Nicky Hayden is to miss the Brno round of MotoGP. The American fractured a couple of bones in his right hand and suffered a concussion in a big crash at Indianapolis, highsiding his Ducati Desmosedici during qualifying on Saturday. Hayden’s injuries meant that he was unable to race at Indianapolis, and after consulting with doctors and the team, Hayden has been forced to pull out of Brno as well.
On the grid at Mugello I watched as seven or eight visiting Japanese gentlemen in matching white Honda shirts smiled, bowed, and shook hands with Simoncelli, and I couldn’t help wondering if they were congratulating him in advance for having knocked out his latest fellow Honda rider. Rumors had been flying around the paddock about the discussions HRC had held with Sic concerning his inability to tame his raw speed, and add the crucial element of sound judgment while in the heat of battle.
While his pace this season was plain to see, the question continued to fascinate us: would Marco ever find a way to be fast and smart? He came in sixth that day, and looked nothing like the Super Sic we’d come to know and fear, in spite of having qualified third. In Germany he was sixth again, and at Laguna Seca he crashed out for the fifth time this season.
At Brno he seemed to have completed a metamorphosis from wild and dangerous to calm and calculating (possible spoiler alert ahead). After a poor start he worked his way through the field until finding himself behind two riders with whom he has a complex past: Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Watching the laps tick off with Sic in fourth place, hungry for that first podium but dangerously close to Lorenzo, one couldn’t help but have the feeling of watching a train wreck about to happen. Given all that has occurred with Lorenzo, the sparring in press conferences, the latest rider elimination of JL at Assen, would Sic rush in again and further complicate his history with the reigning world champ?
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 rumormill regarding whether Repsol Honda’s three rider-team will endure for the 2012 MotoGP season has been in full-swing lately, and paddock rumors have pegged Andrea Dovizioso, the only Repsol Honda rider whose contract is up at the end of the season, as moving out into a satellite Honda team. Whether that means Dovizioso lands in LCR, Gresini, or some other team has been the subject of much gossip, rumor, and speculation. Though an answer appears to be coming this weekend, according to Dovi.
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.