MotoGP fans around the world - and to an even greater extent, everyone involved in MotoGP - have been waiting for a calendar for the 2011 season for a long time now. The problem has been that MotoGP has an informal agreement with Formula One to avoid scheduling conflicts between the two series, and thereby force TV companies to choose between one or the other.
In practice, this means that Formula One dictates the MotoGP calendar, and this is exactly what appears to have happened to the provisional 2011 MotoGP calendar. An early version was leaked two weeks ago, a version that looked to be fairly reliable, but rescheduling by Formula One - shuffling some of the 20 races which it has on its calendar - meant that too many MotoGP races would conflict with F1 events.
As a result, the FIM has finally managed to produce a provisional version of the 2011 MotoGP calendar, which has seen a surprising amount of reshuffling of events happen. The season starts in Qatar on March 20th, as previously announced, and the season night race is expected to be spread over four days instead of the usual three, to allow the race to be run earlier at night, avoiding the drastic temperature drops that can happen between 11pm and midnight in the desert. It also means the season starts some three weeks earlier than in 2010, seizing back some of the ground MotoGP had ceded to the World Superbike series.
The announcement of the official 2011 MotoGP calendar - albeit the provisional one - has been a long time coming. Normally, the provisional calendar is settled at the Brno round of MotoGP, but the series' desire not to clash with Formula One means that the Grand Prix Commission has had to wait for the FIA to release the F1 calendar before finalizing their own. With the F1 calendar now provisionally released, the MotoGP calendar is expected to be released this weekend at the Aragon round.
An early version of the calendar has already surfaced among race travel trip organizers. As their businesses depend upon knowing the following year's schedule as early as possible, MotoGP travel companies are among the very first to know. Our friends over at Pole Position Travel pointed us to a provisional calendar which has appeared on the website of another organization selling MotoGP tickets.
With MotoGP now one third through its 18 race season, the effect of the engine-life regulations - restricting each MotoGP rider to just 6 engines throughout the entire season - is starting to become clear. The latest engine information list - assembled by IRTA and MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb, and distributed (if you can call it that) by Dorna - provides an interesting perspective on the impact the regulations are having, and how the factories have approached the problems posed by limited engines.
The clear winner that emerges from the list is surely Honda. Of their six riders, three (Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, and San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli) have used just two engines, and not had to have a third engine officially sealed. Dovizioso and Simoncelli have distributed their races equally, with three races on each of the two engines, while Dani Pedrosa has four races on his number 1 engine, and just two on his number 2 engine.
On the Saturday of the Jerez MotoGP weekend, the Grand Prix Commission met to further hammer out the regulations which will govern the MotoGP class from the 2012 season. It was feared that the meeting would fail to come up with a clear definition of the bikes to be run by the Claiming Rule Teams, the privateer teams expected to enter MotoGP with production-based engines in prototype chassis. So it came as no surprise that the minutes of the press release of the Grand Prix Commission merely modified the penalty for using an extra engine in the 2010 season, dropping it from 20 seconds to 10.
MotoMatters.com was interested to find out why the Grand Prix Commission had not had anything to say about the 2012 regulations, and so we caught up with IRTA's representative on the GP Commission, Herve Poncharal. When we put it to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss that it was a little strange that the MSMA (the manufacturer's association, who are charged with drawing up the technical regulations) had yet to produce a definition of a Claiming Rule Team bike, Poncharal said that this was not a problem, as the rules already defined the basics of the bikes: 1000cc engine, 81mm maximum bore, 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines to last the season. But how do we define a Claiming Rule team, we asked Poncharal.
As always after a MotoGP race weekend, the guys from OnTheThrottle.tv spoke to Ben Spies about the way his weekend went at Jerez. And they certainly had plenty to talk about, after a front end problem forced Spies to pull out of the race. In the video interview, Spies talks about what happened to force him to pull out, about learning the tricky Jerez track, about being teammates with Colin Edwards, about his prospects at Laguna Seca and of course a few words about the upcoming World Superbike round at Monza. At just under half an hour, the video is a perfect and highly productive way to spend your lunch break.
There have been fears of early-lap carnage in the Moto2 class ever since it was announced that there would be over 40 riders on the grid, so when Shoya Tomizawa and Simone Corsi tangled on lap 2 at Jerez, nobody was particularly surprised. What was surprising, however, was to see a further 8 riders go down immediately behind the Technomag-CIP riders, wiping out without warning on a trail of oil left on the track by Tomizawa's bike.
Speculation on the nature of the fluid started immediately in the media center at Jerez, with opinions divided between oil, water or fuel. Given the speed at which the following riders lost the front end, water seemed unlikely, and it was hard to see how fuel could have affected grip so radically.
One day after the last-lap thriller of a Spanish Grand Prix, the MotoGP riders were back on track for a one-day test at the Andalucian track, the first of two scheduled for the season. As on Saturday during qualifying, it was the Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa which was fastest, finishing ahead of the Fiat Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Differences were small, however: the top 12 riders finished inside 1 second, and just 1.5 seconds covered the entire field.
The riders had plenty to test. Yamaha were testing minor chassis modifications, some electronics and a revised engine which provides improved acceleration, which both Rossi and Lorenzo declared a slight improvement. Lorenzo spent a lot of time working on his starts, which have so far been his weak point, while Rossi also found some setup changes which solved a rear grip problem.
In the last of our post-race debriefs, Ben Spies speaks about his first visit to the epic arena of Jerez:
After Sunday's MotoGP race at Jerez, here's Nicky Hayden had to tell the press:
This is what Casey Stoner had to say after Sunday's MotoGP race at Jerez:
This is what Valentino Rossi had to say after Sunday's MotoGP race at Jerez:
This is what Dani Pedrosa had to say to the press after the thrilling end to Sunday's MotoGP race: