After the financial difficulties that have recently dogged the Jerez Circuit, at last there is some good news. Today, the Andalucian State Government announced that it would be underwriting the Spanish MotoGP round at Jerez for the next five years, guaranteeing its future until 2016.
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The earthquake and ensuing disaster that devastated Japan's northeast coast has weighed heavy on the hearts of everyone in the MotoGP paddock. With so many factories and suppliers based in Japan, everybody in the paddock knows at least one person who was affected in one way or another. The minute's silence before the start of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar was just one expression of their sympathy, and it was a moment which touched the Japanese members of the paddock very deeply.
The night race at Qatar produces a strange rhythm for the riders and teams, but it hits the media heaviest. The press are often here till 4am or later, filing stories ready for the next day's papers or to hit the web. Sunday night is the worst, as early morning flights leave you rushing to get things done before heading out to the airport.
So with my 8am flight just a couple of hours away, no time for a full round up of the day's events. Instead, the big things I noticed after this evening.
The first race of the season hasn't even happened yet, but the Honda story is already starting to get old. The headlines are writing themselves, the only thing that an editor has to do at the moment is cast a cursory glance over the wording to check whether it was Casey Stoner or Dani Pedrosa who spotted the fastest time.
The 2011 MotoGP season will kick off with just 16 riders on Sunday night, after the Rizla Suzuki team was unable to find a replacement on time for Alvaro Bautista, who broke his left femur in a practice crash on Friday night.
Honda's seamless shift gearbox has been the talk of the MotoGP world since it first debuted at Sepang, with journalists on a quest to chase down exactly what it is and how it works. The only response you receive from HRC or Honda riders about the gearbox is that it is "better" and that it is "smoother". The best guess about its operation so far has been that it is either based on or very similar to the Xtrac Instantaneous Gearshift System, which allows two gears to be engaged simultaneously, while driving only one.
The defection of Valentino Rossi from Michelin to Bridgestone at the end of the 2007 season sparked off a mass defection among the MotoGP riders, which eventually brought an end to the tire wars and saw the introduction of a single tire supplier in MotoGP for the 2009 season. Bridgestone - being the tire of choice among the top riders, after both Rossi and Dani Pedrosa had defected - was the riders' obvious favorite for the contract, but the Japanese tire giant was only sure of getting the contract once Michelin decided it would not submit a bid.
A long time ago, when I worked at a software company, we had a timekeeping system that consumed hours of our productive time as we tried to keep track of the projects we had worked on every week. One member of our team was smarter than the rest of us, however. He figured he knew roughly what projects he would be working on for the next couple of months, and would fill in his timesheets about 6 weeks in advance. He saved himself a whole heap of time doing that, while we struggled.
Alvaro Bautista's season has gotten off to the worst possible start at Qatar, when the Rizla Suzuki rider crashed heavily in Turn 15, the final left-hander of the circuit, breaking his femur in the process. Bautista was slightly fortunate, in that it appears to have been a clean break, but the bone will require an operation to insert a pin. The recovery period for such an injury is typically around 10 to 12 weeks, which would leave Bautista out until Le Mans at the earliest.
During winter testing, there was a great deal of mystery surrounding Ducati's so-called "flexi-package", a selection of parts designed to produce more flexibility and response in Ducati's carbon fiber chassis. The package had been aimed at improving the front-end feel of the Ducati, and it had been tested by Vito Guareschi and Franco Battaini, and taken to Sepang for the Marlboro Ducati riders to test during the MotoGP tests.
So we're finally racing again, after what seemed like an eternity. Even though we were here just a couple of days ago for the final test of the year, walking through the paddock on Thursday was like being in another world. If a racetrack during a test on is a cold, desolate place, come race weekend, there's a completely different vibe.