In the previous 85 editions of the Dutch TT at Assen, we have seen some pretty spectacular Saturdays. In the 86th edition, with the race moved to Sunday, Saturday lived up to the expectations raised by the previous 85.
It was a wild and weird day, both morning and afternoon, with the weather being the main protagonist once again. There were crashes, fast dry laps, fast wet laps, and some smart strategy in the chase for pole. It was a good day indeed.
With Friday’s heat having dissipated, the MotoGP riders faced a fresh set of challenges. Overnight rain and light clouds meant track temperatures were much cooler. That meant that the medium front tire was suddenly a much more tricky proposition, catching a number of riders out.
Jorge Lorenzo fell at the Ruskenhoek after the front tire let go, while Marc Márquez made one of the most remarkable saves of recent years, after locking the front completely braking for Turn 1.
What happened? It’s hard to tell from the video online at the MotoGP.com website, or via the MotoGP Twitter feed, but afterwards, Márquez explained that the front locked without warning.
“From the first point of the brake, the front wheel locked, and then I released the brakes and it was a big moment,” the Repsol Honda rider said.
It is a good job the post-race test at Valencia is three days long. The weather in Valencia in November is usually very good, but it can turn, and you can lose track time to rain. That was certainly the case on Tuesday, rain starting early in the morning, and coming in waves all day.
It meant the track was wet throughout Tuesday, only the depth of water on the track varying. The heavy rain meant that most riders decided to sit out the day, only ten riders putting in any laps.
With the track the way it was, the finishing order was not really relevant. What was more important was gaining time on the track, and for several riders, getting to grips with Bridgestone’s wet tires. Eugene Laverty, Loris Baz, and Marco Melandri, all of whom have moved over from World Superbikes, needed to adjust their minds to the Bridgestones.
For anyone on a budget, Misano is one of the cheaper MotoGP rounds to attend. Ticket prices aside, the area has a large amount of tourist accommodations, and the race takes place right at the tail end of the tourist season, when hotel prices are starting to drop.
Buses run to and from the circuit from Riccione, making transport to and the track affordable. Misano is a great circuit to go to if you are trying to keep costs to a minimum.
Misano may be a cheap weekend for fans, but it certainly wasn’t cheap for the teams in all three classes in MotoGP. The rain-drenched conditions on Friday saw riders crashing left, right, and center, in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. They racked up a grand total of 62 crashes in all three classes, in just a single day.
Given that crash damage on Grand Prix machinery tends to start at a minimum of around a thousand euros, going up arithmetically with the severity of the crash and the class the bike is racing in, a conservative estimate of the grand total for repairs on the first day of practice would be enough to pay for a ride in Moto3. Or possibly even on a MotoGP Open class bike.
The cause of those 62 crashes? The water certainly didn’t help. Rain fell through the night and all day, leaving the track soaked and standing water on some part of the track. But it wasn’t just the water, the surface of the track itself was very poor, and rubber left on the track made braking on the racing line a treacherous affair, riders in all three classes going down as the front locked up.
The fact that Bridgestone had started the MotoGP riders off on the harder of the two wet tire options didn’t help either. It was an understandable choice: in previous years, when riders have used the softer wet tire, they have ended up being destroyed at Misano.
The first day of practice at Brno turned out to be a day of two halves. The morning was glorious, sunny and relatively warm. Clouds began gathering shortly after lunch, and the first spots of rain started to fall just as FP2 for the Moto3 class came to a close.
The rain grew steadily heavier for the first half of the MotoGP afternoon practice session, easing up and stopping with some ten minutes to go. By the time the Moto2 bikes took to the track, the circuit was already drying, though it only really dried out completely towards the end of Moto2.
The two halves of MotoGP practice showed the same picture, however. Marc Marquez is fast in the wet and fast in the dry, and clearly looking comfortable on the Repsol Honda.
Teammate Dani Pedrosa is also quick in both conditions, though a little closer to Marquez on a wet track than on a dry track. In the dry, Jorge Lorenzo is very close to Marc Marquez, but in the wet, both he and Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi are a second off the pace of the Repsols.
With the rain playing a factor during the Qualifying Practice sessions, riders like Max Biaggi were caught out, and left high and dry during an otherwise water-filled build up to today’s Superpole qualifying. As the Roman Emperor watched from the sidelines, World Superbike Race Direction deemed the Superpole a wet session, reducing the qualifying event to two twenty-minute sessions, with only the top eight riders going onto the second round. With the track actually dry for Superpole 2, all eyes were on Tom Sykes, to see if the Kawasaki rider could make a hat trick out of his qualifying streak.
When the Catalan fans’ eyes weren’t on polesitter Marco Simoncelli, they were looking up at the clouds in Barcelona, to see if they would rain on the Spanish track during today’s MotoGP racing action. With the Catalan track damp in some sections, riders started out on slick Bridgestone tires, hoping for the best in what would fall from the heavens in the coming laps.
Disappointing for American fans, was the news that Colin Edwards had broken his collarbone on Friday, and unfortunately MotoGP medical would not let the Texan start today’s race, thus making the 2011 Catalan GP the first time the Texan Tornado has missed a race since 2003. Edwards seemed confident he’d be back for Silverstone though.
Also absent from the grid was the injured Dani Pedrosa, who broke his shoulder in an incident at the French GP with Simoncelli, making the Italian persona non grata in Spain this weekend. Luckily for Spanish fans, Jorge Lorenzo was on the front row for the start and appeased the masses, but he was behind Casey Stoner who had been consistently quick all week long.
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.
We knew as the rain hit Jerez this weeks that the weather would be a significant factor at the Spanish GP, and the added moisture on the track has already affted the MotoGP riders as they took to the track for their warm-up session this morning. If you placed your money on Casey Stoner to win the Spanish GP, your money might be safe, as the Australian is still eclipsing the field with his lap times.
However with Valentino Rossi slotting in as second quickest this morning, and Nicky Hayden a not-so-distant fourth, it would appear that the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 favors the wet weather a bit more than their counterparts (check out Ben Spies down in the fourteenth position).
As for the other Repsol Honda front-man Dani Pedrosa, you’ll find him down in the timesheets somewhere around the seventh position. There’s of course a whole race still to be run before we’ll see the results of the Spanish GP, but Rossi/Ducati fans have at least some glimmer of sunshine in an otherwise rainy day at Jerez.