Results and summary of qualifying practice for the MotoGP class at Catalunya:
Casey Stoner continues to lead the MotoGP class at Barcelona, topping the final session of free practice at the circuit, but his outright domination is over. The surprise is that it is the Yamahas which have closed the gap, Jorge Lorenzo getting to within an eighth of a second of the Repsol Honda rider. Marco Simoncelli remains fast, finishing in 3rd, but he has been less successful in closing the gap to Stoner, while Lorenzo's factory Yamaha teammate Ben Spies showed a similar improvement to the Spaniard, taking nearly a second off his deficit to the fastest man Stoner.
Andrea Dovizioso ended the session in 5th spot, ahead of top Ducati Nicky Hayden, who made almost as big an improvement as Spies. Cal Crutchlow put in another outstanding performance to finish in 7th, nearly half a second quicker than Valentino Rossi on the second Marlboro Ducati. Rossi had another crash during the session, losing the front very fast and seemingly without reason in turn 5, but as both Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet crashed there, the corner seemed to have a penchant for collecting Ducatis. Capirossi ended the session in 9th, ahead of Alvaro Bautista on the Rizla Suzuki.
The talking is over, the bikes are on the track, and a collective sigh of relief has risen from the paddock. We're racing again - well, practicing, but racing will come - and the pent up frustrations of 85 testosterone-addled, hypercompetitive, overactive young men have finally found release. That's not to say that there wasn't still plenty of talking going on - there was, mostly about Motegi, more of which later - but for once, we could talk about what was going on on track.
And that was pretty much a repeat of Le Mans, in all three classes. In MotoGP, Casey Stoner topped both sessions, and did so in intimidating fashion. His performance in the afternoon FP2 session was particularly impressive: with the track wet from the light drizzle that blighted the circuit on and off all day long, Stoner waited in the pits, watching what the other riders were doing in the conditions; fitted a set of wet tires to his Honda RC212V, went out on a fast lap and put two seconds on the field on his first complete lap out of the pits, did another lap and then came back in. He then sat waiting until conditions improved and the track dried out, then went out to do a few more laps, beating 2nd place man Marco Simoncelli by half a second, nearly nine tenths on Jorge Lorenzo in 4th, and two seconds on Valentino Rossi back in 7th.
Colin Edwards is to miss the Barcelona round of MotoGP after crashing during the second session of free practice and breaking his collarbone. The Texan crashed on an out lap while the conditions were most treacherous: just as the track was starting to dry, but before it dried completely. Edwards was taken to the medical center, where he was diagnosed with a broken collarbone.
Edwards had the option of having surgery at a general hospital in Barcelona, or being treated by the Spanish surgeon Dr Xavier Mir. Mir is a renowned specialist in Barcelona who has treated several motorcycle racers over the years, most recently performing both surgeries on Dani Pedrosa's broken collarbones. Edwards elected to have Dr Mir plate his collarbone, and is now recuperating in the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona.
With Edwards out, along with Dani Pedrosa, the grid is now down to just 15 riders for Sunday's race. And with Silverstone just 7 days away, that race too is likely to take place with just 15 riders. Replacements for either rider will be hard to find, as the World Superbike series is racing at Misano next weekend as well. Both Edwards and Pedrosa are likely to return at the Dutch round of MotoGP at Assen in three weeks' time.
Below is the Tech 3 press release:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams on Friday after the first day of practice at Barcelona:
Casey Stoner is fastest again in the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Barcelona, improving his time from this morning to lead Marco Simoncelli by half a second. The track started out wet, with times very slow, but the rain stopped shortly after the session started, the track drying out as the session progressed. Stoner had been fastest by some two seconds in the wet, then taking back top spot from Simoncelli on a dry track at the session wound to a close.
Andrea Dovizioso made it a Honda clean sweep of the top 3, with the factory Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies in 4th and 5th, just ahead of Valentino Rossi on the Marlboro Ducati. Cal Crutchlow was the first of the Monster Tech 3 Yamahas in 7th - and the only one who will race, after Colin Edwards broke his right collarbone in a crash - while Simoncelli's San Carlo Gresini teammate Hiroshi Aoyama ended the session in 8th, ahead of Nicky Hayden and Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista.
Edwards' broken collarbone rules him out of the race, meaning that only 15 riders will start on Sunday, with both Edwards and Pedrosa out with broken right collarbones.
Casey Stoner was the fastest out of the box at Barcelona, topping the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class. But the times were nothing to write home about, as cool temperatures and spots of rain made it an essentially meaningless session. The rain came very lightly a couple of times, first about halfway through, and then in the final 10 minutes, basically bringing the session to an early end.
Marco Simoncelli ended the session in 2nd spot - thankfully, there were few signs of much animosity towards the Italian at the track - finishing ahead of the factory Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, with Andrea Dovizioso in 5th. The Monster Tech 3 Yamahas ended in 6th and 7th, Colin Edwards ahead of Cal Crutchlow, while the Marlboro Ducatis ended up in 8th and 9th, Nicly Hayden just a few hundredths faster than Valentino Rossi. Hiroshi Aoyama rounded out the top 10, just two thousandths of a second slower than Rossi.
The final batch of press releases prior to the Catalunya MotoGP round: Karel Abraham previews the weekend, LCR Honda announce a sponsor for the round, and FTR previews the Moto2 weekend:
After all the hue and cry over the past month and a half - starting at Jerez with the crash between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, worsening with the public spat between Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli's about the Italian's 'dangerous' riding style, further deteriorating with Valentino Rossi accusing the latest generation of MotoGP riders of being 'pussies', finding its nadir in the crash between Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa and its subsequent fallout, and culminating in Simoncelli's appearance in front of Race Direction at Catalunya - the pre-event day at the Barcelona round of MotoGP has been remarkably muted. It is as if everyone in the paddock has had a quiet word with the riders and told them to try and take some of the heat out of the situation. And given that Marco Simoncelli has received threats of violence at Barcelona, (though admittedly internet threats, which tend in general to result in nothing at all), that was probably a sensible decision.
The penultimate chapter in the Simoncelli-Pedrosa saga (the closing chapter of which will see Pedrosa return to racing, either at Silverstone or more likely at Assen) has now been written. Marco Simoncelli has met with Race Direction to discuss the events of Le Mans, which saw Simoncelli and Pedrosa crash, injuring the Spaniard and the Italian awarded with a ride-through.
Afterwards, Race Direction issued a statement summarizing the contents of the meeting. Race Direction questioned Simoncelli about his view of the incident, to ensure that he understood the error of his ways, and that he would try to avoid a repeat of the situation. Simoncelli avowed that he had had time to think about the situation, and that he had come to see he had made a mistake, and that his statements directly after the race were a result of his emotions running high after the event. In short, Simoncelli did exactly what was asked of him, bowing to pressure from Race Direction.
After two weeks away from racing, the MotoGP assembles again in Barcelona, and tragically, we're once talking about what's going on off-track rather than the prospect of some racing after a two-week hiatus. Marco Simoncelli has been called to Race Direction for further questioning about his crash with Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans. He will likely also be receiving some extra personal protection at the Barcelona circuit, after threats had been made against him via the Gresini website. The good news is that the threats came over the internet, meaning they are most likely the work of an idiot stuck in is bedroom who is all keyboard and no trousers (after all, if every threat of violence posted on the internet was actually followed through, the population of the world would be 7 rather than 7 billion). It still completely spoils the atmosphere though.
Video: How To Promote MotoGP, Or Riding A MotoGP Bike Down Public Roads Without Telling Anyone First
Here's the great question that plagues MotoGP: How come Formula One teams - even backmarkers - generate many tens or even a couple of hundred million euros in sponsorship, while the most successful MotoGP team of recent years fielding the current World Champion cannot persuade a title sponsor to stump up between 5 and 10 million? The answer, of course, lies in the way in which the sport is promoted. MotoGP has a very strong appeal to its core audience, but it has struggled to break through into the mainstream. Somehow, most of the attempts to appeal to a wider audience have failed, and therefore the ability to bring in outside sponsorship has also struggled.
So Wednesday's publicity stunt by the factory Yamaha team must surely be applauded. Jorge Lorenzo, his pit crew and a few spare marshalls turned up, flash mob-style, to stage an entertaining little tableau which saw Lorenzo launch his Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike past one of the iconic buildings of the Barcelona skyline, Antoni Gaudi's Temple Expiatori De La Sagrada Familia, staging the start of a MotoGP race in front of a crowd of mystified but fascinated tourists.
Press release previews of the Catalunya MotoGP round at the Montmelo circuit near Barcelona from Bridgestone and Pramac Ducati:
Dani Pedrosa is to miss his home Grand Prix at the Montmelo circuit near Barcelona, Catalunya. After breaking his collarbone in the crash with Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans, Pedrosa faced a race against the clock to be fit for Barcelona, focusing all of his efforts on undergoing physiotherapy and physical rehab to make the plated collarbone strong enough so that he could race on it.
To no avail. On Wednesday afternoon, the Repsol Honda team issued a press release announcing the Pedrosa will not be fit in time for the race in Barcelona. Though the bone is healing well, it is not recovering as quickly as the Spaniard had hoped, and Pedrosa has decided that his best course of action is to focus on recovering fully before returning to action.