Ever since the introduction of the six-engine rule in MotoGP, keen MotoGP watchers have been wondering when the engine limits might bite. After FP1 at Misano, the 12th round of MotoGP, the answer seems to be about now.
A host of riders were left pulling old motors off the shelf to use to work on their race setup. Six riders went out on their #1 engine, which first saw action back in Qatar, while two more took out their #2 engines. Even the newer engines being used had racked up the miles. Both Mika Kallio and Casey Stoner took out engines for their 32nd sessions, Marco Melandri put the 30th session on his #2 engine, Aleix Espargaro's Ducati Desmosdici engine saw its 28th session, while the Suzuki of Loris Capirossi and the Honda of Andrea Dovizioso saw action for the 27th time.
Kings of the high mileage were Ducati. Four of the five Ducati riders went out on old engines, Stoner, Kallio and Espargaro taking the oldest engines, while Hector Barbera's engine had been used relatively lightly, with just 23 sessions under its belt.
Alex de Angelis has made a very strong return to the Moto2 class after his brief and less successful sojourn in MotoGP. De Angelis topped the first session of free practice on the JIR Motobi machine, beating out a bevy of Suters headed by Mapfre Aspar's Julian Simon. Technomag CIP's Shoya Tomizawa was 3rd fastest, while Forward racing's Claudio Corti ended the day in 4th. Current championship leader Toni Elias - sporting San Carlo colors for the Gresini team's home race - ended the session in 6th, ahead of another man switching rides, ahead of Mattia Pasini on the Italtrans Suter bike.
Dani Pedrosa's outstanding form continues, the Spaniard crossing the Atlantic after winning in Indianapolis, then setting the fastest time in the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Misano. Pedrosa's advantage was sizable, the Repsol Honda rider besting his teammate Andrea Dovizioso by over six tenths of a second. Jorge Lorenzo looked like getting close to Pedrosa's time, but once Pedrosa upped the pace to drop into the 1'34 bracket, Lorenzo could not follow, ending the session in 3rd behind the Repsol Honda pair.
Lorenzo headed up a gaggle of Yamahas, finishing ahead of Fiat Yamaha teammate Rossi by just under a tenth of a second, and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha pairing of Colin Edwards and Ben Spies. Another pair of teammates finished in 7th and 8th, Nicky Hayden ending ahead of a deflated Casey Stoner, who told the press yesterday that he simply could not get any more out of the current version of the Ducati.
Nico Terol has brought his outstanding form back across the Atlantic with him, topping the timesheets in the first session of free practice at Misano for the 125cc class. The Bancaja Aspar rider had a quarter of a second advantage over Marc Marquez, who lost a big chunk of his championship lead in Indianapolis, and needs to regain the momentum. Marquez finished ahead of the Tuenti Derbi pairing of Pol Espargaro and Efren Vazquez, the latter suffering a mechanical problem towards the end of the session.
As if the Moto2 grid wasn't confusing enough already, the Misano round for the 40-strong Moto2 class features a host of replacement riders and wildcards. Making things even worse, some of the replacements and wildcards are riders who have left one team and gone on to ride for another. Here's a rundown of the Misano Moto2 Musical Chairs:
First of all, the absentees: Aeroport de Castello's Alex Debon is out after fracturing his collarbone yet again, the 4th time in 10 months, after falling at Indianapolis. HolidayGym's Fonsi Nieto is also missing, having cracked his heelbone in the Indy Moto2 mayhem. Nieto has been extraordinarily unlucky: not only did he fracture bones in his foot, but the Spaniard had problems during surgery on his foot which saw him suffer a respiratory arrest as a result of the anesthetics being used. So serious was the situation that Nieto was even in danger of having his foot amputated because of the complications.
Toni Elias' Gresini teammate Vladimir Ivanov is also absent due to injury, as is JIR Moto2's Yusuke Teshima - himself a replacement for Mattia Pasini, who left after a dispute over finances - and Arne Tode of Team Germany, both of whom picked up (further) injuries at Indy.
The paddock's response to the leniency of the punishment for Toni Elias and the Gresini Moto2 team has been one of puzzlement. After all, for testing during the summer break, a period during which all testing is prohibited, Elias was only punished by being excluded from a single session, and the team handed a 3000 euro fine. That, some said, was a pretty good price to pay: an affordable fine and the loss of 20 laps on a crowded track against some 90 uninterrupted laps on an empty circuit. Such a light penalty might set a precedent, and speculation has been rife that others could follow in Gresini's footsteps.
One of the first names to be suggested as likely to benefit from extra testing was the Rizla Suzuki squad of Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista. The Suzuki GSV-R is suffering from a serious lack of development this year, and could really benefit from extra testing time. Suzuki team boss Paul Denning has previously been rumored to be considering extra testing, and so MotoMatters.com caught up with the Suzuki boss to get his opinion of the punishment for Elias.
Moto2 championship leader Toni Elias' weekend at Brno has gotten off to a rather poor start. The Gresini Moto2 rider has been punished for testing the Moriwaki Moto2 bike at Misano last weekend. Race Direction has ruled that the test was against the rules - as it was a private test at a circuit on the calendar during the official summer break - and has handed the team a 3000 euro fine, and banned the Spaniard from taking part in Friday's first session of free practice at Brno.
The Gresini team did not lodge an appeal, accepting full responsibility for a clear error of judgement. The team had not read the rules carefully enough, and had not thought about the possible ramifications of the test. With Elias sitting on a comfortable 42-point lead over 2nd place man Thomas Luthi, Elias will be happy to accept just a fine and being forced to miss a single session of practice.
After Valentino Rossi completed 26 laps of Misano on Wednesday afternoon, to test his fitness after crashing heavily and breaking a tibia at Mugello just over a month ago, the Fiat Yamaha team issued the long-awaited press release reporting the results of that test. Rossi's times were relatively encouraging: a 1'38.2 (though the Italian press is reporting it was a 1'39.3) is not too far off of competitive World Superbike pace. Cal Crutchlow's lap record at Misano - set on exactly the same Yamaha YZF-R1, though with Bridgestone tires rather than Pirellis - was 1'36.546, while the MotoGP lap record, held by Rossi himself, is 1'34.746.
What is clear from the press release is that Rossi feels he is close to the pace, but is still uncertain as to how his leg will hold up under race conditions. What is also clear is that the Italian is utterly determined to race if at all possible. Here's the press release from the Fiat Yamaha team:
VALENTINO ROSSI COMPLETES TEST AT MISANO
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi today rode a motorcycle for the first time since breaking his right leg at Mugello on 5th June. He rode a total of 26 laps at Misano on a YZF-R1 WSB machine, provided by the Yamaha World Superbike Team, and recorded a best time of 1'38.200.
Valentino Rossi today completed 24 laps of the Misano Adriatico track today, in a test to evaluate how well the Italian has recovered from the broken tibia he suffered at Mugello a month ago. Rossi tested at the track aboard a World Superbike spec Yamaha YZF-R1, using the bike to evaluate his strength and his fitness.
While the world awaits the official word on whether Rossi has decided to race at the Sachsenring or wait until Brno, as originally scheduled, Rossi's team boss Davide Brivio has been keeping the world abreast of developments via his Twitter page. The final post by Brivio from the Misano track was generally positive, but gave no real hint of a decision, stating "Finished test.. 10 + 14 laps. Vale made a good job. Still some pain and now he knows more how to get better... Lap time was not so bad too!"
It would seem that Rossi's spells in a hyperbaric chamber have vastly accelerated the healing of his broken leg, but a decision to return could depend on more than just the condition of his tibia. The Italian is still struggling with a shoulder injury he suffered during motocross training, and Rossi's broken leg interfered with the rehabilitation work going on on his shoulder.
It is a truism that riders want to ride, regardless of whether it is a wise decision or not. The latest victim of this compulsion is none other than Valentino Rossi, who, according to various reports in the Italian media, is considering returning to racing as early as the Sachsenring, on July 18th. The Fiat Yamaha rider suffered a complex fracture of his right tibia in a vicious highside during practice at Mugello, and initial reports indicated Rossi could be out for three to four months.
However, surgery to insert a pin in his tibia was successful, with no signs of infection, and the official word from Yamaha was that the seven-times MotoGP champion was aiming to make his return at Brno on August 15th. This would allow Rossi to compete in the second half of the championship, with nine races left to find his racing form again.
That does not appear to be early enough for the Italian, though. Rumors surfaced at Barcelona that Rossi was considering making a return at the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in ten days' time, but were widely discounted as unlikely. More confirmation came earlier this week from Italy that Rossi is serious about racing at the Sachsenring. His recovery from injury is progressing extremely well, helped in no small part by spending time in a hyperbaric chamber to help his broken bones heal more quickly.
The weekend is over, and motorcycle race fans are returning to work, after two days of racing action from Assen and Misano. As ever on a Monday, Infront Motor Sports have posted the highlights from the weekend's World Superbike races on their Youtube channel. So if you have 10 minutes to spare from the start of your working week, then check out all the action from the two WSBK and one WSS race from Misano in the videos below. If you have a little more time - and would like to brush up on your Italian while you are at it - you can watch full videos of WSBK race 1 and WSBK race 2 from Misano posted on the website of Italian TV channel La 7. Nothing adds to the excitement of motorcycle racing like Italian commentary, after all. Here's the highlights:
World Superbike Race 1
Results and summary of race 2 for the World Superbike class at Misano: