It was a long and very full weekend of motorcycle racing, and to call it eventful would be one of the more obvious understatements of the year. In the 125c class, Johann Zarco finally got the win he has been chasing for so long, and did so in convincing style. In Moto2, Andrea Iannone produced the kind of display that everyone knows that he is capable of, but that he manages a little too sporadically.
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What a difference a day makes. Or perhaps that should be, what a different an afternoon makes. That Casey Stoner took pole at Motegi in the MotoGP class should surprise no one: pole in Japan is Stoner's 10th of the year, a new record for a MotoGP season, and with it, he wrapped up the BMW M Award, getting to take home a shiny new BMW 1 Series M Coupe. And all that with three qualifying sessions left to go.
The first day of practice was summed up succinctly by Colin Edwards, in the TV interview that all of the riders do with MotoGP.com at the end of each day. The bike felt good, Edwards said, the front feels planted, he felt good on the bike. "It's just them frickin' Hondas!"
It was billed by the respected Italian website GPOne.com as "The Grand Prix Of Fear" and finally it's here. Unless something extremely untoward happens - highly unlikely, but the zone is one of the most geologically active regions in the world - by Friday evening, everyone will have gotten over themselves and we'll be talking about bikes on track again.
Two important tests for the future of Honda are to take place over the next couple of months.
John Hopkins continues to sidle up to a MotoGP ride for 2012. After replacing Alvaro Bautista at Jerez and then entering as a wildcard at Brno, the current BSB championship leader is set for another wildcard aboard the Rizla Suzuki, this time at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Hopkins will line up in Sepang alongside Bautista again, as he did at Brno, though he will be hoping for a better outcome, the American unable to race in the Czech Republic after crashing out during practice on the Saturday of the Brno meeting.
The announcement by Honda at Aragon that the Japanese factory would be fielding two wildcards at Motegi, in the form of veteran rider Shinichi Itoh and test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi, as a display of solidarity with the tsunami-stricken region of East Japan meant that for once this year, it looked like there would be a grid of 19 riders in MotoGP. But a crash early in the race saw Loris Capirossi fall heavily on the shoulder he had previously injured at Assen, and the Italian was advised not to race in Japan by famous paddock physician Dr Claudio Costa.
After much debate about the amount and costs of testing for the MotoGP class, IRTA and the MSMA have agreed to loosen the reins a little for 2012. Preseason testing for the 2012 MotoGP testing will be increased by 1 day, from the 8 days the teams had in 2011 to 9 days next season. To help contain costs and make better use of the available time, the night tests at Qatar which preceded the season opener in previous years has been dropped in favor of the Jerez circuit in the south of Spain.
Marco Simoncelli has won the unofficial Battle of the HRC Italians. Today, the San Carlo Gresini team announced that Simoncelli would be staying with the squad for 2012, and would be doing so with a HRC contract and a factory-spec Honda RC213V.
It is hard to keep secrets when Valentino Rossi is involved. Not because of the Italian - Rossi has been the very soul of discretion on the subject of Ducati's development - but because of the exposure he brings to any situation, and especially to Ducati. So on Thursday, Ducati held a private test of a brand new chassis for their 2012 MotoGP machine, all of the details of which were supposed to be secret, but most of which everybody knew.
Loris Capirossi is one race closer to the end of his career. The veteran Italian, due to retire at the end of the season, injured his shoulder in a crash two thirds into the MotoGP race at Aragon, falling on the shoulder he had previously injured at Assen. As a result of the fall, Capirossi has been advised by his doctors to keep the shoulder immobilized, and will be forced to miss the Motegi MotoGP round.
Bradley Smith has been a revelation in the 2012 season. After struggling a little in the early part of the year, Smith quickly got the hang of riding a 600cc four stroke, and with the help of his crew chief Tom Jojic, has become a consistent front runner in the Moto2 class.
MotoGP history was made at Aragon, and as has been the case so often throughout his career, the man making the history was Valentino Rossi. He is unlikely to be quite so proud of this piece of history, though: On Sunday, Rossi became the first rider to fall foul of MotoGP's engine durability rules, using his seventh engine during warm up, one beyond his original allocation of six and consequently being forced to start from pit lane.