Hector Barbera will be forced to miss the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, after suffering a back injury during the morning session of Friday’s free practice for the MotoGP class. Barbera suffered a nasty highside at Turn 16, his rear wheel appearing to catch on a section of track which appeared still to be dirty, and in the ensuing crash, Barbera landed on his neck and fractured three dorsal vertebrae, D5, D6 and D8. He was taken to the local Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, and has been ruled unfit to race.
Ducati is on the verge of a large-scale overhaul of a major part of its MotoGP strategy. In 2013, its approach to satellite teams is set to change radically, with its satellite structure set to receive factory-spec Desmosedicis that will have a much closer relationship with the Borgo Panigale factory, says Ducati boss Alessandro Cicognani. “The main goal is to have a more competitive bike,” Cicognani said, speaking to us after the race at Mugello. “In this scenario, we are thinking that the satellite team could be a help to achieve more effective results more quickly for the factory team.”
The idea is to take a leaf out of Yamaha’s book, Cicognani explained. “The strategy we are thinking about is like a Tech 3 but with factory-spec bikes, something like that,” he said, while emphasizing that the plans had yet to be finalized. “We are thinking about it. We have some ideas.”
Only a select few men in the world can say they have defeated Valentino Rossi in a last lap duel in a MotoGP race. On that very short list is one Toni Elias, who bested the Italian legend to the checkered flag for his first and only premier class victory at Estoril in 2006, on a satellite machine no less. Championship-deciding repercussions aside, the win granted Elias a contract extension at a time when his GP career was in doubt.
However, the onset of the 800cc era, coupled with the introduction of control tires the following year, would prove to be the start of a rough roller coaster ride for Tiger Toni. Five seasons, a Moto2 World Championship title, and two MotoGP exits later, Elias was given an extremely rare third shot at a premier class ride this past weekend as a replacement rider for the Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera. True to the up and down nature of his career in recent years, this opportunity came just a week after he parted ways with the Mapfre Apspar Moto2 team at the previous round in Mugello, after being unable to replicate his title-winning form back in the GP middleweight class.
Unfortunately, his latest attempt at challenging the fastest motorcycle racers in the world came to an abrupt and disappointing end after crashing out of the US GP on only his second lap. With no further confirmed top class appearances on the horizon, Toni’s tenure at the pinnacle of the sport appears to have ended in the gravel trap at Laguna Seca. However, a MotoGP race win will always be on his curriculum vitae, and that’s no small feat.
Breaking his left leg (fibula & tibia) during a training accident, Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera will be unable to ride for the next four to six weeks. Missing MotoGP’s stops at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pramac will replace Barbera with two-time former-MotoGP racer, Toni Elias.
Replacing his fellow countryman at the Laguna Seca round, and likely at the Indianapolis round as well, Elias himself has some interesting news, as the former-Moto2 Champion was ousted from his Moto2 ride on the Mapfre Aspar team. Elias’s results during his return to Moto2 have been anything but impressive so far this season, especially after his dominant Championship win in 2010.
It is a tall-order to beat the rapid-succession qualifying we had at the German GP, which saw a stream of riders dropping pole-position laps one-after-another for nearly 5 minutes straight – but this is Mugello, and the MotoGP riders hate to disappoint when they are in Italy. With perfect racing conditions, the qualifying session had its fair share of crashes, fast laps, and surprise moments. Featuring three manufacturers on the front row, and three manufacturers on the second row, the Italian GP is also shaping up to be a good race, for all the parties involved.
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.
It looks like 2011 will be Loris Capirossi’s final Grand Prix season, and the end of a remarkable career that has sadly fizzled in the past few years. Capirex’s last win was in 2007, his final season as a factory Ducati rider, and since switching to the Rizla Suzuki team in 2008 he has not had the equipment to show the kind of form that previously garnered both 125cc and 250cc world titles.
This season’s return to a Ducati seat with Pramac has not improved his competitiveness, and crashes have continued to add up to more aches and pains. Approaching 40, Capirossi carries many scars into each session, including hands so frail that he wears specially designed and heavily padded gloves to protect them from further impact.
In person he is friendly and polite, quick to return a smile, though lately he has seemed weary of the challenge of climbing on yet another uncompetitive bike and going out to fight for 10th place. He will always have a place in Ducati history, haven taken the team’s first win at Barcelona in 2003, and in GP history for his world titles.
It would be great to see him manage one more good result this year, but given the difficulties of the GP11, it seems more likely that he will have to be content ending his long GP career in one piece. Considering how many talented riders have come to the premier class for a season or two before disappearing for other grids, Capirossi’s decades-long GP career is quite an accomplishment.
Finally official after months of speculation, Pramac Ducati has announced the addition of MotoGP veteran Loris Capirossi to its quasi-satellite Ducati team. Signing a one-year contract, Capirex has already been released from his post-season duties with Suzuki, and will ride the green and white Pramac Ducati during the Valencian test in two week’s time.
Suzuki is not expected to replace Capirossi, and has instead forged a deal with Dorna that sees the Japanese company staying involved in GP racing through 2013. There is however some speculation that Hirosihi Aoyama could land on a satellite Suzuki, but that idea seems to be more wishful thinking, then a well formulated plan (the factory Suzuki had a hard enough time keeping up with the satellite squads, so how would a satellite Suzuki fare?).
Now before we get ahead of ourselves, we should preface that Carlos Checa is not making a MotoGP comeback, but the former GP rider will ride the last two rounds of the 2010 MotoGP season. Checa has just signed a two-year contract renewal with Althea Ducati, after having a very strong season on the satellite Ducati squad, and has impressed many top-level players in the Ducati squad. The same however cannot be said of Mika Kallio, who looked to be a promising upcoming rider in his rookie year last season, has been an utter disappointment this season, and currently sits last in the standings of full-time riders.
Pramac Ducati, which despite its satellite status is basically the factory training ground for Ducati Corse, has obviously struggled this year as well, and would like to at least finish the season on a high note. Inviting Carlos Checa out to Mugello on Tuesday, the Spanish rider got rewarded for his hard work in WSBK, and took the Ducati Desmosedici GP10 out for a romp. According to the Spanish media, Checa has been given the green light to race for Pramac in Estoril and Valencia instead of Kallio. There has however been no official word from Ducati on the rider switch.