The Catalunya Grand Prix was affected by rain in one way or other all MotoGP weekend. First practice on Friday was cut short by eight minutes by rainfall, and the afternoon session was also hit by precipitation mid-way through losing the MotoGP riders a lot of track time.
Both the MotoGP free practice and qualifying on Saturday were run in the dry, but overnight rain left the track dirty and slippery.
Heavy rain on Saturday night left the MotoGP circuit soaked and Sunday morning warm-up was run on wet tyres and made the circuit grip level worse, and finally rainclouds threatened the race at mid-distance with drops making the last few turns greasy.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli secured his first pole but it was not to be his MotoGP race as Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner dominated from the second lap, followed by Yamaha MotoGP teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies.
Hirohide Hamashima – Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division
Q. Why did you choose different rear slick tire options for Catalunya MotoGP this year?
HH: "Catalunya is a circuit with high tyre wear and it generates very high temperature in the right shoulders, particularly in the rear tyres because of the long and fast turn three and the last three corners. Because of this, for the last two years we have brought our extra hard compound rear slicks and performance has been good, but looking at last year’s race most riders chose the softer option rear for the race even though the track temperature reached 55 degrees Celsius because Catalunya is quite low grip as we have seen this year.
"We listened carefully to the comments of the riders and analysed all the available data and it was apparent that the extra hard compound actually was not needed in terms of durability and riders favoured the grip of the hard compound. So this year we decided to go one step softer with our allocation, choosing the medium and hard compounds so offer riders a softer rear option that would provide a grip advantage and aid with warm-up performance.
"Looking at tyre performance and choices this weekend, aided of course by the lower temperature and the fact that the circuit was more slippery, I am pleased that we revised our tyre options. The medium compound was a popular choice all weekend and in the race, and although Casey won and set the fastest lap on the hard compound rear, as did Andrea in fourth, Jorge, Ben and Valentino finished second, third and fifth respectively using medium rears."
Q. Why was the grip level of the circuit lower this year and what can you say about MotoGP track condition?
HH: "I believe it is the case that in general the circuit was more slippery this weekend, and many riders felt the same too. I think its general condition of the tarmac is a little worse than last year so this is one point.
"Also, and perhaps most importantly, the rain meant that the circuit never really had the chance to properly clean during the weekend. Every time it rained, particularly so heavily on Saturday night, the circuit was made dirty again and this leads to it being much more slippery. So at the start of the race the track was already dirty but dry, and when rain drops fell during the race and the riders were on slicks of course it made it very slippery and tricky for them, leading to comments about not having enough grip. Despite the conditions, the total race time was three seconds faster than last year though."
For a review of the 2011 Catalunya MotoGP, click here.