Even before the lights could go out to start the San Marino GP, the pre-race drama for MotoGP fans was intense. Stalling on the starting grid after the riders’ sighting lap, Karel Abraham raised his arm to signal the dangerous race conditions. Virtually a moment away from the start of the race, the yellow flags of the marshals flew, and the start was aborted — though, the confusion didn’t stop some riders from rocketing off the line. Thankfully however, the situation was without incident.
With a number of bikes needing to be restarted because of the failed start, teams and mechanics again filled the grid, and the start of MotoGP’s visit to Misano was delayed. No one was more affected by the restart than pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa, whose Honda RC213V had its front wheel locked-up when the team attempted to take off the tire warmers for the race’s restart. With the one-minute horn sounding, the Repsol Honda mechanics had exceeded their amount of time to work on the bike, though the situation was resolved in time for Pedrosa was able to join the field for the sighting lap.
Noticeably shaken by the incidents that occurred just a moment from the lap, and running on essentially cold tires, Pedrosa was lapped by the pace car, and ultimately had to start the San Marino not on pole, but instead at the back of the grid. Yes, even before the race started, the San Marino GP proved to be one of the most dramatic rounds of the 2012 MotoGP Championship.
Finally it stopped raining. The light drizzle that has plagued the Misano circuit since Friday morning petered out around lunchtime, making way for the sun to dry the track out. Though the riders were glad to see the back of the rain, it left them with an awful lot of work to do. The set up work from the three lost sessions all had to be squeezed into the single hour of qualifying, leaving space for the mad fifteen minute scramble for grid positions. “It was a pretty tight session,” Dani Pedrosa said after qualifying. “We had to test tires, set up, and get a feeling for the bike in just 60 minutes.”
Not too hot, not to cold…that’s Misano for Saturday’s qualifying event. After seeing Friday’s FP1 & FP2 sessions obliterated by a damp, but not wet, track, MotoGP riders found things for Saturday to be just right. The first chance for Jonathan Rea to get a proper go at the Honda RC213V, the Honda WSBK rider is merely “filling in” for the injured Casey Stoner, but many in the paddock believe that a good showing from Rea could land him on the Honda Gresini machine for next year — the last prototype seat in MotoGP still available.
While we will undoubtedly have to wait a bit longer to see that seat filled and sorted, the big attention for the day was the battle between the two Spaniards, as Dani Pedrosa is running out of rounds to catch up to rival Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship. Needing a win this weekend to keep those hopes alive, many GP fans are hoping for another battle between the two riders, like the one we recently saw in Brno. If the qualifying session is any proof of the matter, racing on Sunday should be quite good.
The main protagonist in Friday’s action was the weather. Like a hormonal teenage girl, the rain simply could not make up its mind whether it was going to fall properly or not, light drizzle blowing in for ten minutes before blowing out again five minutes later.
Hormonal teenage boys, it should be noted, know exactly what they want, and apart from the obvious, what they want is the opposite of whatever they have just been told. The weather left the track in that awful half-and-half condition, too cold and damp for slicks, too dry for wets, and the track conditions left the MotoGP men mostly sitting in the pits.
Dani Pedrosa explained it best. “Too wet, so you cannot push, so the tire cools down immediately after you go out, and in or two laps you have to stop, because there is no temperature in the tire. And with the wets, it’s completely the opposite, the tire is immediately out of the working range, and one or two laps and it is gone.” Even in the short period you could go out, there was nothing to be learned, Pedrosa said. “If the tire has too much temperature or too little temperature, the bike feels completely different. There’s no meaning in going out.”
With the available seats at the teams with factory prototypes all now full with the exception of the final satellite Honda – most likely a toss-up between Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda, though rumors persist of Marc VDS Racing taking the Honda RC213V from Gresini and fielding Redding in their own team – attention has now turned to the CRT grid, and the available seats being filled there.
At Misano, two teams announced their plans for 2013. On Thursday, the NGM Forward squad announced they had persuaded Colin Edwards to stay for another season, meaning that the Texan will remain in MotoGP for another year. The team is to finish the 2012 season on the Suter BMW, before making a decision on which bike to use for 2013. The team had been considering a switch to the Aprilia ART machine, but promises of an expanded testing program and more development have kept Forward on board for the rest of the season.
The Cardion AB team will be using the Aprilia ART, however. Today, the team officially confirmed that they would not be continuing with Ducati and would be switching to an Aprilia ART machine. The team will work in partnership with Aprilia and the Aspar team to help develop the Aprilia, in preparation for the new rules in 2014, which will see a rev limit and spec ECU imposed. Karel Abraham will remain the rider for the team.
The return to Misano was always going to be an emotional affair, the first time MotoGP has returned to Marco Simoncelli’s home circuit – now renamed in his honor – since the Italian fan favorite was killed in a tragic accident at Sepang last October. Though Simoncelli is being remembered in many different ways during the weekend – nearly all of the riders in all three classes joined for a lap of the track by bicycle this evening – the remembrance has been cheerful rather than mawkish, a celebration of his life rather than mourning at his death.
Fans, riders, mechanics, photographers, journalists, many have made the pilgrimage to Coriano, Simoncelli’s home town just a few short miles from the track, paid their respects and headed to the circuit feeling better for the experience. Simoncelli’s ghost may haunt the paddock at Misano, but happily, he does so in the guise of Casper rather than Banquo.
There is more than enough to keep the minds of those present engaged. Uppermost in most people’s thoughts is Ben Spies’ decision to go to Ducati to race in the Ducati junior team that is to be run by Pramac. Both of the 2013 factory Ducati riders welcomed the signing of both Spies and Andrea Iannone, with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden saying it was a good decision by Ducati.
Both Spies and Iannone had proven their speed, and Spies’ experience at the factory Yamaha team would be very valuable to Ducati in helping to develop the bike. There was surprise at Spies’ decision – “I thought he would go to World Superbikes” Dovizioso told reporters – and both men were interested to see how he would perform on the Ducati.
Yamaha Racing has debuted its “Race-Blu” livery at Misano today. The work of Aldo Drudi (of Valentino Rossi helmet fame), the blue and matte grey paint scheme is the same special color schemes that will be available on the Yamaha YZF-R1, YZF-R6, and YZF-R125 bikes for 2013, seemingly everywhere except the United States.
Yamaha says the livery is a throw-back to its historic racing blue colors of the 1980’s. Factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies will also wear special Race-Blu leathers for the races at Misano and Aragon. Will the special livery prove to be as lucky as the Red/White 50th Anniversary livery? Only time will tell.