MotoGP 2011 Silverstone Preview

Expect the unexpected at the Air Asia British Grand Prix

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Silverstone round of the 2011 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the British Grand Prix.

Coming off a dominant performance last week in Barcelona, Repsol Honda stud Casey Stoner figures to be the favorite as Round Six of the 2011 MotoGP season rolls around. While defending champion Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha M1 will have something to say about that, the only certainty about racing in Britain is that nothing is certain. Cool, damp conditions are forecast for the weekend, which could be good news for the rest of the field.

As a key to what’s in store for fans this weekend, the recent history of the British GP is not terribly illuminating, given the change in venue from Donington Park to Silverstone last year. In 2008, aliens finished 1-2-3 at Donington as Stoner led Rossi and Dani Pedrosa to the finish, followed by Colin Edwards and Andrea Dovizioso. The 2009 race in the wet gave Dovizioso his first and only premier class win, joined on the podium by Edwards and Randy de Puniet, an unlikely rostrum if ever there was. Last year’s race was dominated by Lorenzo, with second and third places going to Dovizioso and then-rookie Ben Spies, respectively. Rossi missed the 2010 race due to injury, as did Hiro Aoyama.

Racing in the wet and the cold is clearly not every pilot’s cup of tea, as it were. Injured Repsol Honda jockey Dani Pedrosa, for one, has enjoyed very little success in England, while Rossi hasn’t won there since 2005. Colin Edwards loved Donington, with a fourth and a second in his last two appearances; at Silverstone last year, however, he slipped to 9th. These outcomes may help explain why Pedrosa, who flirted with the notion of racing at Montmelo, wasted no time bailing out of Silverstone. They may also shed some light on Edward’s eerie determination to race this weekend sporting a collarbone held together with duct tape and Super Glue.

Here’s a Couple of Dark Horses for You

Two other riders enter the weekend with sky-high hopes: Repsol Honda heartthrob Dovizioso, and homeboy Cal Crutchlow. Dovizioso’s last three British GPs have seen him finish fifth, first and second, his most successful event by far. If he had a vote, I’m sure Andrea would elect to run all 18 MotoGP rounds in England, where he is a fast mover, and where the thrill of victory more than compensates for the lousy food and miserable weather.

As for Crutchlow, he is rapidly making British motorcycle racing fans forget James Toseland, at least those fans who hadn’t already forgotten James Toseland. Toseland spent two undistinguished years on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha playing second fiddle to Edwards, and always seemed to be whining about one thing or another, while Edwards was keeping his mouth shut and securing a bunch of top five finishes. When Ben Spies, who replaced Toseland, got promoted to the factory Yamaha team after last season, Crutchlow won his promotion from World Superbike and is making the most of it.

Crutchlow is from Coventry, about an hour up the M1 from Silverstone, and so we will forgive him for playing the inevitable “home race” card this week. Unlike most of his colleagues, he actually does better at home than elsewhere. In 2009, he won his World Supersport race at Donington. Last year, in WSBK, he won both rounds at Silverstone. Thus far this season, Crutchlow has managed three top ten finishes in five rounds on tracks that are largely new to him. Given his familiarity with the circuit, and his apparent indifference to the weather, he could seriously end up on the podium this week. The man has a very bright future for someone who thinks that “kippers” are actually food.

Paris Hilton caused a minor stir last week during her appearance in Catalunya. Imagine, if you will, the crowd reaction if William and Kate were to emerge on Sunday from their love shack in Wales long enough to take in a little moto racing in the Midlands.

News from Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced this week they’ve added yet another event to an already busy August race weekend. As usual, all three MotoGP classes will be running in the fourth Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. As usual, the AMA Pro Flat Track series will be running the beloved Indy Mile at the State Fairgrounds on Saturday evening. This year, for the first time, the IMS will host a round of the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 series, the AMA’s newest racing class.

According to the IMS press release, “The AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 class is open to Harley-Davidson XR1200X motorcycles modified with a Vance & Hines kit that includes items such as exhaust system, belly fan, front fender, front wheel and seat assembly. Additional modifications are limited to racing suspension, hand and foot controls, brake components and instrumentation.” There will be racing on both Saturday and Sunday as the big V-Twins run on the same (newly repaved) road course used by the imports. If Indy is going to lose its MotoGP round down the road, it looks to go down swinging.

Finally, from the Department of Gratuitous Weirdness

Although I missed it completely – go figure – I understand Jorge Lorenzo mentioned at Le Mans that he was planning on skipping Round 15 in Motegi this year due to concerns about residual radiation from Japan’s nuclear tsunami in March. The news was that he had a meeting with Valentino Rossi in Spain last weekend to discuss the situation. Various reports suggested that the riders were planning to organize a boycott of the Japan round, rather than risk exposing their DNA to possible, um, mutation. Someone played the Chernobyl card, and Rossi had a few choice words on the subject. As usual, however, his valiant attempts at English were sufficiently garbled that one doesn’t really know what the two sworn rivals are actually planning.

Not that it matters. By October Lorenzo figures to trail Stoner sufficiently that any thought of skipping a round will have long since passed. Surely Stoner is having none of this; his silence on the topic suggests he considers it a non-event. With Dorna and the Japanese race organizers joined at the wrists and ankles, any potential boycott will undoubtedly be met by warnings of dire consequences for any team or rider that fails to post for Motegi. And if the riders should begin to glow in the dark, they could always run the race at night.

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