2012 MotoGP Silverstone Preview

Rossi raring to run in the rain

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Silverstone round of the 2012 season. Check back on Sunday for the full report of the Hertz British Grand Prix

Round Six of the 2012 MotoGP season erupts this weekend at Silverstone, home of the Hertz British Grand Prix. According to Wikipedia, the village of Silverstone, on the map since at least the 11th century, boasts both a pub and a church. (!) So much for the local attractions. The newly spruced-up racing circuit is one of the longest and fastest on the calendar, comparable in length to Losail and Aragon. But since it almost always rains for the race, it’s a little misleading to call it “fast.” Perhaps a better adjective would be “clean.”

You’d think that in 1200 years the locals would be able to come up with more than a church and a bar. (Since rain can often delay construction projects, it’s possible that many more structures are on the drawing boards, some perhaps for generations.) In any event, they’re going to race motorcycles at Silverstone this weekend in what is being billed as a “crucial” stop on the MotoGP calendar. Crucial? Maybe. Interesting? Almost always.

British Grand Prix racers

Recent History

Two of the past three British GPs have been run in the rain. Likewise, two of the past three British GPs have been run at Silverstone. The exception to the latter took place in 2009, when The Aliens went missing and the Donington Park podium included Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso at the top of the heap, flanked by – get this – Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards and LCR Honda pilot Randy de Puniet. The highest ranking Alien that day was Valentino Rossi, who managed to put his Fiat Yamaha into fifth place after an early crash. For Dovizioso, it was his first and only premier class win.

The 2010 race, in which it did not rain, was an easy win for Yamaha chief cheddar Jorge Lorenzo, who was on his way to that year’s world championship. Dovizioso managed a strong second place that day, followed by then-rookie Ben Spies on the Tech 3 Yamaha. It was on this day that Spies out-raced veteran Nicky Hayden to steal the final podium spot on the last lap, forcing Hayden to settle for a fourth consecutive fourth-place finish to start the season. Valentino Rossi was out injured that day, while Stoner, still wrestling the Ducati, finished the first lap in 12th position and had to fight all day to salvage a lackluster fifth.

Jorge Lorenzo Ben Spies

Finally, last year’s race was run at Silverstone AND in the rain, with eventual world champion Casey Stoner leaving the field far, far behind. Not surprisingly, Andrea Dovizioso claimed the second spot on the podium, again joined by Colin Edwards who, having shattered his collarbone the previous week in Barcelona, put on an amazing display of grit and testicles by taking what would be his only podium of the year, held together with titanium screws and duct tape.

Quick – name the rider with the most points during the past three British Grands Prix!

That would be non-Alien Dovizioso, with 65 points. The staff is busily pouring through race results to determine which rider has the second-most points in Britain during that time … and they now tell me that, actually, no one really gives a rip who finished second in this little quiz. Oh well.

What a Difference a Year Makes

At the close of the 2010 season, I was one of many fans who felt Andrea Dovizioso had been shabbily treated by Fate. He had just lost his factory Honda ride to a combination of Casey Stoner and the global recession. The timing of his move to the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha team could not have been worse, in light of the death of Marco Simoncelli and subsequent promotion of Alvaro Bautista to the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. Gresini had wanted an Italian Honda rider, and instead was forced to settle for a Spanish ex-Suzuki pilot. Sure, Dovizioso edged Dani Pedrosa for fourth place for the year, but even that win was tainted by the fact that Pedrosa had missed four races through no fault of his own.

Andrea Dovizioso Casey Stoner

Fast forward to the summer of 2012. Dovizioso has mastered the Tech 3 Yamaha and, sitting in fourth place for the season, is the top satellite rider on the grid. Casey Stoner has announced his intent to retire from the Repsol Honda team at the end of the season, and Ben Spies is busily working himself out of a job at team Yamaha. Dovi has thus positioned himself as the top candidate to assume a factory ride next season, and would appear to have his choice of Honda or Yamaha.

After the recent tests at Catalunya and Aragon, Dovi characterized the Yamaha as “beautiful,” and had nothing at all to say about the Honda RC213V.

Looks like he’s made up his mind.

Bedlam Amongst the Brits

Dovi’s teammate Cal Crutchlow, in a bizarre attempt to gain leverage for next year, has warned the suits at Yamaha not to take his services for granted, stating he would be willing to join the factory Ducati team if his current employers don’t take care of him. (I tried to apply the same logic to my bosses at Motorcycle.com, warning them that if they don’t give me a raise next year, I’m going out to the parking lot to slam the car door on my hand. After wiping the tears of laughter from their eyes, they encouraged me to make like Nike and just do it.)

Cal Crutchlow

Why Crutchlow felt the need to play the D card at this time is unclear. There will probably be a factory Honda or Yamaha ride available for him next season, especially if he maintains the form he has shown thus far. Dovizioso is out the door, making way for fellow Brit Bradley Smith, whom Tech 3 owner Herve Poncharal, in a gross case of premature contractulation, signed last year to a 2013 premier class contract.  Smith, who finished seventh in Moto2 last year, is having a dismal 2012, and sits tied for ninth place. In his dreams, Smith is Marc Marquez. In reality, he is probably James Toseland, without the musical ability.

Getting Back to Dovizioso and Rossi

Those of you who can remember as far back as two minutes ago will recall that I led off this article predicting good things for Dovi and Rossi, then proceeded to ignore Rossi completely. The former King of the Universe has been reduced by the Ducati Desmosedici to a role player, one who performs surprisingly well in the rain, and not at all otherwise. To Rossi’s immense relief, the forecast for the weekend is, as expected, cloudy, wet and cold.

Valentino Rossi Cal Crutchlow

Dovizioso loves Silverstone and is on a roll, while Rossi rocks in the rain. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the two Italians on the podium this Sunday. I would be amazed if Jorge Lorenzo finishes off the podium, as Silverstone is a Yamaha-friendly layout and the Spaniard is again at the top of his game. The fans will be pulling for Crutchlow, but CRT jockey Colin Edwards will be a non-factor. Or will he? One never knows at the British Grand Prix.

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