2011 Catalunya MotoGP Saturday Round Up - Hollywood Pole, And Japan Again

It is rather fitting that Paris Hilton should be coming to town, given the scenario that unfolded during qualifying for the MotoGP class this afternoon at Barcelona. It was straight out of a Hollywood script: after taking down the local hero, the Villain of the Piece turns up at Montmelo, faces down the booing crowd, and then steams home to take pole, his first ever in MotoGP.

Of course, in the Hollywood script, Marco Simoncelli would be defeated on the final lap by the guy brought in to defend the honor of the local hero, and if we were to cast Jorge Lorenzo in the role of Dani Pedrosa's avenging angel, then there is a good chance that Lorenzo will at least run the Italian to the line. But this isn't Hollywood, and despite Simoncelli's pole - taken with a brilliant lap, storming through the final sector to just edge Casey Stoner - it is the Australian Respol Honda man who is still firmly in control at Barcelona.

Go back and look at the timesheets of all three free practices, and check the times set before the riders put the softer tire on to go for a qualifying lap, and Stoner has half a second or more on the guys behind him. Stoner said after QP that they had gotten the setup right for the softer tire, leaving them lacking edge grip and setting a similar pace to the times set on harder, race rubber. Given that Stoner's race pace on hard rubber is less than two tenths off Simoncelli's pole pace on soft rubber, that should be cause for concern. If Stoner can get past Simoncelli early, then we're on for a repeat of Le Mans.

Hopefully, the cameras will spend most of the race watching the battle for the other podium places, as those battles promise to be rather good. On race rubber, Simoncelli and Lorenzo are pretty evenly matched, and even Ben Spies is not far behind. Andrea Dovizioso has a similar pace, while Jeremy Burgess only has to find a couple of tenths for Valentino Rossi for the Italian to be on the pace. Even Cal Crutchlow, if his crew can solve his problems with edge grip, could be capable of hanging with the battle for the podium.

The most interesting revival of fortunes is that of Ben Spies, but the factory Yamaha rider doesn't regard it as a revival in any real sense of the word. "It hasn't been as bad as it looks," Spies told reporters, "I made a stupid mistake at Jerez, the team made a mistake at Estoril, then we went to one of my least favorite tracks."

Things were starting to turn around, Spies emphasized, especially now his team had moved him back on the bike a little - just a centimeter, or about three-eighths of an inch - and this had given him a little more traction and taken some pressure off the front tire, allowing him to push that little bit harder. He felt comfortable with the bike again, Spies said, and was feeling pretty confident going into the race. Stoner was in a separate bracket, Spies said, but he felt he was right there with Lorenzo and Simoncelli.

Over in Ducati, the juggling with engines has begun. Both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden used the new engine - the one with the heavier crankshaft which makes for a smoother power delivery and is supposed to help with turning - but with Hayden already having lost an engine at Estoril, the American is on his 4th engine, while Rossi is on his 3rd. And we're only at round 5 of 18. The solution in the short term will be to switch back and forth from the old to the new when the occasion warrants; so Nicky Hayden will be using the old engine spec at Silverstone, where they think the more aggressive throttle response will be less of a problem, then taking the new engine at tracks which need more acceleration.

But even with the new engine, the problems with the Ducati remain. The new chassis has helped some, but the next iteration of the chassis - softer yet again, to retain more feel in the front end, the Ducati's notorious weakness, as demonstrated by Valentino Rossi's dumping of the bike in Turn 5 during FP3 - won't be available until maybe the Sachsenring or Laguna Seca. And now, with Rossi's shoulder as near as it gets to healed - the Italian said he is riding without painkillers for the first time, and his shoulder is holding up remarkably well, with just a little bit of reaction speed missing - it is clear that the half a second he is missing - in comparison to Lorenzo, Stoner is in a different league altogether - is down to the deficiencies of the bike.

The tone is starting to change. There are the first hints of frustration starting to creep through in Rossi's tone, signs that Ducati are not responding as quickly as he might like. Part of that is down to the fact that building a carbon fiber chassis takes a lot longer than the same item in aluminium, but that is starting to wear a little on Rossi. Though Rossi keeps emphasizing that Ducati is working very hard to accommodate him, he spends an equal amount of time emphasizing that Ducati needs fixing. The front end lacks feel, the rear pumps, and he needs to adapt his style, is how Rossi sums up the situation. The irony of Rossi saying almost exactly what Casey Stoner spent all last year telling the press is not lost upon us.

Off the track, much of the talk was of Motegi once again, with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi keen to prevent the circus from traveling to Japan in October. At a safety commission meeting on Friday evening, the riders expressed their doubts to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and Ezpeleta told them that they were going. Afterwards, Rossi was spotted going into Lorenzo's motorhome to discuss the situation, in itself a sign of how strong the sentiment is given the absolute antipathy between the two men (the current favorite argument in the media center is who Rossi hates most, Jorge Lorenzo or Casey Stoner). In the front row press conference, Lorenzo acknowledged that he would need help from Rossi to get Motegi canceled, because of the power which Rossi holds in the paddock.

None of the riders particularly want to go - well, with a few exceptions, World Supersport champion and Technomag Moto2 rider Kenan Sofuoglu said of the situation "we race motorcycles. The risk from radiation is pretty small compared to the danger on the track" - but they all freely admit to acting from ignorance. Lorenzo said that he did not trust the advice of the experts, then quoted facts given by the self-same experts in a documentary on the fallout (pun intended) from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago. This is clearly an irrational fear which is not amenable to facts, based on the same logic by which people buy lottery tickets expecting to win and keep on smoking expecting not to get cancer. Lorenzo's - entirely understandable - fears are another demonstration that humans are shockingly bad at making judgments based on science and statistics.

Tomorrow, we go racing, and Paris Hilton turns up to cheer on her 125cc team. Terol looks favorite to take victory in the junior class, Stoner is a shoe-in for MotoGP, and only the Moto2 class promises any uncertainty over the victor. But the prospect likely to bring the most entertainment is surely Andrea Iannone, starting from 22nd on the grid after crashing on his out lap in QP. Given Iannone's recent record, making up 22 places is not beyond the bounds of reason. Keeping it in one piece, however, is. It should be fun.

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It's sad that I see a headline on ESPN about MotoGP finally and it's about Lorenzo and Rossi not wanting to race the Japan round. To bad the mainstream media in America ignored the rest of the sport.

Nothing wrong with buying lotto tickets, they let me dream for $1 and support the schools!! Not everyone gets to be born an heiress to the Hilton estate :P (I do love that her unassuming team won their first race last run out)

+1 for Superglue, in him i'll see than he have the will for go and race at motegi, about lorenzo's and his quotes, if he dont want to go to japan, it's simple, dont take the flight, yamaha will do something with him if he is still denied to race in japan.

With you there, rumerz.
Seems Jorge has forgotten who pays his cheques. Or perhaps he just doesn't see Motegi as likely to bring any points?? Jorge was off the podium in 2009 and 2010 (4th both times) so I suspect he just wants to avoid a round where his rivals are likely to score more points than him.......

"Stoner was in a separate bracket, Spies said."
"..in comparison to Lorenzo, Stoner is in a different league altogether.."
"The irony of Rossi saying almost exactly what Casey Stoner spent all last year telling the press is not lost upon us."

2010 - Casey on Ducati - won 3 MotoGPs + 6 Podiums + 5 DNF (Accidents).

Casey is now on a bike that gives him full confidence in the front end; no push to the limit and suddenly fall off a cliff.. and he doesn't have to spin up the rear of the Honda to turn it (like the Ducati).

For Rossi to match Casey's 2010 wins + podiums in his first year on the Ducati would be a challenging benchmark itself, with the new Honda transmission the machine gap seems even wider than last year.

The other guys must feel like the pro golfers competing with Tiger Woods when he was in his prime ..

Lorenzo does not want to go because he does not trust the authority and Dorna and he watched Chernobyl video. They are pretty weak reasons and too childish for a worldchamp. You can buy a kit to measure the radiation level at less than $1,000. It is not precise as the ones used by government and scientific institution, but you can get an idea if the government is telling a lie or not. He may be able to ask someone in Japan he can trust to make a short trip to Motegi and measure the radiation by himself if he cannot trust the authority. The amounts of radiation exposed by staying a few days in Motegi are probably much smaller than those they get from X-rays or the flights they make in just one season. Before he makes a fuss, maybe he can do his own research not just on internet.

[The problem with watching all the practices and races delayed - and avoiding Internet spoilers - is I'm always behind on the discussion.]

Jorge is just feeding his irrational fears by watching sensationalist pseudo-docs about Chernobyl - a totally different situation to Fukushima.

Here's what I had to say regarding my recent trip to Tokyo (though I didn't have a spare thou' to spend on a radiation meter):

You have to think that the radiation risk is absolutely minimal despite the cover ups and on going problems at the plant. So this really shouldn't be about the riders but about Japan, the Japanese and the Japanese economy. Do they want to run the race? Would it be good for Japan to run the race or is this an exercise in face saving that papers over some dreadful problems.

Could someone help me?
I can't really see how it takes so long to build a carbon fiber part.
I guess my question is what is the problem ? Building the part, or calculating it, the structural properties?
If someone could detail the two processes (building and calculating), it would be great.


Just heard Herve Poncharral talking to Alex Hofmann. Edwards wants to race! According to the rules he can grid up at the rear. He just needs to pass a medical examination. I hope it's not T.T style press-ups!

I am confused by the Ducati's. Hayden and Rossi 2 & 3 in wet warm up. Conventional logic suggests you need a softer bike for wet conditions, yet both riders are complaining the chassis remains too stiff and cannot run the times in the dry? Very paradoxical.

You've got to wonder what Stoner would be doing on that Ducati now given the resources the factory are now prepared to throw at the thing.

The thing I always understood about the wet is that it completely removed horsepower from the equation. It levels the playing field for everyone as horsepower is no longer a deciding factor in who wins. Maybe with the Ducati the problem is getting the bike to stick under hard acceleration or at high speed, basically at times where the chassis is unable to manage the power delivery, to transform the horsepower through the tyres to the tarmac into traction.

I'm hypothesizing and over simplifying (I'm mentally not capable of anything else here), but as we saw in Jerez, the Duc's really like the wet. It's very nice to see personally. Add's another ingredient into an already spicy pie.

It depends who you believe. Casey said Ducati did nothing, Ducati said they gave Casey everything he asked for. The Ducati and Honda couldn't get anywhere near the Yam last year now all 4 Hondas are beating both Yamahas(and Rossi beat them both last time out) or would be if they didn't run into each other(last race).. The only definate is that any of the aliens would be winning on the honda. It's worth noting that the ducati isn't actually any quicker(enginewise) which possibly supports both Caseys and Rossis comments that things don't happen quickly enough, to the naked eye it looks slower than both the yam and the Honda I believe that to be a first in the 800 era.. It's hard to look past the Honda making massive improvements over all and the duke being closer to the yam(at lemans at least).
Lorenzo is getting the rough end, there are a few riders not wanting to go to japan, Stoner and Rossi to name two.

was what he asked for? Hmmmm. I somehow doubt that. The only 'new' thing he got was something old. Forks. Did he not state the main reason he moved was a lack of response from the factory? The Ducati still has plenty of engine. It's being able to use it to drive off corners properly that is the issue (pumping) . I haven't heard any complaints from their riders about lack of power.

Glad you pointed out the difference between Caseys qualifying pace and his race pace. Sure its an achievement for Simoncelli, but all the fever on the webz how great SuperSic performance was in Q for me is kinda premature. Last I checked there's no points for pole, Simo has DNFd in 50% of the races this year, and the past two years at Catalunya. And Stoner is consistently and noticeably faster on race set up, by a long way.

Regarding Motegi, when evaluating your self interest you have to trust your instinct and your gut. If the riders dont feel comfortable going to a place widely reported to be leaking radiation like a snotty nose just a few weeks ago then they should stand up and say they wont go. I wouldnt. All the armchair pundits calling the riders out are not the ones having to go and put their health on the line. Sofuolglu's statement should have been revised to say "we race motorcycles. The immediaterisk from radiation is pretty small compared to the danger on the track". Who knows what will happen 20 years from now, will hair drop out, will testicles glow green. In my opinion you cannot trust the authorities feeding the half truths (as we saw in Chernobyl) and its not worth messing with. The consequences are too high to gamble. Sure it sucks for Japan, sure the nation has done more for two-wheeled sport than any other. Maybe if tourism and commerce is so desired, building nuclear reactors on The Ring Of Fire is not such a smart idea. And that decision was not Lorenzo or Rossi's. It was Japan's. you make your bed, you get to sleep in it. Sorry if that comes across as cold.

Finally, the most humerous statement in this round up was the fact that in the 21st Century, David still needs to qualify what a centimeter is for our Colonial cousins :)


That many riders object going to Japan due to radiation fears.Japan is not run by a dodgy government and if they say the radiation levels are safe,the Montegi race should go ahead with all the riders.
I understand the radiation levels are higher in Rome than they are in Montegi at present
There must be hundreds of thousands of men women and children that live in that area of Japan,yet some riders object through their ignorance and mistrust to go there for 5/6 days.
Think it will be a very bad show if the riders refuse to go to Montegi.

on radiation estimates:

"The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says it believes the earthquake-stricken Fukushima plant emitted nearly 800,000 terabecquerels of radioactive material into the air in the days after it was hit by a massive tsunami.

That is more than double the original estimate and is based on new information suggesting the No.1 and No.2 reactors suffered meltdowns much earlier than thought."

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