The MotoGP paddock returns this weekend for its final round at Valencia after witnessing the loss of Marco Simoncelli.
The 2011 MotoGP Championship will be ending on a somber note as the paddock gathers for the final race of the season in Valencia, Spain. Less than two weeks ago the motorsports community was rocked with the sudden death of one of its rising stars, Marco Simoncelli
. With Repsol Honda
’s Casey Stoner
already crowned the 2011 champ and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo
mathematically guaranteed second place in the series, most of the focus will be on the fallen Italian and his family as the season comes to a close.
However, the fight isn’t completely over yet as Honda teammates Dani Pedrosa
and Andrea Dovizioso
battle for the final podium position in the series. Pedrosa enters the finale with the best record at the Valencia circuit after securing two wins there in the premier class. The track is also Pedrosa’s home circuit, and with only four points separating them the Spaniard is in good position to overtake Dovi in the championship.
"Valencia will be a very special race for everybody,” said Pedrosa. “This weekend we will all have Marco in our thoughts and I hope the fans show their respect and appreciation to him, as the whole MotoGP family will do. Valencia is a track I like a lot and I'm looking forward to seeing all the fans there again.”
Valencia features many tight twists and turns - a total of 420 over the course of the 30-lap contest. Covering some of the longest race distances of the season, tire wear is expected to become an issue at the finale. Adding to the complexity is the colder weather this time of year, which will make tire warm-up crucial. As a result Bridgestone has opted for the soft and medium compound front slicks and the medium and hard rears, which were also used last year.
Meanwhile Dovizioso has motivations of his own this weekend. This will be his final race with Repsol Honda as the Italian transitions to the Tech 3 squad for 2012. It has been Dovizioso’s strongest season to date with a total of six
Dani Pedrosa (left) and Andrea Dovizioso (right) are still battling for the final podium spot in the championship.
podiums, and there’d be no better way for him to sign off his most successful season than with a win to secure third overall. But perhaps more than the championship, the Italian will be mourning the loss of Simoncelli in the upcoming round.
“I’m very sad for the loss of Marco,” said Dovizioso. “I’m going to Valencia not in the right frame of mind for a race. I will wear Marco's number 58 on the chest of my leathers, close to my heart, this is the only thing that counts.”
Maybe the most fitting end to the year would be a race dedication to Super Sic on behalf of Stoner as he closes his dominating season. Nine wins, six podiums, 11 pole victories – there’s no doubt Stoner has experienced one of his most successful seasons in MotoGP
"It will be difficult to return to racing this weekend after Marco's terrible accident in Sepang but I think it is the best thing we can do to honor him,” said Stoner. “The race this weekend is the final round of an incredible season for us, we worked hard all year and after clinching the title in Phillip Island we are starting to look to 2012.”
Yamaha’s Ben Spies
is expected to return at Valencia after being unable to ride through the pain in Malaysia. The American was struggling with a major rib injury after a qualifying crash at Phillip Island
, and hours before the Sepang
Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo has yet to make the decision on whether he will race the final round at Valencia. Regardless, he will finish second in the series.
race was scheduled to begin, the ’09 World Superbike
champ had to back out. Spies will return just in time to defend his fifth-place position in the standings from Ducati’s Valentino Rossi
, who is currently 17 points adrift of Spies.
In the other corner of Yamaha
’s garage is Lorenzo, whose participation in the final round is doubtful as he continues recovering after mangling his ring finger in Australia. Even though the Mallocran rider is guaranteed runner-up in the series, it still would be nice to see him return at his home circuit where he dominated last year during his title winning season.
Another rider who won’t be wearing leathers in the next round is Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards
. The American suffered fractures to his left arm during the fatal collision between Simoncelli in the last round, and faces a four-week recovery after surgery. In place of Edwards, the Tech 3 squad has called current AMA Superbike champ, Josh Hayes
, up to the big leagues for his debut in the MotoGP series. The 36-year-old is coming off his second consecutive title in the AMA Pro Road Racing
series, and was originally scheduled to test the YZR-M1 machine the day after the Valencia GP. But now the American will get a shot at the 30-lap main as he contends the final round with Cal Crutchlow.
2011 AMA SuperBike champ Josh Hayes will get his shot at the big leagues as he fills in for Colin Edwards at the season finale.
Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden
will be fighting between themselves in the finale for seventh overall in the series. It has been a lackluster season for the factory Ducati
team, and at this point they remain focused on making progress for the 2012 season. Rossi is currently seven points ahead of his American teammate as both have failed making it into the top-five for the past nine rounds.
The 2011 Moto2 title is on the horizon for German rider Stefan Bradl, who is 23 points ahead of rival Marc Marquez. All Bradl needs in the final round is a 13th-place finish or better to secure the first world title of his career. Meanwhile Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marquez is guaranteed runner-up in the series, as Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone and JiR Moto2’s Alex de Angelis battle for the final podium position in the series, with Iannone clinging to a two-point advantage over the Italian.