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.
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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.
"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.
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.
After a month's enforced rest, the MotoGP paddock has reassembled once again at Estoril, and at the press conference, the assembled riders - with one exception - looked as if they hadn't missed the media attention one single bit. The exception was Alvaro Bautista, the Rizla Suzuki rider barely able to believe his luck being back and with a chance of riding, just 41 days after breaking his femur in a horrific practice crash at Qatar.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the new MotoGP rules due to take effect from 2012 are just the start of more major changes coming further in the future. The hiring of Corrado Cecchinelli - formerly of Ducati Corse - as Director of Technology was one part of this puzzle, and today another piece fell into place, with the signing of the former Director of Bridgestone Motorsports, Hiroshi Yasukawa, as an advisor to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen a similar image a few weeks ago, and read the story about how many tries it took to get an instance of the blue fire. Here it is again for those who missed it.
The vast majority of MotoGP riders will be much happier tonight, once they learn the news that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to repave the infield section, from Turn 5 through to Turn 16. The entire back section - from where the track leaves the oval for the second time at Turn 5, all the way through to the point it rejoins the oval at Turn 16 - is to be resurfaced, addressing concerns by a number of riders over the track surface.
The debate has been rumbling under the surface for some time, but at Jerez it finally burst to the surface. It emerged that Marco Simoncelli and Valentino Rossi had submitted an informal proposal to the Safety Commission to examine having a combined minimum weight for both bike and rider in MotoGP, just as there currently is in the 125cc class. Their argument was that lighter riders had an unfair advantage, and that by setting a minimum weight, the larger riders would have a better chance of competing.
The MotoGP series is about to undergo a transformation in 2012, with the premier class returning to 1000cc engine capacity and the 125cc bikes being replaced by the 250cc four-stroke Moto3 formula. But the bikes are not the only thing due to change: the calendar itself is likely to undergo a radical transformation, with several new tracks being added while others disappear.
The first of the 2012 MotoGP bikes - the bikes built to conform to the new regulations permitting machines of up to 1000cc - has taken to the track in testing, and with the most famous of names at the helm. Valentino Rossi rode the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 at Jerez today, getting his first laps on Ducati's 2012 MotoGP contender.