Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner has won half the races so far this season and leads the MotoGP Championship point standings by 19 over defending champ, Jorge Lorenzo.
The MotoGP paddock gets ready for the tight, technical demands of Sachsenring this weekend as racers forge on during the demanding European leg of the tour. The German Grand Prix means the MotoGP season is at the halfway mark and the biggest storyline of the year so far has to be the improvement of the Honda RC212V. The factory Repsol Honda team have been the chief benefactors and own the first, third and seventh positions in the MotoGP Championship point standings. The team possibly could have owned the top three slots if Dani Pedrosa hadn’t broken his collarbone at Le Mans and was able to compete in all the races.
Speaking of the incident that took Pedrosa out, Marco Simoncelli’s abandon has been another of the intriguing storylines this year. Super Sic wiped out Pedrosa at Le Mans, got into a heated verbal exchange with Lorenzo after Estoril, then proceeded to take him out too at Assen in a first lap crash. Simoncelli has flashed signs of brilliance during qualifying, winning pole position at both Catalunya and Assen. Come race day, though, it’s a different story. Simoncelli’s lack of patience and decision making has prevented him from parlaying qualifying success into podiums.
The third curious plot to the MotoGP season so far is Rossi’s rocky relationship with the Desmosedici. Rossi and the factory Ducati team have struggled to find a set-up that suits The Doctor, resulting in the team debuting the chassis, swingarm and rear suspension it was developing for 2012 this year. Rossi rode the new hybrid to a fourth place finish at Assen but was still more than 30 seconds behind race winner Ben Spies. The nine-time World Champion is in the longest drought without a win of his career and is looking for immediate improvements to the Duc. He’s admitted that the Desmosedici is a tempestuous beast, which makes Stoner’s accomplishments on the motorcycle all the more impressive.
Jorge Lorenzo is looking to carry the momentum of his victory in the last race at Mugello to the top of the podium this weekend in the German Grand Prix.
Stoner, meanwhile, has been enjoying the more rider-friendly nature of the Honda this season. The Australian racer has won four out of eight contests so far and has a proven track record at the ‘Ring, earning a spot on the podium last year and winning the race outright in 2008. Stoner is fit (remember last year’s mysterious illness?) and riding with the confidence of a former World Champion who once again looks hungry to wear that title once again.
“I’m looking forward to going to Sachsenring, it’s a circuit where we’ve enjoyed good results in the past few years. The track is very tight and technical so it demands a different style of riding and we also need to set the bike up in a different way. It’s pretty tough on tires as the majority of corners are long left-handers so the wear on the left hand side of the tire is quite significant,” Stoner said.
The chief obstacle between Stoner and that goal is defending MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo. The Mallorcan rider will be battling hard to trim down Stoner’s 19-point advantage in the championship standings after posting his second victory of the season in the last round at Mugello. Lorenzo patiently hunted Stoner down in that race then held off Andrea Dovizioso at the line to win by 0.997 seconds. The factory Yamaha rider is lucky not to be down further after a DNF in the rain at Silverstone and the Simoncelli incident at Assen. He did return to the race in Holland to finish sixth and salvage valuable points.
“I feel very good after our victory in Mugello; an amazing victory that we needed for our confidence. We’ll take more power from it for future races, especially for the next two in a row. Now it’s time for Germany; Sachsenring is a unique track which I’ve ridden since 2002 and still not won!” Lorenzo said.
Dovizioso has been riding strong, gracing the steps of the podium in four out of the last five races. Dovi is third in the championship point standings, only 14 behind defending
Andrea Dovizioso always seems to be lurking near the front of the pack. In the last race at Mugello, Dovizioso powered by Stoner on the final lap to capture second place.
World Champion Lorenzo. He’ll have to work hard this weekend, though, because Sachsenring has been somewhat of a challenge for the Italian rider whose best finish at the track is fifth place.
Repsol Honda’s third rider, Pedrosa, looks to be competitive this weekend after having two weeks to further rehabilitate after the Italian Grand Prix. The Spanish rider made his return to racing at Mugello after a month-and-a-half layoff thanks to the Simoncelli confrontation at Le Mans. Pedrosa has been training hard to get back into riding shape after finishing eighth in his gutsy return. The ‘Ring has been kind to Pedrosa in the past as he won the race last year and has three other victories at the circuit in various GP classes.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Spies is riding well after a slow start to the season which saw a couple of DNFs. Spies atoned for those by winning the first MotoGP race of his career at Assen and finishing fourth in the last race at Mugello. Spies sits sixth in the championship point standings and has his sights on overtaking fellow American Nicky Hayden, who leads the Texan by three points.
Hayden has a penchant for the German circuit and has fought his way onto the podium four times there in the past. The Kentucky Kid said he particularly likes Waterfall Corner, a fifth-gear, downhill plunge into a blind corner. Spending much of the race on the left side of the tire should work to Hayden’s advantage given his past history in flat track.
The San Carlo Gresini Honda team is back to full strength this weekend after rider Hiroshi Aoyama’s brief stint with the Repsol Honda team when he substituted for the injured Pedrosa. The transition was costly for Aoyama, who injured himself in a crash while riding the factory Honda at Assen and reportedly was still feeling the effects at Mugello when he returned to the San Carlo Gresini Honda. His teammate, Simoncelli, battled Spies hard in the last round to finish fifth. In a post race test at the Italian circuit, Super Sic finished second-fastest, lapping a mere 0.096 seconds behind pacesetter Stoner.
Marco Simoncelli has had reason to hide his face this season after a couple of questionable moves which took out fellow riders. Despite his abandon, he’s also flashed moments of brilliance.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo of Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow have both been met with difficult challenges this season. Edwards broke his right collarbone in a practice crash at Catalunya but surprised everybody when the resilient GP veteran returned at Silverstone after only missing one race. He admittedly was still in pain at Mugello but has had two more weeks to recoup. Crutchlow had a disappointing outing in the last round after tire issues prevented him from finishing the race. The British GP rookie will have the disadvantage of once again racing on a track he’s never competed on before. He also has had to mend quickly from a broken collarbone suffered after a crash at Silverstone.
Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista looked primed to post a top-five finish at Mugello until he lost the front end and went off track. Bautista is another rider who has had to deal with injuries this year, breaking his femur before the first race at Qatar. He claims he is back to 100% fitness and is ready to fight hard on the GSV-R after completing 90 laps at the Mugello post-race test.
The Pramac Racing duo of Loris Capirossi and Randy DePuniet is back to full strength once again after Capirossi missed the Assen and Mugello rounds. The cagy veteran fractured two ribs and injured his right shoulder after a crash at the Holland track and isn’t back to 100% yet but will gut it out this weekend. His French teammate has had his share of problems too, from crashes to mechanical issues, and is eager to put all that behind him this weekend. De Puniet suffered a horrible crash at the ‘Ring last year and fractured his tibia and fibula and will have to deal with the emotional impact of that crash this weekend.
SPEED TV will air the races in High Definition at 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 17, with a re-broadcast scheduled for 4 p.m. that same day.