bautista's recovery process - driving to Madrid almost every day from his home in Talavera to spend time in a hyperbaric chamber. Sitting still is the one thing that motorcycle racers are not very good at, so spending a couple of hours doing nothing while getting a headache from too much oxygen is just about the worst thing you can do to a rider.

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The Troubles With Fuel Limits, Part 1: The Perfect Storm at Estoril, 2010

(This is the first installment in a, as yet undetermined-length, series examining the available data for the 800cc era MotoGP seasons to date: 2007-2010. )

New Rules in 2010, The Storm's Pre-cursors:

As the 2009 MotoGP season came to a close, the prelude to the longer-life engine rules had been put into place. The teams came to Valencia with 2010-specification engines for the post-race test. Each team, essentially, began with the same premise to make their 6 allotted engines last the entire season: cut RPM. As a consequence of the introduction of the 21-liter fuel limit in 2007, all of the teams struggled with methods for maximizing power and control under braking while limiting consumption. A de facto rev-limit would serve, in a small way, to bring a little more fuel into usable powerbands. However, Ducati arrived with a parallel strategy; an uneven-firing "long bang" motor. Both of their riders strongly preferred the feel and power delivery of this engine, so it became the center of development plans for the 2010 season.

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2011 WSBK Assen Sunday Roundup - Of Heartstopping Spectacle, And Champions

Assen always provides spectacle, whatever the classes are racing here, but today, there was perhaps a little too much of a good thing. The World Supersport race saw two horrific-looking crashes, and required two restarts before the race finally got done. The crashes were truly gut-wrenching, the kind of incident that makes you fear another Shoya Tomizawa or Craig Jones, but amazingly, everyone came away relatively unscathed.

The first crash was doubly disconcerting, involving Sam Lowes of the Parkalgar Honda team. It was the same team that Craig Jones was riding for when he died in a crash at Brands Hatch. The Parkalgar team boss Simon Buckmaster has an uncanny ability to spot young talent, Lowes just the latest in a line of promising riders, and seeing Lowes tumbling end-over-end through the gravel after an inexplicable highside was a sickening sight.

But medics responded immediately and effectively, and Lowes was quickly conscious again. The young Englishman suffered a concussion and a broken collarbone, and the whole paddock breathed a collective sigh of relief when World Superbike press officer Julian Thomas passed on the news that Lowes was OK.

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2011 WSBK Assen Saturday Roundup - A Man In Control

After Friday practice at Assen, and even after the morning session, having a Ducati on pole seemed like a pretty safe bet. After all, Jakub Smrz had ended every session before Superpole in either first or second. The Effenbert Liberty rider looked just about unstoppable at Assen, but once the dust settled after Superpole it was a different Ducati on pole, the Althea machine of Carlos Checa.

That can hardly come as a surprise: Checa has started from pole for every World Superbike race of the year so far, so extending his reign to Assen should come as no surprise at all. Checa was clinical in his approach, scraping through Superpole 1 on a race tire, before dropping the hammer in Superpole 2 and 3. He secured pole on just his second flying lap in the final session, and returned to the pits to rest on his laurels. Nobody had the measure of the Spaniard.

Smrz still managed to bag 2nd spot on the grid, but the Effenbert Liberty rider was disappointed not to have taken pole. The team lost their collective nerve during SP1, with Smrz languishing dangerously close to the cutoff point, and so they stuck in one of the two qualifying tires each rider has for the three Superpole sessions and ensured their progression to Superpole 2. The penalty for that gamble left Smrz without a qualifier for the final session, but the softer race tire was still good enough for 2nd.

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2011 WSBK Assen Friday Round Up: Youth Assault On Assen

Just going by the timesheets from the first day of the Assen World Superbike weekend, the situation looks pretty clear-cut. Jakub Smrz was fastest during the first qualifying session on the Effenbert Liberty Ducati, finishing a couple of tenths ahead of Alitalia Aprilia's Max Biaggi, Yamaha's Marco Melandri and Alstare Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio.

During the session, however, qualifying felt anything but clear cut. The last 10 minutes felt like a full-on dash for pole, with top spot swapping hands several times before Smrz settled the pole race in his favor. It was a curious case of leapfrogging: first, the BMW pair of Corser and Haslam led; then they were overtaken by the Yamaha duo of Melandri and Laverty; and in the final moments, Smrz leapt to the forefront, with Max Biaggi, Michel Fabrizio and Tom Sykes following in his wake.

The strangeness of the session was probably down to the conditions: The day was a typical Dutch spring afternoon: a stiff breeze, sunshine interspersed with clouds, and decidedly moderate temperatures. The clouds passing over kept the track temperature down, but the disappearance of the clouds towards the end of the session warmed the track and saw the times start to tumble. In the end, Smrz' time was very respectable, a 36 flat being faster than the race lap record, but a little over a second off Johnny Rea's pole record from last year.

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