Analysis

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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2011 Sachsenring MotoGP Thursday Roundup -

Another MotoGP event, another weekend full of speculation about the weather. The rain clouds that seem to follow the MotoGP circus around since it landed in Europe are hanging over Germany, though opinion among both local experts and the weather professionals is divided as to whether it will actually rain or not. The best guess at the moment is that Friday and Saturday should be dry - Saturday expected to be especially good weather - while several hours of rain are expected on race day. Or not, depending on who you believe.

Regardless of the weather, we could see a decent race on Sunday: the Honda riders are as buoyant as you would expect at a track where Dani Pedrosa has dominated for the past couple of years, while Jorge Lorenzo is convinced that going back to the 2010 chassis - or parts of it - and last year's settings have given him the comfortable feeling that he needs to be competitive. Casey Stoner is as confident as you might expect a championship leader to be - though when asked directly whether he expected to win on Sunday, he would say only that he was "more than capable of running at the front." With a stable front end and the drive to help keep the bike turning around the Sachenring's tight and technical layout, Stoner looks like being the hot favorite here, especially as Pedrosa is still recovering from the aftermath of his crash at Le Mans.

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2011 Brno World Superbike Sunday Round Up - The Title Race Is On

With the Brno round of World Superbikes the 8th out of 13, the lines of both the World Superbike and World Supersport championships are starting to become clear. In WSBK, three men have a realistic shot at the title, while in WSS, the championship leader took a big step towards consolidating his first title. Though it is too early to start handing out trophies, we can already start scrapping a lot of names from the list.

The two World Superbike races turned into a rather pleasing allegory for the current state of the championship fight. The three title rivals were the main protagonists in both races, the Italians Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi taking a race win apiece, while Carlos Checa limited the damage by taking two 3rd place finishes. Despite having given up 13 points to both of his rivals in the title race, Checa came away content: at Biaggi's favorite track, and a circuit where horsepower is crucial - and which the Ducati is crucially lacking - the Althea Ducati man still has a 30 point lead over Biaggi, and a 53 point lead over Melandri. He had been able to stay close to the two Italians in both races, and most importantly, he hadn't suffered the kind of punishment he had at Monza, where he gave away points by the bucketload to his rivals.

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2011 Brno World Superbike Saturday Round Up - The Heat Is On

With Max Biaggi on pole for tomorrow's World Superbike races, normal order has been restored. The Czech circuit is Biaggi's favorite track, and the extra horsepower of the Aprilia RSV4 comes into its own round the fast and hilly circuit - much, much steeper in real life than it looks on the TV - which added to the bike's agility, makes it a formidable package. So coming out on top in Superpole - with a masterful lap at the start of the final session - is exactly what you might expect at Brno.

Prior to Superpole, however, things were not running as expected: Carlos Checa and Jakub Smrz had both topped practice sessions, going fast at a track where the Ducatis are supposed to suffer due to the horsepower deficit the twins have against the fours here. Though the four cylinder bikes were clearly competitive - the Yamahas of Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty have right at the front alongside the Aprilia of Biaggi - it has been the Ducatis which have been most impressive at the flowing Czech circuit.

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