Analysis

2012 MotoGP Rider List - Latest Update After Valencia

Alongside the on-track action, the final round of MotoGP at Valencia saw a flurry of activity to fill the final seats of the 2012 MotoGP grid. That process was not as easy as it could have been: the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli left the picture complicated at Gresini, and the continuing uncertainty over Suzuki's plans for 2012 made it difficult for riders to commit to the Japanese factory.

In the end, though, most of the vacant seats have now been filled. The single bike that Pramac Ducati will field next year will be taken by Hector Barbera, as expected. Alvaro Bautista finally announced he would be leaving Suzuki and joined Gresini, to race the single Honda RC213V  that the team will have at its disposal for next year. And though the place at LCR Honda is still officially empty, the performance of Stefan Bradl aboard the Honda 800 during the two-day test was sufficient to secure the deal, sources report, with official confirmation expected over the next few days.

Suzuki's situation remains unclear, though the team continues to fight valiantly to remain on the grid, at least with an 800 for the first half of 2012, and after a strong test on the bike, Randy de Puniet is now favorite to take that spot. 

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2011 Valencia Post-Race Day 1 Round Up - Audition Day

If the first day of last year's Valencia test was one of the biggest media events of the century - at least in the MotoGP world - the first day of this year's test was a lot more interesting. Though the test was missing a number of big names - Jorge Lorenzo was ruled out with a finger injury, Nicky Hayden couldn't take part because he fractured his scaphoid in the crash on Sunday - this was a day that the future was on display.

The results sheet showed one thing all too clearly: the Hondas are on a different planet, Dani Pedrosa being a tenth faster than his teammate Casey Stoner, but the gap back to Ben Spies in 3rd is enormous. Spies was over a second slower than Pedrosa, and nine tenths off Stoner, and at the head of a group of eight riders separated by just over a second. When I asked one Honda insider about the Honda tests in Jerez at the start of the year, they used the word "insane" to describe the performance. At Valencia, we got a taste of what that meant.

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Ducati's Future Direction: Filippo Preziosi Explains Ducati's MotoGP Strategy For Valencia And Beyond

The least surprising news revealed by Filippo Preziosi in the press conference he gave at Valencia today was that Ducati will be testing an aluminium perimeter frame on Tuesday and Wednesday. The fact that Ducati have been building such a frame came to light in mid-August, Ducati sources letting slip that the factory was building such a frame. But the existence of such a chassis was always officially denied, at least until today.

But even as he made the announcement, Preziosi stressed that this frame - an aluminium twin spar design - was very much a starting point, rather than the finished product ready to race. "The bike you will see tomorrow with the perimeter frame will be not the bike for the first race," Preziosi told reporters. "The bike you will see tomorrow is an experimental bike, really a prototype bike, to give to our designer the targets to design bike of the future."

The goal of such a move is to create a baseline, a starting point for the work that is to come. The first task of the aluminium perimeter frame is to replicate the existing frameless design, to understand the changes as Ducati moves forward on this new path. "At this stage, we would like just to realize a bike with a different kind of chassis but with exactly the same geometry and weight distribution as the current bike uses," Preziosi explained.

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2011 Valencia MotoGP Sunday Round Up - The Very Many Goodbyes Of 2011, And Hello To 2012

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.

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2011 Valencia MotoGP Saturday Round Up: On The Happy Demise Of The 800s, And The 2012 Silly Season

It seems somehow fitting that the last ever qualifying session for the 800cc MotoGP bikes should be dominated so utterly by the man who has dominated the 800cc era. Despite the fact that Casey Stoner won only the first and the last 800cc titles, he still has the most pole positions and wins in the period between 2007 and 2011. Stoner ended the penultimate day of the 2011 season in style, matching Mick Doohan's record of 12 pole position in a single season and beating everyone else on the grid by over a second.

It wasn't just that Stoner was in a different time zone to the rest of the field, it was also the panache with which he did it. Turn 13 - the long, long left hander that runs over the hill and down towards the final tight corner leading back onto the straight - is a pretty spectacular sight at the best of times. Perhaps the iconic image of the 990 era was of Nicky Hayden sliding the back his V5 RC211V round there back in 2006. If anything, Casey Stoner was even more outrageous, getting the back of the successor RC212V - an RC211V with one cylinder removed - stepped out so far it looked like he was back racing dirt track, not a MotoGP bike. "Casey is very confident with the bike and also in the right position in the seat," was Valentino Rossi's understated assessment of Stoner's slide. "We slide also, but he slide more."

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2011 Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up - On Wet Weather, Josh Hayes Learning A New Bike, And The MSMA

Some semblance of normality has returned to the MotoGP paddock now that the bikes are back on track, and everyone is back doing what they are supposed to be. "For me, I was happy to be here, be around the team, see all the tributes honoring Marco and see everybody showing a lot of class and a lot of respect," Nicky Hayden said. "It's still kind of there at the back of everybody's mind, but it don't change what I do. We're racers, we ride motorcycles." His teammate Valentino Rossi agreed. "It's a good feeling to come back on the bike," Rossi said, adding that there were more positives than negatives from riding. Once on the bike, everything changes, and every ounce of focus is needed to get a MotoGP up to a competitive speed.

That task is made doubly difficult in the wet at Valencia. Everyone commented on the state of the track, complaining that it is incredibly slippery when wet. The cause, Dani Pedrosa speculated, was the age of the surface, the tarmac having lost a lot of its grip over the years. Normally, Pedrosa said, tracks were marginally easier to ride when wet, but Valencia is now so treacherous that it requires even more concentration in the wet.

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2011 Valencia MotoGP Thursday Round Up - Remembering Marco Simoncelli

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.

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The Consequences Of Tragedy: MotoGP's Silly Season After Simoncelli's Death

The paddock is about to reconvene at the final round of the year at Valencia and return to the normal business of racing, or at least, as normal as possible less than two weeks after the death of Marco Simoncelli in a tragic accident at Sepang, and there are still a few empty seats to fill on the 2012 MotoGP grid. The slots at the Ducati, Honda and Yamaha factory teams are filled, as are the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha satellite seats, and of course Karel Abraham at the Cardion AB team, but beyond that, MotoGP's silly season for 2012 is still in full swing.

In a stroke of bitter irony, Marco Simoncelli's death gave the rider merry-go-round a bit more impetus. Simoncelli's place in the San Carlo Gresini Honda team had already been confirmed, complete with factory Honda RC213V and HRC contract. His death blows everything wide open again, and adds a massive number of complications. Though it is far too soon for Gresini to be signing contracts - Fausto Gresini was hit particularly hard by Simoncelli's death, as he was close to the Italian personally, and this was the second rider he has lost to a fatal crash, after Daijiro Kato back in 2003 - rider managers will be circling the Gresini pit box and making cautions enquiries as to the team's plans for 2012. As tragic as the loss of Marco Simoncelli is, life goes on, and riders will be racing next year, one of them from the garage destined for Simoncelli before his demise.

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The 2012 MotoGP Revolution: Part 3 - Politics, Or Dorna vs The MSMA

In part 1 of this series, we discussed the new 1000cc rules for 2012, especially those for the so-called Claiming Rule Teams, the privateer teams which will be allowed to use engines from production bikes if they so wish. In part 2, we discussed Infront Motor Sports' objections to those new rules as organizers of the World Superbike series, and why their objections are likely to fail. In part 3, we turn our attention to the reasoning behind these new rules, the politics which surround them, and the circumstances which have served to put the changes into high gear.

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, is one of the most vilified men among many fans of MotoGP. He is blamed for the many changes that have altered the face of MotoGP, not least for killing off the 990s and bringing in the 800s, which have robbed the sport of so much of its spectacle. Ezpeleta gets the blame for each new rule change, charged with fiddling while Rome burns.

But those accusations have absolutely no basis in fact. Ezpeleta is innocent of almost all of the crimes that he is charged with over the rule changes, as almost every one of those changes were at the direct request of the manufacturers, while Dorna and IRTA, the organization that represents the teams, have done their best to mitigate the damage done by the factory-imposed rules.

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2011 Sepang MotoGP Saturday Round Up - On Hondas, Ducatis, Fuel, Rain And Championships

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.

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