With the Dutch weather improving from the scattered rains of Friday, to just a grey gloom for Saturdays’ Dutch TT, MotoGP had a cool, but dry race day in Holland. This would bode well for the Hondas, who gambled on the tire selection, going with the softer of the two compounds available from Bridgestone, while the Yamahas played a more conservative game on the harder compound (Ducati chose the lesser of its two evils, opting for the harder compounding, though knowing it wouldn’t last the race).
As the premier-class headed into three back-to-back races, the bids for the 2012 MotoGP Championship were certain to get heated at Assen, the first of the three stops. Sitting on pole was Casey Stoner, who put in a fantastic exhibition of speed during the closing minutes of Friday’s qualifying. Despite Stoner’s performance, teammate Dani Pedrosa and Championship-rival Jorge Lorenzo couldn’t be counted out from the hunt either.
With Alvaro Bautista sitting fourth on the grid, the satellite Honda rider has found a new form in the past two races, and of course the battle between the three remaining Hondas has been entertaining to watch, as they fight for the last remaining factory seat at Yamaha Racing for the 2013 season and onwards. So as the lights went out, and the riders headed into Turn 1 at Assen, the Dutch track revealed the next chapter of our MotoGP saga.
Assen’s surface is pretty good when it’s dry, and it’s not too bad when it’s wet, but this is 2012, and there’s a MotoGP race this weekend, so of course, the conditions are as bad as they can possibly be. For Assen, that means a few spots of rain here and there, just enough to create patches damp enough to catch out the unwary, or even the wary, as Casey Stoner found out this morning.
Heading down the Veenslang Stoner noticed the first spots of rain on his visor. Through the Ruskenhoek, it turned into drizzle, and he had already backed off into De Bult when he was flung from the bike in what he described as one of the worst crashes of his career. He took a knock to the head, banged his left shoulder and left wrist, and suffered a big and very painful contusion to his right knee, that left him hobbling around like an old man in the afternoon.
The problem is the asphalt. The current surface means it is impossible to see when the track is damp, rather than wet, meaning that it is easy to get caught out, Ben Spies said, an explanation later verified by Wilco Zeelenberg, Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager. The track is fine when it’s dry, and when it’s wet, the water sits pretty evenly, making for a predictable surface. But the first few spots of rain are lethal. If that were to happen in the race, it could make for a very dangerous situation, Spies said.
With the Dutch TT taking place on a Saturday, instead of the customary Sunday afternoon for race days, the schedule for MotoGP has been shifted ahead a day, and accordingly qualifying comes to us from a Friday. A pleasant way to end the work-week, the Dutch weather apparently didn’t get the memo before filing its TPS report of off-and-on rain, which made for an interesting qualifying session. Giving riders fifteen minutes of dry track, a drizzle hit Assen, which quickly brought the riders back into the pit box.
Getting a second chance at things though, qualifying only had another 15 minutes of dry track, as qualifying was again interrupted by the rain. With the third time being the charm, riders thrice had a chance for a maximum-speed lap, though only five minutes remained in the session. Still for many, this was enough of an opportunity to get a few flying laps on the time sheets, making for a very sporadic, yet oddly entertaining show for the assembled Dutch fans.
This may not be strictly motorcycle-related, though we are pretty sure most motorcyclists can relate to the time and effort it takes to take apart a four-cylinder motor and put it back together again. As if refurbishing a motor bought off eBay, and swapping it out for a junked one that is still in the car wasn’t hard enough, our protagonist decided to document the whole process with thousands of photos. Originally only intending to use the snaps to ensure all the pieces went back together in the right spots, a short animated movie clip was born from his efforts. Enjoy it after the jump, and thanks for the tip Chris!
The times were close after the first day of practice, closer than they have been for a very long time. Just 0.471 seconds separates the top 11 MotoGP prototypes (Karel Abraham is barely fit enough to ride, after breaking fingers in his left hand, and is way off the pace), with Ben Spies leading Cal Crutchlow by just 0.006, just a tenth separating Nicky Hayden in 3rd from Dani Pedrosa in 6th, and less than a tenth between Andrea Dovizioso in 7th and Stefan Bradl in 11th. It has all the makings of a great race, right?
Not according to Cal Crutchlow. “Lorenzo will run away with it,” the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man opined. Everyone except for Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa had set their fastest time on the soft tire, Crutchlow explained. Lorenzo’s best time, a 1’35.057, was set in the middle of a run with a used hard tire, his race rhythm in the 1’35.0 while everyone else was running 1’35.3. Lorenzo was looking very smooth on the bike, team manager Wilco Zeelenberg saying he was pretty pleased with the bike and the way the first day had gone.
The German round of MotoGP is to stay at the Sachsenring circuit until 2016. Dorna announced today that they had signed a five-year deal with the ADAC, who own the Sachsenring, to keep the race at the circuit. The race had been under threat earlier, after projected losses for the German GP meant that circuit feared not being able to afford the event.
With MotoGP adopting a CRT rule for the 2012 season, a provision that allows production motors to be used in a prototype chassis, the World Superbike Championship has been feeling its production-racing turf a bit infringed upon. Now whether or not the latest rule change from WSBK has anything to with what is going on between the two series is up for debate, but regardless for 2013 and onward, World Superbike teams will have to run faux-headlight decals on their race bikes — in some sort of attempt to link what is on the track to what is sitting on dealership showroom floors.
First to adopt the rule is the factory Kawasaki Racing Team, which has added the headlight decals to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R race bikes that are being ridden by Tom Sykes and Loris Baz this weekend at Aragon, Spain. In addition to the headlight sticker rule, teams will have to run 17″ wheels starting in 2013, which is being pitched as a cost-savings measure, but is more likely grounded in the idea of further making the illusion that what is raced in WSBK is somehow remotely linked to what motorcyclists purchase.
Before he was a fixture in the MotoGP paddock, our main-man Scott Jones had to swing a lens just like everyone else: sans a GP photo credential. Luckily for our Nikon-clad photo warrior, his home track, Laguna Seca, provides some of the best vantage points on the GP calendar for non-credential holding photographer s — a fact Scott exploited during his first forays into photographing the premier-class.
Ready to share his hard-learned lessons related to shooting around armco, trees, and chain-linked fences, Scott will be down at the San Francisco D-Store on Sunday, July 15th, leading a seminar for would-be motor sport photographers, with the Red Bull US GP round at Laguna Seca specifically in mind.
Three races in 15 days, right in the middle and most important part of the season. MotoGP lines up at Assen with one third of the season gone. By the time the triple header is finished at Mugello, just over two weeks’ later, we are half way through the season and the title is a lot closer to being settled. These three races are crucial.
Not that it changes anyone’s approach. During the press conference, I asked the riders if they took a more cautious approach, knowing that the cost of injury is much, much greater now than it is when there is more time to recover between races. They looked at me as if I were stupid – a conclusion they have some justification for drawing – and told me that they treat these three races the same as the first race, the last race, and every other race in between. Flat out, and trying to win. It is impossible to win championships without winning races, as Casey Stoner likes to point out, so it is better to focus on that than on worrying about what might happen.
The 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been postponed by the race organizers because of concerns over the wildfire raging in the Colorado Springs, CO area. Originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 8th, PPIHC organizers have pushed back the race to later this summer, and while no alternate date has been given yet, one is expected in two weeks’ time.
“We have been informed by the U.S. Forest Service that conditions are so extreme, along with the inability to forecast the future of the fire, and with access to Pikes Peak in jeopardy that the agency can’t permit the event to go as scheduled, “said Tom Osborne, Chairman of the Board of the PPIHC and President & CEO of the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.
If you believe the motorcycle rumor mill, the now long-in-the-tooth Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is set to get an update next model year. Now four years old, the ZX-6R has long shared a common thread with its 1,000cc brethren, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. With the ZX-10R now two-model-years-old though, the clock has been ticking as to when Kawasaki would give the ZX-6R a similar makeover. While still simply an internet rumor, there does seem to be some logic to the idea that we could see a new Kawasaki ZX-6R by the end of the year, though nothing can be for certain.