The FIM today announced the provisional dates for the 2012 MotoGP schedule. The season kicks off in Qatar on April 15th, with a fortnightly schedule of races until Assen, when the Dutch, German and Italian rounds take place on consecutive weekends. The series then heads across the Atlantic for two US rounds at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, before returning to Europe for three more races. A triple-header in Asia and Australia follows, before the season wraps up at the traditional final round at Valencia on November 11th.
As MotoGP heads into the final stretch of the season, with just over a third of the races left to go, it's time to have another look at the engine situation in MotoGP. With each rider now well into their allocation of 6 engines to last the season, the trends are becoming clear. So who is in trouble, who has engines to spare and which manufacturer has done the best job of producing an engine that works. Below is a run down of each factory, subdivided by team and rider.
As expected, Honda's RC212V engine is virtually bulletproof, especially in its factory configuration. The four full-fat factory Hondas on the grid (Marco Simoncelli is also riding a factory Honda RC212V, along with the three Repsol men) have seen 3 motors withdrawn (for an explanation of the terms used, see the legend at the bottom of the page) between them, and all of those engines had around 30 sessions on them and at least 4 races. The satellite spec RC212Vs of Hiroshi Aoyama and Toni Elias have not stood up quite so well, though Elias has also had to share his engine allocation with Ben Bostrom during the US round at Laguna Seca.
With seven races of the season gone, we can start to draw some conclusions from the engine allocation lists provided by the teams so far. Below is a factory-by-factory rundown of the engine situation, together with a table of the engine usage so far.
The story of Ducati's engines is a tale in two parts: the present, represented by the satellite machines; and the future, represented by the factory riders of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi.
The engine usage of the satellite teams shows that Ducati learned its lessons from last year and are producing pretty solid satellite engines. All of the satellite riders are just about right on schedule, with all of them having taken 3 engines each, and all 3 of those engines active. The only question mark hangs over Hector Barbera's #1 engine, which has 31 sessions on it and has not seen action since Silverstone.
The weight controversy rumbles on in MotoGP, with the taller and heavier riders - most notably Marco Simoncelli - complaining about the unfair advantages that lighter riders have. Our earlier analysis suggested that if such an advantage did exist, it was hard to see it in the results the riders had obtained, despite the intuitively obvious advantage that lighter weight would appear to convey. That in itself suggested that any advantages that a smaller, lighter rider may have are offset by the disadvantages, and so at Estoril, we went in search of answers.
The obvious place to start when looking for answers as to whether lighter riders have an advantage or a disadvantage is the crew chief of the lightest rider on the grid, Mike Leitner of the Repsol Honda team, chief mechanic to Dani Pedrosa. We spent fifteen minutes at Estoril questioning him about the reality behind being a lighter rider in MotoGP, and his answers were very enlightening. Here's what Leitner had to say.
MotoMatters: There's been a lot of talk recently about rider weight and the advantages that lighter riders, with Marco Simoncelli complaining that Dani has an advantage in acceleration because he is lighter. Do you think that lighter riders have an advantage?
Mike Leitner: I think we should start by speaking generally. I think in MotoGP we are looking mainly for traction. I think that one big issue for bikes with 250 horsepower is to put the power on the ground. So for me, I would wish Dani is 15 cm taller and I would wish he is 10 kilos heavier!
There was clearly something very nasty in the water at Estoril. For almost as soon as the riders rolled into the paddock in Portugal, the atmosphere soured badly, with verbal sparring matches breaking out between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, and Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli. Rossi and Stoner clashed over the crash at Jerez, when the Italian accidentally took out the Honda man in a crash at turn 1. Lorenzo and Simoncelli, in turn, clashed over Lorenzo's accusations that Simoncelli was a dangerous rider, a claim refuted by the Gresini Honda rider.
The Repsol Media Service released an interview with Dani Pedrosa today after his victory at Estoril:
DANI PEDROSA INTERVIEW
Press releases from Repsol and Marc VDS on their Moto2 test, including an update on the test of the Suter Racing CRT machine:
Moto2 - Estoril Test. 1st day
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.
The last press releases to emerge after the race weekend and MotoGP test at Estoril:
FTR MOTO2 CHAMPIONSHIP CHALLENGE CONTINUES IN PORTUGAL
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.