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Ever since his crash at Motegi, caused by a sticking throttle, Dani Pedrosa has been plagued with a mysterious shoulder problem, causing numbness and weakness in his left arm. The Repsol Honda star had been hoping that the problem would pass over the winter, with rest over the enforced winter break allowing his shoulder to heal. That was not to be the case, however, as the issue resurfaced during the first race of 2011 at Qatar, Pedrosa getting off his bike after the race obviously in extreme discomfort.
With all of the media interest that Valentino Rossi's switch to Ducati has generated, the biggest change to the MotoGP series since the introduction of the four-strokes in 2002 is going largely unnoticed. The switch back to 1000cc machines is proceeding quietly apace, however, with the factories working towards rolling out their 2012 MotoGP bikes over the next few weeks - Ducati is due to test their 2012 bike at Jerez some time this week - prior to the first official outing for the machines at Mugello on July 4th, the day after the Italian Grand Prix.
Race days like Sunday, full of incident and intrigue, leave MotoGP writers such as myself feeling starkly inadequate. So much happened at Jerez, in every single class, both during and after the race that it is impossible to do the weekend justice and give a comprehensive account of events without collapsing from exhaustion at about five in the morning. This weekend also made it clear to me that my fitness is not up to scratch, as I did not make it much past 1:30 am.
If there are two facts that you need to know about the Jerez circuit - apart from its wonderful setting in one of the nicest parts of the world - it is these: The track is difficult in terms of grip, and the circuit demands a lot of the front end of motorcycle races. If you were unaware of those two facts, then watching qualifying - for any of the three classes that race in the MotoGP series - would be enough to acquaint you with them.
It's Friday, the bikes have been out on track, and very much as expected, the Repsol Hondas are a class apart. Or rather, two of them are, Casey Stoner going fastest in the morning, while Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets in the afternoon. The third member of the Repsol Honda team had a day to forget: after a crash in the morning, Andrea Dovizioso lost all confidence in the front end of his RC212V, and struggled for the rest of the day. "We don't need to study what happened," Dovizioso said, "we just need to stop and forget all about it."
In the heart of Spain, all talk is naturally of Spanish riders, and the man who has been at the center of a veritable media - and medical - whirlwind is Dani Pedrosa. Since the numbness and weakness in his arm reappeared at the race in Qatar, a result of the broken collarbone he suffered at Motegi last year, the Spaniard has undergone a series of tests and examinations to try and get to the root cause of the problem. And as a result, has faced enormous media scrutiny about the issue as well.
The recurrence of arm numbness and weakness which Dani Pedrosa suffered at the MotoGP season opener at Qatar was cause for much concern in the Repsol Honda camp. The problem came about after Pedrosa broke his collarbone at Motegi, when the throttle stuck open on his RC212V during practice. After the injury, Pedrosa was flown home to Spain, where he had a titanium plate fitted to fix the collarbone.
The recurrence of Dani Pedrosa's shoulder problem during the MotoGP season opener at Qatar came as a blow to the Spaniard. Pedrosa had been hoping that his shoulder was fully healed, after a winter of rest for the problem. But as the race progressed under the floodlights at Losail, Pedrosa started to suffer pain in his shoulder, and weakness and numbness in his left arm, leaving the Repsol Honda rider unable to use the clutch at the end of the race, and having difficulty in getting the bike to turn as he would like.
It has been clear for some time that Ducati have a lot of work to do on their Ducati Desmosedic GP11. Where Honda and Yamaha have made huge steps forward over the winter, all of the Ducati riders have struggled during testing, with all six riders crashing during the final winter test at Qatar, and then only the two Marlboro Ducatis in the top 10 at the opening MotoGP race in Losail, with Valentino Rossi the best finisher in 7th.
Ever since Valentino Rossi joined Ducati, the burning question of just how competitive the Desmosedici GP11 is has been clouded by Rossi's shoulder injury. The weakened shoulder - a result of training accident in which Rossi hyperextended his shoulder, fixed by surgery in November of 2010 - has made it very difficult to judge how fast Rossi could be on the bike if he could ride the Ducati unhampered by his shoulder. As a consequence, debate has raged among fans and pundits over how much or Rossi's deficit to put down to the shoulder, and how much to the bike.
After Dani Pedrosa got off his bike in Parc Ferme at the end of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar, it was obvious there was something wrong. The Spaniard was in intense pain, and could barely stand, though he recovered his composure quickly as the evening progressed.