Alex Hofmann: Valencia Round Up

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After the tragic Malaysian Grand Prix the mood in the Valencia paddock ahead of the last race of the 2011 MotoGP season was sombre. It was almost as though we were all pleased to see the end of the championship, and not for happy reasons, either. The crowd seemed to sense the mood, and stayed away: it was the lowest turn-out I have ever seen at a race in Spain despite the fact that Dani Petrosa could still finish third in the championship despite missing two races through injury.  

The dark and dreary weather, so untypical of this time of year on that part of the Mediterranean coast, contributed to the atmosphere, and although a late-race storm made for a thoroughly exciting race with one of the closest MotoGP finishes ever – just 0,015 seconds separated newly crowned champion Casey Stoner from Ben Spies at the finish after the former overtook the Yamaha rider in the sprint to the finish – few seemed to care about the record books.

The fate of both Ducatis also summed up the season suffered by PUMA’s partner team: both were out by the first corner, having been caught up in someone else’s accident. I have been able to piece together what happened, and it seems Alvaro Batista’s Suzuki touched Andrea Doviziosio’s Honda, forcing both them wide. The two Ducatis were on the outside minding their own business, and had nowhere to go when Alvaro went down. End of race for two red bikes.

Although the Spaniard came up to apologise to the Ducati guys afterwards, nobody was really interested in his story even though it was a racing accident. But, it just goes to show how even the tiniest incident can have big consequences, and sadly for Ducati both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden were involved.

For Vale it was particularly galling, because it seems he just cannot get out of the cycle. When things go well for you in MotoGP, they really go well – as Casey discovered this year – but when they go badly there is simply nothing you can do except wait for it to pass. Vale has done everything right this year, except possibly for the accident he had with Casey in Barcelona, yet lies seventh in the championship. Given his nine world titles that tells its own story...

Nicky, world champion in 2006, was lucky to escape injury in that first corner incident, and is another to not have had much luck this year. He went for x-rays on his right hand afterwards, but fortunately there were no fractures, so the ‘Kentucky Kid’, who finished eighth in the championship, should be fit to ride during next week’s tests at the same circuit.

The tests mark the first time that Ducati, Honda and Yamaha test their 2012 bikes at the same time, and it should be extremely interesting to see who has gotten to grips with the new regulations, which permit an engine capacity increase from 800cc to 1000cc.

The current bikes deliver around 235 horsepower and the new ones should push out 260. Experience tells us that is about the limit of what can be used – more, and you go slower. Adding further intrigue is that the privateers will be testing with their old 800cc machines, so providing direct comparisons.

I am particularly bullish about Ducati’s 2012 bike as it will without doubt be powerful, and the team is developing a new all-aluminium frame for it (or so I am told). It will be great to see the red machines back where they belong – on top!