We're finally racing again, and the deafening roar of the MotoGP bikes has silenced the whining that has been emanating from the paddock over the past few days, at least for the moment. Instead of sniping about who had said what about whom, there was an actual contest at Estoril. Even the weather didn't intervene, at least, not once the warmup was finished.
The race was hardly a thriller - the electronics necessitated by the combination of highly-strung 800cc engines and meager 21 liters of fuel have been fatal to racing excitement, for the most part - but it was certainly a fascinating intellectual exercise, and there was much to be learned from Portuguese Grand Prix. The trouble is, of course, that those lessons are most rewarding to the committed student of the sport, the sterile racing now rather too esoteric for the casual fan.
The press releases from the MotoGP teams after today's Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril:
Results and summary of the MotoGP race at Estoril:
Four weeks between races this early in the season is clearly far too long. Since arriving at Estoril, the various members of the paddock have been behaving like sailors on shore leave, getting drunk, chasing women and picking fights with everyone in their vicinity. Well, the getting drunk and chasing women part I made up, but the mood in the paddock is deeply pugnacious, as witnessed by the verbal scraps breaking out everywhere.
On Friday, we had round one of Valentino Rossi in the red corner vs Casey Stoner in the blue corner, with Jorge Lorenzo throwing in some trash talking of Marco Simoncelli as he prepared to face off with the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider. Saturday saw Rossi vs Stoner briefly revisited, while Lorenzo and Simoncelli erupted into a full-scale verbal conflict during the post-qualifying press conference.
If the changes to the 2012 MotoGP regulations were aimed at filling out the grid, then they appear to have succeeded. Today, the FIM released the numbers of teams who had put in for a provisional entry for the 2012 season. The numbers were very promising: 16 teams entered, of which 14 were accepted, representing a total of 21 riders.
As in the Moto2 class, the number of entries actually accepted will be much smaller. The ideal grid size, as both Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and IRTA staff have confirmed, is around 24 bikes. But with the total commitment of the current factories likely to remain somewhere between 14 and 16 bikes (6 Hondas, 4 Yamahas and probably 5 Ducatis), getting an additional 8 to 10 bikes on the grid from the current entry list should be perfectly feasible.
Though no names or details were issued of exactly who the entries are, MotoMatters.com has learned that most of the entires have come from top teams in the Moto2 class. This comes as no surprise, as indeed, this was the very purpose of the Moto2 class, to groom teams for entry into MotoGP. The final list of accepted teams will be made public at Le Mans.
Below is the text of the FIM press release:
MotoGP Class Applications for 2012 Season
The big question being asked when the concept of the Claiming Rule Teams was introduced to the 2012 MotoGP regulations was exactly how the claiming rule would work. The idea behind it is simple: to avoid CRTs pouring millions of dollars into engine development - in other words, to prevent factories hiding behind Claiming Rule Team entries - teams should be allowed to purchase the engines of the CRTs, thereby negating the benefits of high-spending engine R&D. There was good reason for scepticism about the claiming rules, as the rules once used in the AMA have been widely decried and were felt to be open to abuse, leading eventually to them being scrapped. Here at MotoMatters.com, we offered an example of just how the claiming rules could be used to circumvent the engine restrictions.
With claiming rules clearly capable of turning into a minefield, the details of the rules were eagerly awaited, and took a long time coming. On the Saturday of the Estoril MotoGP round, the Grand Prix Commission met to finalize the claiming rules, and issued a press release containing the new 2012 CRT regulations, which you can read below.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying on Saturday:
Results and summary of qualifying practice for the MotoGP class at Estoril:
Loris Capirossi has topped the third session of free practice at the Estoril circuit, and the fact that the man who has so far struggled to tame the Pramac Ducati was the fastest in the session was a sign of how mixed the conditions were. The track slowly dried out throughout the course or practice, but large sections remained slick, with damp patches throughout. Most of the riders chose to remain in the pits for much of the session, with only a few circulating on track.
At the end of the session, it was Loris Capirossi who posted the fastest time, half a second ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, who was in turn faster than the Marlboro Ducatis of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi. Clouds are hanging in the hills to the northwest of the circuit, and there would seem to be a very good chance of rain during qualifying.
"It's like kindergarten." That was how one journalist described the spate of complaints, insults and snide comments that filled the rider debriefs after the first day of free practice at Estoril. Casey Stoner accused Valentino Rossi of following him, then went on to talk again about Rossi's mistake at Jerez; Rossi launched a diatribe against Stoner, accusing him of saying a lot of things which were untrue about his move to Ducati; and then Jorge Lorenzo joined in the fun by attacking Marco Simoncelli, complaining that the Italian was a liability and a danger to others.
Apparently there were some bikes on track too, but in the interests of getting the fluff out of the way first, we'll walk through another day of WWE-style trash talk and petty bickering.
The press releases put out by the MotoGP after practice on Friday at Estoril:
The aftermath of the crash between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner at Jerez continues to rumble on. After Stoner accused the marshals of favoritism, not doing enough to help him rejoin the race, but assisting Rossi, Race Direction announced that they would be reviewing the evidence and holding a hearing at Estoril.
That meeting and review was held today, and afterwards Race Direction issued a statement on the incident. As expected, they found that the handling of the incident had been "safe and appropriate", and that no further action would be taken against the marshals, only recommending that the Grand Prix Commission study the situation further.
Marco Simoncelli has shown that his fast time in the morning session at Estoril was no fluke by taking top spot in FP2 for the MotoGP class. The San Carlo Gresini Honda rider just edged Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, who was in turn just three thousandths of a second faster than Repsol Dani Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi ended the session in 4th but with an identical time to Casey Stoner, posted right at the every end of the session, and from directly behind the tail of Stoner's Repsol Honda. Stoner threw a little fuel on the fire at the end of his lap by turning round to Rossi and tapping the tail of his Honda, insinuating that the only reason Rossi set that time was thanks to a tow by the Australian. Rossi's strong times earlier in the session would appear to contradict such an accusation, however.
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards set the 6th fastest time, finishing ahead of the once again impressive Karel Abraham, the Czech rider putting his Cardion AB Ducati into 7th, ahead of the factory Yamaha of Ben Spies and the factory Ducati of Nicky Hayden. Hector Barbera rounds out the top 10 on the Mapfre Aspar Ducati.