2011 Brno MotoGP Thursday Round Up: On Tires, Motegi, The 1000s, And Horsepower Hill

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.

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2011 Brno MotoGP Wednesday Round Up - The Race, The 1000s, And Silly Season

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.

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The Trouble With The Ducati Desmosedici: An Exhaustive Analysis

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.

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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.

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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.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Sunday Round Up - That's Racing

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.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Saturday Round Up - An Untouchable Lorenzo, And The Perils Of Electronics?

After qualifying at Laguna Seca, there should be few doubts left over who is the favorite for the race on Sunday. Jorge Lorenzo left pit lane and proceeded to put down such a scorching pace - a 1'21.9 on just his second full lap - that left the rest breathless and unable to match him. Lorenzo then blasted out a huge string of high 1'21s - race pace, according to Ben Spies - before pitting and going on to set pole. As Spies put it to reporters, "Everybody's scratching their heads over Jorge's race pace. Casey got down there for one lap, but Jorge did five of those in a row."

Even Casey Stoner had to admit that his fast lap was a "one lap wonder" made by pushing the bike to the limit in an attempt to secure pole. He felt he even had a legitimate shot at pole, but had made a mistake at the final corner, running wide and getting poor drive on the exit. But even starting from pole, Stoner would have been up against it. He and his team have been struggling with front-end feel and drive out of the corners all weekend, and consistently two to three tenths off the pace, the Australian said in the press conference. They had tried a whole host of things to try to fix the problem, but a real solution remained elusive. Stoner still had hope, however: miracles can still happen overnight, and if they can find something in morning warm up, the Repsol Honda man might be able to either stay with Lorenzo, or at least get ahead of the Yamaha rider and try and disrupt his race.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Friday Round Up - A Fast Yamaha, And Two Slow Ducatis

Friday brought typical Monterrey Peninsula weather to Laguna Seca: cool and overcast in the morning, with temperatures rising and the sun out in the afternoon, but surprisingly, the times did not really tumble during the second session of practice. The difference between the fastest time in each of the two sessions was just a quarter of a second, despite a much warmer track.

Jorge Lorenzo was fastest in the afternoon, but more impressive than his best time was the string of fast laps he reeled off: 7 laps in 1'22.2 or better, and a lot better race pace than either Dani Pedrosa or Casey Stoner, despite the two Hondas being just over a tenth off Lorenzo's best lap. Lorenzo was, unsurprisingly, rather happy, though he claimed that there were improvements to be made with the front end, which is a worrying prospect for the competition.

Things are less happy over at Honda, with Stoner is once again struggling with grip. The hotter it gets, the less the grip, and as Stoner is one of the riders who likes the hardest tire he can get, he is having more problems than he would like with the softer mixture of tires that Bridgestone have brought. Last year's soft option is this year's hard tire, and this year's soft tire is another step softer, and Stoner is suffering because of it. Despite some pretty big changes, Stoner is still not competely comfortable with the bike.

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2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Thursday Round Up - Signs Of Progress On Motegi

After a quick hop across the Atlantic Ocean and the North American continent, the MotoGP paddock - alone, the Moto2 and 125cc classes remain at home for reasons of cost and paddock space - has reassembled at the Laguna Seca circuit for the final race before an all-too-brief break for the summer. A long transatlantic flight just a couple of days after the German MotoGP round at the Sachsenring leaves much of the paddock dazed and confused, with some complaining of jetlag while some of the European journalists complain of the difficulties they face making their newspaper deadlines due to the nine-hour time difference between the US Pacific coast and Europe.

The riders, though, seem fit and well, the fact that they are flying westward rather than eastward working to their advantage, and all of them looking forward to riding Laguna, despite it being a horribly tight and twisty circuit unsuited to a 240hp MotoGP machine. Last weekend's winner, Dani Pedrosa, has won at Laguna and arrives with his confidence up, despite still lacking strength in his right shoulder after the surgery to plate his collarbone broken at Le Mans. Like the Sachsenring last weekend, Laguna is mostly left handers, sparing his right side, but the race in Germany took a lot out of the Spaniard. Pedrosa is on a roll, but the question is how well his shoulder holds up.

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Motegi MotoGP: Radiation Doses Explained

One of the things that has come up again and again when discussing whether or not the MotoGP race should go ahead at Motegi is the levels of radiation that riders, teams, journalists and fans might potentially be exposed to, and the related dangers such exposure might bring. As radiation is one of the most poorly understood - by the general public, at least - of risks that humans are exposed to, it is helpful to visualize such exposure in some other way than with raw numbers alone.

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the severe damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant, the extremely entertaining science and computer cartoon blog XKCD produced a handy chart illustrating the exposure produced by a range of activities. Here's the chart (click on the chart for a full-size, easy to read version):

Radiation Dose Charge from

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