2012 MotoGP Jerez Preview

Casey Stoner and Ben Spies Need to Bring It - Right Now

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Jerez round of the 2012 season. Check back on Sunday for the full report of the Gran Premio bwin de España.

Round Two of the 2012 MotoGP season blows into southern Spain for the first of four Spanish tilts, theGran Premio bwin de España. Jerez is usually one of the best races of the year, both in terms of on-track competition and the concentration of Spanish beauties adorning the stands. The guys with the easiest jobs this weekend are the photographers charged with collecting shots of Paddock Girls. Those with the hardest jobs are Casey Stoner and Ben Spies, who need to find a way around the two dominant Spanish riders at their home crib in Andalusia.

This being 2012, we go into these early rounds pretty much expecting to see Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner on the podium at the end of the day. Certainly, the Repsol Honda duo has done nothing to discourage our belief that they are likely to slug it out all year for the 2012 title. And Lorenzo, on the factory Yamaha, is coming off a great effort in Qatar and looks like the smooth, composed rider who dominated the grid in 2010.

For Pedrosa, one of the hombrès always happy to play the “home track” card, Jerez has to be one of his favorite places on the planet. In six premier class outings, he has never finished off the podium, having collected a win and five (5) second-place finishes during that stretch. He would have won here in 2010 had Lorenzo not pulled one of the best comebacks EVER, tracking him down late after being down by a country mile midway through. Lorenzo himself has three podia in four tries, including wins the last two years. But Stoner? Stoner has gotten, well, stoned here pretty much every year. One podium in six trips, not to mention the indignity of having gotten KO’ed last year by an overly aggressive Valentino Rossi.

Look, it’s the second race of a long season. It’s not like Stoner needs to win on Sunday. But, as the odds-on favorite to repeat as world champion, he really ought to show the fans something this week. No one wants to hear about chatter, or arm pump, or 2 a.m. feedings. Now that he’s wearing Repsol orange, Stoner belongs on the podium at Jerez, not singing the blues in the pressroom.

Whither Ben Spies?

The factory rider with the biggest monkey on his back – Rossi has already thrown up his hands in disgust with his ride – is American Ben Spies. Although I find myself rooting for Spies every week, he appears to be working himself out of a job. After arriving on the grid with a full-time ride on the Tech 3 Yamaha in 2010, he won Rookie of the Year with a very respectable 176 points. Last year, he graduated to the factory M1, courtesy of Rossi’s ill-advised defection to Ducati, and took advantage of the additional factory support by producing, um, 176 points.

Perhaps a small chart would help illustrate the extent of Ben’s problems:

Rider 1st Year Points 2nd Year Points % change
Valentino Rossi 209 (2000) 325 +55
Casey Stoner 119 (2006) 367 +208
Jorge Lorenzo 190 (2008) 261 +37
Dani Pedrosa 215 (2006) 242 +13
Ben Spies 176 (2010) 176 0

Throwing out the high and low scores, class, we see that the average increase in Alien pointage from Year 1 to Year 2 is 46%. In Spies’ case, he also went from a satellite to a factory ride, which should have made the increase greater than average. The only available conclusion is that his 2011 season was a huge disappointment. So, needing to get off to a fast start in 2012, he finishes 11th in Qatar? To his credit, he is not going all Casey Stoner and blaming everything from the tires to the fast food in Doha. But he is aware that Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso covet his seat, and that both have gotten off to a great start in 2012, with their 4-5 finish in Qatar.

In comparing Casey Stoner and Ben Spies at this stage of the 2012 season, I’m reminded of the old joke about the chicken, the pig and the ham and egg breakfast. Stoner, the chicken in the joke, is interested in doing well this week, while Spies, the pig, is committed. Ben, right now would be a great time to show your team, and the rest of us, why you’re wearing factory leathers.

The Rest of the Best

Nicky Hayden had to be as gratified at being the top Ducati finisher in Qatar as Rossi was mortified to be the last. Hector Barbera, facing another uphill season on the Desmosedici, this year wearing Pramac colors, managed ninth place – ho hum – but at least finished, which is more than Karel Abraham could say. Something tells me that young Karel is going to see a lot of DNFs this season.

Although the Gresini team claimed to be very happy with Alvaro Bautista’s seventh place finish on what is basically a factory Honda RC213V, don’t look for that to continue much longer. Team boss Fausto is going to want to see Bautista on some podia this year, not dawdling with the likes of Stefan Bradl and Hayden. Look for Gresini to continue to cut Bautista some slack for the next five rounds. Meanwhile, Herr Bradl impressed everyone with his smooth ride into eighth place in his virgin MotoGP race. Had he managed to hold onto sixth place, everyone would be talking about him. Sie gehen, Junge!

The Calendar is, Suddenly, Tough

Six months between Valencia and Qatar. Three weeks between Qatar and Jerez. And now, three races in four weeks. Not only does that place a lot of strain on the writer to keep coming up with clever ham and egg similes, it puts pressure on the riders and the teams. The tricky circuit at Estoril the week after Jerez, with LeMans a scant two weeks later. By the end of Round Four, we should have a pretty clear idea of how this season is going to play out.

If the schedule is rough on the factory and satellite teams, it has to be doubly rough on the new CRT teams. As expected, Colin Edwards and Randy de Puniet topped out the junior class in Qatar. It’s reasonable to expect that result to continue over the next few rounds, as both riders have been through grueling stretches in the premier class, while the newer riders and teams will be making adjustments on the fly. Of the remaining new crews, the pleasant surprise of the lot early on is Yonny Hernandez, piloting one of the two Avintia-Blusens BQR-FTR’s, whatever they are. During the offseason, Hernandez’s ride looked rather iffy, but he has glued together enough sponsor money and crew talent to finish a mere five seconds behind de Puniet at Losail.

Your Weekend Weather Forecast

There is a 60% chance of rain each day this weekend; where is Chris Vermeulen when you need him? The Stoners and Lorenzos are praying for dry asphalt, in order to avoid another crash-fest like we saw here last year.

Many of the backbenchers, though, are probably hoping for sloppy conditions, to level the field, as it were. Me, I’d like to see one of those nutty flag-to-flag numbers where everyone jumps off their #1 bike and onto #2, bringing to mind tales of the pony express, the Wild, Wild West, and a surprise finish to Round Two.

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