2012 Phillip Island MotoGP Saturday Round Up - Unstoppable Stoner, Honda's Magic Gearbox, And A Dark Horse
Two championships could be settled at Phillip Island on Sunday. Marc Marquez looks certain to wrap up the 2012 Moto2 title in Australia, as the Catalunya Caixa rider needs just 2 points to put the title out of reach of Pol Espargaro. Marquez' chances of wrapping up the Moto2 title with a win look slim, though. Pol Espargaro has been in a class of his own at Phillip Island, his love for the circuit showing through in the way he has been riding. The only man to get near to Espargaro all weekend has been Scott Redding, Phillip Island one place where Redding's size is less of a handicap. With few places where hard acceleration from low speed is required, Redding can rely on his natural speed to get around the track. Despite still being the youngest rider ever to win a Grand Prix - a title he is likely to hold in perpetuity, since the minimum age went up to 16 - Redding is still winless in Moto2. If he can follow the pace of Espargaro, Phillip Island could well provide him with a real shot at his first win.
The MotoGP title may not be settled in Australia, though. Jorge Lorenzo leads Dani Pedrosa by 23 points, and just needs to finish ahead of the Honda man to wrap up the championship at Phillip Island. The odds of that happening looked much better on Saturday, Lorenzo taking 2nd spot in both the morning's free practice and qualifying in the afternoon, finishing ahead of Pedrosa in both sessions. But Lorenzo's may yet have to leave the box of championship t-shirts in the flight cases, as a closer look at the race pace between Lorenzo and Pedrosa gives the advantage to the Honda man. Lorenzo is lapping consistently in the high 1'30s and low 1'31s, but Pedrosa has been reeling off strings of high 1'30s in race trim.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the qualifying on Saturday at Phillip Island:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Phillip Island:
2012 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Confidence, Control, The Half A Second Between The Rider's Ears, And A Minimum Wage
When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 - now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor - he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit. Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. "I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!" Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1'29s (just, his fastest lap being 1'29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1'30s.
Confidence. That's Stoner's secret. And it's the secret of another Australian, a rider almost surprised to find himself at the front of the Moto2 class, Ant West having bagged the 3rd fastest time on the first day of his home Grand Prix. The podium at Sepang had kicked him into gear, West admitted, pointing out the importance of confidence to results. "I must have woke myself up!" West joked. "This class is all about having good confidence, because from 1st to 20th, everyone's fast. I just feel confident, and it makes everything so much easier. Today I feel good, and the bike's working really well." West's success was more than just an overnight transformation, West insisted. Things had slowly been improving since the QMMF team switched from the Moriwaki to the Speed Up chassis, West now able to close the gap the front. "We've been building up the last few races getting better and better, and I'm happy today. It just seem to be going well, even went out the first part of this session on old tires and still had quite a decent time."
Below is the press release issued by the CPPIB on their acquisition of a 39% stake in Dorna, reproduced with kind permission:
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to Acquire Interest in Dorna Sports S.L.
Toronto, Canada (October 26, 2012): Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) announced today that it has signed an agreement to invest in Dorna Sports S.L. (Dorna) following the sports management company’s recent acquisition of the FIM World Superbikes Championship. CPPIB will acquire a 39% stake in the enlarged group alongside current shareholders, Bridgepoint and Dorna management.
Dorna holds the global rights until 2036 to organize the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, known as MotoGP, the world’s most prestigious motorcycle racing series. Dorna recently expanded its group following the acquisition of the FIM World Superbikes (SBK) Championship which, together, represent the two pre-eminent motorcycle racing series in the world.
“This is a unique opportunity to invest in a leading international sports management business,” said André Bourbonnais, Senior Vice-President, Private Investments, CPPIB. “Dorna’s experienced management team has demonstrated a remarkable ability to deliver consistent and strong performance.”
Bridgepoint Capital, the private equity firm which owns Dorna and Infront Sports and Media, has sold a 39% stake in Dorna to a Canadian pension fund, Canadian media are reporting. According to a report from Reuters, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board reportedly paid 400 million euros for the 39% stake in Dorna, and will join Bridgepoint and Dorna's management - in the figure of Carmelo Ezpeleta - in running the company.
The sum paid for the 39% stake gives Bridgepoint a healthy profit. The UK-based private equity firm purchased Dorna from CVC back in 2006, when CVC purchased the rights to Formula One and were forced by the European Competition Commission to sell the rights to the MotoGP series first. Bridgepoint is said to have paid some GBP 400 million (about 550 million euros) for the 71% stake held by CVC when they took over the company.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
Toni Elias will be back in Moto2 in 2013. The 2010 Moto2 champion signed a contract to race for the Blusens Avintia team next season, and will contest the championship on board a Kalex chassis.
The switch of chassis was a prerequisite for Elias to sign with a team: Elias left the Aspar squad following the Mugello round of Moto2, after Aspar was not able to persuade Kalex to supply them with an additional chassis. Since his return to Moto2 with the Italtrans team - currently racing with a Kalex chassis - the Spaniard's performance has drastically improved, with Elias fighting for a top five finish at Motegi before crashing out in the later laps.
The switch to the Kalex is the team's second chassis change in less than 12 months. The team started out the season on an FTR, but the team ditched the British-made chassis at the request of current rider Julian Simon. Avintia switched to the Suter chassis, the bike which Simon was already familiar with from his time with Aspar, but that change made no difference to Simon's results. By switching to a Kalex, Avintia hope that Elias will be competitive in 2013.
Pol Espargaro has made clear his intention not to give up on the 2012 Moto2 title without a fight, the HP Pons Tuenti rider dominating the second session of free practice for the class at Phillip Island just as he had the first. Espargaro ended FP2 over nine tenths faster than than 2nd place man Tom Luthi, in a session that was prematurely cut short by rain with under 20 minutes to go. Ant West has finally found his feet after his podium at Sepang, the Australian taking 3rd spot just behind Luthi, and the last man to get within a second of Espargaro. Championship favorite Marc Marquez ended FP2 in 4th, but at least being able to put in some laps after a problem with a spark plug had prevented him from setting a time in the morning, while Andrea Iannone picked up the pace to end the sessoin in 5th, one thousandth of a second ahead of Randy Krummenacher, the Swiss rider freshly returned from injury. The field behind Marquez is very tight: there are 12 men within a second of Marquez, with just fractions separating the group.
Pol Espargaro ended the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class dominating the timesheets, the HP Pons Tuenti rider lapping over half a second quicker than Scott Redding in 2nd. Thomas Luthi provided the filling in a Marc VDS sandwich in 3rd, the Interwetten man fractionally slower than Redding and under a tenth quicker than Redding's teammate Mika Kallio in 4th, while Mike di Meglio had his best session since switching to the Kiefer Racing team, grabbing 5th spot. Ant West secured 6th, buoyed no doubt by his 2nd place finish at Sepang.
Marc Marquez needs just 2 points to secure the 2012 Moto2 World Championship, but he got his weekend off to a very difficult start. The young Spaniard could not manage to post a time, struggling with a bike problem that was eventually traced to an electrical connector. He did not post a time during the session.
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island:
The Grand Prix Circus came to Sepang with three titles in the balance. Only one of them got wrapped up on Sunday, though, tropical rainstorms throwing a spanner into the works of the other two, but generating some fascinating racing. The fans had one fantastic dry race, one fantastic wet race, and a processional MotoGP race that looked much the same as it would have had it been dry. There was a packed house - over 77,000 people crowded into the circuit, a highly respectable number for a flyaway round - cheering on local heroes, there was confusion over the rules, and there were a lot of new faces on the podium. There was also a much better balance of nationalities on the podium: where in previous races, the Spanish national anthem has been played three times on a Sunday, at Sepang, it was only heard once. Most of all, though, the Moto2 and MotoGP races ran in the wet would be determined by the timing of the red flags, with Race Direction's decisions on safety also having an outcome on the results of the races, and in the case of MotoGP, possibly implications for the championship.
After Maverick Viñales' shock decision to quit his team, it got a lot easier for Sandro Cortese to wrap up the Moto3 title at Sepang, needing only to keep a watchful eye on Luis Salom during the race and not finish behind him. Salom had made Cortese's task even easier a week previously, by launching an ill-considered dive up the inside of Jonas Folger at the start of the last lap at Motegi, incurring a penalty which dropped him five grid positions at the start. Cortese started from the front row, while Salom had his work cut out, starting from way back in 10th. Cortese could more or less cruise home at Sepang and secure the title.