If you haven’t seen World Superbike’s Race 2 at Assen yet, you will want to stop reading now. Battling for the last spot on the podium, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Leon Haslam put on a great charge to the finish line. With Laverty getting some distant away from the two factory BMW Motorrad riders, Melandri and Haslam were left fighting for fourth and the bragging rights of beating the other.
What a difference a tire makes. Last season in each of Cal Crutchlow’s rider debriefs that I attended, the topic at some point came around to the Bridgestone tire and how treacherous it was during warm-up. Once the tire reached operating temperature, it was fantastic if the rider could keep it hot enough. But until it gathered enough heat, it was flat out dangerous, as so many cold tire high-side crashes proved in 2011.
Crutchlow was one of the most outspoken riders in asking Bridgestone to change the tire design, which they have done for 2012. This year’s control tire warms up much faster, allowing riders to get through the early laps of a session without a dramatic high side, of which we had none in Qatar.
There’s a lot to talk about after the 2012 MotoGP season opener, but one thing that struck me in particular was the situation Casey Stoner found himself in for Qualifying Practice. Given the combination of a new 1000cc-based formula and a new tire from Bridgestone, several riders complained of the old nemesis: chatter, which we heard quite a lot about when the 800s arrived, and was for the most part ironed out as development progressed on the former MotoGP spec.
A sudden appearance of chatter ruined Ben Spies’ race, Dani Pedrosa qualified poorly because of it, and after QP (where he was bettered by rival Jorge Lorenzo) Casey Stoner had this to say to the BBC: “I’m more than upset about it to be honest. Not about pole position but for race pace tomorrow. It’s difficult because the huge issues we had on Thursday have just gone full circle and come back to them now. I don’t think my team are really taking enough importance on how big the situation is. They’re just kinda like, oh well, you’re fast, you can do it anyway. But I can’t. It’s not feeling nice when there’s that much chatter. And if we don’t fix it before tomorrow it’s going to make things very very tough. So we’ve got some work to do, and to try and get rid of it before the race is going to be a lot of hard work.”
Ben Bostrom signed on to ride for a certain AMA Superbike team owner by the name of Michael Jordan in 2011, trading in his signature number 155 for his employer’s legendary 23. “I think having MJ as a boss is awesome!” he enthused, when speaking about his then-upcoming debut.
As with any new rider and team pairing, there were rough patches to work through, but it was clear early on that the combination had potential. By the second round of the season Ben had put the Jumpman bike on the front row of the starting grid, outpaced only by proven factory machines.
We are big fans of Luca Bar’s imagination and what comes from the stylus of Luca Bar Designs, and today just reinforces that point further. Drafting a Moto Guzzi sportbike concept, Luca has created a very eye-catching design that takes the longitudinal v-twin motor and places it into a modern sportbike chassis.
With the frame design and tail section borrowed from the Aprilia RSV4, the front-end incorporates a Hossack suspension system, instead of the customary fork tubes. The single-sided swingarm is a nice touch, and of course everyone loves carbon fiber bodywork.
Rewind back to the 2008, where the MotoGP pit walk was under full swing at the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Even without the riders present, the machines themselves drew plenty of attention from the fans, many of whom were probably experiencing their first GP weekend.
The Repsol Honda garage, then home to Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa, inevitably had a particularly large crowd of observers. It turns out that Honda’s stunning RCV attracted more than just the fans. A couple of Yamaha employees had made their way over as well, spending quite a bit of time standing outside the enemy’s gates.
Marc Marquez says he is fully recovered from his crash at Sepang which left him dizzy and with double vision, and also forced him to sit out the penultimate round, while trailing rival Stefan Bradl by only three points. According to our friends at MotoMatters, Marquez says he is “still practicing the rehabilitation movements in [his] eye, but just because [he] was told to do so by doctors.” Otherwise he feels he is fit and ready to go.
Turning 19 in February, Marquez’s on-track manner has made it plain for years that he is a tough kid and very talented on a motorbike. He is Repsol’s next golden boy, lined up to replace Dani Pedrosa as its premier face in MotoGP, and by the age of 18 he has already shown us all that he is a serious and dedicated professional.
While a handful of MotoGP riders get the lion’s share of media attention, other riders can only wonder what might have been if they had landed in the premier class on more competitive machinery. With five 250cc wins, Randy de Puniet joined the Kawasaki MotoGP team in 2006, and switched to the LCR Honda team after two seasons. In 2011 he managed a season best 6th on the Pramac Ducati, another victim of the bike only Stoner could tame.
Most folks in the MotoGP paddock acknowledge de Puniet’s abilities and raw speed, and he is also as tough as they come, riding around injuries with impressive courage and determination. De Puniet has reunited with the Aspar Team for 2012, and will explore the future of the CRT formula. If the first-year Aprilia-powered Aspar CRT bike is not competitive, it won’t be for de Puniet’s lack of trying.
There are several MotoGP riders I count as dark horses to show their true colors in 2012, and Alvaro Bautista is one of them. Freed from the troubled Suzuki GSV-R and now on a Honda RC213V, Alvaro should have a more reliable package on which to show his stuff, and I expect to see him fighting for the “Best of the Rest” title.