Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya: Preview
After battling the elements in an incident-strewn Le Mans, the MotoGP™ paddock once again returns to action this weekend at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya, where current championship leader Jorge Lorenzo will aim to defend his eight point lead over rival Casey Stoner in front of his home crowd.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo, who has so far been the only Yamaha rider on the podium in the first four races, will take confidence from his dominant display in France, and will no doubt be buoyed by local support at the Montmeló circuit on the outskirts of Barcelona. Repsol Honda Team’s reigning world champion Stoner will however be looking to improve on his third place last time out at circuit where has tasted success on a few occasions. The Australian has had two victories at the Circuit de Catalunya in his premier-class career compared to Lorenzo’s one.
The two front runners are likely to face a tough challenge from Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa, who will see his home race as the ideal place to kick-start his championship challenge. Pedrosa won previously in 2008, yet missed last year’s race with a broken collarbone, obtained in a crash with Marco Simoncelli at the preceding round.
The battle for fourth has now turned into a three-horse race, with Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi closely on the heels of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso. After crashes at Le Mans, both Crutchlow and Dovizioso will be hoping for better fortunes at the Catalan circuit, as they look to continue their pursuit of the three aliens and fight it out for number one Tech 3 rider. Rossi, who recorded his best-ever Ducati position with a stunning ride in the wet in Le Mans, will aim to continue this momentum at a track where he has won a record nine times in his career. Yet despite private tests in Mugello last week and his podium, Rossi maintains that the team’s dry form is not yet as good as in the wet, meaning the Italian will no doubt be hoping for a few showers this coming weekend.
His teammate Nicky Hayden will be looking for a similar resurgence at Catalunya, as he will try to leapfrog LCR Honda MotoGP’s rookie Stefan Bradl and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who are both two points ahead with 35 each. Whilst Bautista did not fare well in the wet, Bradl recorded his career-best premier-class result in fifth, and will undoubtedly look to give his German fans something else to cheers about in Spain. Lorenzo’s Yamaha teammate Ben Spies, who has been somewhat off-colour all season, will return to the circuit aiming to rebuild some confidence and get his season on-track.
Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá has been consistent so far this season and will aim for another solid ride in front of his home fans, while Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, who lies last in the championship, will look to finish a race for only the second time this season.
The CRT field welcomes back NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, who broke his left collarbone in Estoril three weeks ago, while Paul Bird Motorsports’ James Ellison will once again look to finish as top CTR bike. Ellison’s 11th place finish at Le Mans was the highest CRT finish since the teams’ introduction this year. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró will however be looking to extend his lead at the top of the CRT standings with the help of some home support, while his teammate Randy de Puniet will aim to forget his less than ideal outing in Le Mans where he crashed twice. Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Michele Pirro and Avintia Blusens pair, Yonny Hernández and Iván Silva, complete the Catalunya line-up.
With only three points separating the top three Moto2™ riders, the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya promises to be yet another nail-bighting affair in the quest for intermediate-class supremacy.
With 71 points so far, Pons 40 HP Tuenti rider Pol Espargaró currently leads the championship by one point over Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s championship favourite Marc Márquez, who has now recovered from a thumb injury sustained in his crash in Le Mans. Espargaró has been on the podium twice at the Catalan circuit in the 125cc class, while Márquez took a win on a 125cc bike and was runner up in Moto2 last year. Trying to upset the Spanish one-two on their home ground will be Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi, no doubt brimming with confidence off the back of his dominant wet-weather performance in France, where he took his first victory of the season.
Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone will aim to edge closer to the top three after putting in a solid performance last time out. The Italian, who is renowned for being stronger on race day than in qualifying, will take heart from the fact that he qualified in pole position at the Catalan circuit in the 2010 Moto2 season. Closely on his heels, Marc VDS Racing’s Scott Redding, who recorded his first podium in 22 races at Le Mans, will undoubtedly be looking for a repeat this weekend, though his teammate Mika Kallio will also be pushing to get back towards the front once again.
Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti, who managed his first podium ever at Le Mans, is in a buoyant mood and looking to continue his momentum, while JiR Moto2’s charging rookie Johann Zarco will look to make amends for his crash at his home round. Having grabbed the headlines for reasons other than racing, Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón will not only hope to put memories of his bad crash at Catalunya last year out of his mind, but also that he won’t have to push his bike across the line to finish.
There will be one change to the usual Moto2 line-up, as Catalan rider Jordi Torres replaces the injured Xavier Siméon in the Tech 3 Racing team.
Following an eventful race in the wet at Le Mans, the Moto3™ grid lines up at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya this weekend, where Red Bull KTM Ajo’s German championship leader Sandro Cortese will look to increase his points tally over title-rival Maverick Viñales. Cortese managed to salvage some points after a crash in France, meaning that he has now taken points from 20 of the last 21 races, making him one of the most consistent riders in the pack.
Blusens Avintia’s Viñales will be looking to bounce back after his crash last time out and get one over the German in front of his home crowd, as well as reduce his 12 point deficit to the top. Viñales was leading the race last year, yet was beaten by current 125cc World Champion Nico Terol in the end. Third in the table, RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom will no doubt hope to reverse his fortunes at the Catalan track, as he has not finished a race here in the last three years. Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati, who made the headlines in the first two races in the season, after which he has suffered two DNFs, will be one to watch, as he looks to rediscover his earlier form.
Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins, who underwent surgery last week on his little finger, is fit to race and defend his fifth place in the table, yet will undoubtedly face tough competition from Bankia Aspar compatriot Alberto Moncayo, who had a good race in Le Mans. Many eyes will also turn to Racing Team Germany’s French rider Louis Rossi, who recorded his first ever win in France in front of his home crowd.
Other top contenders this weekend are likely to include Rins’ teammate Miguel Oliveira, San Carlo Gresini Moto3’s Niccolo Antonelli, AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin, as well as Cortese’s teammates Arthurs Sissis and Danny Kent.
The class will see two wildcard entries joining the race in the form of Alex Márquez for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 team and British rider John McPhee of the KRP Racing Step Foundation.
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