Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
There is a distinct element of deja vu to Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona. Just last week, the MotoGP circus was in a bike-mad country, at a circuit sure to attract some 100,000 fans on race day, all clamoring for their local heroes. Once again, the local boys will be unable to take a step outside their mobile homes without being mobbed, and will face a barrage of media coverage from the moment they enter the country. Expectations will be high, and failing to win will not be looked upon kindly.
Although, thankfully, no one was seriously injured, the chaos at Catalunya is having a number of interesting repercussions. An update on the latest developments:
The three riders injured in today's first corner pile up seem to be less badly injured than was first thought.
Motorcycle racing is full of drama. It's the reason so many people love it so much. After the drama at Mugello, the race at Catalunya was eagerly anticipated. Could the second Spanish round live up to the previous race weekend in Italy?
Thousands of Spanish fans, and many observers, including your humble reporter, expected the Gran Premi de Catalunya to be a festival of Spanish racing, with Spanish, or rather Catalan, riders starting from the front row of the grid, to take a Catalan win in front of their home crowds. The fact that most of the Catalan riders are on Michelins, the tires which dominated last year's race weekend, only reinforced this expectation. But this evening, the bars of Barcelona will be filled with despairing Spanish fans, wondering what happened to their local heroes. Sometimes, things just don't work out as you expected.
Another interesting session. No one was out early in the session, and times being set were in the 2 minute range, after about 20 minutes, it all kicked off. The session provided a few surprises again. Kenny Roberts Jr is still fast, but not as fast as Valentino Rossi, who topped the table with a 1:42.837.
If Spain is the heart of motorcycle racing, Catalonia is its soul. The separatist region along Spain's Northeastern coast positively pulsates with racers and racing history. Of the five Spanish riders contesting the GP de Catalunya, four of them are Catalan natives, all of them born within a GP's distance of the Barcelona race track. But it's not just the riders: Dani Pedrosa's mentor, former GP star Alberto Puig, current MotoGP team manager Luis d'Antin, and Spain's only 500cc world champion Alex Criville are all Catalan. Everywhere you go in Catalonia you see billboards of Pedrosa, Checa and Gibernau peering down at you, posted along swooping mountain roads to die for. A day's riding through Catalonia and you understand why the MotoGP paddock is simply awash with Catalans. So while there was plenty of atmosphere at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, the Grand Prix de Catalunya will be simply electric. The question is, of course, with so much to choose from, who will the Catalan crowd be backing?
Pride and Prejudice