If MotoGP can be said to have a backyard, then the Montmelo circuit just outside Barcelona is surely it. Series organizer Dorna has its offices just south of the city, and the Catalunya region - and especially the dormitory towns surrounding Barcelona - has provide a rich seam of riding talent, a seam almost as rich as its Italian counterpart surrounding the Misano circuit, comprising Cattolica, Riccione and the immediate area. So this is a home race for everyone, almost literally for some people.
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Casey Stoner's retirement announcement marked the - unhealthily early - opening of MotoGP's silly season, and with just two weeks having passed, it is, in the words of Nicky Hayden, "too early to start thinking about that." At the moment, factories, teams and riders are still absorbing the news and pondering their strategy for the many talks and negotiations which will surely follow. Though the paddock, the media and the internet are full of speculation, everything is so open that even the wildest guess may turn out to be true.
One of the burning questions among race fans since the reintroduction of the 1000cc MotoGP machines has been exactly how much horsepower the bigger bikes make. Various figures have been bandied about, some issued in press releases, others bandied about by riders, or measured on the notoriously inaccurate press room dyno.
Spanish savings banks have been involved in Grand Prix racing since the start of the Dorna era in 1992, when the Banesto bank set up the Spanish racing promoter and then backed its investment in purchasing the TV broadcasting rights of the Road Racing World Championship from the FIM, in partnership with F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone’s Two Wheels Promotions company.
Once the shock of Casey Stoner's retirement passed, the speculation began over who would take his place at Honda, and what his departure would mean for contract negotiations among the other riders in the paddock. The permutations are endless, much like a sliding puzzle: will Repsol be able to tempt Jorge Lorenzo away from Yamaha? If Lorenzo does go, will Valentino Rossi be welcome at Yamaha, or could he even go back to Honda, the factory team he left at the end of 2003? What of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, and where do Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden fit into this?
The weather finally smiled on Ducati's testing efforts on Thursday, providing a full day of testing under excellent conditions. After parts of the first two days were lost to rain and a wet track, the sun shone all day Thursday, with the track being too hot, if anything. Though the post-test press release is as free of detailed information as ever, the positive vibe that came through in both the press release and in the responses from various sources at the test is evident.
That Suzuki is working on a MotoGP prototype for a return to the premier class at some point in the future - 2014 is the date Suzuki staff have referred to officially in all their communication - is well-known. There have been several reports of the bike being tested, but no real photos or information on the bike. Until yesterday.
Funny how things turn out. On a weekend that looked like being overshadowed by one subject - Casey Stoner's shock retirement announcement and its repercussions - along came the rain and provided spectacle to cheer the hearts of racing fans of every persuasion. Rain offers new opportunities, and such opportunities light a fire in the breasts of racers being kept from running at the front under ordinary circumstances. At the same time, should that fire burn too fiercely, those same racers can fall prey to their own overarching ambition, and fall within sight of glory.
After two days out on track, the excitement of the Stoner retirement is starting to die down, and people are starting to concentrate on the racing again, rather than the politics and everything else surrounding Stoner's announcement. Qualifying helps focus minds, of course, because something serious is at stake again, a spot on the grid.
Retirement obviously hasn't slowed Casey Stoner. After announcing last night that he would be retiring from MotoGP at the end of the 2012 season (and no, that does not mean he will be going to World Superbikes instead), the Australian climbed aboard his Repsol Honda RC213V, banged out the fastest time, a second quicker than anyone else at the time, on just his 3rd lap out of the pits, and went on to top the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2.
It is hard to upstage Valentino Rossi. It takes something large, significant, to take the limelight away from the nine-time World Champion, and the man who has been the charismatic heart of MotoGP for the best part of 15 years. To do that, you have to "Go big or go home," as British road racer Guy Martin likes to put it.
At the start of the pre-event press conference at Le Mans, Casey Stoner made the following statement:
"Basically, this has come after a long time of thinking, a lot of time talking with my family and my wife. This has been coming for a couple of years now, but at the end of this 2012 season, I will be not racing in the 2013 championship. I will be finishing my career at the end of this season in MotoGP and go forward with something different with my life.
In a shock announcement, Casey Stoner has told the pre-event press conference at Le Mans that he has decided to retire at the end of 2012. Citing "disappointment with the direction MotoGP is going," according to MCN's Matt Birt, Stoner told a shocked press conference that he will not be racing in MotoGP beyond 2012. The Repsol Honda rider said the decision had nothing to do with the birth of his daughter, and everything to do with losing his passion for racing.
Colin Edwards has successfully undergone surgery to fix the collarbone he broke at Estoril. The NGM Forward Racing rider had a titanium plate inserted by Dr Javier Mir in Barcelona, to fix the left collarbone he fractured during practice in Portugal. The surgery has been ajudged a success, and the Texan will now undergo a period of recovery.