With MotoGP riders at Valencia debuting their own personal tributes to Marco Simoncelli today, back in Italy an entirely different tribute has been undertaken, as the Misano Circuit is set to change its name to honor the fallen Italian motorcycle racer. While not one of Simoncelli’s favorite tracks, Misano was the Italian racer’s home venue, and hence forth it will be renamed from the Misano World Circuit to the Marco Simoncelli World Circuit in honor of the fallen rider.
It’s not exactly a secret that Toni Elias has been having a tough season in MotoGP this year. Typically two to three seconds off the pace from the front-runners, you’d be hard pressed to remember that the Spaniard was once a rising start in the MotoGP paddock, and dominantly won the 2010 Moto2 Championship. Rumors of Elias’ exit from the LCR Honda have been going almost from day one it seems, though the down to Earth and pleasant rider continues to persist onward.
Though electrifying the crowds with his first race win in 2008, Elias appears to be on his way out of MotoGP…for the second time in his career. Unable to do anything with the LCR Honda that Randy de Puniet confidently rode in 2010, Elias is now reported to be testing at Misano this week with the BMW Italia World Superbike squad, which in-turn recently just lost James Toseland to a career-ending hand injury. With WSBK becoming the home from MotoGP’s Lost Boys, a move to the premier production motorcycle racing class seems almost fitting for Elias, but is that in the cards?
After finishing a very successful weekend at the San Marino GP, the factory Yamaha squad stuck around Misano for another day, and tested the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Though the 1,000cc class MotoGP monster has remained basically unchanged from its debut at Brno, reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and teammate Ben Spies continued development on the bike’s electronics package and overall setup. Misano proved to be a good contrast for Yamaha, as the Italian track’s tighter layout made the extra horsepower from the new M1 less of a factor than it was in the Czech Republic.
“It’s been a little bit more difficult here than Brno, which is a very fast track. Misano is a little bit slower so the difference between the 800 and the 1000 is much smaller,” said Jorge Lorenzo. “It’s difficult to understand the riding style you must use straight away. We’ve made a lot of progress in a couple of hours and the bike has a lot of potential. I’m very excited about the future. We’ve been working on the electronics to help in the braking area but mainly I’ve been getting used to the riding style of the bike and also adapting the bike to my riding.”
Álvaro Bautista sported some new race livery this past weekend in Misano, as the Spanish rider donned a chrome paint scheme at the San Marino GP to help title sponsor Rizla hock some more cancer sticks. The “Micron” paint scheme, done by Troy Lee Designs, is one of the many ways the Rizla Suzuki team has tried to promote itself for its financial backers, with PR rides by John Hopkins and Elena Myers also filling the bill. While the Suzuki team has struggled in MotoGP the past few years, the more recent races this season have shown that Bautista and the Suzuki GSV-R are capable of mixing it up with the second-tier of riders (when the bike stays on the track of course).
Finishing most recently 6th and 8th, respectively at the Indianapolis and San Marino GPs, Bautista seems finally comfortable on the 800cc GSV-R. If rumors are true, Suzuki could very well continue with the 800cc package into the 2012 season, electing to mix things up with the larger displacement bikes from Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati (though, the displacement on some of those machines is surely not the full 1,000cc as well).
Despite its venue title, MotoGP returned to Italy this race weekend, as Misano played host to the San Marino GP. With the Championship standings vetting themselves out, Casey Stoner seems to be all but assured of his second premier class title. Trailing Stoner by 44 points, Jorge Lorenzo’s bid for keeping his #1 plate for next season is in serious jeopardy, though not mathematically impossible. If the Spaniard can mount a slew of top finishes, starting at San Marino, he might have a chance at the Championship if Stoner or the Repsol Honda team drops the ball at one the six remaining races (including this weekend’s).
That task won’t be easy for Lorenzo though, as Stoner has been strong all season, and once again sat at the pole position for today’s race. The x-factor however is one Dani Pedrosa, as the Catalan has been a Top 3 contender for every race he’s been healthy at this season. Likely to be in every fight, Pedrosa could easily take points from both Stoner and Lorenzo, aiding either his teammate or his countryman in their bid for 2011 supremacy.
Also looking for some magic in Misano are Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli. With both Italians vying for a factory seat in 2012, Honda made its position clear that it will only have two riders in the factory-backed team, with a factory bike a possibility for SuperSic, though his support levels could change. For Dovi, Honda has made it clear there is no room in the team for the Italian. Wanting a factory ride for 2012 though, Dovi’s best choice might be a Rizla Suzuki, though he has been linked to LCR Honda, Tech 3 Yamaha, and Pramac Ducati as well.
Speaking of Ducati, not all is well with the home town brand, which yet again at another race weekend has shown itself to be decidedly out of the 2011 MotoGP Championship contention. With the back half of the starting grid at Misano having an almost exclusive showing of the Bologna brand’s bikes, even local hero Valentino Rossi admitted a strong showing at Misano would be impossible without some help from global warming. With the coastal weather threatening to put moisture on the track, or even rain, Rossi’s wishes looked like they could be coming true as MotoGP riders took to the grid. You’ll have to follow after the jump though to see if flag-to-flag racing reared its head at the San Marino GP, and how that may have affected the day’s racing results.
With sunny weather finally becoming the status quo for MotoGP race weekends, the Adriatic track of Misano, Italy is playing host to the San Marino GP this weekend. Immediately following the Indianapolis GP, it seems little has changed in the past six days since the last US round. At the front of the week’s time slips have been the Hondas of Casey Stoner (setting another “best lap” record in Qualifying) and Dani Pedrosa, with moments of hope coming from the factory Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies.
Noticeably at the rear of the pack is a gaggle of Ducatis, which sees even the G.O.A.T. that is Valentino Rossi struggle against the non-works GP11/10s of Hector Barbera, Karel Abraham, and Randy de Puniet. Nicky Hayden has also struggled, while Pramac Ducati’s Loris Capirossi is likely just marking time until he can step away from his satellite Ducati, as the legendary Italian GP rider announced his retirement on Thursday at the pre-race conference.
As we published at the Indianapolis GP this past weekend, Colin Edwards’ time in the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage seemed to be coming to an end, as the veteran MotoGP racer and former-World Superbike Champion was linked to several other possibilities in WSBK and MotoGP for the 2012 season. Making his thoughts clear, Edwards believes there’s some value to the claiming rule team (CRT) formula, saying ”I think there’ll be tracks where it’s going to surprise some people.”
Finally releasing his plans for the 2012 season, Edwards announced today at the San Marino GP that he will race for the Italian NGM Forward Racing team, on a CRT bike, next season. While the team has been linked to a BMW/Suter motor and chassis, Edwards will use instead an R1 motor with a custom chassis. The preference right now is for Tech3′s Guy Coulon to make a chassis for the R1 motor, as the team did for its own Moto2 effort, but nothing has been finalized with the French MotoGP team.
Three Grand Prix Championships, twenty-nine race victories, forty-one pole positions, and ninety-nine GP podiums, there is no denying the fact that Loris Capirossi has had an illustrious career in GP racing. Finally confirming what’s been hinted at all season long, Capirossi tearfully spoke at today’s pre-race press conference, as the 38-year-old announced that 2011 would be his last season racing motorcycles. Electing not to ride in World Superbike or continue in MotoGP on a CRT machine, this weekend’s race, the 325th for Capirossi, will be the last time the legendary Italian rider will race in front of a home crowd.
Making the announcement in the presence of past-Ducati teammate Casey Stoner and fellow Italian Champion Valentino Rossi, CapiRex said “it is difficult for me to say this after 22 seasons, but this for sure is my last race in Italy, because I decide to retire at the end of the season. When I do the last race in Valencia, racing for me will stop. I won’t go to a different championship and I will stop racing completely.
Tom Sykes (1:55.197) started on pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano after putting the Kawasaki on the front row in damp conditions during Saturday’s Superpole sessions, holding off a late-charging Carlos Checa by almost two tenths. They were joined on the front row by Jakub Smrz and Marco Melandri, with Max Biaggi only seventh. The damp and greasy conditions caught out many riders, including Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier. The latter two were unable to set a time in Superpole 1 and qualified only fifteenth and sixteenth.
Checa and Biaggi fought over the fastest lap during the practice and qualifying sessions, with Checa coming out on top in the dry conditions. In the final qualifying practice, Noriyuki Haga was quite a bit slower than usual, and did not move on to participate in the Superpole sessions. Chris Vermeulen, hopefully recovered enough to race, was also knocked out in QP, along with the satellite Kawasakis, two Italian wildcard riders, and Lorenzo Lanzi. Lanzi is filling in this weekend and next at Motorland Aragon for the still-recovering James Toseland. Checa was again quickest in the morning warm-up, leading to a sunny and occasionally dramatic Race 1. Jonatha Rea missed that race, and Race 2, after a massive crash in the warm-up. He sustained a clean break to his right radius, “Plus a lot of bumps/bruises from a 230kph off,” in a tweet from Castrol Honda.
Tom Sykes (1:55.197) was the surprising pole sitter for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano, with Carlos Checa, Jakub Smrz, and Marco Melandri also on the front row. Saturday’s damp Superpole session made for a crash-fest, with Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier, among others, all crashing. Neither Xaus nor Camier managed a time in S1 and qualified fifteenth and sixteenth, respectively. Sykes’ time was inspired, with the next-fastest Kawasaki of Joan Lascorz qualifying twelfth.
Third factory Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen was knocked out after the final qualifying practice, which is surprisingly good news for a rider that has yet to complete race distance in the 2011 season. Also recovering James Toseland was replaced for this weekend and next by Italian rider Lorenzo Lanzi, as his testing injury re-flared after the previous round in the United States. On Sunday morning, Checa was back into his top spot on the timesheets, leading Badovini, Fabrizio, Haga, and Smrz as the fastest five for the warm-up. Rea was taken to a local hospital after a heavy crash at Turn 11 in the warm-up, after being quite uncooperative in the medical center.