MotoGP 2012 Misano Preview

Lorenzo and Pedrosa to square off on the Italian Riviera

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Misano round of the 2012 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the San Marino Grand Prix

One thing is certain heading into Round 13 of the 2012 MotoGP world championship – the title and venue are a mouthful. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the GP Aperol di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini hosted by the scenic and renown Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. (For the purposes of this article, let’s just call it Misano.) Less certain, however, is the identity of the rider who will be leading the series come Sunday evening. Less certain that that is which Spaniard will ultimately be the 2012 world champion.

For the first time in recent memory, there is an actual battle for the lead in the premier class. After Round 6 at Silverstone this year, factory Yamaha operator Jorge Lorenzo led Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa by 39 points, and the fight looked to be between Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, Repsol’s soon-to-be-ex-world champion. But Stoner went airborne in qualifying at Indianapolis, to the detriment of his right ankle, while Pedrosa has been on a roll of late, having won in Indy and Brno.

With a mere 13 points now separating the two Spanish compatriots, and six rounds to go, we’ve finally got a horse race in the premier class, similar to what they boast over in Moto2 virtually every year. 2012 is the exception, though, as Alien-in-waiting Marc Marquez leads runner-up Pol Espargaro by a full 48 points. So, while the individual races in Moto2 are usually more competitive than the big bikes, this season’s outcome is in extreme doubt in the premier class and a foregone conclusion in Moto2. One of those years.

Recent History at Misano

Valentino Rossi won the 2009 race on his Fiat Yamaha, thumbing his nose at then-teammate Lorenzo on his way to the title, while Pedrosa claimed third and Andrea Dovizioso, also on a factory Honda, took fourth. That year, excitable homeboy Alex de Angelis seemed to aim his Gresini Honda at Colin Edwards’ Tech 3 Yamaha on the first lap, unseating Edwards, whose suddenly rider-less bike proceeded to remove Nicky Hayden from his factory Ducati. This mishap was seen by some as a long-delayed payback for the trashing the American military gave the Italian army during World War II. It would also foreshadow Hayden’s fortunes here for the next several years.

There was nothing funny about the 2010 race. Moto2 pilot Shoya Tomizawa lost his life in a horrific crash involving Scott Redding and de Angelis, and the subsequent MotoGP race was a grim affair won eventually by Pedrosa. Lorenzo and Rossi joined him on the podium for a subdued post-race celebration, followed again by Dovizioso. Hayden traded paint early in the race with Loris Capirossi and retired a few laps later. We also learned that Cal Crutchlow would be making the jump from WSBK to the Tech 3 Yamaha team, replacing Ben Spies, who took Rossi’s seat on the factory Yamaha after Rossi left in a well-paid huff to join Ducati Factory Racing.

2011 was Lorenzo’s year, as he easily defeated Pedrosa while Casey Stoner, on his way to the championship, finished an uninspired third. Marco Simoncelli claimed fourth place that day, one of the better outings in his too-short MotoGP career, at the track that would later bear his name. For the third consecutive year, Nicky Hayden failed to finish, crashing out unassisted early in the race.

In summary, Misano has been very friendly to the three riders who should appear on the podium this week – Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Dovizioso. If any of the three should screw up, Dovizioso’s teammate Crutchlow will likely be there to pick up any spare change left lying around on the rostrum. The Brit enjoyed his first premier class podium at Brno, and would undoubtedly enjoy a second even more. Nicky Hayden, on the other hand, would probably enjoy simply crossing the finish line.

One Prototype Seat in Play for 2013

We’ve arrived at the point of the season where different riders have different agendas. Early in the season, one could almost hear the voice of Al Davis, late owner of the Oakland Raiders, intoning, “Just win, baby.” (Apparently, only Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa were listening.) Midseason was about jockeying for position on the factory teams, a process complicated by Stoner’s impending retirement and Rossi’s defection/return to the factory Yamaha team. These various issues have now been settled, as the 2012 season is now a two man race, while the factory seats have all been claimed. But plenty of questions remain.

Tech 3 Yamaha has its Brits for next year, for better or for worse. Rookie-of-the-Year Stefan Bradl will return on a factory spec Honda for the LCR team, lobbying for admission to the Alien club. But the question remains open as to who will pilot Fausto Gresini’s Honda. Plenty of names are being tossed around, and some pretty high profile riders may find themselves on CRT bikes or plying their trade elsewhere:

  • Brit Johnny Rea will be juggling four rounds of MotoGP racing for Repsol Honda (subbing for Stoner) with his normal WSBK schedule, and is, according to some sources, a serious contender for the San Carlo Honda next year. There’s a lot on the line for this young man over the next five weeks.
  • Ducati announced this week that the Pramac JV team next season will feature Ben Spies and current Moto2 tough guy Andrea Iannone, to the chagrin of Scott Redding. Not sure how Spies figures to be competitive on a satellite Ducati when he’s been unable to do much of anything on a factory Yamaha for two years. Just sayin’.
  • With the four Ducati prototype rides already settled for next year, current satellite Ducati riders Karel Abraham and Hectic Hector Barbera appear S-O-L. Abraham will likely gear down to a CRT bike. Barbera returns this week from both a badly broken leg and three broken vertebrae, increasingly resembles the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“It’s only a flesh wound!”). Barbera’s destination next year, assuming he survives THIS year, is unknown at this time.
  • Alvaro Bautista, despite Fausto’s insistence that he loves the guy, is probably toast. So is Toni Elias, who proved again recently that he has no real business in the premier class.

One Random Thought Before We Turn to the Weather

Recall 2010, when four hotshots from the 250cc class graduated to MotoGP with sky-high expectations. Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera, Hiro Aoyama and Marco Simoncelli were thought to be the future of the premier class. Who would have dreamt, scarcely three years later, that two would be facing demotions, one would stand in 18th position in WSBK, and the fourth would lose his life at Sepang in 2011. Showcasing my flair for the obvious, I’d like to point out again that few things are certain in world championship motorcycle racing.

Finally, the Weekend Weather Forecast

The weather forecast calls for cool conditions on Friday, with Saturday and Sunday expected to be sunny and warm, perfect weather for the Aliens. Get up early on Sunday and watch the race live at 8 Eastern on SpeedTV.

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