2011 Brno MotoGP Sunday Post-Race Round Up: If We Didn't See The Future Today, We'll See It Tomorrow
Race day turned up plenty of surprises at Brno, some good, some bad, and some, well, just surprising. The three races turned up a tense duel, a full-on fairing-banging barnstormer and, well, a MotoGP race with a surprise podium, and proved that the layout of the Brno circuit is one of the very best in the world.
The 125cc race saw Sandro Cortese win from Johann Zarco, but more importantly, it saw Zarco claw back a whole host of points from Nico Terol after the Bankia Aspar rider was forced out of the race with a mechanical problem. Zarco would once again be denied victory, coming home 2nd to Sandro Cortese, but Zarco's championship prospects improved drastically, cutting Terol's lead from 32 to just 12 points, and throwing the title race open again.
In the Moto2 class, Stefan Bradl is still firmly in control of the championship, but he too is starting to leak points to Marc Marquez. At Brno, Bradl limited the damage to just 4 points, and still leads by a very generous 43-point margin, but with Marquez on a roll, a single DNF by Bradl would blow the championship open again.
The weather gods have really got it in for MotoGP this year. The Brno round looked like being warm and dry just a week ago, but that turned out to be hopelessly optimistic. It started raining on Friday night, and only stopped in the middle of the FP3 session for Moto2. That was not before both Casey Stoner and John Hopkins had crashed, however, Stoner coming away unscathed, while Hopkins was far less lucky, breaking one finger and fracturing another, and ruling himself out of the Brno race.
It was an undignified and completely undeserved end for the American, who has been deeply impressive since he stopped drinking and concentrated on racing. Hopkins had competed in three different series on three consecutive weekends, racing as a World Superbike wildcard at Silverstone and scoring pole and a couple of top ten finishes, then getting a podium at the Brands Hatch BSB triple header last weekend, before coming to Brno and posting a very decent pace on the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP machine. What Hopkins has proved over the past 6 months is that he deserves a second chance at MotoGP, and the way things look at the moment, that's not entirely out of the question.
The summer break officially ended at 9:15am this morning, when the peace which reigned in the wooded Moravian hills was split asunder by the crackle of a pack of howling 125cc two strokes. Though the wooded Moravian hills are wonderful when silent, the addition of racing motorcycles offered a vast improvement, as many of the people who have already crowded the paddock and track agreed.
Fastest man of the day is Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider untouchable in the morning, smashing the race lap record and getting within a couple of tenths of the pole record straight off the bat. Pedrosa was a tenth slower in the afternoon, allowing his teammate Casey Stoner to close the gap, from just under a second to less than four tenths. But the break has done Pedrosa good. Having spent the period leading up to Laguna Seca either in hospital, at the physiotherapists or at the racetrack, having a mental break had made a big difference.
There's a palpable sense of excitement in the MotoGP paddock now that it has once again reconvened in Brno. The riders love the track - Stoner put it in his top 3, along with Mugello and Phillip Island - and the region, and most have been off their bikes for long enough that they are starting to get antsy again. Nicky Hayden put it best: "I like racing motorcycles, so it's not like I was looking forward to the break," the American said, though he was looking a lot more relaxed than the last time I saw him at the Sachsenring.
There are two more factors adding to the excitement. One is the fact that it looks like being a warm and dry weekend, with rain only falling after 5pm, once the riders have cleared the track. After a season plagued with cold and damp conditions, a dry weekend is just what the riders have been crying out for. The good weather also comes as the tire regulations have been changed, Bridgestone acquiescing to the riders' requests for more tires and more choice. They will now have three different front tires to choose from instead of two, and they will also have a choice in the allocation of rear tires.
MotoGP is back from its summer break, and though the fans only had to face two weekends without the series - and one of those saw a World Superbike event - they are breathing a collective sigh of relief that the Four Aliens and their mortal cohorts are back on track once again. And with good reason: Brno is a fantastic circuit, both in terms of layout and location; the wide track and series of left-right and right-left combinations offer a lot of different lines and passing opportunities - even for 800cc MotoGP machines - and the steep wooded hills of Moravia make for great viewing and some tough challenges.
As if to reward us for our patience, the Brno MotoGP round offers very rich pickings indeed. For Sunday's race is just one dish from the smorgasbord of intrigue and interest that is likely to be forthcoming. There is also Monday's test, the first public appearance of Honda's and Yamaha's 1000cc bikes - though not of the Ducati, more of which later - a much-anticipated event. Then there's Silly Season: Brno is traditionally the point at which teams start making their plans more concrete, and contract conversations stop being quite so casual.
Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati was a match made in marketing heaven, the combined selling power of the world's most famous motorcycle racer and the world's most iconic motorcycle brand would surely prove to be a veritable sales steamroller. Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come.
If sales of merchandise are anything to go by, then the move was definitely a success, MotoGP circuits coloring red as Rossi fans stocked up on Ducati gear, the red still tinged with Rossi's traditional yellow. But a look at the results sheets tells a different story altogether. Though the Italian is 5th in the championship standings (and just 2 points off 4th), Rossi has consistently crossed the finish line between 25 and 30 seconds after the winner took the checkered flag. So far, Rossi has taken just a single podium - arguably gifted to him, with Dani Pedrosa being taken out by Marco Simoncelli, and then Simoncelli being punished with a ride-through - and has found himself in the battle for 5th or 6th. By any measure, Rossi's move to Ducati must be counted a disaster, the combination a massive disappointment to fans, followers and even fellow riders.
Mike Edwards set up MIST Suzuki back in 2005, and has been involved in motorcycle racing at the British national level and at the world level in the FIM Superstock series for many years. Throughout his years running the MIST Suzuki team, Edwards has gained a lot of insight into the underlying costs of motorcycle racing, and where savings can be made. With MSVR - the company which runs British Superbikes - set to publish the rules for the 2012 BSB series, including a raft of measures aimed at cutting costs, Edwards recently published a series of articles on the MIST Suzuki website on the cost aspect of racing, and where he believes costs could be saved. The articles have been reproduced below, with Edwards' kind permission.
Racing Is Expensive
Racing is expensive. Get over it. Does it need to be as expensive as it is? Of course not, but it's a difficult balancing act.
For any SuperBike round you need rubber, lots of it. The regulations permit a total of eight front tyres and eleven rear tyres for each round. Some might be qualifying tyres, others wet or intermediates with the rest being whatever is required over the weekend. At £222 a pair it's not cheap, in fact it's very close to the cost to the trade price that any dealer can purchase them at, but they don't have to pay for a team of people support the racing and fit tyres to the never ending line of wheels over the race weekend.
MSVR, who run BSB events. have done well to reduce the fuel cost for 2011. The 2010 price was £3.79 per litre, or with the recent tax hike £3.87/L. Having said that why are racers still obliged to pay £3.59/L for the control race fuel? Sure, there is a cost associated with delivering it to the circuit and making it available in 25L drums but, after a back-to-back test at the end of the 2010 season, the 98 octane fuel from the local garage was found to offer a negligible power increase at just 40% of the cost. That's a significant amount.
With three practice sessions, qualifying, warm up and two races a SuperBike has a lot of track time. That's a full quota of tyres and around 125L of fuel. Add it up and it comes to £449 for fuel plus the £2154 spent on tyres.
2011 Silverstone World Superbike Sunday Round Up: On Championship Contenders, A Single Bike Rule, And Equalizing Twins Vs Fours
It's on days like these that championships are won. In both the World Superbike and World Supersport classes, the championship leaders came in with differing expectations, met with wildly different experiences through practice, yet both Carlos Checa and Chaz Davies leave Silverstone with their lead nicely consolidated and comfortably in charge of their own destinies. They confronted the circumstances that crossed their paths and turned them to their advantage.
In the World Superbike class, Silverstone was supposed to be a tough track for Ducati. A couple of high-speed straights would favor the four-cylinders - especially Aprilia's brutally powerful RSV4 - leaving the Ducatis with too much work to do in the twisty sections to be able to match the fours. The best that Carlos Checa could hope for at the UK round was to limit the damage in both races and see what remained of his lead when he left here for the next round.
2011 Silverstone World Superbike Saturday Round Up: Wasn't This Supposed To Be A Bad Track For Ducati?
Things haven't quite turned out as expected at Silverstone. Going into the weekend, everyone - fans, pundits and the Ducati teams themselves - were downplaying the chances of the Ducatis at Silverstone, with its fast layout and high-speed straights, and estimating how many points that championship leader might be forced to concede to the faster four cylinder bikes of Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri. But if anything, it has turned out to be the opposite, with Ducatis at or near the top in both the World Superbike and the Superstock 1000 classes. Indeed, so strong have the Ducatis been in Superstock that they sit in the front three places of the grid for tomorrow's race, Danilo Petrucci taking pole ahead of Davide Giugliano and Niccolo Canepa.
Pole was not on the cards in the World Superbike class for a Ducati rider - that honor falls to an outstanding John Hopkins, entered as a wildcard on board a Samsung Crescent Suzuki GSX-R 1000 - but with Checa on the end of the front row and Effenbert's Sylvain Guintoli at the head of the second row, they are well-placed to be competitive at Silverstone. Checa's race pace is punishing, especially when the track is a little cooler as it is expected to be on Sunday.
The race at Laguna Seca underlines the lessons from the last race at the Sachsenring. There are currently three riders in this championship who are head and shoulders above the rest (there should be four, but the fourth one is currently handicapped by his machinery, more of which later), with virtually nothing to choose between them. Minor setup tweaks and injuries make the difference between first and third place, and the racing has been pretty good because of it.
The Sachsenring was a genuine thriller, which Laguna Seca would have had a hard time living up to, but it still threw up a pretty interesting race. Spectacular? Perhaps not, but tense, close, and balanced on a knife edge until five laps from the end. The final gaps between Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were huge, but less than a second had covered the threesome for the first half of the race, and the gap between Stoner and Lorenzo only grew once Stoner got past the Spaniard.