The last race of the year is always one for farewells, but we had an awful lot of goodbyes on Sunday at Valencia. The last ever race for the 800cc MotoGP bikes, the last ever race of Loris Capirossi's very long and highly colorful career (some paddock wags suggesting that the first win of his career came against a rider called Maximus Decimus Meridius), the end of the two-stroke Grand Prix era, with the 125cc bikes making way for the Moto3 machines. The departure of some of the finest journalists and broadcasters from the paddock, as the Spanish state TV company TVE ended its tenure in the paddock. Riders heading off to the World Superbike paddock, some returning to their old stomping ground, as is the case with Kenan Sofuoglu, others to try pastures new, Hiroshi Aoyama joining the Ten Kate Honda squad.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's final race of the season at Valencia:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying on Saturday at Valencia:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Valencia:
It's a good thing that we're going to go racing again. Marco Simoncelli's tragic death at Sepang has cast a very heavy and very dark pall over the MotoGP paddock, and two weeks of inaction - the one thing that motorcycle racers cannot bear, along with just about everyone else in the paddock - meeting again at Valencia with the purpose of racing has given some direction again. Walking into the paddock at lunchtime today, the atmosphere was subdued, with journalists and team members holding quiet conversations everywhere, mostly on the subject of Marco Simoncelli, the crash in Sepang and their memories of the Italian.
The process of talking and the unfurling of tributes to the fallen Italian have been cathartic. His team had his bike in the pit box with the text "It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you" on a banner behind it, they also unfurled a banner above the media center with this number on it, the Ducati hospitality trucks have his number on them and the message "always in our hearts" and the number 58 is on stickers, badges and bikes everywhere. The activity, the discussions, the shared memories have started the process of healing the pain.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams ahead of the final race of the season at Valencia:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's tragic events at Sepang. All short, all to the point, all mourning the death of a much-loved figure in the paddock, Marco Simoncelli:
Gresini Racing Press Office
GP of MALAYSIA - Race - 23/10/2011
CIAO "SUPER SIC"
Toni Elias, Lucio Cecchinello and the whole LCR Honda MotoGP Team thoughts go to Marco Simoncelli's family, friends and the whole Gresini Racing Team in this tragic moment.
Round 17: Malaysian GP – Race
Sepang, Sunday 23 October 2011
Taka Horio – General Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
Sepang looks like being a Repsol whitewash this weekend, with Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso spread across the front row of the grid for Sunday's race, and FP3 the only session where there wasn't a Repsol 1-2-3 on the timesheets, Marco Simoncelli getting in among the orange, red and black bikes. On Friday, it looked like being a Pedrosa runaway, but his teammates have closed the gap considerably since then. Only the most contrarian investor would risk betting against a Honda victory - and only the brave would take the very long odds on offer for a Honda 1-2-3 - but Pedrosa is not quite the certainty that he was after the first day of practice.
The Spaniard was blisteringly fast out of the box, but as the weekend has progressed, the rest of the pack has closed up, with little to choose between the three Repsols after qualifying. Part of this has been down to tires: Pedrosa has immediately taken a shine to the softer tires, while Stoner has been working with the hard tire all weekend, always his preferred option as a race tire. The problem that Stoner has had has been an inability to get the bike to both turn and grip, sacrificing one to obtain the other. Sepang looks like being one of the surprisingly few weekends when Stoner and his crew have not been able to find a good setup from the start, and the Australian will have his hands full with both Pedrosa and Dovizioso for the win.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying on Saturday for the race at Sepang:
The timesheets at the end of day one at Sepang are telling. This is a track at which the teams spent six days testing back in February prior to the start of the year, much as they have done every year, and so they have enough data on the track to fill every iPod Steve Jobs ever sold. They should know how to set up a bike to go around this track, despite everyone complaining of a lack of grip, as is often the case in the hot October weather.
With that variable removed, the timesheet is a pretty good reflection of the state of MotoGP: Four factory Hondas sit at its head, the three Repsols followed by San Carlo's Marco Simoncelli; Hiroshi Aoyama on the satellite Honda follows, with the first Yamaha in 6th position, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards happy on the setting they found during the pre-season tests. Alvaro Bautista is 7th, the Suzuki thriving in the Malaysian heat as it always has done, and Randy de Puniet on a satellite Ducati is in 8th. That, in a nutshell, is a pretty good summary of the 2011 MotoGP season.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Sepang:
Previews from the MotoGP teams ahead of this weekend's race at Sepang:
2011 Phillip Island MotoGP Sunday Post-Race Press Releases - Including A Pile Of Championship Pressers
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's race at Phillip Island, including a pile of press releases from everyone involved in Stoner's riders championship and Honda's manufacturers' championship:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying for tomorrows race at Phillip Island:
2011 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up - On Bumps, Speed And The Lack Of It, And WSBK Silly Season
Phillip Island is the best circuit in the world, according to just about everyone in the MotoGP paddock. At least, that's what they thought yesterday, before they actually rode the circuit, and found out that the recent visits by the Australian GT series and the V8 Supercars have torn the track up and left bumps everywhere.
The verdict was unanimous, but as ever, Casey Stoner phrased it the best. "This year, the track's terrible," he told reporters. "It's always been a little bit bumpy into Turn 1, but this year, they're a lot more aggressive than they were in the past, and I'm not too happy with the condition of the track. I don't know what they've been racing around here, but it's made the track a lot worse." So bad was the surface that Jorge Lorenzo said he and the other riders would bring the subject up in the Safety Commission on Friday night, and ask for the track to be repaved.