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.
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.
Talking to GPone, Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda, let it slip that at the Australian GP Dorna expects to hear from Suzuki regarding its 2012 MotoGP plans. Cecchinello of course has a vested interest in what Suzuki decides to do for 2012, as the Italian racing boss is keen on poaching Álvaro Bautista from the factory Suzuki team should it disband, especially now that Andrea Dovizioso has signed with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad.
Make no doubts about it, Honda is set to make a statement at the rescheduled Japanese GP on October 2nd. After much hemming and hawing over whom would and would not race at Motegi, virtually every rider in the MotoGP paddock has been confirmed to be in attendance at Japan early next month, including Casey Stoner (according to Honda at least).
Whether it is because the riders have begun to believe the bevy of reports that Motegi and the Fukushima nuclear plant are safe, or the fact that the Twin Ring Circuit has already played host to several high-profile events, or even if it is the simple reality that Japanese companies like Honda and Yamaha have enormously long memories regarding issues of pride and honor, the fact of the matter is that not only will the MotoGP grid be as full as possible (there are question marks regarding Loris Capirossi’s shoulder), but Honda will field two more riders for the Japanese GP.
It’s not exactly a secret that Toni Elias has been having a tough season in MotoGP this year. Typically two to three seconds off the pace from the front-runners, you’d be hard pressed to remember that the Spaniard was once a rising start in the MotoGP paddock, and dominantly won the 2010 Moto2 Championship. Rumors of Elias’ exit from the LCR Honda have been going almost from day one it seems, though the down to Earth and pleasant rider continues to persist onward.
Though electrifying the crowds with his first race win in 2008, Elias appears to be on his way out of MotoGP…for the second time in his career. Unable to do anything with the LCR Honda that Randy de Puniet confidently rode in 2010, Elias is now reported to be testing at Misano this week with the BMW Italia World Superbike squad, which in-turn recently just lost James Toseland to a career-ending hand injury. With WSBK becoming the home from MotoGP’s Lost Boys, a move to the premier production motorcycle racing class seems almost fitting for Elias, but is that in the cards?
American rider Ben Bostrom will have double the duties this coming weekend at the US GP at Laguna Seca, as he’ll ride as a wild card in MotoGP with the LCR Honda team, alongside Toni Elias. Bostrom will also be honoring his commitments with the Jordan Suzuki AMA team, riding the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the AMA Pro Superbike races held in conjunction with MotoGP’s first US stop of the season.
“Words can’t express how excited I am to get this amazing opportunity to race on my home track in front of the whole world,” said Bostrom. “I have to thank Michael Jordan Motorsports and American Suzuki for allowing this to happen. The collaboration between Lucio, LCR and the MJM team has been terrific. I’m going to get on the GP bike and put it as close to the front as possible. Then I’m going to hop on my Jordan Suzuki bike and try to create even more magic.”
After his abysmal finish in the Italian GP at Mugello, rumors are swirling in the MotoGP paddock that Toni Elias has been given two to three races (it depends on which Spanish journalist you want to believe) to turn around his flailing MotoGP season. Affixed to the back of the pack, speculation that Dorna will charge Elias rent on the back-row grid position is exaggerated, but not far from the truth. A true backmarker, the Spanish rider has essentially been left high & dry by his team, as a struggle has emerged in the LCR Honda garage over where to take Elias’s RC212V in its setup.
With Elias and his crew butting heads over how to make the satellite Honda go faster, the reigning Moto2 Champion has been left to sort out his own chassis and suspension settings on race day, which means a lot of rider one-on-one time with the Öhlins truck. While the LCR Honda crew has been making the changes that Elias ultimately wants, the team hasn’t been offering any input on arriving at those settings, essentially letting the Spaniard sink or swim on his own accord. This game of cat and mouse is apparently over however, and the death clock on Toni Elias’s MotoGP career appears to be ticking.
Sometimes I make an image which, at the time, seems fairly ordinary, but later emerges as something of an unexpected interest. When I saw Toni Elias about to mount up to begin his Moto 2 title chase, I thought it interesting that someone who had been in the premier class for five seasons couldn’t manage to take to the track with matching gloves. When Elias went on to become the first Moto2 champ, I included this image in the MotoMatters.com calendar, thinking it even more ironic that the future class champion had begun the season with this odd equipment choice.
During a speaking appearance at the San Francisco Dainese D-Store, I spoke to assistant manager Mike J. who shed some more insight on the photo. While holding a copy of the calendar open to the October page, Mike pointed out that while Elias had an Alpinestars glove on his right hand, the glove on his left was by Dainese. Due to Elias’ contract with A-stars, Elias had the logo and brand references covered up. I had not recognized the brand, only that the design was different from his Alpinestars glove.
Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, the 2011 MotoGP Championship is about to kick off today. Asphalt & Rubber has made the trek out to the Middle East, coming to you straight from the Losail International Circuit located just outside of Doha, Qatar. The weather has been favorable here in Qatar, with the heat down during the day, the skies clear but at times hazy, and the humidity staying down during the evening sessions. Hosting a two-day testing session before the Qatar GP, the riders have been here in Doha for almost 10 days now.
While you enjoy the return of MotoGP racing action to your online feeds and television screens, we’ve put together a cheat sheet to the Qatar GP to fill you in with the off-season happenings, as well as what’s been going on in the paddock while we’ve been here at Losail. Hold on race fans, prototype motorcycle racing is coming at you very, very, very soon.