Not withstanding the drama of Liberty Racing and Sylvain Guintoli’s slightly absurd dustup and parting of ways, along with the news the BMW Motorrad would fold its factory team into the BMW Italia effort, it’s been business as usual at Brno for World Superbike this week. The same could not be said for Saturday’s Superpole event though, which suffered from fluids being dumped on the track, and then a bout of rain caused the qualifying to go to a wet format. With teams having to adapt to the changing format, the grid for Sunday is certainly an interesting one.
World Superbike in Brno this race-weekend, the home round for the Czech-based Effenbert-Liberty Ducati team. Once again in the spotlight after its dust-up following the Monza round, Effenbert Liberty rider Sylvain Guintoli took to Twitter ahead of WSBK’s stop in Brno, announcing in a string of messages that that Czech team had breached its contract with him by not providing a bike for the Czech round, and as far as the French rider was concerned, the contract had been nullified.
Giving its side of the situation several days later, Liberty Racing first cited an issue with Guintoli’s technical team, but later amended that statement by blaming Guintoli’s lackluster results as the reason for why the French rider had been sacked. This is of course in spite of the fact that Guintoli has been on the podium three times this season so far, including a race win in Holland. Guintoli is currently eighth overall in the Championship, and is the first Liberty Racing rider to have won a race in WSBK.
Naw…we’re just having some fun today, but not as much fun as Nicky Hayden’s pit crew during the Brno test. Staging this photo of the team supposedly starting up the Desmosedici’s new two-wheel drive system, the photo plays right into the rumors that Ducati is literally trying anything under the sun to make the GP11 work for Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. With Filippo Preziosi essentially saying there are no sacred cows at the Italian racing effort, we honestly wouldn’t put it past Ducati Corse to give the two-wheel drive system a go…too bad its banned by MotoGP rules.
Source: GPone (whose post is far funnier than ours)
With yesterday’s race out of the way, MotoGP’s riders spent their Monday back at the Cardion AB circuit in Brno, testing their 800cc & 1,000cc machines. While we’ve already seen the 2012 Honda RC213V and the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, making its first public appearance was the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies tested the new M1 at Brno; and additionally, the duo also put in laps on their current M1 machinery, which received a more powerful version of their 800cc motor.
With both Yamaha riders happy with the upgraded motor on the 800cc machine, and the package coming together for 2012, Yamaha’s reintroduction into 1,000cc racing can be marked down as a success. However, it was Casey Stoner on his RC213V, with its newly revised chassis for Brno, that was fastest for the day, and easily surpassing Dani Pedrosa’s qualifying time from Saturday during the test.
Also making progress was Mika Kallio on the Suter CRT machine with its BMW motor. The claiming rule team (CRT) has clearly made some improvements, being only 4.3 seconds down on Stoner’s time. Suter still has a long way to go, but can walk away from Brno having saved more face than they did at Mugello a few months ago.
The weather continued to shine on Brno for the Czech GP (we’ll see if it holds off for Monday’s 1,000 bike test), as the MotoGP riders geared-up for one of the paddock’s favorite circuits on the calendar. With MotoGP dodging a bullet on what’s been a rain-filled season, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Casey Stoner lead the 17 rider grid with their front-row qualifying lap times. While Pedrosa seemed to be uncatchable all week long, Lorenzo and Stoner seemed up to the task of at least being road blocks to the flying Spaniard, and in the process grasp some desperately needed strong finishes for the Championship title.
With precious Championship points on the line, Brno held the possibility for several riders to mount their assault on the leader board, including third-row starter Andrea Dovizioso. For Stoner on the other hand, the Czech GP was an opportunity to put some breathing room between himself and the competition, especially as the Australian considers whether he will forgo the Japanese GP round at Motegi later this October, surely losing position on the Championship in the process. With so much riding on their performance at Brno, MotoGP racing didn’t disappoint in this well-fought race.
After a soggy Free Practice 3, the sun in Brno came out and helped dry the Czech circuit in-time for MotoGP’s qualifying session. In a day that saw a plethora of crashes, both in the wet and in the dry, no one was more devastatingly affected that John Hopkins, as the Anglo-American broke three fingers in his right hand, meaning the wild card rider would have to sit out the Czech GP. On the other spectrum of fortunes, Dani Pedrosa resided on a different level from the rest of the MotoGP field, having been lightning quick all week.
With eyes on Pedrosa going into qualifying, questions began to rise as to how the Spaniard would factor into the Championship standings. Out of contention for the title, Pedrosa can still play a large determining role as to whom, Casey Stoner or Jorge Lorenzo, will be the 2011 MotoGP World Champion. Also still technically in title contention is Repsol Honda’s third rider, Andrea Dovizioso, and though a long-shot for the Championship, is well within striking distance for second place. With Brno the 11th stop of this 18 round season, riders are looking to wrap-up the loose ends of the Championship this weekend. Find out how they qualified after the jump.
The MotoGP World Championship resumed in full-force on Thursday in Brno, as the summer break concluded and the Czech GP began. The first gathering of the MotoGP riders since the official independent report on the safety concerning the Motegi circuit, all eyes were on Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo to see if their stance had changed regarding the postponed Japanese GP. With both riders softening their stance on boycotting the Japanese MotoGP round, it was Stoner who dropped the bigger bombshell, announcing that he and wife Adriana were expecting their first child. Saying that he would further consider racing at Motegi, Stoner admitted that the news he was about to become a family man influenced his decision to race at Motegi.
The lower ranks of GP racing, 125GP, 250GP, and Moto2, are not as well-followed in the United States as MotoGP, so when the Czech Republic’s Karel Abraham climbed aboard a Ducati Desmosedici GP10 and started putting down impressive lap times, a collective “who the heck is Karel Abraham?” was uttered out-loud. The 21-year-old law student got a proper roasting on his introduction to the premier class by english-speaking journalists (ourselves included), as it was revealed quickly that Karel Abraham is actually Karel Abraham Jr., where Karel Abraham Sr. is the owner of the Brno race circuit and the Cardion AB race team. Touching on a vein of nepotism, yes…daddy bought him a MotoGP race team was uttered by us.
Fast-forward to the beginning of this season at Qatar though, where I was standing on the wall at Turn 1 at the Arabian track during MotoGP’s last testing session before the 2011 season, and watched a young Ducati rider hold his own against the MotoGP field. Granted, the junior Abraham was not setting the desert sands on fire like Casey Stoner, but he was no slouch either…and this was on “the wrong bike” in the GP paddock. Throughout the season, he’s shaken things up a number of times, and on several occasions been the fastest Ducati in a session. When you consider that all of this is occuring in the 21-year-old’s first entry in the big show, Karel becomes an increasingly impressive rider.
Did his father buy him a MotoGP team? That may be the case, but the Czech rider is anything but a spoiled brat. Down to earth, friendly, and funny during our 30 minute conversation, Karel is perhaps an example of how MotoGP riders should be during interactions with fans and media. In a sport where riders switch into PR-zombie mode as soon as a journalist shows up, it can be incredibly difficult to get the true perspective inside the MotoGP paddock, but talking to Karel proved to be a refreshing reminder that MotoGP riders after all people like the rest of us.
It’s perhaps unfair that Abraham came into the MotoGP Championship with this stigma attached to him, as he showed to me this past weeekdn that he is at least one of the most relatable riders in the paddock. As for his raw talent and skill, the results speak for themselves really, as Karel is on his way to becoming MotoGP’s Rookie of the Year (sorry Crutchlow fans), and is currently ahead of Alvaro Bautista, Toni Elias, Cal Crutchlow, Loris Capirossi, and Randy de Puniet in the 2011 MotoGP Championship standings. That all being said, enjoy A&R‘s Q&A with Karel Abraham after the jump.
John Hopkins is a busy man with his duties to Crescent Racing. Not only is the Anglo-American riding as a wild card at World Superbike’s next round at Silverstone, but the former-MotoGP racer will also ride Álvaro Bautista’s back-up Suzuki GSV-R at the Czech GP in three weeks’ time (the same course where Hopkins secured a second place finish in 2007, his best-ever results in MotoGP).
The outing will be Hopper’s second cameo appearance in the teal blue colors of Rizla Suzuki this year, as he filled-in for Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez, after the factory rider broke his femur at the Qatar GP. Hopkins is currently second in the British Superbike Championship, in a season that many are tipping as a trial-point for Hopper’s return back to MotoGP.