There were plenty of big names to watch out for at Jerez, but the real star of the show was the weather. She turned out to be such a prima donna that she almost completely halted on-track action for the first session of MotoGP, though not so much through her ferocity as by her fickleness. A rain shower at the end of the previous Moto3 made the track just greasy enough for it to be no use for slick tires, and nowhere near wet enough to get any useful information from wets, and so the vast majority of the MotoGP grid spent all of FP1 suited up but twiddling their thumbs.
Though the night race at Qatar is spectacular, the paddock at Jerez feels like a proper paddock. There is a bustle missing from Qatar, and the return of the hospitality units means that it is an altogether more colorful place. The presence of the hospitality units also means seeing more old friends, the men and women who slave all weekend putting the units together and ensuring that everything runs smoothly within them, and that the guests who spend their time there – including, most importantly, the people who foot the bill for this whole MotoGP malarkey – pass it as pleasantly as possible. These are the people who are the backbone of MotoGP, the foundation on which it is built, and it is always a happy moment meeting them again.
The reappearance of the hospitality units also sees the reopening of another, more informal competition. Not content with just facing each other out on the track, the teams also vie for attention in the paddock as well. The rules of the contest are simple and rather childish: the team with the biggest, shiniest, most impressive hospitality unit wins. This year, the contest is already over: Avintia Racing, fielding Maverick Vinales in Moto3, Julian Simon in Moto2, and Yonny Hernandez and Ivan Silva in MotoGP, have erected a structure that can only be described as humungous (see photo). Where most units are the size of a spacious lounge, the Avintia hospitality unit is about the size of a basketball stadium. The fact that Avintia is a construction company has doubtless influenced their design decisions, and if the racing doesn’t work out, they can always turn it into an olympic sized swimming pool.
After the opening of hostilities in the black of the desert night in Qatar, the 2012 MotoGP season gets underway for real – or at least, what feels like for real – this weekend in Jerez. The paddock finally full, not of Nissen huts, but of sleek and shiny hospitality units and race trucks; the stands full of fans, and spread all around the track, not huddled together at one end of Qatar’s single grandstand; the bikes displaying their natural glory in daylight, not the fluorescent glare of Qatar’s admittedly spectacular floodlit fish bowl.
The track is familiar to all. We were here just a month ago, for the final IRTA test ahead of the season, and everyone has had a chance to find a decent setup for the track. Fastest man during the test was also the fastest man at Qatar, though arm pump prevented Casey Stoner from capitalizing on that speed, and his title rival Jorge Lorenzo taking advantage to secure a well-deserved victory.
The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) will be reviewing the conduct of track officials regarding their handling of the crash aduring the Spanish GP, which saw Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner crashing out together in Turn 1. After separating the bikes, as Stoner’s had been on top of Rossi’s, a vast majority of the corner workers rushed to Rossi’s aid, leaving Stoner stranded until the Italian was underway.
Stoner in the post-race debriefs was noticeably upset over the favortism shown by the Spanish workers (he did not re-enter the race), a complaint that was also levied by Marco Simoncelli, who also got no assistance in his incident.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the incident between Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi at the Spanish GP (if you haven’t seen the race yet, stop reading now). Charging to overtake Stoner at Turn 1, Rossi found himself going too hot into the turn, and too heavy on the brakes. With Stoner swinging wide to let Rossi through, the Italian went up the inside of Casey’s line, tucked the front, and the rest is history.
While Stoner would later call the crash a “racing incident” in his press debrief, he still chastised his counterpart for making a rash move and an apology that seemed more like a media stunt than a sincere gesture. For the Australian that got shunned by the marshals in the gravel trap, and watched a few laps from behind the guardrail, this weekend certainly seemed like a rough result because of an incident where he made no fault.
Insult was perhaps added to injury as Rossi continued on with his race (Stoner clapping as the Italian came by Turn 1 the very next lap, a sarcastic gesture for Rossi’s move and outcome), and then went on to finish the race with a fifth place result. Coming into the Repsol Honda garage with several TV cameras in tow, Rossi apologized to Stoner, with the following interaction occurring between the two riders (find it after the jump).
The sunny Spanish weather gave way to rain this Sunday, as the Spanish GP got underway with 123,750 rain soaked MotoGP fans in attendance. While the practice sessions and qualifying showed the usual suspects at the top of the time sheets, the slippery conditions in the rain saw some new faces posting up strong times in the Sunday morning warm-up session.
Clearly the change in weather meant all bets were off for the MotoGP racing at Jerez, but the racing that took place certainly wasn’t what fans were expecting — as the rain relented, so did the tires. Add into the mix that this was the 2011 MotoGP Championship’s first wet race, and you’ve got a recipe that means more than just a few riders (nine total) ended up in Jerez’s gravel traps by the day’s conclusion. Find out all about it after the jump.