2012 Mugello Moto3 Race Report: Viñales' Winning Strategy Was His Own Sheer Speed

After Sandro Cortese had won the Moto3 race in Germany the week before, it was logical to expect more of the same from the championship leader at the ultra fast racetrack of Mugello. Even more so if you believe the not yet fully proven myth of KTM's supersonic engines, as they have appeared to be at some tracks this in this first season of Moto3.

After Viñales' wet nightmare at the Sachsenring just a few days ago - unable to gain even a single point in the race, something very difficult to understand for such a road racing talent as Viñales has already demonstrated he is-, the Spaniard on the FTR Honda looked to be ready to fight for victory again at a dry Mugello.

Viñales was the fastest rider on the track during the free practice sessions, gradually getting closer to Bradley Smith's best pole position in 2009 with the Aprilia 125 two stroke. The British rider's fastest lap time back in 2009 -1'58.134- was finally beaten by Viñales' 1'57.980 during qualifying.

With only Viñales lapping in the 1'57, plus Cortese, Spanish rookie Alex Rins and Vasque Efrén Vázquez doing 1'58, Mugello's fast layout definitely helped twelve more riders who were running 1'59s –from Danny Kent in 5th to Miguel Oliveira in 16th - to grow the front group to 15 riders at the start of the race.

Slipstreaming strategies started as soon every rider in the front realized that escaping from the group would be a difficult option. Zulfahmi Khairuddin tried hard at the start, but even having the fastest bike on the track during the race (236 km/h), the Malaysian could not resist the deadly battle between Viñales, Cortese, Romano Fenati, Niccolò Antonelli, Vázquez and Rins, and lost contact with the front a few laps later.

In terms of top speed, the KTMs were again the fastest Moto3 bikes at Mugello – Khairuddin topped out at 236 km/h, Cortese, Sissis, Ajo and Kent all hit 235 km/h. But the next fastest rider –Viñales on the FTR Honda- just made 234 km/h. And the difference between Khairuddin and Martin -18th fastest in top speed for the whole event- was just 4 km/h. The KTMs were faster once again, but not by so much. If there is any right place to test the top speed of the Moto3 bikes, Mugello's 1.1 km main straight is for sure the prime candidate.

If the first few laps had been stressful for the riders, with constant overtaking in the front group, the rest of the race was going to be very similar. As soon it was clear that the race lead would be changing hands from Viñales to Fenati, Cortese, Antonelli to Vazquez, the idea of escaping became more important for Viñales, Cortese and Fenati, who achieved this goal in the final part of the race. Slipstreaming could disguise the lack of top speed while in the larger group, but with just three riders in front for the final laps, it was the moment to find out if Cortese's top speed was going to prevail.

Viñales started the last lap with total determination to win by his own speed, as he was riding during every practice session in the weekend. When the three riders came to the last corner, Cortese made his late attack over Fenati but was already unable to pass Viñales, who exited onto Mugello's main straight first and praying not to be passed by Cortese and Fenati in the final metres.

Viñales had taken his pole position on Saturday by making a fantastic lap time in qualifying session, especially by being extremely fast in the last sector of the track on his fastest lap. On Sunday he put his trust in himself again and also his FTR Honda to win the race by his own speed. Meanwhile Fenati finally passed Cortese, who finished third. Behind the battle for the win, Antonelli, Kent and Vázquez finished 4th, 5th and 6th, with Rins last of the group in 7th.

For sure Mugello's Moto3 race was as thrilling as the class always is. Victory was open for three different riders but, in a clear contrast with the Sachsenring's nightmare ending for Viñales, this time the Spaniard got the win. Fenati's second place gave Viñales four additional points in his chase of series leader Cortese, third at Mugello.

The Moto3 championship standings are getting closer at the top. Cortese is still the leader with 164 points and Viñales second with 155. The biggest loss at the Italian Grand Prix was for Luis Salom (104), still third in points after crashing at Mugello, but now further behind Viñales and Cortese for the title race.

Now it is the summer break for the Moto3 riders. Riders and teams will enjoy some free time to analyse, reflect and prepare for the last part of the season, starting again on August 17th at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. The new "quarter litre" category is now at halfway mark, and it is a good time to take a look back and see where each rider and title contender is at this moment, in order to face this second and decisive part of the season. But that's another story we will soon publish at Motomatters.com


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2012 Assen Moto2 Race Report: Triple Victory At Assen For Márquez, Massive Disappointment For Esparagó

Watching how Marc Márquez was totally eclipsed by Pol Espargaró and Briton Scott Redding at the British Grand Prix, it was to be expected that the Catalunya Caixa rider would make a fast return two weeks later at the Dutch TT. However, Moto2 started at Assen as it finished at Silverstone, with Espargaró the fastest man on the track from the start of free practice one to the end of FP3 in Holland.

While all this was happening Márquez was already taking an unusual first win of the weekend, when the FIM finally confirmed the Spaniard’s controversial 16 points earned in Barcelona.

We recently wrote at Motomatters.com about how baffling this Moto2 season could become because of the two possible outcomes of the FIM’s decision. Actually, this had already happened in Barcelona when the FIM Stewards decided to uphold the Catalunya Caixa Team’s appeal against the one minute penalty imposed on Márquez by Race Direction’s for his dangerous move on Espargaró that ended with the Kalex rider literally eating the dust.

Marquez’s win # 1

The FIM decision was Marquez’s first victory of the weekend at Assen, because sixteen points mean much more of an advantage over Espargaró in such a highly competitive Moto2 class, as the 2012 season has turned out to be until now. On the other hand, giving Márquez sixteen points he could possibly have lost, and you can be sure that it will have a profound affect on the fight for the title – even if Marquez wins the title at the end of the season by more than those same sixteen points. Clearly, it is not exactly the same as giving sixteen points to Elena Rosell.

Even if this was just a race incident between Márquez and Espargaró, Race Direction’s penalty in Barcelona wanted to warn Marquez about safety on the track and, at the same time, it also equalled conditions with his main rival Espargaró, the other rider involved, not giving any points to neither of them. But that is the way this has played, so maybe it is a waste of time keep talking about something that just cannot be changed.

Marquez’s win # 2

Espargaró’s victory in Great Britain could also not prevent Marquez’s assault on the top of the championship table, thanks in part also to Swiss rider Thomas Luthi’s poor performance at Silverstone, where he was briefly the championship leader..

Despite the fact that the HP Tuenti rider was not ready at the key moment of qualifying at Assen, and the pole position finally went to Márquez - before the Suter rider crashed twice in Friday practice sessions - Espargaró was the reference during the warm up once again. As the red light dimmed, it clearly looked as of the Kalex rider was once more going to give everything to win the race.

But the path to success is tough and sometimes quite painful way too, as Espargaró experienced when he crashed while trying to leave the wild leading group of Márquez, Andrea Iannone, Bradley Smith and early race leader and promising Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter.

Espargaró was totally determined to win at Assen the same way he had at Silverstone, but he made a mistake and his race ended right there. We recently said we really liked the positive racing influence that an experienced and cleverly managed team like Pons HP Tuenti has on Espargaró, but it seems they cannot cover every eventuality. Anyway, I’m sure Espargaró will learn from this too and come back to the fight at the Sachsenrring, ironically the same track where he crashed in 2010 fighting for victory against Marquez in the former 125 class.

It is not unrealistic to guess that Espargaró could have finished second at Assen, behind eventual winner Márquez. We all know it is one part in the thousands of factors that play a role in racing, but here we also have at least another twenty points lost by Espargaró in Holland. That makes 36 now and still counting. And, of course, this was also a second victory for Marquez’s aspirations for the championship.

Marquez’s win # 3

None of these circumstances change in the slightest Marquez’s brilliant victory over Iannone in the Dutch TT Moto2 race itself. Even a true Moto2 axe murderer like Iannone could not withstand Marquez’s pace lap after lap. Marquez’s final effort to earn some vital metres over Iannone in the last lap also prevented the Italian from trying a desperate move coming into last chicane. It was a natural win for a natural talent, whatever the circumstances of the FIM or Pol Espargaró.

Marquez’s victory at Assen also mean 25 precious points for the championship, that same Moto2 championship which Espargaró is fighting for. From a strictly numerical viewpoint, any point earned by one rider means a loss for his rivals. And here were have Marquez’s third victory of the weekend, and also 25 more points lost by Espargaró. You do not often see a rider losing 61 points in just one race.

A New Moto2 scenario

Marquez’s latest victory (127 points) takes him further ahead in the championship standings over not just Espargaró (96 points), but also over Andrea Iannone (104) and Thomas Luthi (96), who crashed at Assen. British rider Scott Redding was once more closer to the front in Holland. His third place was the best he could get behind the faster men Márquez and Iannone, but his podium spot was not earned lightly, Redding first having to deal with Spaniard Tito Rabat in a close fight.

It is not hard to predict a new thrilling battle during the German Grand Prix next weekend at Sachsenring. Márquez, Espargaró, Iannone, Redding and Luthi will be back on the track, but I still wonder, after thinking of Espargaró’s bad results at Assen, wether the FIM’s decision has been good or bad for the championship. If the FIM had supported Race Direction in Barcelona, as it did last weekend with the penalty applied to Álvaro Bautista after smashing his Honda into Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha in the MotoGP class, maybe we would not be still talking about the Catalonian Moto2 affair.


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2012 Assen Moto3 Preview: "Do Or Die" Class Unleashes Four-Stroke Engines at Assen

Though it is hard to see Assen without remembering the old a painful reminder of the old six kilometre long layout, we’ll still be glad to watch the Moto3 bikes racing for first time at Dutch TT this weekend. Especially if you are still thrilled by the action seen at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago -with up to eleven riders fighting for a place on the rostrum-, you just can’t wait to watch a new chapter of these young lions racing and writing Moto3 history in its debut season.

Maverick Viñales is the new leader in the standings after the British Grand Prix (105 points) with Sandro Cortese in second place (103). Luis Salom stands third (75 points) thanks to his fighting spirit and getting best out of his Kalex KTM, exactly the same bike Aspar riders Héctor Faubel (28 points) and Alberto Moncayo (36) are riding nowhere near the front at this moment of the season. Kalex riders have been progressively provided with a new frame since the Barcelona race, but Faubel and Moncayo still have problems in finding the speed the new class demands. It’s a hard situation for a team which dominated the series in four of the last six seasons of 125 class history, until its end in 2011.

Behind Viñales and Cortese, Salom, rookie rider Romano Fenati (61 points) and Louis Rossi (45 points) are waiting for a chance that could very well come again in the next race. Meanwhile, Álex Rins (44 points), Zulfahmi Khairuddin (44 points) and Alexis Masbou (42), Oliveira (33), Sissis (31) and Vázquez (15 points) will keep riding like a soul escaping from Hell to grab a place on the rostrum. Silverstone was an amazing battle, with three riders totally focused on winning (Viñales, Cortese and Salom), and a long list of outsiders ready to die if needed to get a place on the rostrum (Masbou, Vázquez, Kent, Rossi, Fenati, Sissis, Khairuddin and Oliveira).

I’m sure you believe me if I say I don’t really like the deep hum of the 250 cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine, but I must recognize that, even knowing that Moto3 four stroke technology was already available since the first few decades of 20th Century –so, no big technical deal for a road racing world championship almost hundred years later-, the action on the track is still great to watch thanks to similar machinery and the indomitable spirit of the riders in the junior class.

The spring of 1990

Whatever kind of engine you prefer, what we get today from Moto3 class is about similar level of technical performance, also a legacy of the former two-stroke 125 class too. We all know that 125 was a category where having a true two-stroke technician and a genuinely fast rider used not to be enough to become world champion, or even to win a single race. Actually, in addition to these things, a 125 winner needed to be half clever strategist and half merciless hit man too. But it has not been always like that. The ultra competitive atmosphere in the 125cc class probably has a starting date, a day when everything changed in the spring of the1990 season and the races with more than several potential winners were born. But let’s go back further in the past to understand some facts.

In the glorious decade of the1960’s which featured the screaming Japanese multicylinder engines, the 125 class became so expensive in technical development that new technical regulations limited engines to two-stroke twins from the 1970 season. For almost two decades, European manufacturers got back in on their golden era. Derbi’s twins won the 125 title twice in the hands of Ángel Nieto at the start of the 70’s, and later, Italian bikes like Morbidelli, MBA, Minarelli or Garelli twins won every world title in the class from 1975 to 1987. But technical rules were about to change once again for 1988 and the 125 class was then limited to two-stroke single-cylinder engines.

After dominating the 80 cc class since 1986, Derbi and Spaniard Jorge Martínez were ready to win the first 125 World Championship for single-cylinder engines in 1988. The following season the championship went to rising star Álex Crivillé on the Spanish framed JJ Cobas/ Rotax. But those two different 125 twins and single-cylinder eras had something in common. In the last years of twins and those two first of singles, European manufactures produced a very small series of their fastest machines for their factory team riders, so races used to be dominated by just a very few fast riders and the fight for victory on every race used to be a matter of three or four riders per season at a maximum.

On the other hand, since the last days of twins Honda was back in the 125 class developing their two stroke single engine based on their motocross racers. Those exclusive machines were again in the hands of a few riders, such as Italian rider Ezio Gialona in 1988 and Dutchman Hans Spaan in 1989, but even they could do nothing against Derbi and JJ Cobas small but highly experienced teams in Grand Prix racing then.

At the same time that HRC were providing new parts and technical development for their fastest riders, the Japanese company was ready to sell the RS125, a cheap production racer available anywhere, destined for anything from small teams in club racing to private teams with real aspirations of success in the world championship using A, B or whatever lettered kits, always looking for higher performance. I still remember during those years some European privateers travelling to Japan for the first race of the season carrying no bikes. Those bikes would be bought at Suzuka racing shops for around 5.000 € -at the time-, plus the parts the rider was going to need for racing –the bikes themselves were sold with spoked wheels!.

But all this opened a new field for privateers and non-factory riders. Even if your rider did not have the most powerful spare parts kit at his disposal, a good technician could tune engines and make them be extremely fast anyway. Honda’s production racers filled a massively competitive 125 grid, so the prize of a single point became harder and harder to achieve on track, never mind winning a race or the championship. Honda finally won its first two-stroke 125 world title thanks to Loris Capirossi in 1990, but that was also a season of transition in more than one sense. With more bikes with similar performance and a new generation of Japanese riders becoming more and more competitive, we all got used to watching up to ten riders fighting for a place on the rostrum. The most bizarre scene of this came in Yugoslavia, when the first nine riders (Stefan Prein, Loris Capirossi, Bruno Casanova, Ralf Waldmann, Doriano Romboni, Fausto Gresini, Adi Stadler, Maurizio Vitali and Alessandro Gramigni), crossed the finish line at Rijeka in less than one second.

Nobody had seen such close Grand Prix racing in any class until then, and the tradition continued during the following decades. During those years Italian manufacturer Aprilia was already close to becoming competitive in 125, and its policy of selling production bikes was also a success. As time went by, Aprilia managed an expensive policy with its best satellite teams, and that meant a way to establish new differences between factory and privateers riders, but the 125 never lost again its high competitive spirit until the end of its life in the 2011 season.

Waiting for Assen 2012

Coming back to the present season, Moto3 was born with that same spirit, equalizing bike performance even more than it was in 125 thanks to some very detailed technical rules on 250 cc four strokes engines. Races like Silvertone is when we all enjoy the fruits of that approach and watch Viñales, Cortese and company fighting for the rostrum against lower profile riders. Where race leaders get caught up fighting and exchanging positions among themselves -wasting their precious lead-, then the second group has a strong chance of catching them, making possible that eleven-rider battle at the front front we all enjoyed at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Coming to Assen for the Dutch TT, we expect to see Viñales chasing his fourth victory of the 2012 season –He already won here last year on the 125-, and it may be a good chance for Salom to get his first GP win at the home race of the Dutch RW Racing GP team. Cortese finished off the rostrum in 2011, something he cannot afford to do again if he wants to stay among the title contenders at midseason. But we all wish to see another thrilling battle with Fenati, Rossi, Masbou, Vázquez, Khairuddin, Faubel and Moncayo, if the latter two finally find their way. I, for one, will not be able to resist the temptation of imagining how it would have been to watch these wild riders fighting on the older Assen layout. The world changes, and it seems not to matter when business takes over from passion and tradition.


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2012 Silverstone Moto2 Race Report: Don't Get Mad, Get Even

Pol Espargaró came back from darkness into the winner’s spotlight in a matter of days, thanks to his lonely and extraordinary Moto2 win at Silverstone. «Smart» Pol –do not confuse with Ducati rider Paul Smart- left Barcelona injured, with no points and witnessing how arch rival Marc Márquez was leaving with the same 16 points that Pol was fighting for when he crashed at Montmeló.

Espargaro may not be the most technical rider on the grid, neither does he speak the best English. However, you can be sure he has the strongest spirit among riders in the intermediate class. It would have been natural to be furious after being taken out by Marquez in Barcelona. But Espargaró was very well advised by HP Tuenti team Boss Sito Pons and chose the opposite and toughest way of overcoming his setback. Just dedicating a few nice words to his Catalunya Caixa rival and then focusing on proving at Silverstone he is as quick as the fastest rider on the track. Watching Espargaró in the last few seasons brings to my mind that old racing cliché: You can't teach a slow rider to produce a talent he does not have, but fortunately you can teach a skilled rider to be smarter or avoid mistakes. That’s what Espargaró and the HP Tuenti team have achieved this season.

Espargaró started his job in free practice 1 and extended his domination to qualifying practice –only Iannone, Bradl, Márquez and Luthi have ever done this before in two and half seasons of Moto2 history-. On Sunday he was beaten by Márquez during the warm up session, but the Catalunya Caixa rider never felt totally comfortable at Silverstone and a third place on the rostrum was maybe a bit more then he might have hoped to get when the British race was over. But Espargaro’s brilliant performance was not the only problem for Marquez. In fact, even though we are already becoming used to enjoying Marquez’s amazing talent, he was totally eclipsed by Espargaró’s overtaking and Briton Scott Redding’s quest for glory at Silverstone.

Scott Redding was dying to show he is fast and consistent enough to win in Moto2 in front of his home crowd. Redding was second in FP2 and FP3 behind Espargaró, and he was always among the fastest riders in every practice session. A place on front row of the grid was good enough after receiving a penalty during the last minute of QP for running wide and off the track exiting the last corner. As soon as the flag dropped, Redding gave an absolutely brilliant display of riding. With all due respect to British riders -including legend Barry Sheene and even rising star Cal Crutchlow-, no other has ever showed Redding’s manners on the bike in the last thirty years of Grand Prix racing. Redding on the track is amazing to watch, and many of have demanded again and again that a combined rider-bike weight is needed as technical rule for the future of Moto2.

Anyway, this technical rule will be too late for a tall and muscular rider like Redding because I just can’t believe that nobody has though of him yet as a MotoGP rider, and I’m sure he would be perfect. After losing contact with Espargaró on the previous laps, Redding made sure that on the last one -with perfectly fair riding behaviour- that no way was he was going to be beaten by Márquez, showing the Spaniard how it feels being victim of his own weapon. If Redding could find what it takes to be in front for longer, the last laps of Moto2 races would induce even more heart attacks at the end.

Thomas Luthi, points standing leader after the Catalonian race, was nowhere near the front during the weekend at Silverstone. The Swiss rider, briefly the championship leader, posted the fastest lap in the race, but it was not enough to beat Bradley Smith for sixth place, and he may be figuring out that being extremely fast is not enough to win either races or the championship at the end of the season.

In the end it was, Márquez who got the biggest gain from Luthi’s mediocre performance. The Spaniard is the new championship leader with a six points gap over Espargó and Luthi, both with same points in second place. This would normally be an ideal situation for the Catalunya Caixa rider, but he could in fact end up third in the standings if the FIM changes its mind about Catalonian Grand Prix affair. It is not likely but, whatever is decided, it must be made known as soon as possible for the good of the championship. Some people are saying the FIM will announce its decision on one of two dates. It could come before the Dutch TT, or two weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix. If it is not know soon, the riders will not know which championship leader they are racing against.


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2012 Silverstone Moto2 Preview: Bureaucracy Comes To Moto2

After the announcement of Casey Stoner's retirement a few weeks ago and Jorge Lorenzo’s confirmation recently that he will be staying with Yamaha for the next two seasons, everybody is trying to guess the answer to the million--dollar question: which factory will Valentino Rossi be riding for next season?.

But none of this has anything to do with the real interest of the World Championship, where Moto2 and Moto3 classes show the real thrilling action on the track, and we all expect more of the same from a new edition of British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Even though the Silverstone racetrack has a great tradition and long history in British Grand Prix racing, I must confess that I still miss the technical and demanding layout of Donington Park. But business is stronger than passion or any other influence in motorsport in recent times, just as it is everywhere else. With Donington gone since 2009 -after hosting 22 rounds of the British Grand Prix-, at least the speedy Silverstone is still a great place for racing, as we will all enjoy this weekend.

The Moto2 Class was born in 2010 at the same time as the Silverstone racetrack was coming back to Grand Prix racing, after dropping off the calendar in 1986. Even if we would have loved to watch Andrea Iannone, Thomas Luthi, Marc Márquez or Pol Espargaró coming down the hill on their Moto2 bikes at Craner or saving braking slides coming into the Melbourne Hairpin at Donington Park, Silverstone’s ultra fast layout still ensures amazing races too.

Looking forward to the Moto2 British Grand Prix, on the sporting side Swiss rider Thomas Luthi is leading the standing thanks to a smart season. Being on the rostrum in four of five races, plus a psychological win at a wet Le Mans, Luthi is now the leader of the series with 88 points after the last race in Catalonia, just two points ahead of the flying Spaniard Marc Márquez -86 points-. Behind them Andrea Iannone -71 points-, is showing again his mighty talent, although it is been mixed with some poor performances as seems to happen every season. Pol Espargaró -71 points-, went to his local race in Catalonia and after his encounter with Marquez left Barcelona with an injured ankle and no points for him, and is now fourth in the standings.

Because of this last affair, the intermediate class is taking a strange atmosphere to Silverstone, as an air of bureaucracy hangs over the race. The fact in this case is that those last sixteen points earned by Márquez from his third position in Barcelona are still up in the air, after Espargaró's 40 HP Tuenti team lodged an appeal with the FIM, to have the points taken away from Márquez due to his risky action with Espargaró, especially when all this ended in disaster for Espargaró while fighting for third place behind Luthi and Italian Andrea Iannone.

Race Direction decided to apply a one minute penalty to Márquez in Barcelona, but that decision was soon revoked by FIM Stewards later the same day. Espargaró’s team then appealed, understanding that their rider had lost a serious amount of points and many of his options in the championship due to the Montmelo crash. So, we do not exactly know at this moment if Márquez is second in the standings –with 86 points behind leader Luthi-, or if he stands fourth after Luthi, Espargaró, Iannone with just seventy points.

At least this is happening during the early part of the season. Otherwise, a situation like this later in the year could likely give an surreal view at the end of the season for riders, teams and viewers alike. Hopefully, we will soon find out the final decision of the FIM, something more significant than just a different point of view between such important racing institutions as the FIM and Race Direction.

Whatever it is, it is not going to finish at Silverstone this week. Marquez and Espargaro meet each other again at the same track where the pair fought tooth and nail for victory in the 125 class in 2010. Marquez beat Espargaro then, after a thrilling and eventful last lap full of contact between the two riders, something similar to what they did a few weeks ago in the last lap of the Portuguese or Catalonian races.

Espargaro was injured after his crash in Barcelona, suffering a sprain in one of his ankles. His team has sent out a press release interviewing him about this round at Siverstone. The sprain seems to be OK, but his extremely nice words towards Márquez reveal a maybe not so clear attitude. HP Tuenti team boss Sito Pons must have been clear on this affair, forbidding any pugnacious words from any of his crew. From the side of Márquez, silence seems to be the main priority too. Either way, both riders will surely be fighting for victory at Silverstone. We’ll find out once they are back on the about the real lessons learnt by each rider in Barcelona.

Guessing the winner of the Moto2 race at the British Grand Prix a very difficult task at this moment. 2011 British race winner Stefan Bradl won’t be among the fastest riders of the 2012 season –Luthi, Márquez, Espargaró and Iannone-. Looking back at the 2011 race, of these latter four, only Luthi was able to earn a disappointing single point by finishing 15th in the wet. Marquez crashed again during the race after smashing up his Suter in the warm up session on Sunday morning, so no points for him. Nor for Espargaró either –also crashed - or Iannone –finished out of the points, in 16th.

So, what can we expect from the Moto2 race this time? For sure, we’ll enjoy an amazing race with the four fastest guys out on the track in almost physical perfect conditions, plus some local riders like Scott Redding, Bradley Smith or Gino Rea, and some inspired guests in the front like Claudio Corti, Mika Kallio, Toni Elías or Tito Rabat.

Last year’s MotoGP British Grand Prix was held under the rain. Some predictions say that weather will be fine this weekend, others predict cold rainy days like 2011. For those disappointed if rain finally falls, we all know dry racing is always faster and safer too. But we all surely recognize that the seemingly mutually exclusive concepts of heavy rain and riding a motorcycle very fast takes talent and sensitivity to a higher level of perfection.


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2012 Silverstone MotoGP Preview: Another Wet Race, A Few More Surprises?

On a sunny and pleasant Thursday, the day before the MotoGP riders are to take to the track at Silverstone for the first day of free practice, the questions ahead of this weekend should be obvious: Have the Hondas really found something at the Barcelona test to fix the chatter that has plagued them this season? How will Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa get on with the new "33" spec front tire, now that the old construction has been withdrawn from the allocation? Does Jorge Lorenzo's new two-year contract with Yamaha mean he eases up or he pushes harder to extend his impressive lead in the championship? And just how much more progress can the Ducatis make in the dry without any major updates? Are Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi any nearer to closing in on the Tech 3 Yamahas, their first port of call on the way to the podium fight?

But this is MotoGP 2012. And this is England. Despite the balmy conditions on Thursday, the Met Office forecasters are positively apologetic: it's going to be wet, and though the forecast has improved since early in the week, where they were promising positively torrential conditions, the weather looks set to be merely wet, rather than diluvian. Right now, it looks like race day could be the best of the lot - merely showery, rather than rainy - but the chances of getting much dry track time this weekend appear to be vanishingly slim.

Normally, wet conditions is enough to keep audience numbers down, but things are a little different this season. As Le Mans showed, a wet track is Valentino Rossi's best hope of a podium, or even - dare the fans dream of it? - a win. Why the Ducati works well in the wet is a mystery: every wet weekend, both Rossi and Nicky Hayden are asked why the Desmosedici GP12 is so strong in the rain, yet so troublesome in the dry, and every time they give the same reply: "We don't know." But the confidence with with the factory Ducati men can throw the bike around in the wet is plain to see, giving them their best chance of a strong result if the rain comes as promised on Sunday. And the prospect of Rossi on the podium fills grandstands, exposing the major weakness of MotoGP: it's excessive reliance on its Italian superstar. One day, Rossi will retire, and so far, Dorna have nothing to keep the fans attention - the casual fans at least, not the much smaller hardcore who will watch anyway.

Wet or dry, the two protagonists of any MotoGP race this season are Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner and Factory Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. Last year, in the torrential downpour that was the 2011 British Grand Prix, Casey Stoner gave a masterclass in riding in the wet. Yet a month ago, it was Jorge Lorenzo's turn to demonstrate his smoothness in the rain, obliterating the field at Le Mans with spectacular ease. That race neatly illustrated the problems which Honda is having this season: in Parc Ferme, the rear wet tire of Jorge Lorenzo's Yamaha looked remarkably fresh, with a nice even wear pattern and still plenty of tread left. The rear of Stoner's Honda was destroyed, the tire having chewed through most of its edge pattern, leaving Stoner losing ground massively in the final laps.

Since its introduction at Brno, the Honda RC213V has struggled with tires: in the dry, the bike chatters, first at the rear, and now, with the new spec front Bridgestone, at the front as well. In the wet, the bike eats tires, a consequence perhaps of its more aggressive acceleration. How well and how quickly Cristian Gabarrini and Mike Leitner manage to find solutions to that dilemma will be a key factor in this weekend's race.

The Yamaha has no such problems, the M1's only real weakness a lack of top speed and acceleration. That has not hurt them much: Jorge Lorenzo leads the title chase by 20 points after the first five races, and three Yamahas sit in the top five of the championship table. Andrea Dovizioso has already appeared on the podium - the first satellite bike to do so since Colin Edwards at Silverstone last year - and going by Cal Crutchlow's form, he is sure to follow very soon. Silverstone would be an ideal place for Crutchlow to get his first podium, providing a boost for the Englishman in front of his home crowd, and getting even once again with his teammate, in what is an increasingly tense relationship between the two men.

The anomaly in the Yamaha garage is Ben Spies, the Texan having a very torrid time in his second season in the factory Yamaha team. A technical problem at Qatar followed by set up problems at Jerez got his season off to a shaky start, and he has been playing catch up ever since. The pressure is obvious: a series of mistakes have seen Spies finish poorly, despite setting a respectable pace. His aim is once again just to try to have a smooth weekend, without any mishaps, and rebuild his confidence. Spies was fast in the wet at Le Mans - at least, once he'd sorted out a problem with his visor, suffered at the start of the race - and so should be competitive at Silverstone. If he can keep it together.

What of the CRTs? Could a damp Silverstone provide them with the opportunity to get in among the factory prototypes? Though much progress is being made on the new bikes, the fact that they are still at such an early stage of their development makes it difficult, even in the wet. Cream of the CRT crop so far have been the Power Electronics Aspar riders Aleix Espargaro and Randy De Puniet, and a new swingarm and extra testing should help them get a little bit closer. But Silverstone is such a fast track that even in the rain, following the much faster prototypes is tricky. Perhaps PBM's James Ellison can repeat his feat from Le Mans, ending as the top CRT bike and getting close to a top ten finish. The new bikes still have a way to go yet.


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2012 Moto2 Catalunya Grand Prix Review: Racing Crimes Remain The Same

For the last couple of days since the Catalunya Grand Prix, I have been wondering and trying to find out why the FIM did not confirm the one minute race time penalty given to Marc Marquez by Race Direction, awarded because of the Catalunya Caixa rider’s risky action over Pol Espargaro during the last few laps of Moto2 race at Montmeló.

As everyone knows by now the Moto2 class continues to provide some of the closest battles for victory in Grand Prix racing history and, even more today than in the past 250 class times, the price paid by riders for this show is still living on the edge of disaster if they chase any chance of glory.

Maybe that was the main reason why Marquez decided to come back to the inside line of Turn 10 as soon as possible after a massive slide on his Suter, which looked to leave him out of the race or at least out of fighting for a place on the rostrum.

Maybe that was also the reason why Pol Espargaró decided to take as much advantage from his arch rival’s mistake on his over-geared Kalex. There are lots of things to have in mind before getting a conclusion on who was right or who was wrong; like each rider’s actions and the timing of those actions, and also the key decisions taken by Race Direction and soon later by FIM Stewards. But prior to expose a particular point of view on this critical question, let us have a look a race’s final contenders for victory, Andrea Iannone and Thomas Luthi.

Since the Moto2 class started in 2010, Andrea Iannone has been one of favourite riders for victory in every race. For some observers, even, the Italian is the fastest rider in the class. But he seems to need every aspect of racing in to be perfect in order to win –perfect settings, a good qualifying lap time and a perfect start of the race too, among several factors.

Once Iannone was on the track and felt comfortable as he did at Montmeló, it was clear that victory was going to him rather than to the more conservative Thomas Luthi. The Swiss rider may not usually fight for victory as hard as Iannone, Marquez or Espargaró do, but he combines consistency with being extremely fast too. Though Luthi is not a Red Bull sponsored rider, his second place in Barcelona “gave him wings” to leap into the lead of the championship standings. While Marquez was still off the podium because of the decision of Race Direction, Luthi was even further ahead on points from Márquez, but even the decision by the FIM Stewards to put Marquez back to third still leaves Luthi as leader of the series.

Crimes remain the same

No matter how long time passes, if you look back 25 years in Grand Prix racing, you’ll find that things may have changed a lot technically, the minds of the riders have done so too. As with Andrea Iannone in 2012, back in the 1990 season there was another flying Italian rider, Luca Cadalora, not a true world championship contender at the time –still riding Giacomo Agostini team’s works Yamaha YZR 250, before joining Honda in 1991-, but for sure a challenging rival capable of winning anywhere, at anytime. As Ianonne seems to be today, Cadalora needed everything right to be competitive.

However, it all came together for Cadalora once he joined the Rothmans Honda squad run by Erv Kanemoto in 1991. Cadalora won the title then and he repeated his performance in 1992 as the strongest rider on the track. He got it thanks to the Honda NSR 250's greater potential and also due to Erv Kanemoto’s experience giving the right help to a rising star, as he had done with Freddie Spencer a few years earlier. Cadalora also found with Kanemoto the calm and peace needed to become a fast and safe rider capable of winning at every race, and maybe something similar is what Andrea Iannone needs now to become a real championship contender in Moto2.

While Cadalora was still struggling on Agostini’s Yamaha in 1988, Jacques Cornu was the Swiss rider who, like Luthi in 2012, was fighting for victory against not only Cadalora, but also against the Spaniards Sito Pons and Juan Garriga, Frenchman Dominique Sarron and the reigning 250 world champion of 1987, the German Anton Mang.

Cornu won in Austria and France in 1988 and was finally third on points after Pons and Garriga at the end of the season, but never fought for the title against them. Sarron was leading the French connection at the time, but today France’s latest hopes in Moto2 are focused on young man Johann Zarco, so France will have to wait its moment in the new intermediate class.

Curiously, there is no German reigning champion at this time because 2011 Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl has already gotten involved in a bigger MotoGP survival experience, but those two Spaniards Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaró are a throwback to Sito Pons and Juan Garriga at a time when their duel divided the Spanish fans like only the Spanish Civil War had done before.

When Spaniards Marc Márquez and Pol Esparagaró got a win each in the first two races of the present season, Spanish fans and media started to dream about a no mercy duel like Sito Pons and Juan Garriga had in 1988, chasing Spain’s first ever 250 world championship. The main difference between Pons and Garriga’s duel and Marquez and Espargaró’s is that Pons and Garriga never crashed together throughout the entire 1988 season –although they came close to after smashing each other’s bikes in the last two corners of Sweden Grand Prix at Anderstop. But the 1988 season it self was full of incidents like those may change the course of the season several times in 2012.

You’ll find some examples of all this in the first lap of 1988 Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, when a hurried Pons charged Alberto Puig’s production Honda NS 250 –also nicknamed “diesel”- and both riders crashed. Later in the season, Honda satellite riders Pons and Sarron were fighting for victory in the last lap of Dutch TT at Assen when Sarron tried a desperate braking maneuver at the last chicane that ended in disaster for both riders. After crashing, Pons restarted the race, finished sixth and earned the same ten precious points that gave him the title over Garriga at the end of the year in Brazil.

More along those lines, in what became a bizarre situation in the last race of the 1988 season at the Goiania race track, Yamaha gave German rider Martin Wimmer some technical updates in order to join satellite riders Carlos Lavado and Luca Cadalora, to help Garriga against the massed ranks of Honda riders: Pons, Cornu, Roth, Sarron, Carlos Cardús and Masahiro Shimizu. What could Wimmer do to help Garriga? For sure, taking Garriga out of the track on the very first lap would not have been the first option, but that’s exactly what Wimmer did as soon as the green light was switched on. Neither Race Direction nor FIM Stewards applied any penalties then, and that also gives an idea about how the perception of things have changed in road racing in these recent years.

One or two guilty riders?

Coming back to the present season, it is difficult to determine if either Marquez or Esparagó did something worse than the other in Barcelona, because maybe both riders did something wrong.

With Iannone and Luthi in front but still very close, the Catalunya Caixa rider was very close to crashing in a way that recalled the kind of scary situations that have taken Shoya Tomizawa and Marco Simoncelli’s lives in recent time: a rider loses grip and gets it back, becoming dangerously exposed to riders and bikes coming after him.

Fortunately, Marquez was lucky enough to not be taken by his Suter into a critical situation –as Tomizawa and Simoncelli did-, and the corner was wide enough for Marquez to try to fix this riding mistake. It was natural to expect Marquez to come back as soon as possible to the inside line and not to lose his third place against Espargaro, and maybe he did not see Espargaro’s bike on his left hand side, but it is also clear that Espargaró is almost at the same level when Marquez hits him.

Marquez’s action may be a little too much in line with the opinion of some people in the paddock about the Spaniard’s riding style. He is an absolute talent when it comes to riding, but actions such as the one last season in Australia –smashing his Suter into Ratthapark Wilairot’s bike after the practice session was over-, the risky movement against Thomas Luthi this season in the last lap of Qatar Grand Prix or coming back to the inside line without checking as he did in Catalonia, reveal a riding character that knows no fear, one that we have all already seen may have a very serious impact in road racing safety matters.

Pol Espargaró’s over-geared Kalex would not give him too many options against Marquez’s better acceleration, and it was impulsive for him to take advantage of Marquez’s mistake. But, as you can see on the broadcast images, he loses a negligible amount of speed when Marquez was almost crashing, and tried to take advantage once the Kalex rider is sure that they are not going to collide.

Of course, doing this Espargaró lost the chance of being much faster than Marquez exiting the corner, which put him again at a position of disadvantage as soon as Marquez gets back on the throttle. Then, the Suter’s better acceleration gave Marquez the hope of not being passed by Espargaró and from the humble point of view of this writer, that was the key to a disaster waiting to happen.

The Superbike and 250 world champion John Kocinski used to say: "If you are going to have hit someone else’s bike, you'd better have your footpegs ahead of theirs if you want to avoid crashing yourself". Maybe the less than 20 centimetres by which Marquez was ahead were what saved him from crashing as Espargaró did.

More important than this, there’s a higher fact that blames both riders. All this did not happen on the last lap. Both riders were aware of that and they still tried a desperate action to keep third position behind Iannone and Luthi, which gives to both the chance of letting the other go. Marquez’s quotes to the media after the race, saying he was not carrying mirrors on his Suter – that’s why he could not know Espargaró was behind him - are just an offense to the intelligence of Espargaró and his audience. On the other hand, if Marquez could not see what was going on behind him, Espargaró had full vision of the situation and could likely have avoided the contact, letting Marquez come back to the inside line without any interference.

What is even more strange is the result of the FIM Stewards' decision to cancel the one minute penalty Marquez received from Race Direction. After HP Tuenti Espargaro’s team announced an appeal to FIM decision, Motomatters.com tried to speak to HP Tuenti and Catalunya Caixa teams, but both refused to make any comments until the FIM has felled its final verdict. It could take up to three months, but we guess it will come much sooner. In the meanwhile, nobody seems to know the basis of FIM’s decision.


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2012 Le Mans Moto3 Preview: Young Guns Ready for the French Grand Prix

The first three races in the history of the new Moto3 class have given three different winners and, with round four just around the corner at Le Mans, any one of Sandro Cortese, Maverick Viñales or Romano Fenati could get their second win of the season. Or perhaps Spaniard Luis Salom will find that tiny thing he still needs to become part of the exclusive club of new “quarter litre” category winners.

With an intelligent victory at the first race in Qatar, Viñales started 2012 season as he finished 2011, winning in a very consistent way and becoming the favourite among the fastest contenders for the first Moto3 world championship season. But just as life was not easy in the 125 class, neither is it in Moto3, so Viñales’s sixth place finish in round two at Jerez proved once more the old saying that a winner one week can be mid-pack the next. Back in the front again fighting for victory one week later in Portugal, Viñales and his FTR Honda suffered clear problems of top speed against Sandro Cortese’s KTM on Estoril's main straight. At the end, victory was decided when both riders touched each other while accelerating at the start of the third sector of the track, with advantage for Cortese on the inside line. Viñales was far from happy with the episode, and he even tapped Cortese’s arm after the checkered flag. Maybe Cortese’s move was not such fair play, but Viñales’ action should not have gone unnoticed by Race Direction, but it did. Back on the track Viñales got his first ever win last year at Le Mans, a track with such strong braking points that top speed does not seem to be a crucial issue.

Even if Cortese is the points leader at the moment, there is no doubt the sensation of the start of this 2012 season is the young Italian rider Romano Renati. For the good of the sport, it was nice to see Fenati winning the Spanish Grand Prix flying the Italian Motorcycle Federation colours. Luca Cadalora and Fausto Gresini provided the golden era for this team, with three 125 world titles back in the 80’s, but no rider had won again since Alessandro Gramigni did in Brno back in 1991, a time when the Czech Republic was still Czechoslovakia. Making it even more of an Italian affair, Gramigni’s victory then was also Aprilia’s first in the 125 class. Fenati’s talent looks as strong and natural as Viñales’ and I would almost bet that both riders will eclipse Cortese during this season.

A highly skilled rider with no wins yet is Luis Salom. The temperamental Spaniard has the kind of fighting spirit which Pol Espargaro shows in Moto2, and maybe that’s something that prevents him from achieving the level of perfection he needs to win his first race in Moto3. At the same time, a hard braking track like Le Mans could help Salom to get at the top of the podium.

The Portuguese Grand Prix two weeks ago saw the emergence of a new fast contender for the rostrum in Moto3, Malaysian rider Zulfhami Khairuddin. In a country with no racing tradition but extraordinarily big market to be conquered for any manufacturer, Khairuddin could likely be its first national hero in road racing, taking the world championship back to the years when Japanese riders were the only non-European riders capable of winning in the class.

The start of the season has also brought some disappointing performances, as is the case for Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira. His obvious riding talent is beyond doubt, but his performance so far makes a clear contrast with his rookie team mate Alex Rins. Bankia Aspar team riders Hector Faubel and Alberto Moncayo are also having problems being competitive on the Kalex KTMs.

The Le Mans round this weekend should give a clearer idea of who is the strongest young rider of Moto3, but we are hoping rather to see a mad fight for victory again, so this question will not be answered yet.


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2012 Le Mans Moto2 Preview: The Drums of War

As it should be, what was probably the last Portuguese Grand Prix for the foreseeable future left no one indifferent. Torrential storms became almost a tradition at Estoril, so nobody expected this edition to be any different after seeing clouds quickly come and go over the track from Thursday to Sunday. It would hardly have been a surprise to feel the rain start to fall at any given moment of the weekend, but thankfully, it held off.

Media attention was focused since early Thursday on rumours of Casey Stoner’s retirement published by Spanish magazine Solo Moto a few days earlier, but that turned out to be much ado about nothing, even more so after Stoner’s magnificent victory on Sunday against Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

But leaving aside MotoGP, with its high tech prototype bikes, and riders so close to perfection that it is almost impossible to overtake, the Moto2 and Moto3 classes gave the real action at Estoril with two thrilling races decided in the last few corners.

Waiting for Le Mans

Round four at the hard braking –or heart breaking - track of Le Mans for the French Grand Prix this weekend will see a new chapter added to the 2012 volume of the toughest Moto2 fights, featuring Marc Marquez, Thomas Luthi, Pol Espargaró and Andrea Iannone, the fastest men right now in Moto2.

As expected, Marquez is back again at the front after a worrying preseason with no time spent riding. The Spaniard is, without a shadow of a doubt, the hottest contender for Moto2 crown, but he will not be alone on his way to victory either. Thomas Luthi looks one of the most consistent riders behind Marquez. Marquez left Luthi without a chance at Qatar, with the hard outbraking maneuver on the last lap at Losail, and the Swiss rider also lost any hope of victory in the wet last few laps of the Spanish GP at Jerez. At Estoril, Luthi could not chase Marquez and Espargaro at Estoril in the final laps of Portuguese Grand Prix as his rear tire went off. But he was still on the rostrum in every race.

Pol Espargaro started this season after a tough experience last year as a rookie in the intermediate class, forced to witness how at the same time, his 125 arch rival Marquez was close to glory in similar conditions as him. But he now has the confidence and experience to also be battling for wins in Moto2, helped in no small part by the Pons Racing squad, one of the most successful 500 and MotoGP satellite teams of all time. Espargaro and Marquez’s duel at Estoril was a revival of their old 125 deadly rivalry. They both sounded pleased and happy about that fight when the pair were interviewed by Spanish journo Alberto Gomez on the evening after Portuguese Grand Prix for a radio broadcast, but make no mistake: Marquez did not complain of Espagaro’s risky move at Estoril's chicane, because he was showing the very same behaviour just a few corners before on the same last lap. It’s also nice to see the Pons Racing team fighting for victory again after years of absence, but this could not be the only surprise from the Spanish team this season. Espargaro’s team mate Tito Rabat looks like a strong storm waiting to happen, and it could take only a few races for his talent to come out.

It’s also fascinating to see how the 2012 season is turning out so differently for the last ever 125 world champion Nico Terol and the rival he defeated for the title, Johan Zarco. Terol is just not having fun yet on a Moto2 bike, such a totally different four-stroke machine to the 125 – sometimes he has no confidence in the front end of his Suter - while his French rival Zarco seems to fit perfectly in this class. He fought for a rostrum place at Estoril and his debut in Moto2 has been much better than even Marquez’s in 2011. He may not be close to victory yet, but he will for sure get there before Terol, and this weekend a home race for Zarco at Le Mans could be a great moment to show what he is made of.

On the other side of Terol’s garage, backed by the insurance company MAPFRE, we also find Spaniard Toni Elias, returning in 2012 to the class that gave me him his only world championship title in 2010. Everyone knows that Elias is capable of great things, especially under pressure, but the Moto2 class he left in 2010 to ride a MotoGP bike again in 2011 was quite different to the series he finds himself in in 2012. Moto2 was a new class back in 2010 and nobody knew what to expect from it. A grid filled with 41 new prototype motorcycles with identical engines was unknown territory. And also, for many of the riders, four strokes engines were something new in their racing careers, with some finding it very hard to adapt to heavier weights and different engine and clutch response. Elias was the most experienced rider on the grid then, while today there already are true Moto2 specialists. Not two or three, but more than ten.

Andrea Iannone is once more one of the fastest riders. He can fight for victory at any track at any moment, but the most murderous Moto2 rider does not seem to be as consistent as he needs to be if he is to remain a championship contender. And so Marc Márquez appears to have the magical talent and Espargaro the fighting spirit. Both riders have won at Le Mans in the past and Luthi may be waiting for the right moment – though he had best not take too long. Meanwhile Zarco could finally get the breakthrough that he knows is coming in front of his home crowd. You had better not miss the Moto2 race at the French Grand Prix this weekend!


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2012 WSBK Monza Weekend Round Up: Pirelli Wets

(Updated below)

Pirelli brought their tyres to Monza, knowing rain was a possibility. The tyres they brought were the best they could make with the science the racing economy can fund. Wet weather tyres need to displace water and allow bikes to grip in the wet and get their power down while allowing them to brake. What they are not designed to do is sustained stretches of immense speed on abrasive dry tarmac. If you watch their video, you get some idea of the punishment Monza gives rubber.

Monza is a unique track and one that punishes tyres in unique ways, as was seen when multiple wet tyres on different bikes were delaminated during Superpole. This wasn't the characteristics of one bike, or an overzealous rider that couldn't handle the tyres, this was a feature of the track and the weather clashing. Three 300kmh sections of track require one sort of tyre and standing water requires another. When riders were telling us that wet tyres would only last three laps on a Superbike, it was clear that if the rain came down, it would be impossible to race.

And the rain came. Four laps into the first Superbike race, the red flags were out. As the teams were arguing and the riders worrying, preparing for the restart, the sky opened on the back straight, drenching the rider-filled Alfa Romeo safety cars as they drove the distance from Ascari to the Parabolica. Pirelli said the tyre couldn't be raced on, the riders said the tyre couldn't be raced on and as the race was cancelled, the rain punished the track, demonstrating that the right decision was made.

The centre section delamination can clearly be seen in this photo by Pippa Morson of Eugene Laverty's qualifying tyre.

Early warnings were given that the Supersport race would be cancelled, even to the point that British Eurosport announced that there was going to be no World Supersport race, confusing a lot of viewers in the UK. Instead, we were treated to a typical Monza race, with a wonderfully typical last corner battle at the Parabolica. We saw hints of what we could look forward to in the Superbike race.

Instead, we got confusion and delays. The race was initially shortened to 17 laps, with two warm-up laps, but at the end of the warm-up, lots of the riders were waving to the organisers, trying to tell them to stop the race. The restart was delayed because of this, reducing the race to 16 laps and adding another warm-up lap. As the grid waited to see if the huge grey cloud would miss them, the crowd grew anxious. Luckily, the race was eventually started and the fans were treated to a show of force from Tom Sykes, but not without seeing Sylvain Guintoli and Michel Fabrizio unable to complete the warm up laps. To make matters worse, the race was cut short at half-distance due to, predictably, the rain returning. While some riders were disappointed, most seemed relieved to be able to walk away without having to risk injury.

After all this drama, Effenbert launched a tirade against the World Superbike organisers, suggesting that they listen more to the likes of Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi than they do other riders, and they appear to have placed the blame at the doorstep of the race organisers instead of, where it should have been, the weather.

And that's what ruined today's racing. Not the tyres, not the organisers and most definitely not the racers concerned about their safety. It was the weather at a track whose unique characteristics make it possibly the most exciting track on the Superbike calendar and equally damn it to be unable to hold wet races at the highest level.

Update: According to Pirelli, my assertion that it was delamination was not correct. It was, in their words, "a meltdown of the compound in the centre." This does not change the conclusions reached here, however.


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