The Welsh Grand Prix was to have taken place this weekend at the £315m Circuit of Wales, going by the name of Ebbw Vale, where it will, someday, reside in Blænau Gwent, both of which seem to need some extra letters. Unfortunately, the organizers were unable to deliver the stadium on time for this year’s calendar. The 2015 British Grand Prix will continue at Silverstone for the next two years, after a short detour through Donington Park.
Dorna would have been happy to leave Silverstone, despite a spate of expensive investments plowed into the facility. Dorna wanted to notch a new country in its corporate bedpost with a purpose-built facility in Wales that no one can pronounce and which is likely to have worse weather than Silverstone and Donington, if that’s possible. Donington would have been happy to sign on for the year it would take to finish the Welsh facility, but Dorna was not pleased with the condition of the Leicestershire track, pronounced it unfit, and appealed to Silverstone to hold the race one more time this year. Silverstone replied that they would be delighted to host the race for another two years, but that a single year just wasn’t on. Dorna, testes in a sling, agreed, putting the first of many screws to the ownership group in Blænau Gwent who will have to sit on a finished stadium for an entire year, the price of trusting Ezpeleta and his henchmen. Who do they think they are, Formula One? Even though they brought it on themselves, the Welshmen must be scratching their heads.
Recent History at Silverstone
In 2012, Jorge Lorenzo, on his way to his second premier class title, won fairly easily on one of the dry days here. He was joined on the podium by the Repsol Honda duo of Casey Stoner (+3.3 seconds) and Dani Pedrosa (+3.6). The race of the day, however, involved Nicky Hayden on the factory Ducati and his eventual successor, homeboy Cal Crutchlow, on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha. Crutchlow had had a mishap in practice that left him with a mangled left ankle. At race time, Crutchlow left his crutches behind, went out and rode the wheels off his Yamaha, going from seven seconds behind Hayden on Lap 13 to a few feet in front of him at the flag. A healthy percentage of the crowd probably went home not exactly certain who had won the race but well aware of who finished sixth.
The 2013 British Grand Prix, another dry race, was one of the best of the year. Marc Marquez, with a 26-point lead over Pedrosa after Brno, dislocated his shoulder in the morning WUP (nearly taking Alvaro Bautista’s RC213V in the teeth as he, too, slid off three seconds later) and then commenced a daylong hot pursuit of Lorenzo before finally succumbing at the flag by a microscopic 8/100ths of a second. Pedrosa, in the mix all day, crossed the line third, a second and a half behind Lorenzo. The Spanish slugfest up front left Valentino Rossi and the other factory bikes sucking wind off in the distance. On a day that appeared ripe for the field to close the gap to the leader, Marquez left Great Britain sore, but leading the championship by more (+30) than when he arrived. Perhaps the best British Grand Prix in the modern era.
Last year’s gorgeous British GP made it three dry races in a row, a strong portent of miserable conditions in store for this year. With a front row of Marquez, Andrea Dovisioso and Lorenzo, the two Spaniards again went off to fight their own private battle, Lorenzo in the early lead. Marquez took a run at him on Lap 14, but couldn’t make it stick. On Lap 18, though, after a little bumping and grinding, the young Catalan wonder went through for good on the way to his 11th win of the season. At the wire, it was Marquez, trailed by Lorenzo (7/10ths ) with the top five made up of Rossi (+8.5), Pedrosa (+8.7) and Dovizioso (+9.2). The win put Marquez 10 for 11 on the year, brimming with confidence and the additional benefit of having Mo Mentum working for him on the road to Misano, where he squandered it all, earning exactly one (1) championship point, finishing 15th after a silly low-speed moment on Lap 10.
It’s All About the Yamahas Now
The 2015 championship has boiled down to a seven round season as Bruise Brothers Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi sit tied atop the racing world after 11, with Lorenzo holding the tiebreaker. Rossi has not won since Assen and will be challenged in qualifying again this week at the longest circuit on the calendar. Though this race traditionally belongs to Lorenzo and Marquez, the fans will be watching Lorenzo and Rossi, who continues to attract fans in greater numbers and tenacity than any other combatant on the grid. The Italian marketing machine is going to have his hands full with his Mallorcan teammate, with two long fast tracks up soon on the calendar, sandwiching Misano. LorenzoLand, like The Diaspora, can be found in many locales around the world, including Silverstone and Aragon.
From here, it looks likely that Lorenzo will want to jump out in front on Saturday, as per usual, leaving Marquez to tangle with Rossi. Rossi really must qualify on the front row to have a chance of “pulling an Assen” here; a third row start and this one is over. Chalk Silverstone up as another race that will be won on Saturday. Rossi found a way to win last year at San Marino, a track much better suited to his riding style. But it won’t suffice for Rossi to simply win at the tracks where he’s expected to win, as Lorenzo can count at least four remainders as definitely Yamaha-friendly; Rossi is going to need a couple of upsets. Starting at Silverstone, as the old joke goes, couldn’t hoit. Adding a wildcard as fast and unpredictable as Marquez will make no one’s life easier, likely affecting Rossi more than Lorenzo. If Marquez can manage to win a few of these last rounds, he will reduce Lorenzo and Rossi to fighting for second and third, a single point at stake. Could get interesting on Sundays.
Your Weekend Weather Forecast
Old Reliable is calling for temps in the high 60’s – low 70’s, with plenty of trouble available for riders on out laps on a cold track with cold tires. Virtually guaranteed that at least one MotoGP rider will eat it on an out lap, in addition to numerous others in Moto2 and Moto3. Forward Racing either will be there or they won’t.
Silly season rumors are heating up – Scott Redding to Ducati, Sam Lowes and Danny Kent moving up to give the British a bigger, if not necessarily better, group of challengers to the Spaniards currently dominating the class. Bradley Smith will return home with a Tech 3 contract extension while Crutchlow will probably have to stay with LCR.
Beyond the Brits, Tito Rabat is being linked with the Marc VDS team on its way to being abandoned by Redding. Yonny Hernandez appears to be out of work in MotoGP next year. Johann Zarco is going to need a place to land in the premier class, although sticking in Moto2 wouldn’t be the end of the world for him.
The big bikes go off at 8:00 EDT. We’ll have results and analysis on Sunday evening.