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GP Week : Issue 100
New track gets thumbs-up all round THE first major international race at the new Motorland Aragon circuit, opened in January, was added to the calendar only as a substitute for the cancelled Hungarian round -- but in spite of being a fourth race in Spain, the layout of the track won friends among all the riders. "It's fun. There are fast sections and different corners, and a lot of up and down," said Jorge Lorenzo. Nicky Hayden agreed: "There are hills and brows and some blind corners. It's always interesting to come somewhere new, but this is something really different." Rossi said: "It's a typical Tilke track, similar to others, but more like Sepang than Turkey." Like those two tracks, and many others, it was designed by Herman Tilke. Only Stoner was less enthusiastic: "It's been built for cars. There are not really any fast sections, and a lot of braking on the side of the tyre. The only really good corner is the last one ... it's open and wide, and there could be some overtaking chances there. "I don't hate it, but it's not one of my favourite tracks. At Phillip Island, Mugello and Brno there are corners where you can really hang it out. Here there are more slow corners, and you are almost always braking on the edge of the tyre going in." The lap of 5.078 km is long, and track facts give the length of the straight as a slightly implausible 1.7 km. But there are significant changes of elevations, and a nod towards Laguna Seca's Corkscrew. It is part of a complex including also go-kart, motocross and Supermotard circuits, as well as a technology centre attached to the university of Zaragoza. It was built with public funds at a cost of 87-million Euros. The race proved Stoner right, in that overtaking proved difficult. Most of the few moves up front came either at that fast corner or with barging matches at one of the two slow left-right combinations. The biggest criticism was access. Just outside the small Aragon town of Alcaniz, it is literally miles from anywhere, and there is a severe shortage of accommodation. A large proportion of the 70,000-plus fans camped at the track; while some teams and support staff had to travel more than an hour each way to get there each day. Aragon is on next year's calendar as well, and remains as a substitute circuit for the future. RIDERS and teams welcomed the experimental return to four practice sessions for this race so warmly that the practice will be revived for the last two rounds of the year -- the Portuguese and Valencia GPs. Four sessions had been the norm for years, and when practice time was slashed as part of the sport-wide financial cut-backs at the start of 2008, the system was retained, but with sessions cut from one hour to 45 minutes. Teams and riders complained that sessions were too short, so after a few rounds the three-session one-hour system was brought in. After a year of this, the same riders and teams requested that the old system be re- introduced, and it was done so just for this one race. It paid dividends immediately, when rain struck on Friday afternoon: "We've already had one dry session, and now a wet session," said Lorenzo's team boss Wilco Zeelenberg. Dani Pedrosa was the only top rider who said: "Actually I liked three sessions." The rest welcomed the return, but again said that 45 minutes was too short. "We need to go to a full hour for qualifying at least," said Stoner. The other experiment, changing practice running order so that Moto2 preceded MotoGP, as on race day, was meant to allow the big class to practice and qualify with the track in the same condition as for the race -- freshly rubbered and possibly slightly oiled by 40 Moto2 four-strokes. It found no favour with the top three in the race. "The 125 class has always started the day. They are the young guys starting out in racing ... they should be the ones who get up first," said Stoner. None thought it had been significant in changing track conditions. Four practice sessions restored for Estoril, Valencia Experiment at Aragon a popular success 19 Moto GP news >>