While our attentions may be on this weekend’s inaugural MotoGP round at the Circuit of the Americas in Ausin, Texas, the World Endurance Championship (EWC) season is also kicking off with the 2013 Bol d’Or. A 24-hour that now takes place at the in Magny-Cours circuit in France, the Bol d’Or is one of two 24-hour races on the EWC calendar, and is in its 77th running.
At the top of the heap for tomorrow’s grid is the SRC Kawasaki team (WSBK’s Loris Baz is one of the team’s riders, for trivia points), which won the Bol d’Or 24-hour racing last year, upsetting the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Despite the upset defeat, SERT went on to win the EWC title outright in 2012, and remains the favorite for the 2012 season.
Though SRC is the team to beat to the finish come Sunday, it goes without saying that you cannot count out SERT from a top-step finish with their Suzuki GSX-R1000 endurance race bike. Yamaha France’s GMT94 entry finishes out the top three spots, and is another strong contender, as is fourth-place starter BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent.
Despite Qualifying 9th in the EWC field (12th overall), the Honda TT Legends crew is upbeat about their pace, and tip their consistency as being a deciding factor come tomorrow’s race. Fastest on the team, Michael Dunlop will move from being the team’s back-up rider, and instead will replace Michael Rutter, who is still nursing his leg injury from pre-season testing.
McGuinness, Andrews, and Dunlop will be hunting a Top 5 finish over the 24 hours, with a podium being an outstanding result ofr the factory Honda squad.
With some cooperation from the weather at the track in Valencia, MotoGP enjoyed its last dry qualifying session of the season. Saturday’s afternoon session was a stark contrast to Friday’s Free Practice sessions, which had mostly been a wasted day for the GP riders. With nothing on the line for the Valencian GP, riders in MotoGP are mostly racing this weekend for pride and bragging rights.
Casey Stoner’s last race in MotoGP, the Australian is surely looking for a good result, though there are question marks regarding his ankle. His teammate Dani Pedrosa is also looking for a strong result in his home country, with the Spaniard now out of the Championship hunt, but looking to end what has been a stellar second-half of a season in the Repsol Honda squad.
The man to stop though is his once bitter rival Jorge Lorenzo, who will carry the #1 plate next year. For Lorenzo, Valencia is about winning the most races in the 2012 season, with him and Pedrosa tied at six a piece.
For many of the other riders, Sunday’s race marks the last time they will be in the premier class, with their current teams, or even on the same kind of race bike. Perhaps the biggest piece of anticipation for the race, is the post-season testing the follows it. But, first things first.
In typical Phillip Island fashion, a range of weather was featured during qualifying for the Australian GP — though, it was mostly cold, cloudy, and windy. With spots of rain throughout the day, it was anyone’s guess when the weather would, could, or should arrive on the coastal track, which meant every minute of qualifying counted.
Unsurprisingly, Casey Stoner dominated the time sheets throughout Free Practice, and was heavily favorited for the pole-position for Sunday’s race. With the MotoGP Championship going down to the wire for Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, MotoGP fans were perhaps more concerned what was happening behind Stoner, despite this being his last home grand prix.
With the weather constantly the x-factor in the 2012 MotoGP Championship, the Malaysian GP unsurprisingly has seen Mother Nature play an integral part at Sepang. Limiting on-track practice time, things were surprisingly dry for MotoGP’s qualifying session, though riders came out of the pits immediately to bank some solid lap times. As the session wore on though, and the weather held, a display of talent proceeded, and another track record succumbed to the 1,000cc prototype machines.
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.