After visiting three Honda tracks in a row, MotoGP finally heads back to a Yamaha track. Brno is fast, flowing, with a multitude of left-right and right-left combinations which favor the agility and high corner speed of the Yamaha over the more stop-and-go Honda tracks. Here, it is the Yamaha’s turn to shine.
Well, that was the theory. At the end of the first day of practice, it’s the Honda of Stefan Bradl on top of the pile, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, and Cal Crutchlow. That’s Honda, Yamaha, Honda, Yamaha, Honda, Yamaha. So much for Yamaha domination. Then again, with just three tenths of a second separating Bradl in first from Crutchlow in sixth, Brno is hardly seeing the Hondas dominate either. There is very little to choose between any of them.
One race down, two more to go in the first of MotoGP’s two triple-headers in 2013, and this is the most brutal transition. After a draining race in the humidity of the Midwest, the teams and riders pack up, head east and face a wall of jet lag before getting ready to race at Brno, one of the most physically demanding circuits on the calendar.
After that, they get to pack up again and head back west, just a short hop this time to the UK, its one-hour time difference from Brno small enough not to cause jet lag, but just enough to throw your body clock just out of kilter.
Whether Brno will produce the same flashes of excitement, which Indianapolis did, remains to be seen. At Indy, the riders encountered what they described as the best surface they’d ever seen at the track – relative, of course, to previous visits – and that helped in some small way to spice the racing up a little.
This season has been a forgetable one for Karel Abraham on the race track, but the we reckon it will be a year that the young Czech rider will remember. In a couple weeks, Karel Abraham will graduate from law school (Bachelors level), having passed his exiting exams just a few days after the conclusion of the Czech GP. Studying even during the race-weekend, Abraham says that his academic duties helped provide a distraction from the pressures of his home round.
For those who remember our sit-down interview with the Cardion AB rider, the news of Karel’s studying of the law shouldn’t be any new information. We imagine the skills he has learned in the classroom will help Abraham with next year’s contract negotiations, as there is high-degree of uncertainty surrounding Cardion AB’s plans for the 2013 MotoGP Championship. As someone who is using a law degree in a non-traditional capacity, I wish Karel the best in his future endeavors — on and off the track.
Dani Pedrosa has something of a reputation. Blisteringly fast when out on his own, but put him under pressure and he crumbles. Once passed, he is history, and he will trouble you no more.
There has never been that much truth to that accusation, and the MotoGP race at Brno should drive the final nail into its coffin, for what the diminutive Spaniard displayed on Sunday was the heart and courage of a lion. The race did not have much passing – just three passes for the lead in the entire race – but it was a genuine thriller nonetheless.
With the signing of Cal Crutchlow for another year with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad, before the Czech GP even got started it was turning the page on another chapter of the MotoGP silly season. The racing too would prove to be pivotal to the Championship. A mix of good and bad weather during the week, Brno would prove to be a dry race, despite hosting a wet warm-up session.
With Dani Pedrosa on form all through Free Practice, the Spaniard’s off in qualifying took him off a step, as he had to ride his “B” bike, which suffered from more chatter. Despite Cal Crutchlow placing second on the grid for the race, the Brit noted what everyone already knew: Sunday’s race would be between Pedrosa and Lorenzo — and he was right.
Up until the start of MotoGP qualifying, it looked like Dani Pedrosa had the race at Brno just about wrapped up. The media center joke was that they might as well start writing his name on the trophy, so much faster was the Repsol Honda man. And then he crashed in qualifying, and started going an awful lot slower, in a tale that has echoes of Casey Stoner’s time at Ducati.
The crash was relatively simple – “maybe I was on the limit too much,” Pedrosa said, and Brno with its long corners, some flat and some downhill, means the riders are pushing the front for a lot of the time at the circuit – but the consequences were serious. Pedrosa returned to the pits, got on his second bike, and immediately had much worse chatter than before. Despite the setup being identical on both bikes. This is the kind of thing that Casey Stoner used to suffer at Ducati, two identical bikes that felt different, an issue that he never suffered at Honda. But the problem with hand-built prototypes is that apparently, even tiny deviations can cause a difference in feel, especially when pushed to their very limits by riders as sensitive as Pedrosa.
The issue highlights just how close Honda are to a solution. One apparently tiny difference between machines, and the difference is massive, from a bike that is almost impossible to go fast on to a bike that has some chatter, but is still rideable. Casey Stoner told reporters at the test at Catalunya that progress had been made by switching out a “two-dollar part”. There aren’t that many two-dollar parts on the bike, which means that somewhere a bushing or a spacer or an insert could be part of the solution. It also means that small variations in two-dollar parts – not known for requiring massive precision in manufacturing – could also be part of the problem.
Announcing ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session at Brno, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 has confirmed that it will retain Cal Crutchlow for the 2013 season, giving the French team an all-British rider line-up for next season, as Bradley Smith is set to move from Moto2 in the premier-class.
The re-signing of Crutchlow is an interesting move for the Brit, as he had been in the running for a factory seat within the Yamaha squad for most of the season, was also heavily linked to a ride in Ducati Corse for 2013, and there were even rumors of his return to World Superbike. With today’s news though, the speculation about Cal’s next season can be put to rest.
Friday would prove to be an eventful first day of practice at Brno. Thrills, spills, and plenty of flag waving, mostly of the red variety, as crashes played havoc with the day’s schedule. It started in the morning, during FP1 for MotoGP, when Valentino Rossi ran wide in the final corner, and his rear wheel kicked up a couple of sizable rocks. The rocks hit Dani Pedrosa, on the top of his foot and the front of his fairing, destroying the screen. How fast was he going when he was hit by the rocks, one intrepid reporter asked? “I don’t know my speed,” Pedrosa quipped, “but the rocks were going like they were shot out of a gun.”
And they weren’t small rocks either. Asked what size they were, Pedrosa held up both hands, touching thumbs and forefingers together to make a circle. “Like this,” he said. About the size of a grapefruit, then. Pedrosa said he had been worried that the impact had broken a bone in his foot, and the Spaniard was limping visibly as he got off his Repsol Honda, but the pain subsided as the session continued, reassuring him that there was nothing broken, just banged-up and bruised.
After the announcement that Casey Stoner would be flying back to Australia for surgery on his injured ankle, effectively ruling him out of contention for the 2012 MotoGP title, the Repsol Honda team organized a press conference to give Stoner the opportunity to explain his decision. The decision had not been an easy one, as Stoner had initially been intending to race at Brno, but a phone call from his doctors in Australia convinced him it would be too dangerous, as a crash could see him suffer permanent damage. It would be better to return to Australia, have surgery, and try to be fit enough to race again later in the year, with the goal being to return before Phillip Island to be as competitive as possible there.