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.
Following the Czech GP, Yamaha will debut its new 1,000cc formula MotoGP bike on the Monday. The first public outing of the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1, Yamaha factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies will get their hands on the new machine, and see how it compares to the current 800cc M1. Also testing their 1,000cc bike on Monday is Honda, which will have factory riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa behind the handlebars of the 2012 Honda RC213V. Not testing the new RC213V is Andrea Dovizioso, who will be out of contract in 2012, and according to paddock gossip will be in one of the satellite Honda teams with factory support.
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.
The times are certainly tough race circuits right now. On the MotoGP roster the Hungarian Balatonring has become almost the unicorn of the paddock, while the Jerez de la Frontera Circuit is in financial crisis. Similarly back home in the United States, New Jersey Motorsports Park is going through a bankruptcy proceeding that should see the track come out unscathed, but frames the picture nicely none-the-less (not counting the increasingly popular Motorland Aragon).
Add to this list now the Automotodrom Brno, as the Czech track is facing financial concerns of its own. While the Brno round is secure for the 2011 season, talk is beginning if the track can operate in the 2012 season without national support. While the Czech GP brings in substantial revenue for the area surrounding it and the Czech Republic as a whole, the latter entity gives virtually no support to the racing event.
Meeting this weekend, the GP Commission confirmed the demise of two-stroke GP racing as they finalized plans to start the Moto3 series in 2012. Replacing the 125GP racing class, Moto3 will center around 250cc singe-cylinder four-stroke motor with a maximum bore size of 81mm. The class will be open to multiple engine manufacturers, who will have to make their motors available for €10,000 or less.
Crashing during Saturday’s qualifying session at Brno, Nicky Hayden found himself in the gravel trap after losing the front-end of his Ducati Desmosedici GP10. Somewhere along the way of sliding over the asphalt and into the stones, Hayden broke off a portion of his radius bone in his left wrist, and had to be taken to Clinica Mobile for examination.
X-rays confirmed the break, but the American rider soldiered-on through the Czech GP with extra padding on his grip. Finishing the race in respectable form, Hayden will have to heal up over the next two weekends if he wants to be 100% for his hometown GP at Indy. More pictures after the jump.
The worst kept secret in the paddock is finally official, thus completing what MotoGP fans (especially Italians) have been waiting for: Valentino Rossi signing with Ducati Corse. The nine-time World Champion and Italian celebrity is finally paired up with Italy’s most iconic motorcycling brand for the 2011 season, an action that has been the subject of intrigue not only for the better part of this season, but for years inside MotoGP.
Announcing their partnership today, Rossi and Ducati have their work cut out for them in taking-on impressive up-start Jorge Lorenzo and the formidable Yamaha YZR-M1. Press releases from Ducati & Fiat-Yamaha after the jump, along with a quote from Valentino himself.
Toni Elias was banned from Free Practice 1 today at the Czech GP because he and his team, Gresini Racing, violated rules concerning when teams can test during the summer break. Holding a quick testing session at the Misano Circuit, Gresini and Elias were found to have broken the rules concerning testing, and were levied a €3,000 fine and banned from participating in today’s one-hour practice session. Gresini Racing opted not to appeal the ruling, saying they had not read the rules carefully enough regarding testing sessions. Whoops!