HONDA RIDERS READY FOR BRITISH WEATHER2012-06-12 12:11
The sixth race of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship brings the Honda riders to the Silverstone Circuit, one of the most iconic venues in the history of motor racing, but one where the notoriously wet British weather will almost certainly be a factor.
It certainly was last year, when Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner had the most dominant victory of his 2011 World Championship-winning season. The 26-year-old Australian led then team-mate Andrea Dovizioso home by 15.159s in a cold, wet race that claimed a trio of top riders and slowed many others. The Silverstone win was Stoner’s third in a row, and fourth in the first six races, and put him back into the MotoGP World Championship lead, a lead he would carry to his second MotoGP title and first with Honda.
Stoner returns to the circuit built on a former airfield now second in the championship following the race in Catalunya, where his podium streak ended at 19 with a fourth place finish. With the defending world champion having announced that he will retire at the end of the 2012 season, and only 13 races remaining, the 19 consecutive races on the box will be part of his legacy. That legacy will continue to be formed this weekend when he goes for his third win of the season and 36th of his career. Stoner current sits two wins behind Mike Hailwood in fifth on the all-time premier class wins list.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) missed last year’s British Grand Prix after suffering a broken right collarbone in the previous French Grand Prix. His only experience at Silverstone came in 2010, the first year the race was moved south from Donington Park. The Spaniard qualified third before running into grip problems in the race.
Like Stoner, Pedrosa has been on every podium this year but one; he finished fourth in Le Mans. But he was second last time out in his home race in Catalunya, holding the lead for most of the race before finishing second to Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). The race in the UK is something of a second home race for Pedrosa, who lived for many years in England.
Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) showed his wet weather skills by coming home fifth in last year’s British GP, his best finish of the season. Now in his first year on the San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V, Silverstone is yet another circuit he will have to re-learn. The Spaniard has been in the top ten in every race this season, with a trio of sixth place finishes, including the last time out in Catalunya from a difficult starting position.
The post-Catalunya test gave Bautista more confidence in the front end, which allows him to attack the corners with more conviction. Like most riders, Bautista is concerned about the weather, which is forecast to be wet and cool.
In his rookie MotoGP season Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) has also finished in the top ten in every race this year, with a best of fifth coming two races ago in Le Mans. That race was plagued by the sort of inclement weather that could also hit Silverstone, which is problematic because of less than consistent surface. But the first year MotoGP rider has had very few crashes this year and has a proven ability to adapt to varying conditions.
Bradl won last year’s Moto2 race at Silverstone, his fourth win in the first six races that put him up a massive 62 points. Bradl would ride that early points lead to the 2011 Moto2 World Championship.
Sharing the 2011 Moto2 podium with Bradl was Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda). The Italian’s third place finish was his best to that point; he would go on to win the season finale in Valencia.
Following a slow start, Pirro has been in the points the last three races as he and his team continue to develop the Honda CBR1000RR-powered CRT machine which uses a British-made FTR chassis. In the unofficial CRT championship, Pirro sits tied for third and only a single point out of second.
Not only was the race in Catalunya successful, but there was more progress in the test that followed. With so little development time prior to the season, Pirro has been forced to develop the FTR-Honda on race weekends. Silverstone should provide him with the opportunity to put that work to good use.
All eyes will be on the Moto2 World Championship as it resumes after a weekend’s respite. The Moto2 race in Catalunya ended in controversy when Marc Marquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol – Suter) collided with Pol Espargaro (Pons 40 HP Tuenti – Kalex) three laps from the end. Marquez continued on to finish third behind Andrea Iannone (Speed Master – Speed Up) and Thomas Luthi (Interwetten-Paddock – Suter), while Espargaro watched his world championship lead slip away. He now sits tied with Iannone for third behind class leader Luthi and Marquez.
Márquez was given a one-minute penalty for riding in an “irresponsible manner causing danger” to Espargaro, Race Direction said, but the FIM stewards did not confirm the decision of Race Direction and cancelled the penalty. Espargaro’s Pons 40 HP Tuenti team has since appealed that decision with the FIM’s CDI (International Disciplinary Court).
With the issue unresolved, Luthi heads into Silverstone as the championship leader by two points over Marquez. Espargaro and Iannone are tied, 15 points back.
Luthi is having his most consistent season ever. Following a fifth place finish in Qatar, the rider from Switzerland has not finished off the podium, with two thirds, a second and a win in the very competitive class. That he has been able to master the wildly varying climactic conditions that have been a fixture of this year’s championship puts him in good stead for Silverstone.
Luthi has had mixed fortunes at the Northamptonshire circuit. In 2010 he finished a shadow second in one of the closest races in Moto2 history; the top four were covered by .520s. Last year he finished 15th.
Marquez has a more impressive 2012 finishing record than Luthi with two wins, a second and a third, to go along with four pole positions in a row. The lone blemish is a non-finish in France.
The 19-year-old from Cervera, Spain was on pole last year at Silverstone, but was not a factor in a race he failed to finish. The previous year he won the 125cc British Grand Prix from the pole, the second of five wins in a row.
Maverick Vinales (Blusens Avintia - FTR Honda) rebounded from a non-finish in France to win the Catalunya race from the pole, a popular home victory. Vinales now sits second in the championship, though he expects his rivals to fight back at Silverstone, a circuit which he believes favours his riding style.
His previous visit to Silverstone showed potential without results. Starting from the first pole of his young career, Vinales was running third on the 11th of 17 laps when he crashed.
Roman Fenati (Team Italia FMI – Suter Honda) is getting back on track after a two-race hiccup following a strong start to the year. The Italian teen-ager was second in his first Moto3 race, then followed it up with an impressive win in Jerez. Then came a pair of non-finishes, after which he came back with a ninth in Catalunya. Fenati sits fourth in the championship heading to Silverstone, one of many tracks he’s visiting for the first time.
Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany – FTR Honda) finished fourth in Catalunya in the middle of a raging pack fighting for the podium; second through ninth was covered by only .852s. The points he earned moved him up to third Honda in the Moto3 World Championship.
The British Grand Prix moved to Silverstone in 1977 when the Isle of Man was deemed too dangerous for World Championship competition. The track hosted the best motorcycle racers in the world from 1977 through 1986, a period that included the debut of the oval-pistoned NR500 in the hands of Freddie Spencer in the 1981 British Grand Prix. Spencer is one of three Honda riders to win the final three British GPs at Silverstone; Randy Mamola (1984), Freddie Spencer (1985), and Wayne Gardner (1986).
Following Gardner’s 1986 victory the British GP moved to Donington Park, about 105Km north of Silverstone in the British East Midlands where it was held until 2010, when it was returned to Silverstone.
The track it returned to was far different than the one last raced in 1986. The former 4710m track, built on the site of RAF Silverstone, a World War II bomber base, was a very fast circuit that linked eight memorable bends. A flying lap would run to Copse, the first turn right that led to Maggotts and Becketts and down to Chapel and the Hangar Straight. Then a pair of 90 degree rights, Stowe and Club, followed by the fast left kink Abbey leading to the Farm Straight which ended at the Woodcote Chicane complex. The finish line was so close to Woodcote that riders were at well leaned over when they took the checkered flag.
In the years between World Championship races, Formula One safety considerations reduced speeds with the installation of a number of slow corners. And for MotoGP, an
“Arena” sequence was added that furthered limited speeds.
When Wayne Gardner took the pole for the 1986 British GP, his average speed was 192.332Km/h. In 2011, the fastest average lap speed, set by Casey Stoner in practice (the race was run in the rain) was 171.697Km/h Many of the original corners have the same names, but there are now twice as many-eight lefts and ten rights. The additional corners have lengthened the track from 4.778k in 1986 to its current length of 5.900Km, though it remains one of the three fastest tracks on the calendar.
MotoGP Rider Quotes
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says:
“I'm definitely looking forward to going to Silverstone, it's a track that I really do enjoy. I wish that we still went through the old part of the track. Unfortunately we don't go through there now and the new section is very, very tight. The rest of the track is fantastic though, it's fast and makes the heart beat very quick. The Monday test in Catalunya was a positive step for us, but we're still far from perfect. We definitely made some progress with reducing the chatter, but we will have to wait until we get on track on Friday to see if what we found also works at Silverstone. Again, we'll be hoping for dry weather so we can maximise every minute of track time to prepare for Sunday's race.”
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: “I missed the Silverstone race last year due to my injury, so I'm especially excited to go back racing at this track. As I said after the test we did in Catalunya, we were working a lot on different settings on the bike, we had some improvements and I hope we can make another step forward in Silverstone. It's a fast track, with many changes of direction and we need an agile bike and a good setup for both the fast and slow corners. In Britain, the weather is always very unstable, but let's see if we are lucky this time and we can enjoy dry conditions.”
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl says:
“Silverstone will be a difficult racetrack for me. Yeah, we will see how it is, because I remember the asphalt is changing there quite a lot of times. We will see how the weather is doing. Basically, the track is not bad. Hopefully, I can adapt very fast my riding style with the MotoGP bike there.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista says:
“Catalunya was a good race for us but it was a difficult one because of where we started from on the grid. I managed to pass some of the guys in front of us and set the same pace as the podium finishers, but we lost too much ground at the start and you can't afford to do that in this championship. It was a positive grand prix, though, because we proved that if we can qualify and start better then we have the pace to run at the front. Now we take that confidence to Silverstone, especially after such a good test. My feeling with the bike has improved a lot and I am able to tackle the corners with much more conviction. This is a nice, long, fast and wide track and I really like it. Obviously, everything will depend on the weather, which tends to be cold and wet in England. Anyway, I'm hoping to have a good race on a very different bike to the one I rode here last year. I am sure I can have fun on the Honda RC213V here and enjoy another positive weekend.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda rider Michele Pirro says:
“We took a big step forward in the race in Catalunya and finished just behind the top CRT. We enjoyed a positive test after that and now we go to Silverstone feeling confident we can do well. I like the track and I hope the weather allows us to benefit from our hard work recently. We are working hard every available moment to make up ground and carry out the development we need. I scored my first podium in Moto2 at Silverstone last year and I hope that can be a good sign for us.”
Moto2 Rider Quotes
Interwetten Paddock – Suter rider Thomas Luthi says: “Silverstone is a bit strange circuit, if you can tell this like that. Actually I like it. We still don’t have so much data. It’s still quite a new track. We were two years, I think, there, already and that’s not much. But I’m looking forward to it. I hope it stays dry there in England and then I think we will have some fun again.”
Pons 40 HP Tuenti – Kalex rider Pol Espargaro says:
“I tried to pass for the interior of the corner and I think I was on a good line, but Marc (Marquez) was continuing the line on my side and he touched me and finally I made a big crash and I have the foot so big. Anyway, we have to see for the next race for Silverstone and try to be there with the best conditions.”
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol - Suter rider Marc Marquez says:
“I am very excited about starting practice for the British Grand Prix. Silverstone is a circuit that I like, with good memories from the 125cc race that I had there. It suits me, but we will have to see what the weather does. I would like it to be a dry weekend, in order to take on every session in similar conditions. We have been able to prepare better for this race. Since Montmeló I have been able to train normally, which I hadn´t been able to do since the crash at Le Mans.”
Moto3 Rider Quotes
Blusens Avintia - FTR Honda rider Maverick Vinales says:
“Logically, after the win at Montmeló we have great expectations for Silverstone, but we can’t forget how tough it is to win in this class. A home victory doesn’t mean that it will be easy to repeat the feat and I am sure that our rivals will have got fully prepared for this round. It is a track that I like, with a layout that suits my riding style. Last year I took my first World Championship pole position there. I won’t deny that I am motivated, but we have to be cautious too.”
Source: Honda Pro Image
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