2011 MotoGP Aragon Preview
Stoner needs a few more podiums; Lorenzo needs wins
MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Aragon round of the 2011 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Aragon Grand Prix.
Round 14 of the 2011 MotoGP season finds the two leading lights of premier class racing facing off for the third time in Spain. Back in April, Yamaha kingpin Jorge Lorenzo won by a mile at Jerez, while Repsol Honda stud Casey Stoner was busy getting taken down and out by one Valentino Rossi. In early June, it was Stoner’s turn, as he led Lorenzo all day in a rather dull Catalan procession. With 35 points separating the two in September, Lorenzo is under enormous pressure to take the tiebreaker.
Recent history at Aragon is really recent, as MotoGP only started racing there last year, after construction woes at the new track in Hungary forced the race to be hastily moved. The 2010 Gran Premio A-Style de Aragon offered, in addition to a shi shi title sponsor, a pretty satisfying race for Ducati and Yamaha fans, as Honda managed to put only two bikes in the top eight. Stoner won comfortably, while Dani Pedrosa, on the Repsol Honda, pedaled all day to make up for an uncharacteristically poor start, ultimately finishing second.
Lorenzo, who, at that point in the 2010 season, led the standings by 60-some points, appeared content to settle for third position. Unbeknownst to the Spaniard, Nicky Hayden, of all people, was lurking in fourth on his GP10, and pulled off a sensational next-to-last turn pass to steal the final podium spot. Thus ended Lorenzo’s chain of 13 straight podiums, although it did nothing to hinder his quest for the 2010 title. For Hayden, Aragon was his only podium of 2010. As the American has already enjoyed his 2011 podium (3rd at Jerez), he doesn’t appear likely to influence events at Aragon this year. Such is life on the back nine of a fairly distinguished MotoGP career.
The arithmetic for the remainder of the 2011 season clearly works in Casey Stoner’s favor. Unlike last year, which he spent in hand-to-hand combat with the unruly Desmosedici, Stoner appears to ride almost effortlessly this year, pounding out one fast lap after another in practice, qualifying and on race day. The phrase “regular as a piston” comes to mind. Thus, it is difficult to imagine him crashing out of any of the remaining rounds. As perhaps the only real deep thinker in the premier class, he is unlikely to get baited into meaningless side bets, as Lorenzo did several times last year.
The bottom line, therefore, for Jorge Lorenzo is he needs to try to run the table on the glidepath to Valencia: Win Sunday. Win two weeks hence in Japan, and pray Stoner maintains his increasingly lonely boycott of the Motegi round, which, of course, he won’t. Steal a win at Philip Island, a massive undertaking, in that Stoner has won four straight at home. Finally, pull another upset at Sepang, where Stoner wins in odd-numbered years. Truly, the deck is stacked against the defending champion. But if he can pull it off, or even take three out of four, he’ll set up an epic cage match at home in Spain on the first Sunday in November. In a sport with surprisingly little drama, that would be some DRAMA.
The Old In-Out
For those few of you who lovingly remember the Stanley Kubrick classic A Clockwork Orange, here is a sampling of the old in-out, MotoGP style:
IN - A new aluminum frame for the Ducati GP12. Tons of speculation as to what Valentino Rossi was so secretly testing at Mugello last week. Everyone at Team Ducati is playing possum, giving the press dumb looks, as if to say, “Who, me?” Technical Director Filippo Preziosi, asked about the possibility of a corporate freakout, jammed his hands in his pockets, rolled his eyes skyward, and started whistling. Rossi dismissed the possibility with a wink and a nod. In short, all parties involved are denying the prospect so vehemently that it seems all but certain they are considering the abandonment of their primary brand identifier. Valentino Rossi swings a heavy bat at Ducati.
OUT - Andrea Dovizioso riding for a Ducati satellite team next season. The unfortunate third wheel at Repsol Honda will be looking for another home next season, as Honda eliminates his factory ride. But Pramac and Aspar are not in the cards. LCR or Gresini Honda? Perhaps. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha? Possibly. A CRT privateer team? No way.
IN - Team Yamaha at Motegi for Round 15. Not that there was ever any serious doubt.
OUT - Eugene Laverty riding for Yamaha in MotoGP in 2012. The Irishman is the number two guy on the Yamaha WSBK team, and Yamaha has pulled the plug on its WSBK program for 2012 (which is weird). Two things Laverty doesn’t lack are confidence and self-promotional skills. But he doesn’t appear to be near the top of the queue of riders with a shot at the big leagues next season. “Almost as good as Marco Melandri” isn’t a big seller in MotoGP.
IN - Bradley Smith, rumored to be graduating to the premier class from Moto2 next season.
OUT - Bradley Smith, acknowledging he needs more experience to be competitive in the premier class, as he removed himself from contention days later.
IN - Marc Marquez, who has been ripping Moto2 for the last six rounds, going for five wins and a second. This guy is ready for a 1000cc prototype bike, although it’s crowded in the shrinking Honda paddock. He would be a good fit with Gresini or LCR next year. And a factory ride is definitely in his future. Hiro Aoyama, in Fausto Gresini’s doghouse all year, may be hearing footsteps.
Your Weekend Weather Forecast for Greater Alcañiz
The weather forecast for this weekend’s tilt is pretty sketchy. Temps are expected in the 60’s, with a chance of storms each day. Bad news for the factory Ducati team, as they have enough trouble finding a single set-up for race day; never mind trying to find both wet and dry settings. Bad news for the aliens, who like things warm and dry and abhor surprises. Good news for fans NOT at the race, as these kinds of conditions often lead to surprising results. Bad news for fans at the track, who will need umbrellas and those cute little cotton sweaters you see all over Europe. And, finally, bad news for the brolly girls, who will have to endure a three day battle with the frizzies.
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