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.
Perhaps no one had worse luck at the Indianapolis GP than hometown favorite Nicky Hayden. Getting his bell rung during Saturday’s qualifying crash-fest, Hayden had to miss the Indianapolis GP & Czech GP not only because of his concussion, but also due to several breaks in his right hand.
Checking in with the Ducati Corse team after it concluded its testing at Brno, Hayden says his recovery is on-track for a return during the upcoming San Marino GP at Misano. There was much rejoicing.
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.
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.