2011 MotoGP Jerez Preview - The Party At The End Of The World

There is something unreal about the first race of the year at Qatar. The combination of the dazzling lights illuminating the desert, the strange, vampire-like day-night rhythm imposed by the night race, and the absence of crowds at the track makes the whole affair feel like it must have been a dream.

How different, then, is the event at Jerez? Hot Spanish sunshine, a paddock full of trucks, teams and hospitality, and 120,000 screaming, passionate fans. It is a heady mix, and feels like the real start to the season. MotoGP truly gets kickstarted at Jerez.

Which is rather ironic, as in this part of Spain, April spells the end of the riding season, rather than the start. The mild winters make it possible to go riding during the day, but once the summer heat arrives - daytime temperatures in Seville, just north of Jerez, are usually well over 40 degrees throughout the summer months - venturing out on a motorcycle in anything resembling protective gear becomes a sweaty, draining business.

So Jerez marks a double festival: The end of the local riding season and the return to home soil of MotoGP, and the Spaniards celebrate it in style, with wine, wheelies and song. The atmosphere is never anything less than frantic, wild, exuberant; if there is a party the night before the world ends, then this is what it will be like.

The riders love it, of course, but that does not mean that everything goes their way at the Andalusian circuit. Most notably, the Ducatis have had a terrible time here ever since the start of the 800s, with Casey Stoner's 3rd place finish in 2009 the only podium the marque has scored. What has remained have mostly been crashes and mid-pack finishes, even when the Ducati has shone elsewhere.

So things do not bode well for the Ducatis. Valentino Rossi continues to struggle with his shoulder, a double handicap with the Ducati. The Italian keeps reiterating that the Desmosedici GP11 needs to be ridden "like a 500" - in other words, wrestled around the track very much against the bike's will - a feat which is difficult to achieve with a weak and painful shoulder.

Big changes are coming for the Ducati, but they are not coming just yet. At Estoril, at the one day test after the Portuguese Grand Prix, Ducati will be bringing a new chassis and a revised engine configuration for Rossi and his teammate Nicky Hayden to test. But at Jerez, they will have to make do with just the usual electronics tweaks, aimed at making the bike easier to turn and controlling the power delivery. Their main job at Jerez is to survive the weekend, and collect more usable data to take back to Filippo Preziosi in Bologna.

While the factory team will be treating the weekend as a test, that will definitely not be the case for Hector Barbera aboard the Mapfre Aspar machine. Barbera gets his first chance to shine in front of his home crowds this season, and given the Spaniard's reputation for hotheadedness, he should be good for some fireworks. Barbera, along with Randy de Puniet of the Pramac team, has been the best of the Ducati riders - regularly finishing ahead of both Rossi and Hayden, in both testing and at Qatar - and will be wanting to put on a show.

One man who will be glad he is not on a Ducati at Jerez is Casey Stoner. Jerez was once the bane of the Australian, Stoner struggling just to finish in the top 5 at the circuit. Now aboard a Repsol Honda RC212V, Stoner will be relishing the prospect, and looking forward to extending his championship lead, preferably by taking a second win in a row. The RC212V seems to have solved Stoner's front-end woes, the Australian tasting the gravel only once this preseason, and in this form, and on this bike, the smart money is on Stoner taking victory here.

Should he do so, it would be doubly sweet. Jerez is where Stoner's deal with HRC was verbally sealed last year, the Australian having grown tired with the slow pace of development at Ducati. A win here would make a very obvious point.

The Spanish crowd would of course much prefer a Spanish winner, but their hopes of Dani Pedrosa standing on the top step at Jerez must be tempered with a firm dose of realism. At Qatar, the numbness and weakness which Pedrosa suffered in his left arm in the last few races of the season reemerged, a painful souvenir of his practice crash at Motegi. That injury - a stretched plexus, the bundle of nerves controlling the left arm - will heal, but it will take a long time. Winning will be nigh-on impossible for Pedrosa; just lasting the course will be a measure of the Little Big Man's mettle.

Elsewhere among the Honda riders, the expectations are mixed. In the San Carlo Gresini team, great things are expected of both Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama. Simoncelli's star - already bright - has been rising during the preseason, topped off with a strong 5th place finish at Qatar. With full factory backing, and the superlative 2011 RC212V beneath him, he should do very well.

Simoncelli's teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama, could be the real dark horse of the weekend at Jerez. Aoyama has already beaten his teammate here two years ago when they were both riding 250s, Aoyama on the underpowered, underfunded and underdeveloped Honda, Simoncelli on the Gilera - a full-fat factory Aprilia RSA in disguise. Beating Simoncelli this time round may be difficult, but Aoyama could well feature much further forward than many expect.

Meanwhile, the real hope for home glory for the Spanish crowds must come from Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo rode an outstanding race last year to catch and then beat Dani Pedrosa - though the factory Yamaha rider was aided by a glitch in the Repsol Honda's fuel calculation system. It did not diminish Lorenzo's joy, however, the Mallorcan taking a spontaneous leap in the lake, by far the best and most original of his sometimes belabored victory celebrations.

Both Lorenzo and his teammate Ben Spies have a few minor gripes about the Yamaha YZR-M1, mostly about a lack of power at both the top and the bottom of the rev range. But fundamentally, the machine is still the best balance of handling and power on the grid, a scalpel with which Lorenzo has learned to wield with great aplomb. The Jerez circuit allows for a fair balance between handling and power, offering Lorenzo the chance of a fair fight with Casey Stoner. It promises to be a very interesting spectacle indeed.

Ben Spies comes to Jerez to make amends, after his strange withdrawal from the 2010 race which Spies thought was some kind of tire problem. The problem probably came down to an unfamiliarity with the Bridgestone tires whose peculiarities take a while to master, leaving Spies with a lack of feeling from the front end of his - then - satellite Yamaha. Now on factory bike, and more importantly, with a year's experience of the tracks, tires and bikes under his belt, Spies will be looking to make a mark. Jerez would be a very good place for the Texan to bag his first podium of the year.

The Jerez race will see one less Spaniard on the grid, Alvaro Bautista having broken his femur in a big crash at Qatar. His place will be taken by John Hopkins, the American making his return to the MotoGP paddock after an absence of two years, which came about as a result of Kawasaki's withdrawal from the series at the end of 2008. Things have moved on quite a bit since Hopper rode a MotoGP bike, and even further since he was last aboard a Suzuki GSV-R. His aim will be to score points for the team and to bring it home in one piece, without risking his 2011 season racing in the British Superbike Championship. Given Hopkins' reputation for pushing a little too hard chasing an extra position, crossing the line in one piece is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

Wherever the riders finish, and in whatever order, the crowd can be counted on to be provide the best atmosphere in motorcycle racing. We're going to Jerez, and that means that the season has started for real.

2011
Total votes: 57
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Comments

may be on Stoner, but this Lorenzo bug just won't leave me alone.

Total votes: 76

Let's hope this one keeps us on the edge of our seats again!

Total votes: 63

So if the Ducati needs to be ridden like a 500, we can infer that Stoner would have been a fearsomely fast 500 rider? More and more, the most obvious result of Rossi's move to Ducati is an increasing awareness/understanding of Stoner's talent.

Stoner vs Lorenzo will be a great battle. I hope Hopper gets a good race.

Can't wait for Sunday (night)!

Total votes: 78

Big improvement expected from Tony Elias this week - a cert for 16th just in front of Hopper. ;)

Total votes: 87

Not nice. Funny though.

Won't be funny when Hopper beats him.

Total votes: 74

Maybe rode more like a 500 style, but the safety blanket enjoyed in the electronics era make the current 800 anything but 500 like...

Love the Jerez weekend, here's hoping everyone stays safe and we have a great race!! roll on friday!!

Total votes: 70

Tony might even make a point being 15th after Randy falls off again

Total votes: 66

are both going to finish ahead of poor Toni. I can't figure out why Toni can't go fast on the Honda. I remember a couple years ago a podium from Toni on a Ducati with bridgestones at Brno. If he could do that back then, what's up with him now?

Total votes: 72

The MotoGP tyres are a bit different. He's not the first rider to struggle with them.

Total votes: 64

True, Toni has not been the first to struggle with them, but he should be at least three places above where he is in times. Going down to Moto2 he had to adjust to tires and bike. He did fine. Competition is not as fast as Motogp, but not that much slower. The Honda is a good bike. He has been good in the past. He needs to adapt his style to match. If he cannot. Then he belongs no higher than Moto2. Some riders are just that way.

Total votes: 77

@layback

The 2008 Brno race is the event where Michelin completly dropped the ball and brought non-competivie rubber. All Michelin shod bikes sufferred. Pedrosa finished 15th and more or less 'fired' Michelin soon thereafter.

Not to dimish Toni's podium but much of the competition was removed from the equation that day

Total votes: 71

Tony apparently doesn't like the bike to move fore aft. He will never get heat into the tires this way. No heat = no speed. It's the spec tires that are giving him fits.

Total votes: 70

Anticipated battles are as expected. The surprise battles,even for the win may well be determined by the weather. Forecast for Sunday : Heavy rain.
I hope not,but its what I picked up at BBC weather.
Good weather tomorrow,changeable Saturday and soaking Sunday.
Should the weatherman be right,we may see another Estoril 2010 play itself out.
Lets hope Bridgestone are equipped for this possible eventuality.
May well turn into an 'adapt or die' scenario for the podium.
Donington 2009 I think. Dovi,Colin and Randy fighting for the win.

Total votes: 68

Is it possible that this is the case? After all as you rightly pointed out, David, even before he was sat on the Ducati he only had a best result of 5th in all classes. And don't forget that last year the only other man to ever come close to mastering the Ducati 800 (Hayden) managed to come 4th, ahead of Stoner.

Total votes: 78

It's really hard to make the difference between good/bad track for Stoner or for Ducati since all the tracks have been "bad" for the other Ducati riders (barring Nicky last year).
Nicky's 4th place last year is encouraging and it will be interesting to compare his ranking and laptimes this year with last year.

Total votes: 77

On the presumption that the new heavier cranked Desmosedici engine is a keeper then that would mean Ducati have only four engines to last fifteen races. O.K the initial two 'old' engines could still be used as practice mules but with different power delivery characteristics the new engine will require different suspension set-up making the 'old' engines all but redundant. There may well have to be some extremely disciplined engine usage going on within Ducati.

Total votes: 86

Where did you read about the heavier cranked engine? Did I miss that in David's comments above? Ducati seem like they need to focus on Chassis mostly. That thing seems to have ALOT of issues.

Total votes: 66

Thanks guys! Interesting stuff.

Total votes: 70

Reading the MCN article, it could be interpreted as they just want to test a heavier crank to see if it improves the turning. Maybe if it is a big success they might try to use it for the last few races, but I can't see them trying to run all year on 4 engines.

And presumably if it isn't a big success, it's back to the chassis...

Total votes: 67

The main benefit of a heavier crank would be that it would help reduce the initial impact of opening the throttle, so the weight transfer to the rear would be reduced slightly. This is what Casey always complained about, and if you watch onboard footage of many of Casey's crashes, the front end was letting go as soon as he opened the throttle. I doubt very much that it will make much difference though. The biggest problem with the Duc is the engine layout, not the weight of the crank Having a cylinder bank pointing straight at the front wheel is far from ideal, but they are married to the "L" configuration so need to find a way to work around it... or, just like Casey did, Valentino needs to work out how to ride around it.

Something tells me Rossi won't be prepared to push it as hard as Stoner and risk his neck the way the young Aussie did on that bike.

Total votes: 81

That bugress was requesting perhaps a different firing order, as well as having the crank move in the opposite direction to get rid of some of the gyro forces.

I wonder if ducati would ever cosider counter roatating cranks (Like Motocyz) I thought they had some great stuff -

Don't know if any of you in Europe got to see this documentary.... was really good. I visited the website today for Motocyz and it seems they have no Motogp dream at this point - all electric bikes if that...

http://thekneeslider.com/archives/2008/03/24/motoczysz-birth-of-a-racer-...

Total votes: 73

As others have pointed out on this thread, the more Ducati struggle for results without him, the deeper our respect of his efforts becomes. The bike has to change but the inertia to do so seems an almost impossible thought to contemplate for some.."L" configuration and CF monocoque are trademark and must be retained.. The rider who gave them all their success and, as a result is indirectly responsible for the intransigence, has gone for an easier life and Preziosi has come down to earth with a "bump".

http://www.gpone.com/index.php/en/news/35-in-evidenza/3287-il-segreto-di...

http://www.gpone.com/index.php/en/slider/3286-rossi-qspero-vada-meglio-d...

Total votes: 78

Will you be posting this on MCN also?

Interesting to read Dovi and Capirossi comments on Stoners throttle and traction control usage. Of course there is one other legendary rider on the grid who has this throttle finesse....

Yes Stoner is very good at picking the bike up onto the fat of the tyre, but watch Pedrosa he also is extremely good at this aspect of riding.

Total votes: 63

..but don't get too carried away. I've said before, on MCN, I'll reserve judgement on Caseys new found maturity until the half way mark, to see if it's a flash in the pan or a concerted effort to string a championship winning set of results together.

His pace and ability on a bike have never really been in question, and that appears even more evident now. Unfortunately for him over the last couple of years, those two elements on their own don't guarantee a title given this level of competition.

Total votes: 78

The spammers have found MM and have started posting their trash here as well ... for christ sake guys get a life and more importantly get out of here.

Total votes: 63

I jump on spam fairly quickly, it's usually gone within minutes, at most, the time I am in bed for. Making registering complex has cut down on spam enormously. This lot lasted about 2 hours before it got wiped and the user removed. It's not really worth their while, and it's a lot less effort for me to delete than for them to post. Best of all, because I delete it so quickly it is costing them more money to post than it will gain them in sales and search rankings.

Total votes: 81

And that's another thing I am so grateful to you (plus deleting stupid comments on riders injuries ... like I happen to notice on the Pedrosa article).

Dank u well

Total votes: 74