The Internet has truly democratized the media, though the debate remains as to whether this is a good thing or not. One of the most obvious benefits of this revolution in the media is that sites such as Youtube allow ordinary people to record the events they witness and share them with the rest of the world.
By just such a fortuitous turn of events, video is emerging from the MotoGP tire test currently being held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here's a couple of videos we found on Youtube, by way of the Adventure Rider Racing forum.
Ben Spies at Indy:
Turns 1 through 10 at Indy
For those of us not fortunate enough to make it to Indianapolis today and tomorrow, to watch the official MotoGP tire test being held at the circuit, there is still hope. Usually at such events, we have to wait around for times to be posted by local journalists to find out what's happening, but not this time. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is showing that it is ahead of its time, by displaying live timing from the test on its website.
This is extremely unusual, and very pleasing. Normally, only the official preseason IRTA test at Jerez features live timing, and even then, usually only of the "official qualifying session", usually referred to as the shootout for the BMW sports coupe. But by featuring live timing of the current test, Indianapolis is raising the profile of the event, and generating excitement about the Indianapolis GP due to be hosted there in mid September.
As the test is officially a tire test, none of the permanent riders on the GP grid are taking part, with the field mostly consisting of the various factories' official test riders. But there is one prominent participant, and that's Ben Spies, riding the Rizla Suzuki. Currently the reigning AMA Superbike champion is leading the field, but he is only 0.13 seconds ahead of Ducati's Niccolo Canepa. And although Indy's long front straight promised extremely high top speeds, so far, the riders are only hitting around 185 mph, or some 300 kmh.
You can find the test times here:
And you can find out more about the Indianapolis GP at the event's official website.
You can also see pictures from the event in the galleries at the official website
The list of riders taking part is:
Ben Spies - Suzuki
Nobuatsu Aoki - Suzuki
Niccolo Canepa - Ducati
Olivier Jacque - Kawasaki
William Costes - Yamaha
Wataru Yoshikawa - Yamaha
Erwan Nigon - Honda
The BBC broadcast of the Assen MotoGP race offered some more insight into Ben Spies not taking advantage of Loris Capirossi’s bad luck to get more experience on the Rizla Suzuki 800cc machine. Suzuki Team Manager Paul Denning was interviewed briefly by Matt Roberts during the race and he had this to say about Spies opting not to ride the available bike:
“[Spies] took his own choice. It was quite surprising for me, personally. I understand his reasons from a competitive point of view, but I would’ve thought it would’ve been a great thing to continue learning the bike. But that’s his decision and that was that.”
BBC commentators Steve Parrish and Charlie Cox seemed to share the opinion that, judging from Denning’s tone as he spoke, Spies had made a poor choice in the boss’ view. With fourteen laps to go, Spies would’ve been at least in thirteenth place assuming he was still in the race. But Parrish went on to point out that since Spies missed the first day, that meant the American would only have had two one-hour sessions and the warm-up to learn yet another new track on the MotoGP Suzuki.
Parrish commented at the end of the discussion that Spies had “nothing to lose and everything to gain” by going out on Capirossi’s bike. But even for a skilled rider such as Spies, one can easily see how Assen’s fast and flowing layout could be intimidating to someone riding it for the first time on a bike of limited familiarity and in such treacherous conditions. The fact is that riding a MotoGP bike is always dangerous, and doing so on a new, challenging track is even more so. As a man trying to win his third AMA Championship, Spies has a lot to lose if he injures himself away from an AMA event.
Spies may also have been considering that he’ll be testing the 800cc Suzuki at Indianapolis tomorrow and Wednesday under more favorable conditions. Not only is the weather at Indy likely to present a safer track than a rainy Assen circuit, but Spies would put his time to better use by learning a course he’ll be racing on in September. He will also not have the pressure of a race weekend looming over his shoulder as he gains more experience with the MotoGP bike and Bridgestone tires. Had Spies risked riding a wet Assen circuit and crashed, he might easily have lost out on the Indy testing and thus arrived there in September without the benefit of having ridden the track before, further increasing the experience deficit he currently has relative to every other rider on the MotoGP grid.
So though his decision may not have been popular among those in the Suzuki paddock, who would certainly have liked possibly to pick up a few extra points from their wildcard rider, Spies’ decision is, as Denning said, understandable. Spies’ solid performance at Donington Park showed he is patient and in control of his competitive instincts even as he lapped faster and faster with each session, including the race itself. To have a single hour session before taking to the track for qualifying amid the efforts of riders contending a world championship title would have been to add additional risk to what is essentially an extended testing session for Spies. A mistake on his part during qualifying or during the race might have jeopardized the championship standings if it involved another rider. But the risk of a crash that could hurt his own lead in the AMA championship back would have been greater with such limited time on a challenging new track. Strong performances at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis will likely have Spies back in the good graces of Suzuki management.
BBC Assen Broadcast
One of the biggest tasks which Dorna has set itself is the conquest of the American TV market. So far, that ambition has only met with limited, though still growing, success. Part of its problems has been that TV coverage of the races has been left to Speed TV, which is only available through cable or satellite providers, and usually involves an extra subscription charge.
In Europe, Dorna is already engaged in a process to switch from satellite broadcasters towards national broadcasters, or at least, to free-to-air terrestrial stations, as witnessed by the recent news that Dorna will not be renewing the broadcast contract with Eurosport in 2009. Dorna would like to pursue a similar policy in the US, but first, the popularity of the sport needs to grow.
To help do just this, Dorna today announced that the major US networks CBS and NBC will be broadcasting a total of 4 MotoGP rounds this year, up from 2007. In addition to the US rounds at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, the German GP at the Sachsenring and the Czech Grand Prix at Brno will also receive coverage on the networks. CBS will be showing Laguna Seca live on July 20th at 5-6pm ET, along with hour-long same-day delayed broadcasts of the Sachsenring race on July 13th (1-2pm) and Brno on August 17th (2-3pm). NBC will broadcasting the Indy GP live on September 14th at 3-4pm ET.
The hope is that airing the series on network television will allow casual viewers to catch the series, and be captivated by the excitement of MotoGP. For their sake, and for ours, let us hope that the races don't turn into the kind of runaway wins we have seen for the last 3 races.
The Ramshoek has claimed another victim. At the end of today's official qualifying practice for the Dutch TT at Assen, John Hopkins lost the front at the Ramshoek, the final left hander before the GT chicane and the run onto the front straight, and crashed out at high speed, sliding through the gravel trap before hitting the tire wall. The crash happened with such force that Hopkins fractured his ankle and his tibia, and may also have damaged his knee as well. The crash means that Hopper will be forced to miss Saturday's Dutch TT, and the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in two weeks time.
This is the second rider this weekend to have been ruled out of the race by a crash at the Ramshoek, with Loris Capirossi injuring his arm there on Thursday, and the corner has previous form as well. Last year, Toni Elias suffered a spiral fracture of the thigh, after tumbling through the gravel trap there, and the year before, Valentino Rossi broke his wrist in exactly the same place.
So why is the Ramshoek such a dangerous corner? There are a number of factors at work here. The changes made to the track in 2006 left the track with very few left-hand corners. What's more, most of the left handers still in the track are relatively slow, from the painfully slow Strubben hairpin, to the hard left turns at Ruskenhoek and De Bult. There is only one fast left hander remaining in the track, and that is the Ramshoek. To make things worse, it is located right after a long series of right handers, from Mandeveen through to Hoge Heide, during which the riders are building speed and getting faster and faster.
The upshot of this is that they hit the Ramshoek in full attack mode with a tire which doesn't have enough heat in the left hand side. It's a recipe for potential - and all too often, actual - disaster.
So is there anything that could be done to make the corner faster? It's hard to say. The track has already rejigged the gravel traps and provided a little more asphalt at the edge of the turn, to give riders a better chance of catching the bike before they lose it altogether. But the Ramshoek remains a difficult corner. It's fast - which is one of the reasons it's such a fantastic corner - which always carries an inherent risk. But it also turns the bikes to 90 degrees to the prevailing wind direction, which can leave the bikes at the mercy of a sudden gust of wind, something that is believed to have happened to Hopkins' bike.
All that remains is some tinkering at the edges. The location of the marshall's post could possibly be looked at, as well as the option of using air fence along the tire wall. But motorcycle racing remains a dangerous sport. Although the injuries to Hopkins, Capirossi, Elias, and so many others are tragic, they are not half as tragic as any alteration to the actual track layout at the Ramshoek would be. It truly is one of the great corners in motorcycle racing, and needs to be left the way it is.
We've been privileged to receive some great reports and fantastic photographs from Scott Jones of Turn2Photography, who has been attending the race at Donington, and today is no exception. He sent us his view of the race, including more great pictures, as well as a series of shots capturing James Toseland's crash at Redgate. We hope you enjoy his report:
The View From Redgate Grandstand
Instead of rain, Sunday’s dominant condition was wind, and so much of it that the 125s were at the mercy of the strong gusts on certain parts of the track. The morning warm-ups for the 125s and 250s were brief as the skies cleared and the threat of rain seemed to evaporate. But as the weather can change so quickly at Donington in June, the premiere class riders warmed up first on bikes set up for rain, then on bikes set up on Friday for dry conditions. We watched the warm-ups beside the final braking marker for the Melbourne hairpin, then moved to our seats at the Redgate grandstand.
This is the only covered grandstand at Donington, and while it would’ve kept us fairly dry had it rained (we were in the third row), the wind that lashed at the material over our heads fairly ripped through the structure from behind. Even in the ‘sheltered’ area it was cold and very windy. Unattended cups and dislodged hats and caps regularly blew toward the track from the rows of blue plastic seats. Fans watching Turn 1 from the ground in front of the elevated grandstand huddled together and women with longer hair looked desperately for ponytail holders to save their eyes from their wildly whipping hair.
The main victim of the winds was Iannone, who according to the track announcers got blown off the track at Craners. 15-year-old British rider Scott Redding had been closing in on the Iannone when the Italian got caught by a gust that took him off track and out of the race. Redding found himself in first place and finished the race with admirable maturity, taking a lap with the Union Jack in tow to huge applause as the first British winner of a GP event in quite some time.
In the 250s, a great race at the front almost reached a satisfying conclusion as Bautista and Simoncelli traded the lead again and again after the Spaniard chased and caught the early leader. The Mugello incident fresh in my mind (where Simoncelli knocked Barbera off between the final turn and the finish to win his first 250 race, claiming that he was simply trying to dodge Barbera’s drafting attempt), I feared for Bautista. Just after Kalio joined the duo to contest the podium spots, Simoncelli pushed Bautista wide at the completion of the penultimate lap, handing the race to Kalio and taking Bautisa from first to third. After crossing the finish, Bautista made plain to Simoncelli what he thought of the move. How I wish I could’ve been in the stairway leading to the press conference when those two headed for the interviews!
The Main Event
You expect a rider in his home Grand Prix to feel some degree of nationalistic pressure. And sometimes being on home turf amongst family, friends and countrymen brings out in an athlete a higher level of performance than one usually sees. Scott Redding was a good example of that this weekend, just as Nicky Hayden was at Laguna Seca. Many, many people in the stands were hoping for such a performance from James Toseland, who was sporting helmet and leathers proudly wearing the red cross on white background of the flag of England. The two-time World Super Bike champion had proven that he could win against top competition, and this year’s Yamaha is as good as any bike in the MotoGP paddock. Though JT was not contending for the championship in his rookie season, could being on home soil lift him that extra bit to produce a victory from the back of the starting grid?
Before the 800 race, several riders were interviewed in pit lane, one of them being Toseland, who apologized to the crowd for the previous day’s qualifying session, when he had fallen twice without achieving a satisfactory position on the grid. In the interview, he seemed to me to be a man feeling intense pressure from every direction. Among the huge crowds lining the track, thousands of large Toseland and England flags crackled in the wind. Toseland hats and shirts seemed to be on every other spectator. And as he spoke over the loudspeakers, JT clearly felt terrible about his qualifying performance, both with bitter disappointment and with the aches and pains of two hard crashes. I doubt he could have blocked out entirely the way the track announcers never strayed far from their main subject of hoping for a Toseland victory, even as they discussed other topics related to the race. Their comments always seemed to come back to Toseland after a few minutes.
So when he asked too much of cold tires in the first corner and high-sided into the gravel, it seemed at the same time unbelievable and inevitable. He got up off the ground torn between what appeared to be a distinct pain in his wrist and a profounder sense of disbelief and need not to let the day end like this. As track marshals helped set his bike back on two wheels, Toseland’s attention went quickly back and forth between the pain in his wrist and his stunned incredulity that he had crashed in the first corner. The latter dominated the former, and the crowd at Redgate cheered proudly as Toseland remounted and rode off after the pack. He received a cheer every time he passed Redgate until the end of the race.
Watching Marco Melandri’s race was somehow even harder than watching Toseland’s disappointment. Toseland at least won the crowd’s affection by courageously battling on, obviously in pain and on a possibly damaged machine. Melandri just seemed to find a new, lower level of Hell at Donington.
As several good battles between riders on different constructors’ machines were happening at the front, Melandri drifted ever backward. Before long, the reigning championship team was simultaneously in first place, running away from the field and in last place among those riders who hadn’t crashed. As Stoner pulled away from the Rossi-Pedrosa battle for second, Melandri drew ever closer to Stoner, but in the wrong direction. Had the race gone a bit longer, one factory Ducati would’ve lapped the other: Melandri was entering Turn 1 as Stoner exited Goddards to take the victory.
Braking into Turn 1, Menaldri reminded me of the bull riders we have in the US, men who mount enormously powerful animals that have been made so uncomfortable they kick viciously as soon as they’re released from the gate. Melandri’s Ducati seemed to be intentionally fighting back under braking, the handlebars twisting in his hands as the tires wondered which line they were intended to follow into the corner. Stoner, however, looked as smooth as silk, completely the master of his machine both into Redgate and accelerating over the slight crest toward the Craner Curves. When Melandri managed to get on the gas, noticeably later into the corner than Stoner, it was not with confidence but with what seemed to be extreme wariness, if not a little fear. It was difficult to believe both men were riding the same machine, and I kept wondering how long a rider of Melandri’s talent and ability on a Honda can remain riding for Ducati. And will his ego survive the disappointment of moving to the reigning championship team only to find himself unable to cope? It was, as I said, painful to watch.
Watching Ben Spies slip from ninth on the grid to the rear of the pack was a bit disappointing, though even he passed Melandri and ended up closing in on Guintoli toward the end of the race. I reminded myself, however, that I had praised Spies’ patience and maturity, and was likely seeing those qualities again. Spies, is, after all, very well paid to win the AMA Superbike Championship for Suzuki, and as he is currently leading that contest, the worst thing for him to do would be to crash and injure himself here at Donington. He wasn’t here, after all, to contest the Championship or even the race, but to get some time on the GP bike and, more importantly, to show the MotoGP world that he has good judgment as well as good speed. I think he did just that, even though as someone so accustomed to seeing him leading races, I wanted to see him mixing it up a bit.
Crossing the finish line, Stoner did a long, high wheelie of celebration, clearly elated to have returned, at least for the day, to 2007 form. Almost immediately, however, fans just past the finish line ducked under the fences, which at Donington generally stop about a foot from the ground, and raced onto the track. Several riders got through before fans reached the tarmac, but most of the field reached the finish line to find it blocked by spectators and course marshals trying to clear the way for a race that had not been completed. It might have been very bad if any riders had been battling for position through the final corner.
Toseland received a huge ovation when he paused to take on one of his fan flags for a lap intended to salute the crowd. He was forgiven and still adored. Melandri disappeared, and somehow I doubt that the mood in any rider’s trailer was grimmer than his.
After the race we got very lucky with the traffic and escaped the park in a matter of minutes. A friend didn’t fare as well, and it took him over an hour to get several hundred yards to the parking area exit and onto a country road that was similarly congested with exiting traffic. But for me it was a fantastic four days of MotoGP. The Day of Champions and its access to the paddock and pit lane was a great opportunity to see riders and team members at work and even to talk to some of them. The weather was dramatic but not miserable, at least for spectators. The track itself is good for watching the action, with many elevated areas and good views onto the track. The British fan is hearty and undeterred by rain or wind, and generally the atmosphere was fun and friendly, and very appreciative of the efforts of the local heroes. The track and its facilities have an old school feel that’s nice when one thinks of high-tech facilities like Shanghai. Motorsport is full of traditions and rich history, after all, and it’s great that a modest track like Donington, not ‘blessed’ with having millions spent on it to chase Formula One revenue, stays on the MotoGP calendar. I hope Donington Park hosts MotoGP for many years, and I hope to come back soon.
My deepest thanks to friends who drove, hosted and fed me, arranged tickets and held umbrellas while I shot photographs. And a special thanks to Kropotkin for posting my photos and comments. It’s an honor to be included on my favorite MotoGp-related website.
Our thanks to you, Scott, for sending in these reports, and allowing us to publish these fantastic photographs. If you're interested in seeing more of Scott's work, head on over to his website at http://www.turn2photography.com/
Our friendly photographer Scott Jones of Turn2Photography chose the perfect place to spectate from for Sunday's MotoGP race at Donington. The dramatic events at Redgate unfurled in full view of his camera, and the quick thinking snapper captured James Toseland's dramatic crash on film. Here's how it happened:
More from Scott later on.
We are once again lucky to receive yet more fantastic photos and an on-the-spot report from Scott Jones of Turn2Photography. Enjoy!
Saturday Report From Donington
An English Summer Day
The promised UK weather arrived for Saturday and we spent the morning sessions at the Fogerty Esses, watching the 125s and then Premiere Class tiptoe through the chicane. It was raining hard in the morning and many riders judged the previous day's braking points somewhat optimistically, leaving them trying the grass route back to the tarmac.
Particularly noticeable was the evidence of Ducati’s traction control, especially in Stoner's hands. From the staccato hammering of his GP8 as he exited the chicane, it appeared he was letting the electronics do the work, grabbing a whole lot of throttle and relying on the software to manage the power as it produced that very distinctive cracking sound. When Stoner gained enough speed, the usual angry scream of the Desmoseidici returned as he charged toward Melbourne. The other Ducatis exhibited similar sounds on the exit of the chicane, but none as pronounced as Stoner’s.
Casey Stoner, In Complete Control
Dani Pedrosa's Still Hurting, And It Shows
Alex de Angelis, fast in the dry, slow in the wet
Ben Spies surprised a lot of people
Ant West in his natural habitat
Nicky Hayden is more like his old self
Valentino Rossi: Fast, but not Australian fast
Fortunately, after the 250s finished their morning session the weather eased to a drizzle, then a mist. Randy Mamola’s guests on the two-seater Ducati had an easier time of it than they would’ve had if the rain had persisted. By the time the 800s started their qualifying session, the on again off again rain had left the track between the Old Hairpin and McLeans a treacherous place.
Now That's What I Call TC!
On the climb up the hill, traction control was detectable is varying degrees, or so the unique sounds from each make suggested. As Stoner came under the bridge, his GP8 again crackled as the rear tire fishtailed from side to side. The other bikes showed varying degrees of audible and visual evidence of electronic utilization. Some riders, such as Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo, preferred to take the prudent route, while others relied on electronics, and others appeared to be have turned their TC down enough that they could drift their bikes around the turn before McLeans. The later group was the most exciting to watch. Rossi in particular seemed to be giving a clinic on sliding his rear tire up the hill. It seemed only a matter of time before someone went down in this section.
James Toseland feels the pressure
Toward the end of the hour something resembling a dry line had started to appear as those comfortable in the wet chased Stoner’s time. Toseland’s effort ended in front of us as he tried to make it to the Finish line for one more flying lap. He received a standing ovation for the effort from the crowd.
Spies spoke to one of the announcers as we listened in via the loud speakers to a sort of translated AMA post session speech. But he graciously offered Capirossi his wishes for a speedy recovery, and then expressed his appreciation for the unexpected interest in his appearance at Donington and of the many fans he didn’t know he had here in the UK. Spies was clearly pleased with his qualifying performance. At the bottom of Craner on the post session lap, he pumped his fist to the crowd in obvious pleasure and perhaps a bit of relief at having done so well in his first MotoGP qualifying session. We can only wonder what might have happened in the dry. Perhaps we’ll find out tomorrow.
The weather had been forecast to be poor for the 2nd day of practice, and boy, where the weather forecasters right. Both this morning's free practice and this afternoon's qualifying practice took place in full rain. And like the morning's session, the afternoon's qualifying saw the wet weather specialists leap straight to the top of the table. Within ten minutes of the session starting, the tables were headed by three Australians: Casey Stoner, Chris Vermeulen and Ant West. Vermeulen and West will be no surprise, both men being renowned specialists in the rain - Vermeulen's protests that he doesn't like the rain notwithstanding - and Stoner has always coped very well in the wet.
The surprise, though, was the margin of Stoner's dominance. After just 5 minutes, Stoner was 3 seconds faster than the field, which Vermeulen managed to cut back to "only" 1.5 seconds within a couple of laps. But the rest of the field were such a long way behind that if it had been a race, Stoner would have been lapping most of them several times.
Vermeulen was putting up a real fight, though. At first he chipped away at Stoner's time, but within a couple of laps, he put in a time which was exactly identical to Stoner's provisional pole time. Another couple of laps, and Ant West had followed the Suzuki man's example, getting within a couple of tenths of Stoner, all three Australians on the grid dominating the field.
With the rain falling hard, there was no chance that qualifiers would be brought out, and so the end of qualifying was likely to see less of a rush for pole. The entire field was out testing rain tires, and looking for a setup that would work. In the rain, it's a lot easier to pass, and so starting from further down the field is less of an issue.
Behind the Australians was a gap, before Valentino Rossi in 4th. Rossi had struggled in the first part of the session, but kept gaining speed throughout the 2nd half hour. His former team mate Colin Edwards was 5th fastest, ahead of Nicky Hayden, revitalized by the pneumatic valves of the Honda. Behind Hayden, Ben Spies was doing a great job filling in for Loris Capirossi, the American 7th fastest with 15 minutes to go.
Vermeulen had been getting close to Stoner's time all session, and with 19 minutes left, he finally cracked it, taking first with a lap of 1'39.876, a tenth of a second faster than Stoner's previous time. But Vermeulen's attack just spurred Stoner on, and with 13 minutes to go, the reigning World Champion demonstrated why he is just that. In a blistering lap, Stoner took over a second off Vermeluen's time, reclaiming provisional pole with a lap of 1'38.869.
Though the qualifying tires had been left back in the tire trucks headed for Assen, the last 10 minutes of the session saw a flurry of activity, as everyone went out on slightly softer rain tires, to try and improve their grid position. With 8 minutes left, Valentino Rossi broke the Australian hegemony, taking 2nd place from Vermeulen. But his conquest was far from permanent, as the Suzuki rider kept getting slicing tenths off his time.
With 4 minutes left, and Casey Stoner on a fast lap, Nicky Hayden arrived to break up the party, taking 2nd from Rossi with a 1'39.270. Seeing riders close on his time, Stoner pushed on again, improving his time once again, first to 1'38.783, then to 1'38.719.
As the clock ticked down on the session, the front row battle hotted up. With 2 minutes left, Valentino Rossi took back 2nd spot, while Vermeulen took 3rd. One lap later, Vermeulen climbed to 2nd, only for Rossi to barge ahead of him in the dying seconds of the session. With a lap of 1'38.881, The Doctor became the second rider to get into the 1'38s, the rest stuck in 1'39s.
While 1'38.881 was a good time, it was nowhere near what Casey Stoner was capable of. Just to prove his point, Stoner took another half a second off his own pole time to set a fantastic time of 1'38.232, over 0.6 faster than 2nd place man Rossi. Casey Stoner set out a warning, and looks very much like the man to beat. If Stoner gets a lead from the line, it could all be over by the time they head down Craner.
Valentino Rossi will be glad to be on the front row, so that he at least stands a chance of staying with Stoner. He'll also be glad to be on Bridgestones, as the Michelins he used last year let him down badly in the wet.
Chris Vermeulen fills out the front row, the Australian showing once again what an outstanding wet weather rider he is. If it rains tomorrow, he'll be in with a good chance of winning.
Nicky Hayden heads up the 2nd row of the grid, clearly much more at ease aboard the new air valve engine. Besides him sits fellow countryman Colin Edwards, with Andrea Dovizioso in 6th.
Like Chris Vermeulen, Ant West took full advantage of his wet weather skills to clinch 7th place, a spot quite unthinkable on the basis of his form this year. And besides West sits an even bigger surprise, Ben Spies qualifying in 8th for his first MotoGP. Contrary to what many Europeans believe, Spies does have experience of riding in the rain, as the AMA does run some races in the rain, though not many. Dani Pedrosa rounds out the 3rd row in 9th.
While Rossi and Edwards sit on the 1st and 2nd rows of the grid, their Yamaha team mates are on the last row. James Toseland seems to have succumbed to nerves in front of his home crowd, and struggled all session. But his misery got worse, as in the dying minutes of the session, Toseland managed to highside not once, but twice, within a half a lap. The first was a big highside at Goddards, as he rounded the hairpin to come back to the line, then, he fell at the Bus Stop, again taking a nasty tumble. Toseland can probably forget about a podium in front of his home fans, but perhaps this thought will let him relax, and just race.
Jorge Lorenzo is still regaining confidence, and was happy to ride around getting a feel for the bike, not wanting to risk another crash. Like his compatriot Dani Pedrosa when Pedrosa first came to the class, Lorenzo is no great lover of the rain. But while Pedrosa has developed into a very strong rider in the rain - if still not comfortable - Lorenzo still has a lot of learning to do.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is uncertain, but it could quite easily be dry. Wet or dry, Casey Stoner has dominated every session, and could win this by a country mile. Valentino Rossi will be glad that he is close enough to at least attempt to put up a fight. It should be a fascinating race on Sunday.
Another report and some more fantastic photos from our man on the ground Scott Jones of Turn2Photography. Scott is currently attending the British Grand Prix at Donington Park as a spectator, as official accreditation from Dorna is virtually impossible to come by. Here's Scott's view of the first day of qualifying at Donington:
Notes from Donington
Friday seemed like last year’s Saturday in terms of the number of fans in attendance, according to a friend who chalked up the impressive workday crowd to James Toseland’s popularity at his home GP. We overheard one child tell a friend he met at the track that his mum had phoned his school to say he had been vomiting all night and had to stay home, at which point she piled him into the car and headed for the races. Toseland’s name and number 52 dominate the apparel for sale, and from the shirts and hats appearing among the crowd it is hard to say who is currently more popular: Rossi or Toseland.
Rossi seems to be respecting Toseland’s stature on home turf, playing less to the crowd than he usually does on neutral territory. He seemed focused on his lap times, a man at the office, so perhaps he was more worried about Stoner’s lap times than he was his popularity in Britain.
Marco Melandri seems as at sea as ever. We watched the morning practice at the Foggy Esses, and more times than not, or so it seemed, Melandri struggled to find his braking point, often sailing in too hot and running the lefthander deep, having to look over his shoulder to see if his path back onto the racing line would encumber other riders.
Ben Spies looked comfortable but cautious on the prototype Suzuki. It’s strange to see him not be one of the two dominant riders on a racetrack, and as Kropotkin pointed out, this must seem even stranger to him. But I can’t help think that in addition to trying to sort out a strange and more powerful bike, a foreign track, unfamiliar tires, and those stiff new leathers, he is also trying hard not to crash his borrowed machine. I remember thinking the same of Chaz Davies’ impressive Wild Card ride at Laguna Seca last year. I’m sure the experienced gained this weekend will pay off for Spies at Laguna and Indianapolis, but at the moment he’s in a complex and challenging position. If you’ve seen any of his AMA battles with Mat Mladin, you know Spies likes to go fast and he likes to win. The fact that he hasn’t binned Capirossi’s Suzuki while trying to show that he can go faster reveals impressive maturity and patience.
Nicky Hayden was clearly pleased with his new air-valve engine, doing a long, high wheelie for the crowd as he exited McLean’s.
Colin Edwards did Texas proud as always, giving the crowd at the Esses a hand to his ear for more noise when he passed at e end of the morning practice. Judging from the many Edwards shirts and hats being worn he’s quite popular here in Britain.
Dani Pedrosa was his usual businesslike self on track, even before his crash.
Finally, I’d like to mention how nice Tony Elias seemed when I ran into him yesterday. He was riding a scooter in the direction of the Clinica Mobile, though I don’t know if that’s where he was going. He’d stopped to greet a fan and spoke to her in halting English. When I paused to say hello, he smiled for a photo and seemed a genuinely nice guy. Last season at Laguna I practiced my French on Sylvain Guintoli for a few minutes and found him also to be a friendly guy, in spite of having just t-boned at the corkscrew the man whose ride he would take over this season. As much as I root for the Pramac Alice Ducatis, I found myself wishing even harder that the team’s hard work pays off soon.
Craner: The World's Fastest Roller Coaster
Toni Elias: We know he's faster than this
Nicky Hayden: Powered By Harvested Wind
Marco Melandri, aboard the Ducati. But for how long?
Dani Pedrosa fell in FP2, but was plenty fast
The Doctor at his office
I don't think we're in Texas any more
Remember kids, don't drink and drive!