After Andrea Dovizioso set the 2nd fastest time during FP1 at Misano behind his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, MotoMatters.com went along to find out just why the Hondas were so fast. As we were the only English-language publication present, we had Dovizioso to ourselves. Here's what he had to tell us:
MotoMatters: So, 2nd.
Andrea Dovizioso: Not bad!
MM: Not bad at all. The only bad point is that your 0.6 behind Dani.
AD: Yes, exactly. I'm really happy about the 2nd position and how we made the session. But sure, six tenths from Dani is not really a small gap, and we need to improve. I think there are a few reasons for this: First is because he's a little bit faster than us; second, is also a consequence of the victory in Indy; third, is also I think the setup of the bike. His position on the bike is different to mine, there's a big difference. And maybe in this track this can be better. But we have tomorrow to try to see if we are going in the right way and how much we can improve.
Ever since the introduction of the six-engine rule in MotoGP, keen MotoGP watchers have been wondering when the engine limits might bite. After FP1 at Misano, the 12th round of MotoGP, the answer seems to be about now.
A host of riders were left pulling old motors off the shelf to use to work on their race setup. Six riders went out on their #1 engine, which first saw action back in Qatar, while two more took out their #2 engines. Even the newer engines being used had racked up the miles. Both Mika Kallio and Casey Stoner took out engines for their 32nd sessions, Marco Melandri put the 30th session on his #2 engine, Aleix Espargaro's Ducati Desmosdici engine saw its 28th session, while the Suzuki of Loris Capirossi and the Honda of Andrea Dovizioso saw action for the 27th time.
Kings of the high mileage were Ducati. Four of the five Ducati riders went out on old engines, Stoner, Kallio and Espargaro taking the oldest engines, while Hector Barbera's engine had been used relatively lightly, with just 23 sessions under its belt.
With the highest-profile moves all officially confirmed, MotoGP's Silly Season is starting to run out of steam. The big surprises are out of the way, and we are left with just over half the seats still unfilled. But even for the unsigned rides, names have already been penciled in, some rather more firmly than others.
The two big names still waiting to put their signatures under contracts are surely Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo's Brazilian manager is said to be playing hardball with Yamaha, trying to extract the best possible conditions out of the Japanese factory now that the sales powerhouse Valentino Rossi has left Yamaha to go to Ducati. Rumors of a 14 million euro salary demand are unconfirmed, but with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica likely to take on sponsorship of the Yamaha squad, Lorenzo might be expected to earn that in sponsorship by allying his selling power to the Telefonica brand.
Confirmed and expected rider and team line up for the 2011 MotoGP season
The press office of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continue to do an outstanding job, collecting the following notes and quotes from the riders in today's MotoGP race. For quotes from the podium riders, see the separate news item.
MotoGP POST-RACE NOTES:
The industrious folks in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office have done part of our job again, collecting quotes from fifteen of the seventeen MotoGP riders for tomorrow's MotoGP race. Even better, they came up with a selection of fascinating statistics from today's qualifying session as well. Here's the official IMS press notes and quotes:
MotoGP QUALIFYING NOTES:
On Monday morning, Jules Cisek had a final chance to take some photos during the Brno test. He had to be quick, though, as he was soon chased out of pit lane by overly officious security guards.
After Friday's first session of free practice for the MotoGP class in Brno, a small group of journalists attended Andrea Dovizioso's media debrief in the Repsol Honda hospitality. Dovizioso talked about a number of things, but the main topic of conversation was the state of his contract negotiations. Here's what Dovizioso had to say about the state of play.
Q: Do you have any idea about your contract for next year? You're still taking to Honda?
Andrea Dovizioso: Yes. We're still talking and nothing's fixed. Our target is to continue.
Q: To continue in the factory Repsol Honda team?
The silly season for the factory riders is just about over: Ducati will be announcing the signing of Valentino Rossi on Sunday night at Brno with Nicky Hayden a racing certainty to follow at Indianapolis, and Yamaha likely to announce its factory team lineup of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies immediately after the Rossi announcement. At Honda, the arrival of Casey Stoner has been officially confirmed, while Dani Pedrosa is sure to follow in the next few weeks.
But while Yamaha and Ducati are all more or less done, the Honda lineup has a few more loose ends to tie up. Stoner's contract is done and dusted, but the situation for Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso is a little more complex. As discussed previously, Dovizioso's situation is complicated by the fact that the hoped-for sponsorship deal with Red Bull never materialized, but according to a Honda spokesperson, the Italian's contract should be finalized some time around Misano. The spokesperson had no comment on which team Dovizioso would end up with.
Yesterday, we discussed who is going where in the factory teams in MotoGP. For the most part, those deals are either public, or really badly-kept secrets. Today, we'll look at the situation among the satellite teams, a situation which is much, much less clear-cut than the factory squad, in part because the factory deals have not all been announced yet. The number of changes are suprisingly few, reflecting in part the problems in MotoGP. As costs rise, the cost of being competitive is growing, and more importantly, the cost of failure is increasing as well.
As a consequence, teams are not willing to take chances on unproven but promising talent. The learning curve in MotoGP is now so steep - electronics, bike setup, but most especially tires - that it takes half a season to start to get your head around the class. Limited testing has made the situation much, much worse, raising the penalty for rookies entering the class even further - the scrabbling around for substitute riders for Valentino Rossi, Hiroshi Aoyama and Randy de Puniet illustrating the case perfectly.
Q: You had a very good day at qualifying today, how do you feel going into the race tomorrow?
Andrea Dovizioso: I'm really, really happy about the 3rd position. It's so important to start at the front tomorrow. We have a really good pace, but sure, Lorenzo and Casey have a little bit better pace. So we need to improve, this pace is not enough to fight really for the victory. But we are really close, and I'm really confident. The race will be long and we made a good job during practice, because we have improved during the weekend.
Q: Each race we see you improve gradually more and more, becoming a star rider, when will we see you as the top rider in the team?
AD: Ah, we are close, I think! So we made a big, big improvement from last year, so big. I think still we have the possibility to improve a lot. Now, our limit is this, but during the race we improve always, so I think we can be stronger from here to the end of the season.
Q: Laguna Seca is the mid-point of the season, what are your goals and priorities from now until the end of the season?