Another GP race weekend, and another weekend where the weather looms over the MotoGP paddock. Wasting Friday, and getting a reprieve on Saturday, the rain of Valencia was back for Sunday’s race, leaving a drying, but wet, course for the MotoGP riders to contend with on 200+ hp machines.
Casey Stoner’s last race, Dani Pedrosa’s last chance to have the most race wins, and Jorge Lorenzo’s final chapter to a flawless season, the script for the front-row starters was intriguing to say the least.
It all went out the window though, as we can confidently say that the following information contains no spoilers for those who have yet to see the race, since no human could possibly guess the outcome of the Valencian GP: a CRT bike lead the race for multiple laps, a Yamaha is on the podium, a world champion was lapped, and a satellite team finished both its bikes in the Top 5. Words can barely describe the race, but we will try after the jump.
Yonny Hernandez looks set to miss the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, as the Colombian continues his recovery from injury. Hernandez suffered a dislocated collarbone in a crash during the race at Motegi, an injury which forced him to miss both the Malaysian and the Australian rounds of MotoGP.
The place of Hernandez in the BQR Avintia team is to be taken at Valencia by Hiroshi Aoyama. The last ever 250 World Champion suffered a difficult 2012 season in World Superbikes with the Ten Kate Honda squad, Aoyama never getting comfortable with the Pirelli tires used in WSBK.
Aoyama has been looking to return to MotoGP since the latter part of this season, the Japanese rider spotted in serious talks with a number of teams at the Aragon round of MotoGP at the end of September. Aoyama now looks set to take the place of Hernandez in the BQR Avintia team permanently in the 2013 season, according to Spanish website Motocuatro.com.
The mystery of the final MotoGP prototype seat has been solved: after months of negotiations, Alvaro Bautista has finally retained the Honda RC213V ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. The Spaniard will remain with the Italian team for another season.
The contract extension has come at a cost, however: Bautista has had to take a drastic cut in his salary to stay with the team. According to the Spanish website Motocuatro.com, Bautista’s wage has been slashed to five figures, with the amount of 90,000 euros being passed down the paddock grapevine.
To say that Ben Spies has caused a few surprises in 2012 is one of the larger understatements of the year. Sadly for the Texan, though, those surprises have not come in the form of podiums and race wins, as he himself may have hoped. Rather the opposite, and often through no fault of his own, Spies’ 2012 season has been dogged by bad luck, unusual mechanical failures, and mistakes.
The surprises reached their apogee the week before the Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, when Spies announced he would be leaving Yamaha at the end of the 2012 season. That he should be leaving Yamaha was unusual enough – the factory Yamaha ride is probably the most desirable seat in the MotoGP paddock, as the M1 has proven to be the most competitive bike this season – but his choice of media was extraordinary: a post on his Twitter feed, followed by a more conventional (if unusually timed) phone call to Superbikeplanet to explain his decision in a little more detail.
Since that stunning revelation, Spies has stayed almost silent. He has continually played down rumors about where he could be headed for next season, leaving much room for speculation, conjecture and rumor, some reliable, others much less so. So where will Ben Spies be racing in 2013? MotoGP, World Superbikes, or will he even be racing at all?
With MotoGP returning to Mugello for the Italian GP, the San Carlo Gresini Honda team is reverting back to its customary white livery scheme, a decision made by both Fausto Gresini and the Simoncelli family. Hoping to invoke some memories of Marco Simoncelli lapping around that famous Italian track, Gresini Racing’s time of mourning for its fallen Italian rider appears to be over as it retires its all-black livery, and has painted Alvaro Bautista’s Honda RC213V in the team’s customary all-while livery for this weekend.
One of the great things about the support classes in Grand Prix motorbike racing is the depth of the competition. While there are a handful of favorites in each class, we generally don’t have the Three Alien situation of MotoGP. Once a rider leaves that broader talent and equipment pool for the premier class however, his potential results are limited by the bike he lands on.
Alvaro Bautista paid his dues for two years on an 800cc Suzuki, finishing in lucky thirteenth spot for both the 2010 and 2011 championships. If Suzuki hadn’t folded up and gone home for 2012, Bautista might still have been on an uncompetitive bike with a crowd of fans who could only think fondly back to what an exciting 125cc and 250cc rider he had been.
Press interviews that are done internally by the teams themselves are usually very one-sided, glowing, and devoid of any controversial or tough questions, so you have to give a hat-tip to HRC for producing a pretty fair shake of an interview with Gresini Honda‘s Fausto Gresini. The former-racer turned MotoGP Team Manager is heralded as the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP, which is certainly open for debate, though Gresini undeniably has some very note-worthy notches on his belt.
Along with his successes Gresini and his squad unfortunately have also had their fair share of tragedy. Losing Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli at Sepang in 2011, the team has been at the center of two dark chapters of the MotoGP story. Running a black livery in 2012, instead of the team’s customary white color scheme, the absence of Simoncelli still percolates underneath the demure exterior of the team, though the Gresini Honda team is clearly looking forward instead of back.
Taking on the challenge of running a CRT entry for the 2012 MotoGP Championship, Gresini Honda will race with both a factory prototype and with a Ten Kate-prepped Honda CBR1000RR motor in an FTR chassis. At the helm of the CRT machine will be Michele Pirro, the same rider who gave Gresini a dramatic finish to the 2011 season, by winning the final Moto2 round at the Valencian GP. Also new to the team is Alvaro Bautista, who has been our dark horse favorite here at A&R. Fast, but underrated, Bautista’s true potential will be measured this year as he joins an all-star team, and rides “the bike” of the GP paddock: the 2012 Honda RC213V.
Immediately following the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli, Fausto Gresini of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team was quoted saying that he wasn’t sure if his team could finish the Championship in Valencia without Simoncelli. With an outpouring of fans at Simoncelli’s funeral, and words of encouragement from around the world, the Italian team has decided that it will honor Marco’s memory and race in Spain this weekend.
While the #58 bike will sit in the pit box in memorial, Hiroshi Aoyama will ride the lone Honda RC212V for the Gresini team at the Valencian GP. Gresini’s Moto2 riders Michele Pirro and Yuki Takahashi will also race, as the trio will try to honor their teammate’s memory.
After a tragic accident involving Marco Simoncelli, Colin Edwards, and Valentino Rossi, MotoGP has decided not to resume the Malaysian GP. The decision came down as Marco Simoncelli battled for his life at the track-side medical center, with Race Direction stating that it would be inappropriate to restart the race while Simoncelli was in such a precarious position medically. Succumbing to his injuries shortly after the cancellation was announced, heartbreak swept the paddock with the news that Marco Simoncelli died at the age of 24.
Rumored to be headed to World Superbike, or at least a CRT bike in MotoGP, Hiroshi Aoyama’s 2012 season plans have finally been unveiled. Signing with the the Castrol Honda team, the former-250GP Champion will leave the MotoGP paddock to race next season in World Superbike, alongside new teammate Johnny Rea. The move means the displacement of Ruben Xaus from the Ten Kate Honda squad, which is hardly a surprise considering the Spaniard’s horrid season(s).
The announcement also adds further speculation regarding whether San Carlo Gresini Honda will run a solitary bike for next year, at he team has already confirmed a factory RC213V with Maro Simoncelli on-board. Honda has reportedly intervened on Gresini’s plans to run a second bike under the CRT structure, which makes for something interesting to chew on, as the CRT rules were created as a direct reaction to the major manufacturers’ influence over how MotoGP was run and headed, with Honda headlining that now failing initiative.
With suspicious skies, qualifying for MotoGP’s Australian GP got underway today. With the weather always variable at Phillip Island, riders saw sun, clouds, and a light spitting of rain before taking to the qualifying session. Normally a favorite track with the GP riders, Phillip Island has been plagued with a bumpy and torn-up surface, which dominated the discussion after Friday’s debriefings. With the Australian track announcing that the GP circuit would be resurfaced before the 2013 season, there is at least a remedy on the way, though it doesn’t bode well for the 2012 Australian GP.
Despite the surface conditions, Casey Stoner primarily lead the charge through the Free Practice sessions, though not in as dominant of a fashion as one would have expected. Finishing FP3 just over half a second quicker than Lorenzo, Stoner is still the paddock favorite to win tomorrow’s race, though his chances of clinching the Championship here at home seem slim. Able to keep the Australian within their reach, Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli have given Stoner chase, though none of them have been able to take the top position on the timesheet from the Aussie.