2012 Catalunya MotoGP Sunday Round- Up: Race Day

Race day at Barcelona saw three different races in each of the three classes, and each with a particular lesson to teach. In Moto3, Maverick Vinales was the only rider to understand that it is better to escape from a battling group than get caught up in all the excitement. Vinales eventually won with a massively comfortable lead, but while there is no doubt that the Spaniard's pace was particularly tough, those in the group behind him gave him a big helping hand by turning on each other instead of banding together to hunt down Vinales for the win. Even 2nd place went to the smartest rider, rather than the most fierce: Sandro Cortese had been forced to ride more carefully due to a very painful right hand he suffered in a crash during qualifying, and by conserving his forces for when he needed them most, he bagged second spot and did very well in the championship race. Brave, mature, and above all intelligent riding by the young German.

Moto2 deserves a chapter apart, and one which will surely be forthcoming later in the week, probably entitled "The Multitudinous Sins of Marc Marquez". Marquez was initially punished after a collision with Pol Espargaro which saw Espargaro crash heavily. The Catalunya Caixa rider was given a one minute penalty, but his appeal was upheld, and the penalty was canceled. But the penalty was more about what had happened at Qatar than the incident at Barcelona. After the move on Thomas Luthi, Marquez was given a yellow card by Race Direction, and warned to take care in future. Race Direction appeared to have decided that this move was worthy of a second yellow card, and had therefore decided to apply a penalty. While there is merit to their argument - especially in punishing riders at the front, talk to mid-pack riders and they will tell you that it is a proper killing field further back - this particular incident seems a poor one to pick. For this incident is being viewed by the fans in isolation, rather than as part of the bigger picture, including Marquez' prior form. Viewed separately, this pass looks too much like an ordinary racing incident to be worthy of such severe punishment.

Up front, Andrea Iannone had one of his days. When the Italian is good, he is utterly unbeatable, showing the style, ability, intelligence and ruthlessness to seal the win. Unfortunately for Iannone, those days are few and far between, with too many days where the Italian ends up miles off the pace.

The MotoGP lesson was perhaps the most interesting of all, because of what it told us of the relative strengths of the Hondas and Yamahas, and how they use the tires. In both practice and race, the Hondas went with the harder rear tire while the Yamaha riders preferred the softer option, because of the way the bike uses the tires. The difference was visible in the stunning 2000 fps video that Dorna provided from some of the corners, proving once again that though Dorna may have a bunch of stuff horribly wrong, their TV coverage is absolutely top notch. Shots of the Hondas showed the rear spinning, and sliding around the corner to get more drive, while the Yamahas looked to be wheels in line, driving out of the corner with less power, but getting it down earlier in the corner.

In the end, this would prove decisive, the cooler temperatures on race day meaning that Honda's strategy - spinning the hard rear to help get the bike turned - meant that the harder tire did not deliver the same performance as the softer option, which behaved broadly similarly in both hot qualifying and cooler race. Jorge Lorenzo would be the main benefactor of this, putting himself in the shop window very nicely, though the price that Lorenzo will be asking whoever he signs for will be rather higher than most goods shown in shop windows. Rival Dani Pedrosa would describe Lorenzo's year as "a perfect season" in the post-race press conference, a qualification it certainly deserves. In five races, Lorenzo has dropped just 10 points, his worst result finishing 2nd.

Lorenzo is helped in part by Honda's continuing struggle to get to grips with the 2012 Bridgestones. The Hondas have chatter, and they don't get on with the new spec front tire, which is slightly less stable than the old spec tires. The Yamahas, on the other hand, have chatter, but only as an item a long way down their list of priorities. With the old spec tire due to be dropped from Silverstone onwards, things have not been made easy for Casey Stoner's title defence.

Stoner seemed relatively unruffled after only managing to finish fourth, his worse finish since being taken out by Valentino Rossi at Jerez last year. His equanimity prompted some to speculate that retirement may have made the Australian a little too relaxed for his own good, but Stoner said that he knew fairly quickly that this was all that the bike was capable of given the tires available.

What to make of Ducati? The Bologna factory is still testing parts and throwing everything they can at building a bike to Valentino Rossi's taste. They are yet to succeed, however, the new aluminum swingarm being tried for a day before being dropped in favor of the existing carbon fiber option. The aluminium had worked well at Mugello, but the benefits were gone in Barcelona, causing Rossi to postpone testing the swingarm again until Monday. Seventh place on Sunday was all that the Ducati is capable of in the dry, Rossi said after the race, and it is hard to disagree. Until Ducati get the radically updated engine expected at Laguna Seca, progress is going to be hard to come by.

If Jorge Lorenzo boosted his market value with yet another win at Barcelona, his teammate Ben Spies saw his bed moved one step closer to the door. A strong start, a fantastic pace, but a massive mistake in the early laps saw Spies crash and then rejoin, fighting his way forward to score a top 10. It is podiums that Spies needs, though, and he will only score them if he stops making mistakes. Spies is clearly still fast - his lap times show it - but being fast and finishing 10th doesn't buy you much in this market.

And the market is very much open. Right now, it is still at the talking stage, but everyone appears to be talking to everyone. No sensible conclusions can be drawn yet with respect to next season, other than it is going to be a long and complicated process.

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Was it encouraging to see Spies battling for the lead for the first few laps? Yes.

Was it relieving to see that "he still had it"? Yes.

Did the whole of North America collectively yell out "NO!!!" when he over shot turn 3 and low sided? Yes.

Clearly he still has it, now whether or not that will count for something down the road I personally hope so but I'm not so diluted into thinking that without results he'll still be fine.

As disappointed Lin Jarvis appeared when he low-sided I'm hoping that he felt some measure of relief that Ben still has it in him to challenge for the podium. Thankfully Silverstone is a track he enjoys and has been on the podium before so barring more bad luck things should hopefully go well for him there.

Cheers and thank-you for the report.

HRC better find a solution for it. Because right now it looks damn impossible to stop Lorenzo from scoring at least 20 points per GP and haul massive massive points from now to years end. The situation can still be reversed with some Repsol 1-2s, but those are never to be taken for granted, especially with all Yamaha riders looking very fast.

Repsol have seriously dropped the ball since last season. Their bike seems to be somewhat of a train wreck (by their standards). Their failure to sort out the chatter and tire problems has cost them three race wins, and handed a major advantage to Lorenzo. That Stoner and Pedrosa were so fast during practice and qualifying, and then so much slower in the race shows that Repsol made an awful tire choice on Sunday.
Lorenzo is an amazing rider, but Stoner should have been fighting for victory at the last two races, but was unable to do so due to tire trouble. His race in Qatar was also hampered by chatter, as that no doubt aggravated his arm pump.
It would be a shame if Casey didn't have a shot at the championship because Honda engineers screwed up the chassis. The Yamaha is so much better on the brakes it is a joke. Lorenzo was able to close up on Pedrosa by what seemed to be a few tenths at every corner entry.

Having said that - it should also be pointed out that Lorenzo is an incredible rider. His raw speed and ability to ride flawlessly throughout a race, and especially when on the tail of other riders is mesmeric and it is this pressure that prompted Spies and Pedrosa to choke and make a mistake. Although with Dani it was just a matter of time. He was at a major disadvantage due to his tires.

It does not really help in developing a new bike when during last winter, in a couple of weeks time, the weight limit for MotoGP was upped from 150 to 153 to 157.

Probably doesn't help but the weight was increased for everyone not just Honda.

This should wait for the specific story on this but here is my two cents worth. Definitely a racing incident as sorry as I felt for Pol. Thing I don't like is the overall riding attitude of Marc - he seems like a huge accident waiting to happen and is not riding like there are consequences.

Marquez' aggressiveness not withstanding, I think that people are forgetting that both of the Espargero brothers can be quite excited at times and let themselves get into terrible situations. Pol obviously saw Marc's bobble and he took a risk shooting up the inside without knowing if Marc could recover, and if he did recover, how fast he would try to retake his racing line. From my dodgy memory, Pol came from well behind even before Marc lost control, so at the point of error, Marc's thought process was A) Save this mess B) get back into the turn C) oh crap was anyone there. So, in my opinion, I agree that it's a racing incident.

MM is however doing too much of sweeping other people's braking lines when he pulls in front, and someone's going to teach him a severe lesson one of these days. It's a nasty habit that his team really should be taking him to task for, for his own good.

Totally agree only a couple of weeks ago Pol nearly took MM out and did take himself out with a last lap lunge. Yesterdays lunge wasn't much better. When they make contact Pol looks like he's missing the apex by a mile and no doubt just hoping MM will run further wide. Looked like MM hit his apex and Pol tried to hit the same one.. Whether Marquez saw him at he very last minute or not Pol had a much better view of the whole incident and still took the decision to go for a gap that wasn't there..
Same thing happened to Hami in F1, Massa kept turning into him all year, the very first time it was put down as Massa's fault it never happened again.. Just trying to take advantage of MM's reputation...
Great ride by Jorge but the hondas made a serious error with tyre choice.. Suspect ducati are building a brand new shorter engine. The duke will have to handle like the yam, and offer the low end(and high end!) power of the honda(or even Yam), at the moment it's not close to doing either Neither Rossi nor dorna can afford another season of development by Ducati..

Much is made of MM cutting in front of riders he passes since Qatar but other riders are also doing this all the time and commentators say nothing. Also one instance yesterday MM passed AI cut back to cover the racing line and AI re-took 1st on the inside, I'm not convinced it is actually the best tactic for securing a pass.

One thing I did notice that when they compared on board telemetary Lorenzo was cracking his throttle wide open before Pedrosa, when following, maybe the Yamahas have the better electronics as well. I think the big difference was that Honda had it all sorted then they chucked more weight to meet the new weight limit and they've had trouble ever since.

I never thought a day would come when I would prefer Lorenzo winning over anyone, but I am forced to do that now. First because I prefer to see Yamaha win over Honda (if Kawasaki were here I would love to have seen them win) and second because its becoming a bit of a bore to watch Stoner decimate his opposition. I would hasten to add here that Lorenzo is not half the talent that Stoner is (though I have never warmed upto him, I have great respect for his ability which seems peerless) and Stoner does not do lousy things like carrying Lorenzo Land flags, eating lollipops on the podium and playing air guitar. I hope Lorenzo goes to Honda next year and Yamaha picks up a likeable young gun (meaning no Rossi) and then I will be happy supporting that combo.

The lollipops were from his Chupachups sponsorship. I guess he got too expensive as a sponsoree for them and ended the relationship. But while it was going on, him having one on the podium were the same as riders drinking & posturing a can (or h2o bottle) of red bull or monster all over the place.

Its getting very boring watching Lorenzo behave like a big kid with "hilarious" post race antics. Sure Rossi used to do it, but its a bit like the jerk who has a funny joke but then can't stop telling it over and over again.

I suppose it might be understandable, just, as it was his home GP, but for God's sake, move on !

Lorenzo haters assemble!
He celebrates too much. WE HATE HIM!
He copied Rossi. WE HATE HIM!
He wins on Rossi's bike. WE HATE HIM!

Go watch old Rossi footage and quit your f@#$%!& whining.

Yeah, I always knew that those energy cans don't actually contain energy drinks when they're drained by the riders after races. But seeing Dovi's team is filling them with water in front of cameras at parc ferme in the footage just after the celebration of JLo takes place was priceless. Guy holding the can realized they were on line and push the cans down hiding them from camera. I was amused.

Moto2 is what keeps me awake. Although MotoGP bike are awesome and the riders are magnificent, it's somewhat too sterile. Kudos to Iannone, Luthi, Marquez and Espargaro for giving us such a show. Iannone was a joy to follow.

Assumptions: Stoner actually does retire; Rossi does not re-sign with Ducati; no miracle turnaround (wins, podiums) for Ben Spies (which is what he needs at this point).

Yamaha: Lorenzo, Dovizioso

Yamaha will make Lorenzo an offer he can't refuse. Lorenzo knows what a good bike he has, and what a risk it would be to go somewhere else. Why break up what is right now the best competitive package in MotoGP?

Both Crutchlow and Dovizioso have experience on the M1, a big plus. But between them, Dovizioso seems more reliable on race day.

No way: Rossi.

Honda: Rossi, Pedrosa

I did say bold...

Honda has to ask itself: Do they really want Pedrosa as their lead rider? You have to think the answer is still 'No' (which is why they went after Stoner). It must be clear to them by now that Pedrosa will never win a championship. So a gamble on Rossi will be seen as worth it.

Caveat: Rossi also has interest, and agrees to a significant pay cut. Also, can't see Honda offering more than a one year deal.

Ducati: Crutchlow, Hayden

Ducati took a chance on Stoner in 2007; how did that work out? Crutchlow's gutsy 'go for it' riding style would seem to be a good fit.

But would not be at all surprised to see Ducati pull the plug on Hayden. Four years of mediocrity may be seen as enough. Question is, who could they bring in that would be a clear upgrade? Or have the potential to be worth the risk? Accepting nominations...

Assuming no significant turnaround I think the question for the Ducati team is not who can they get but who will want to move to the least desirable ride in the paddock. If I was Crutchlow there is no way I would move from Tech3 to factory Duc, he's beating them in every race this year. And he has a long affiliation with Yamaha. If like you suggest Dovi moves to Factory Yam then I suspect Poncheral would offer Cal a new contract even with Spies on the market for a ride.

If I was Crutchlow there is no way I would move from Tech3 to factory Duc...

One word: money. Maybe two: challenge.

I would not underestimate the ego of most of these guys. Also, most careers are relatively short (see perhaps Spies), and so it is very important to get the cash offered by a factory ride when/if it is offered. You gotta figure one year on a factory bike equals several on a satellite, pay-wise. Too much to pass up. I have no doubt Crutchlow will see it that way.

"But would not be at all surprised to see Ducati pull the plug on Hayden. Four years of mediocrity may be seen as enough."

He's actually been pulling his weight pretty well as a no.2 rider, especially given that his bike for the last 4 years has been a total nail. But, results aside, he is a definite unit shifter for Ducati in the US, and for that reason alone they will be more than happy to retain him.

Personally I'd like to see him go to Tech3, and team up with Spies there - I can't see Spies keeping his seat for 2013, although I don't think he's a spent force yet.

My predictions - Crutchlow/Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, Lorenzo/Dovi at Yamaha, Spies/Hayden at Tech3, Rossi/Abraham at Ducati, Marquez at Gresini, Bradl at LCR.

He's actually been pulling his weight pretty well as a no.2 rider, especially given that his bike for the last 4 years has been a total nail.

As Stoner's results on the same machine clearly confirmed...

BTW, if Rossi stays with Ducati -- something I would not rule out -- then I would still expect Ducati to pursue Crutchlow, who'd then take Hayden's spot.

One of the seats at Tech 3 is already taken by Bradley Smith who has a contract signed.

Money is obviously a factor but so is career potential. Cal has been supported by Yamaha for a long time, he won the WSS championship with them, decent year in WSBK with them and then they supported him to move into MotoGP. He is riding well on the Yam and I think Tech3 will want to keep him if Dovi moves. Even if Ducati offer a lot more money, that bike is notorious for tarnishing GP careers, and that would have to be just as big a factor as a pay cheque. If the ride at Tech3 is offered to someone else then maybe he would move to Ducati as a last resort to stay in the series.

Can someone explain to me why Bradley Smith has a guaranteed contract in MotoGP when he has done nothing special in Moto2 ?!?

I mean 3 podiums last year and they offer him a guaranteed contract in the premier class, and on a very competitive machine. He hasn't even won a race on a four-stroke machine!

Nothing personally against the kid, he's a developing talent and all, but doesn't deserve this shot just yet IMHO.

His agent on the other hand, is performing very well at his job...

I have had very similar thoughts about Bradley Smith. What did he do in Moto2 to guarantee a seat in MotoGP. He was good on a 125cc bike but Moto2 he has done very little. Maybe Poncharal knows something we don't, like say the Tech3 chassis being inferior to every other chassis and Smith instead of finishing 32nd is actually finishing in 18th or something like that. These are things that we would never know. It is also possible Tech3 will put Smith's promotion on hold and ask him for perform next year , who knows.

One is that the bike isn't all that good. The other is that the ride was most likely promised to keep Smith in Tech 3 Moto2. After the 250s, you'd need to have your head in the sand if you assumed he didn't have other offers. He took a short term hit for a long term payoff.

"But, results aside, he is a definite unit shifter for Ducati in the US"

You know, I've read this point being made many many times, yet I've never heard or read it from anyone connected with Ducati, or have seen any reports showing how Ducati sales flew through the roof when Hayden joined the team.

I just wonder... if Ducati places so much value in putting Americans on their bikes to sell bikes in the US, where were the Americans on Ducatis in WSBK the past 20 years (since Doug Polen rode for them).

I think it's a major underestimation of Hayden's abilities to say he is only at Ducati because he's American. Yeah, Stoner won races on that bike - but no one else has been able to replicate that, not just Hayden.
I think if he loses his seat at Ducati he will be off. But he is a real asset to Ducati, he is a stringent tester and never has a bad race through lack of effort. Do you think any one else on the grid would do much better than him (apart from stoner)?

HRC need to address the cold weather performance of their bikes. Personally I felt Pedrossa should've won that race, as he rode a bike that was offering very little assistance brilliantly. Stoner rode to stay on the bike, it has been a real disappointment, the overly agressive engine delivery in the wet (electronics should flatten the curve with 250HP) and the build up of excessive heat excluding the use of soft tyres when its cold - this is so unlike HRC! Chatter is the cause of the arm pump and chatter means instability and riders unable to deliver - HRC need to give Casey and Danni a bike to take it too Lorenzo, I want to see the best two riders of the last 5 years go handle bar to handle bar for the rest of season, one is retiring. Please HRC do not rob us of this 'once in a lifetime championship', engineers step up please.

Was Lorenzo's elapsed race time faster than Stoner's last year? I bet Danni and Casey would gone faster on last year's bike yesterday. After Qatar I said to the long suffering Mrs, that "the 213 rides rough, stability problems and tires will be the issue, Lorenzo will beat Casey but it will be the best season in history if they can smooth out 213", she said "yes dear that's good"!

It was excellent that Vale was able to see Stoner on a dry track, normally he is 15 to 30 seconds back.

Hats off to the glorious Lorenzo, sure his race win antics might look a little like "a Rossi me too" but his bike skills and his comedic wit are fabulous.. I watch Lorenzo, and I think Rainey, Doohan and even the great Ago, so smooth so complete... After Casey retires I will be buying a Lorenzo cap, for the first time I'll be barracking for a Yamaha rider in 30 years of watching these super brave talented young men (I actually like Yamahas too, seems strange its taken so long).

Nice to see Spies with a bit of confidence, and wow to Crutchlow and Andrea, Dovi must have been grinning ear to ear having beaten Stoner to the podium - true satisfaction. Revenge is best served shaking Champagne bottles...

I'd love to see Ben get it right, he has so much talent...

Stand out rider on race day across all classes. As usual George is awesome to watch.
CRT ? All these posts and not a mention. That says something about the general publics perception of the class currently. For sure the CRT's are trying just as hard as the prototype boys and the gap is diminishing, but right now the audience would be just as big if there were only 12 prototypes lined up on the day.
I hope they get to mixing it up a little better by the 2nd half of the season but right now I can't see that happening.

i went into the season with an open mind and thinking the CRT bikes would be cool. they are not - they are pointless. it's like sticking a few SBK bikes on a motogo grid - great, you have two races at the same time. Why?

Why not just ban electronics, then all manufacturers could afford to participate with prototypes.

It's SO SIMPLE, but I guess it's just too complicated for some. I love the CRT riders, but the CRT project is pointless and a disaster.

It comes down to grid sizes, the factories weren't able to keep the grids full and the satellite bikes affordable, so CRT is the solution.

Banning electronics isn't going to happen, any more than going back to 2-strokes.

It seems to me that the CRT's have actually allowed and/or encouraged the factories to downsize. Do we really think that if the CRT thing wasn't in place that we'd have a 12-bike championship? No way, it would be a laughing stock (more than now). Honda would have run more than 4, as would Ducati, and there would have been extreme pressure on Yam to field more than 4 too.

What we have now seems to be the worst of both worlds. Do one thing or the other, but not this half-hearted championship within a championship.

You skipped the affordable part of the equation. The satellite teams could no longer afford the lease prices from the factories. Dorna had been covering part of the lease costs, but it kept increasing. As an example, Aspar is one of the better run, well funded teams and they are running a CRT for the simple reason they could not afford to lease a satellite bike.

Watching the GP yesterday, I said to my missus that Spies appeared to be riding very close, if not outside, his limit, and that this was visible in his riding. Then, he appeared to demonstrate that I was not far from the truth. He's obviously struggling this year and is trying to prove he's worthy of his seat, but maybe he tried too hard yesterday.

Oh, and Honey Badger don't care. If Crutchlow had been able to pass Stoner, it's entirely possible that Dovi would not have got that podium. If, if, if. Crutchlow needs a better start at Silverstone if he's to get the podium his home crowd wants, but I'd not be surprised to see his first pole position; Bet your house on a front-row start.

+1. Spies seemed to be riding like a guy who had just been told that he had to win or he would be fired. I'll be bold; it would not surprise me to see him lose his seat mid-season.

Other thoughts:

I think the tire situation could explain part of Stoner's up-yours, I'm-outta-here decision. How much would it suck to be told that you can't use the tire your bike likes, and you have to use a tire that the other guy's bike likes? That's gotta feel like race fixing.

Crutchlow may be talented, but remember that he could only manage three WSBK wins on the bike that Spies had destroyed the field with. Before we continue with his coronation, maybe he ought to get a podium. Just sayin'.

I'm still saying Rossi to Suzuki next year. They would have never been able to land him in the past, but after the disaster with Ducati what real options are left? It'd be a major coup for Suzuki and certainly bring in a massive amount of badly needed cash if they're planning on making a return to Motogp.

As far as the racing, I thought this was one of the better weekends. JL vs Pedrosa was good, just wish another couple riders could have joined in. Sad to see Spies crash. He's making the case for his certain dismissal from the factory team. He used to be rock solid in AMA and WSBK but now it seems one issue after another. I'd be interesting to read an interview that addresses what's going on(hint, hint!!)

Moto2! Simply awesome. I'd love to see Crazy Joe pull things together. He's got a great style and has the ability to be champion if he can get some consistency. Not a fan of Marquez. I feel some of his passing is boarderline. After re-watching the the incident, I'm inclined to agree that it was mainly a "racing incident", but I wonder why he's constantly the one involved. It reminds me somewhat of Simoncelli

Rumbling I've seen say Ben is out of the Factory Yamaha ride.
Ducati contacting him.
BMW WSBK possible as well.

I believe Ben has just found a new sense of urgency, and way too many people are dismissing his roll of awful luck.

It would be interesting if someone here knew if Yamaha receives support in the form of their racing budget from the American division. I believe Colin did, and even last year they were willing to support him, but Tech3 decided to go another way.

I do not think Yamaha America would be happy to see Ben go, and if he did they would not want to support something they saw as irrelevant to their home market.(just my opinion). But then again a Marquez Repsol Yamaha or a Valentino (apply sponsor name here) Yamaha could also change things very fast.

Just as the perfect Storm has caught Ben out this year, Maybe another perfect one can see him on a Schwantz Suzuki Team the next one. Hopefully the Clowns running Motogp realize it's all about the Tires and lowering the performance is the cheapest and most effective way they can bring back competitive racing where the rider determines the winner most the time not a computer. If that's done look to see my Ben/ Casey Team Shwantz Suzuki post coming soon. one can dream can't he

The problem with deliberately lowering tire performance is that, unlike in a car, a racer can fall off of a motorcycle.

This is bad.

I'm all in favor of competitive racing and lower costs. But deliberately lowering the performance of the tires, almost by definition, increases the potential for crashing, unlike in a car. And the potential for catastrophe with each crash is significant; not a route I'd like to see the sport go down.

p.s. when you say tire performance, what do you mean? Edge grip? Drive grip? Durability? Lots of variables there.