MotoGP 2010 Aragon Preview

For Dani Pedrosa, the future is now

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Aragon round of the 2010 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Gran Premio A-Style de Aragon.

With Fiat Yamaha lead dog Jorge Lorenzo ahead of the pack by 63 points, and only six rounds remaining in the 2010 championship chase, relatively few questions remain to be answered this year. Is there any realistic scenario in which Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa can catch countryman Lorenzo? Is Valentino Rossi, winless since Qatar, fit enough yet to win again this season? And does Casey Stoner, himself winless since Sepang last year, have a win in him, or has he thrown in the towel on 2010?

So much for the Big Four. What are the odds against an American, in the form of Ben Spies or Nicky Hayden, winning a race this season, or decade? Will the numbers game result in Andrea Dovizioso wearing factory or satellite colors for Honda next year? And when again will LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet finish a race in a higher spot than he qualifies? The main question on MY mind this week is, with Loris Capirossi out with a damaged pinky, who is going to finish 11th?

Jorge Lorenzo won the first two Spanish rounds this season, winning in Jerez and Catalunya.

Ciudad del Motor de Aragón

This weekend’s tilt marks the inaugural MotoGP race at Aragon, a.k.a. The Third of Four Spanish Grands Prix this season. Round 13 had originally been planned for the Balatonring in scenic Savoly, Hungary. Cost overruns and construction delays, a revered tradition in former Eastern bloc countries, forced the cancellation of the 2010 Hungarian GP, much to the chagrin of Moto2 rider Gabor Talmacsi, who has been waiting years to play his “home race” card. Dorna, thoroughly put out by the failure of race organizers to get their act grouped in time for Round 13, has yet to announce whether the 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix will, in fact, be held in Hungary. Holding it in, say, Iceland would likely appeal to the Italian company’s sense of irony and vendetta.

Motorland Aragon is MotoGP's official go-to track to be used in the event another circuit, such as Hungary's Balatonring, be unable to host a race.

The Motorland circuit, as it will be known, resembles a blade from an immense Swiss army knife, complete with a screwdriver, two knives and a bottle opener. Other than the several riders who’ve done a bit of testing there, it is an unknown quantity. This, one suspects, will work to the advantage of Monster Tech 3 rookie Ben Spies, who has been pretty good on tracks he doesn’t know well, and very good on those he does. A brand new track is an equalizer, taking away the advantage enjoyed by the Rossis and Stoners at circuits upon which they’ve run hundreds of laps. Hopefully, the racing surface will be sufficiently smooth to minimize the incessant whining from Stoner and Pedrosa, which reached a cicada-like pitch in Indianapolis during Round 11.

For Pedrosa, It’s Now or Never

Aragon marks the beginning of a four-races-in-five week stretch in which the 2010 championship will be decided. After taking the last weekend in September off, the riders will visit Motegi, Sepang and Phillip Island in a three-week Pacific swing, facilitated by the postponement of the Japanese round earlier in the year due to volcanic difficulties.

At Motegi, Pedrosa recorded third place finishes in both 2009 and 2008 in races won by Lorenzo and Rossi, respectively. At Sepang, it was two second-place finishes, behind Stoner last year and Rossi in 2008. Stoner has dominated Australia the past two years, with Rossi having finished second both times. Pedrosa ran third there in 2009 and crashed out early in 2008. Lorenzo, for his part, has struggled on all three circuits, having podiumed only once while failing to finish twice.

Dani Pedrosa still has an outside chance to catch Jorge Lorenzo while his future teammate Casey Stoner is still looking for his first win since last season.

During this critical stretch, Pedrosa figures to be all in, meaning two possible outcomes are likely – either he will win, or he will crash out trying. Despite having arguably the fastest ride on the grid at this point in the season, there are no moral victories available to him. If Lorenzo continues to observe his limitations and refuses to crash, which he’s managed all year, Pedrosa will not catch him. While it would be nice to see Dani try to “Danny Kent” his countryman, the way the British rookie did American Jake Gagne in Misano, such an approach is unlikely to work. Thus, Pedrosa’s approach to the remainder of the 2010 season will resemble my own approach to the subject of retirement planning – work like a dog and hope for the best.

Rossi: It’s Not the Leg, Stupid – It’s the Shoulder

Over at my friend David Emmett’s site, we recently learned that Rossi’s relative ineffectiveness since having returned from his injury at Mugello has not been due to ongoing problems with his surgically-repaired leg. It’s been more about his non-surgically-repaired shoulder, which he injured in training earlier in the year. Seems his arm stubbornly keeps trying to fall out of its socket; the tendons and things that are supposed to keep it in place remain in disarray despite months of physical therapy.

Valentino Rossi's shoulder needs a little TLC.

The Doctor is planning on surgery after the season, trying to schedule it so as not to miss any more testing than necessary on his shiny new Ducati, and figures to be fully fit in time for the 2011 opener. Meanwhile, he is unlikely to return to the top of the podium for the remainder of the year. With Rossi, though, the term “unlikely” loses some of its meaning. Winning five straight world championships, and seven in nine years, is unlikely. Returning to premier class racing five weeks after seeing your shin bone poking through the meat of your leg is unlikely, too.

Few New Faces Coming Up in 2011

The 2010 rookie class numbered five riders, four of whom graduated from the 250cc class last year and Ben Spies, who came over from WSBK. By comparison, the 2011 grid figures to look much the same as this year’s. Only one rider, Marco Melandri, is certain to leave, although Pramac Racing’s Mika Kallio must be considered a probable. And only two new riders have been announced for next season – Cal Crutchlow moving up to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, and young Karel Abraham tooling around on his daddy’s Ducati for a new satellite team.

Loris Capirossi (65) has been linked to Pramac Ducati, possibly replacing Mika Kallio (36).

If Loris Capirossi moves to Pramac Racing to take Kallio’s seat, as has been rumored, that would leave room for someone, preferably someone with modest career goals, to join Alvaro Bautista on the Rizla Suzuki for a year. That someone, apparently, will be Toni Elias, who lately has been dominating the Moto2 grid. My sources suggest that an alternate scenario would have Randy de Puniet moving from the LCR Honda team to the factory Suzuki squad, with Elias taking de Puniet’s seat next to the Playboy bunny umbrella girl. Toni – GO FOR THE BUNNY!

Your Weekend Weather Forecast, and More

It hasn’t rained in my Indiana neighborhood since July; my lawn looks like Rod Stewart’s hair. Thus, I’m hoping to see some rain somewhere this weekend, especially in the greater Zaragoza, Spain metro area. A slick, wet surface would inject a little uncertainty into the race, something that’s been sadly missing all season long, with the exception of Ben Spies’ grand outing in Indianapolis. The current forecast calls for a 60% chance of rain on both Friday and Saturday, with a 30% chance on race day. My own forecast for race day has Pedrosa winning, followed by Lorenzo and Dovizioso. And Capirex will NOT finish 11th.

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