The 2011 MotoGP Championship travels to Great Britain this weekend for Round 6 of the series at Silverstone. The major development for the upcoming round is Dani Pedrosa’s absence as the Spaniard continues his recovery from a broken collarbone. The HRC team was searching for a temporary replacement rider in John Hopkins, but following the American’s pass on the offer, the team has decided to leave the seat vacant. Even with Pedrosa out, however, the Repsol Honda team is on an upward trend following Casey Stoner’s third win of the season at Catalunya. The Aussie faces the opportunity of not only taking his first hat trick of MotoGP wins at Silverstone, but more importantly could take over the lead in the series as he remains just seven points behind Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.
The Silverstone circuit, originally constructed in 1948, saw major reconstruction last year, making the track pretty much new for everyone. This time around the paddock will be greeted with new pit garages at the freshly constructed Silverstone Wing. Riders will also face a new turn as the start/finish area has been moved from last year.
The one thing which held Stoner back at Silverstone last year was his start. After qualifying sixth on the grid, Stoner fumbled with the clutch off the line and got lost in the pack. But even after starting down in 14th, the Aussie managed to finish sixth – making him more than capable of a solid showing in Great Britain.
“After a great last few races we’re looking forward to going to Silverstone,” Stoner said. “Last year wasn’t so good for us after being unlucky off the start, which prevented us from having a stronger race. I think this year with the Honda and the way things are going we can hope for a good performance, so long as everything goes smoothly.”
Meanwhile Lorenzo is coming off a podium finish at his home circuit of Catalunya. The Spaniard had a terrific win at the Silverstone circuit in 2010 and will be eager to defend his lead in the series.
Jorge Lorenzo maintains a slim seven-point lead ahead of Stoner and will seek his second win at the revised Silverstone circuit.
“We managed to finish our home GP leading the Championship last weekend,” said Lorenzo. “I’m very happy because we are very consistent in the beginning of this season. Now we are going for our second visit to Silverstone, a track I like. Last year was the first year and I made one of my best races; it was almost perfect. I know this season will be tough, but Yamaha and I are working hard and are focused on each race result.”
One key difference this year will be tire choice. Last year riders were presented with medium and hard compounds. Following a review of track data and feedback, however, Bridgestone is opting for soft and medium compounds for the front due to its stability under braking and its improved warm-up performance.
“It was a great challenge for Bridgestone to select tire compounds based on theoretical data and some track surface samples alone [last year],” said Assistant Director of Bridgestone’s Tire Development Division, Hirohide Hamashima. “This year of course we have the benefit of a lot more actual data gained from last year’s race and, after careful analysis, we believe there is more benefit to the riders of selecting our soft compound front tire as we know it has sufficient braking stability and durability but it will also give the riders a little more grip in the cool conditions and offer better warm-up performance.”
Bridgestone has selected soft and medium tire compounds to replace the medium and hard options from last year.
After earning his first podium finish of the season in the last round, Yamaha’s Ben Spies will return to the circuit which gave him his maiden MotoGP podium in 2010. Although his season has gotten off to a rough start, the American overcame tremendous pressure from Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso at Catalunya to finish on the box.
“I can’t wait to get to Silverstone and get back on the bike again,” Spies said. “It’s a track I really enjoy riding and where I got my first-ever MotoGP podium last year. Catalunya definitely felt like we were starting the season again, everything went smoothly and I felt really comfortable and able to challenge for the podium. We’ll be looking to do at least the same in the UK so roll on Friday.”
Currently third in championship points, Dovizioso will hope to return to the success he experienced at Silverstone last year. The Italian took second at the circuit – one of his best finishes of the season – and has taken top-five finishes in four of the five rounds so far this season, including a second-place result at Le Mans.
“I like Silverstone, it’ s a good track for us and now that it has been resurfaced in the parts where there were more bumps it should be even better,” Dovizioso said. “The layout is beautiful and we go there to fight for the podium.”
Valentino Rossi experienced a small breakthrough at Catalunya and hopes to continue his progress with the Duc.
Proper set-up continues to be essential to Ducati’s success this season. Valentino Rossi has been tweaking select characteristics of the GP11 in each round, and it appears The Doctor is on the verge of taming the Duc after being only seven seconds adrift of Stoner at Catalunya.
“We’re not too far off, and we’re working well, which we need to continue doing,” said Rossi. “The championship is long and we’re still fully focused on both the GP11 and 2012, and we have no intention of backing off.”
One of the major disappointments in the last round came from San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli. The Italian has been garnering much attention lately for his quick pace in the first few rounds and, more recently, his collision with Pedrosa at Le Mans. But in Barcelona Simoncelli was luke-warm at best. Starting from pole position he had a bad start and wasn’t able to keep pace, eventually finishing more than 10 seconds adrift of Stoner. Don’t count him out just yet, though. He’s been plenty fast in the first four rounds and it’s only a matter of time before he snatches his first MotoGP win.
“Obviously, after starting from pole position I was a little disappointed to finish sixth in Barcelona, but overall it was a good weekend for us because of the pace and character we showed,” said Simoncelli. “The race could have gone better, but we have the chance to put that right this weekend at Silverstone. I really enjoyed the track last year when I took my first big step forward in terms of being competitive in this class. Now we go there with a top result as the only goal.”
The upcoming round will be especially important for Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow. Taking place at his home circuit, Crutchlow is coming off a career-high seventh-place finish as he heads to his MotoGP debut in Great
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow (above) heads to his MotoGP debut in Great Britain while teammate Colin Edwards (below) returns from injury.
“I can’t wait for my home race in Silverstone,” Crutchlow said. “Ever since I knew I was joining the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team, I have been thinking about the British Grand Prix. The race couldn’t be coming at a better time after I scored the best result of my MotoGP career only a few days ago in Catalunya. That gave the whole Team a big lift and we can go into this weekend with a top six as a realistic goal.”
Crutchlow’s teammate, Colin Edwards, missed the last round after doctors refused to clear the American. The Texas Tornado will return at Silverstone, however, eager to fight for points after his record of 141 successive GP starts ended at Catalunya. He’s been resting the last few days to speed his recovery progress after a titanium plate and 13 screws were inserted into his shoulder.
“It is not going to be an easy weekend but I will go out there and try my best to do a good job,” said Edwards. “It would be brilliant to get some points but I just want to concentrate on having a trouble free weekend because then I have a couple of weeks to let the bone heal further and be back to full strength by Assen. Part of me is still a little bit disappointed that I didn’t get to ride in Catalunya, but I guess I’ll finally get to start my 142nd MotoGP race, even if it is going to be one week later than planned!”