Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Nico Terol's domination of the 125cc class continues apace. The Bankia Aspar rider finished the first session of free practice with his usual big advantage over the rest of the field, this time just under half a second. Sandro Cortese set the 2nd fastest time, just inching ahead of Efren Vazquez, while 4th place man Sergio Gadea is the last rider to be within a second of Terol.
After all the hue and cry over the past month and a half - starting at Jerez with the crash between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, worsening with the public spat between Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli's about the Italian's 'dangerous' riding style, further deteriorating with Valentino Rossi accusing the latest generation of MotoGP riders of being 'pussies', finding its nadir in the crash between Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa and its subsequent fallout, and culminating in Simoncelli's appearance in front of Race Direction at Catalunya - the pre-event day at the Barcelona round of MotoGP has been remarkably muted. It is as if everyone in the paddock has had a quiet word with the riders and told them to try and take some of the heat out of the situation. And given that Marco Simoncelli has received threats of violence at Barcelona, (though admittedly internet threats, which tend in general to result in nothing at all), that was probably a sensible decision.
The penultimate chapter in the Simoncelli-Pedrosa saga (the closing chapter of which will see Pedrosa return to racing, either at Silverstone or more likely at Assen) has now been written. Marco Simoncelli has met with Race Direction to discuss the events of Le Mans, which saw Simoncelli and Pedrosa crash, injuring the Spaniard and the Italian awarded with a ride-through.
Afterwards, Race Direction issued a statement summarizing the contents of the meeting. Race Direction questioned Simoncelli about his view of the incident, to ensure that he understood the error of his ways, and that he would try to avoid a repeat of the situation. Simoncelli avowed that he had had time to think about the situation, and that he had come to see he had made a mistake, and that his statements directly after the race were a result of his emotions running high after the event. In short, Simoncelli did exactly what was asked of him, bowing to pressure from Race Direction.
After two weeks away from racing, the MotoGP assembles again in Barcelona, and tragically, we're once talking about what's going on off-track rather than the prospect of some racing after a two-week hiatus. Marco Simoncelli has been called to Race Direction for further questioning about his crash with Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans. He will likely also be receiving some extra personal protection at the Barcelona circuit, after threats had been made against him via the Gresini website. The good news is that the threats came over the internet, meaning they are most likely the work of an idiot stuck in is bedroom who is all keyboard and no trousers (after all, if every threat of violence posted on the internet was actually followed through, the population of the world would be 7 rather than 7 billion). It still completely spoils the atmosphere though.
Video: How To Promote MotoGP, Or Riding A MotoGP Bike Down Public Roads Without Telling Anyone First
Here's the great question that plagues MotoGP: How come Formula One teams - even backmarkers - generate many tens or even a couple of hundred million euros in sponsorship, while the most successful MotoGP team of recent years fielding the current World Champion cannot persuade a title sponsor to stump up between 5 and 10 million? The answer, of course, lies in the way in which the sport is promoted. MotoGP has a very strong appeal to its core audience, but it has struggled to break through into the mainstream. Somehow, most of the attempts to appeal to a wider audience have failed, and therefore the ability to bring in outside sponsorship has also struggled.
So Wednesday's publicity stunt by the factory Yamaha team must surely be applauded. Jorge Lorenzo, his pit crew and a few spare marshalls turned up, flash mob-style, to stage an entertaining little tableau which saw Lorenzo launch his Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike past one of the iconic buildings of the Barcelona skyline, Antoni Gaudi's Temple Expiatori De La Sagrada Familia, staging the start of a MotoGP race in front of a crowd of mystified but fascinated tourists.
Press release previews of the Catalunya MotoGP round at the Montmelo circuit near Barcelona from Bridgestone and Pramac Ducati:
Press releases from the Moto2 and 125 teams previewing this weekend's Catalunya MotoGP round at Montmelo:
Dani Pedrosa is to miss his home Grand Prix at the Montmelo circuit near Barcelona, Catalunya. After breaking his collarbone in the crash with Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans, Pedrosa faced a race against the clock to be fit for Barcelona, focusing all of his efforts on undergoing physiotherapy and physical rehab to make the plated collarbone strong enough so that he could race on it.
To no avail. On Wednesday afternoon, the Repsol Honda team issued a press release announcing the Pedrosa will not be fit in time for the race in Barcelona. Though the bone is healing well, it is not recovering as quickly as the Spaniard had hoped, and Pedrosa has decided that his best course of action is to focus on recovering fully before returning to action.
The aftermath of the crash between Marco Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans is now spiralling rapidly out of control. The ride-through penalty awarded by Race Direction (for "riding in an irresponsible manner, which could cause danger to others") caused a good deal of controversy around the world, and just as the affair appeared to be dying down, the situation was reignited when Race Direction announced that Simoncelli would be called into a meeting with them at Barcelona.
But things have gotten even worse over the past few days: the Italian press agency ANSA is reporting that Simoncelli has received threats of physical violence prior to the Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona. The reports, which an article at GPOne.com expands upon, state that the threats were first noticed and reported by Spanish journalists, and that San Carlo Gresini Honda team boss Fausto Gresini confirmed the threats to ANSA. The threats reportedly grew out of anti-Simoncelli groups on social networking sites which sprang up after the crash at Le Mans, and turned into threats of physical harm in recent days.
The period between the Le Mans and Catalunya Grand Prix appears to have had a salutary affect on Marco Simoncelli. In the San Carlo Gresini Honda press release preview of the MotoGP round at Barcelona, Simoncelli has expressed his regret at the crash at Le Mans, in which he and Dani Pedrosa collided and Pedrosa broke his collarbone, and for which he was given a ride-through penalty. Read the official press release below:
SIMONCELLI LOOKING TO THE FUTURE IN BARCELONA
Press Release previews from the Marlboro Ducati, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, Factory Yamaha, Mapfre Aspar Ducati and LCR Honda MotoGP teams ahead of the Barcelona MotoGP round:
I'm sure you're all familiar with the situation - after all, if you're reading a motorcycle racing website, the chances are good that you are no stranger to speed - you're out for a ride or a drive somewhere, and you get pulled over by the local constabulary. There are a number of responses to getting stopped by the long arm of the law: loudly protesting your innocence and shouting at the officer who stopped you; sullenly sitting on your bike and responding to all questions with little more than a Neanderthal grunt; or giving the good man or woman a welcoming smile, admitting your failings (whether you believe the charges to be just or not), claiming it to be totally out of character and promising never to let it happen again. And of the three possible responses, it is fairly obvious which one will receive the lightest sentence (and no, it's not the one where you tell the officer exactly what part of the male or female anatomy they most resemble).
Marco Simoncelli has been called to face Race Direction at Barcelona, to answer questions about the incident between himself and Dani Pedrosa at the Le Mans Round of MotoGP. Below is the official press release, analysis to follow:
Statement from the MotoGP Race Direction
The Race Direction will call Italian rider Marco Simoncelli during the Catalunya Grand Prix this week, to further discuss the incident during the MotoGP race at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans.
The collarbone Dani Pedrosa broke in Le Mans remains a problem for the Spaniard. Pedrosa fractured his right collarbone in the crash with Marco Simoncelli which saw the Italian penalized and stirred up a good deal of controversy. Coming as it did just a few weeks after Pedrosa had finally had the plate removed from his left collarbone, which had been partially blocking his brachial artery and causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, the fracture caused a massive dilemma for the Spaniard: should he plate the collarbone and attempt to return to racing as quickly as possible, and go through the misery and stress of worrying about a repeat of his previous experience, or should he be patient and wait for the bone to heal naturally, potentially missing two or three races and writing off any chance he may have for the title?
There are many reasons to look forward to the 2012 MotoGP season, not least because of the influx of new entries expected because of the new rules. And we are drawing tantalizingly close to finding out the names of the teams involved, but at the moment, their names are still a carefully guarded secret. Hence the general sense of frustration when the FIM today issued a press release that is pregnant with possibility, yet almost entirely devoid of content: After announcing at Estoril that 13 teams and 21 riders had entered, at Le Mans, Dorna and IRTA reviewed the list of entries and whittled it down to 11 teams and 16 riders, and the FIM issued the press release shown below: No names, no hints, no information.
So what do we know about the 2012 entries? One thing that we do know is that Norton have submitted an entry for two slots on the grid. However, the iconic British brand will not be accepted as a CRT team, instead, Norton will have to compete on the same footing as Suzuki, with just 21 liters of fuel and 9 engines - with manufacturers who have not won a MotoGP race in recent years being given an extra engine allocation. Beyond Norton, there are very few factories believed to be interested. There remain whispers of KTM reviving its old V4 project, but a direct entry is thought to be unlikely.