On Saturday evening, Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuit, told a small group of journalists that the delays and problems caused by the wet track during FP4 were due to the unusually heavy rainfall, and not the resurfaced track.
“It was a Biblical downpour,” he told us. “It was more like a monsoon you’d see in Malaysia than heavy, normal rain. The drainage on the circuit is very good.” He was not worried about racing on Sunday, because although rain was forecast, it was not a deluge.
“It’s heavy rain, but it’s not the kind of cloud burst stuff we saw earlier. Is it going to be more of a challenge if it’s wet? All circuits are more challenging in the wet than the dry. So I think we’re set for a good race tomorrow.”
Sunday proved Stuart Pringle wrong.
It wasn’t the quantity of water which caused the problems. It was the fact that water simply wasn’t being drained fast enough to allow riders to ride safely, or as safely as can reasonably be expected of traveling at over 300km/h on a wet track, braking as late as possible in a close pack, as 23 riders battle for position in the opening laps.
There was standing water in just about every section of the track, causing the MotoGP bikes to aquaplane while on their sighting lap, a lap taken usually at nine tenths, rather than ten tenths. They were aquaplaning while accelerating, at speed, and while braking.
Bikes aquaplaning had caused Tito Rabat and Franco Morbidelli to crash while braking for Stowe.
But Morbidelli had crashed after Rabat, and the Italian’s Honda had flown across the gravel and struck Rabat as he sat in the gravel trap, breaking the femur, tibia and fibula in his right leg, and putting him out of action for months rather than weeks.
Nobody who saw that wanted to suffer the same fate. Or worse.
Saturday was the kind of day that makes you question the wisdom of allowing Qatar to be the first race of the MotoGP season, and to hold the race at night.
Doing one or the other – either being the first race of the season but holding it during the day, or taking place later in the year and racing at night – is feasible, but doing both is a risk.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the sanctioning fee the Losail International Circuit at Qatar pays to Dorna for the privilege basically covering the overseas travel budget for the teams for the entire season, the MotoGP season opener would be very different.
It was an entirely wasted day. Or perhaps not entirely wasted: we learned that the Qatar circuit badly needs the drainage fixed. Whatever the decision on racing in the rain, when it does rain, the track and the run off areas just don’t drain fast enough.
That led to Loris Capirossi, Dorna’s representative in Race Direction, trying to explain in increasingly exasperated tones that there was no point trying to test during the day or at night, because there was simply too much standing water in the gravel traps and in certain sections of the track to allow it to be used safely.
Capirossi was speaking at an impromptu press conference organized directly after the qualifying press conference, to explain why all on-track action had been cancelled on Saturday.
It had started with the cancellation of the Asia Talent Cup, and a revised schedule was issued containing a track inspection, then a twenty-minute session for the riders to go out and see whether it would be possible to ridein the wet under the floodlights.
But as each schedule approached, events were delayed. In the end, the entire day was cancelled. The track was unusable after such intense rainfall.
As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction.
For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action.
These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.
From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race.
Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually.
In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.
Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday.
The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards.
Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel.
They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.
It is hard to imagine, but in few days’ time, Valentino Rossi will be starting his 19th season on the world motorcycle racing stage. Over that tenure, The Doctor has encountered more than a few rivals: Loris Capirossi, Sete Gibernau, Max Biaggi, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and now Marc Marquez…just to name a few.
To help keep all those “friendly” feuds straight, Dainese sent us this interesting infographic that shows Rossi’s career in relationship to the top talent he faced at each stage of his career.
Now 36-years-old, an age where most riders have retired from MotoGP racing, Rossi is looking to add to his total race win tally, and even counts himself a contender for the 2015 MotoGP World Championship.
He’ll have tough competition for that spot, for sure, but The Doctor seems as potent as ever with his racecraft, and the Yamaha YZR-M1 is tipped to be the weapon of choice in 2015. Regardless of your fanboyism, we should have a good season on our hands.
Hanging out with Valentino Rossi has its perks. The nine-time world champion has all the cool two-wheeled toys a guy could want. He has an epic flat track course in the backyard of his house in Tavullia called MotoRanch. When his buddies come over to hang out, it’s people like Marc Marquez, Loris Capirossi, Bradley Smith, and a bevy of other professional motorcycle racers who show up.
Playing host to such a party after the San Marino GP, which takes place only a few miles away at Misano, Rossi & Co. seemed to be having an epic get-together. Thankfully, someone in Rossi’s entourage had the idea to film the 20-something riders who showed up all day to fraternize and ride.
Amongst those in attendance were Leon Camier, Loris Capirossi, Federico Fuligni, Luca Marini, Mattia Pasini, Marc Marquez, Franco Morbidelli, Chad Reed, Niccoló Bulega, Tito Rabat, Mauro Sanchini, Pecco Bagnaia, Bradley Smith, Andrea Migno, Lorenzo Baldassari, and Miguel Oliveira, though we think you’ll spot a few others in the video. Enjoy it after the jump.
The tire allocation for MotoGP is set to be expanded when the new tire supplier takes over from 2016. The numbers of tires supplied to each rider will be increased by one or two tires per rider, and each rider will have the option of three different compounds front and rear.
But perhaps the most welcome change will be the return of intermediate tires to MotoGP, for use in practice conditions which are too dry for rain tires, but too damp and dangerous for slick tires to be used.
The provisional MotoGP calendar has taken a little longer than normal to appear. An initial calendar had been expected at Brno in late August, but no calendar was forthcoming at the Czech Grand Prix.
The next rumored date for the calendar to be released was the weekend of the Misano round of MotoGP, but once the paddock assembled at Misano, it became apparent it would emerge a few days later – we where then told by an IRTA representative that the calendar would be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.
On Tuesday, the Austin Statesman newspaper reported that the calendar would be out on Friday, but the excessive enthusiasm of Loris Capirossi saw the former racer and current MotoGP safety advisor leak the 2013 calendar on his Twitter page on Thursday night.
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.
It looks like 2011 will be Loris Capirossi’s final Grand Prix season, and the end of a remarkable career that has sadly fizzled in the past few years. Capirex’s last win was in 2007, his final season as a factory Ducati rider, and since switching to the Rizla Suzuki team in 2008 he has not had the equipment to show the kind of form that previously garnered both 125cc and 250cc world titles.
This season’s return to a Ducati seat with Pramac has not improved his competitiveness, and crashes have continued to add up to more aches and pains. Approaching 40, Capirossi carries many scars into each session, including hands so frail that he wears specially designed and heavily padded gloves to protect them from further impact.
In person he is friendly and polite, quick to return a smile, though lately he has seemed weary of the challenge of climbing on yet another uncompetitive bike and going out to fight for 10th place. He will always have a place in Ducati history, haven taken the team’s first win at Barcelona in 2003, and in GP history for his world titles.
It would be great to see him manage one more good result this year, but given the difficulties of the GP11, it seems more likely that he will have to be content ending his long GP career in one piece. Considering how many talented riders have come to the premier class for a season or two before disappearing for other grids, Capirossi’s decades-long GP career is quite an accomplishment.
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.