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GP Week : Issue 117
15 Lorenzo crash highlights engine risk Moto GP news >> DEFENDING World Champion Jorge Lorenzo became the fourth rider this year to have to break out his third (of six) engines, after destroying one of his active pair in a morning warm-up crash. The Yamaha’s throttle jammed open with the bike on its side, and it quickly destroyed itself. Under sealed-engine regulations, even if it were repairable, it may not be repaired. The other three riders who have already gone halfway into their engine allocation after only four of 18 scheduled races are Nick Hayden, whose Marlboro Ducati blew up an engine in round three at Estoril; and satellite Honda team riders Hiro Aoyama and Toni Elias. In Elias’s case, accident damage was blamed. “It’s not as bad as it looks. Most of us would be bringing in the third engine at this race or the next one as a matter of routine,” said a factory team engineer. This year compares well with last year, when after four rounds six riders were already into engine number three, including not only both Suzuki riders, but also eventual champion Lorenzo. All made it to the end of the season without requiring extra engines, even the Suzuki riders, after their allocation was later increased to nine on a sympathy vote. Dovizioso passed over in special test RACE director Paul Butler has defended the decision to punish Marco Simoncelli’s “irresponsible” overtaking move at Le Mans against accusations of unfairness and outside influence. Speaking after a week in which Italian journalists accused decision-makers of a Dorna-inspired pro-Spanish bias, Butler was unrepentant, and stood by the race direction committee’s instant decision. Race direction comprises Butler, Safety Officer Franco Uncini, FIM representative Claude Danis and Dorna executive Javier Alonso. “On this occasion Mike Webb [who takes over as race director after Butler’s retirement at the end of this year] was with us for a sort of tutorial, and he was also in accord,” said Butler. Neither the criticism of Simoncelli before the race, orchestrated by Lorenzo, nor Simoncelli’s previous brushes with officialdom as a 250 rider had any bearing on the decision, said Butler. “ We start with a clean sheet every year, and we all try to be even-handed,” he said. “ The preceding criticism [of Simoncelli] was all a matter of opinion. We can’t be unaware of that, but we try to judge every situation as it happens on the track.” The crucial element was that although Simoncelli was ahead into the corner, Pedrosa was almost alongside, “and clearly visible to Simoncelli. It was in his power to give him room. We judged unanimously that he had over-aggressively shut the door. After we’d chewed it over for a few minutes, we all agreed he was marginally over the line”. Butler stopped short of describing the move as dangerous, preferring “irresponsible”. The ride-through penalty is the second on the list of possible punishments after a fine: a worse transgression could entail disqualification or suspension. Asked why a similarly aggressive move by Lorenzo on Dovizioso at Le Mans had escaped censure, he said it was because of the different outcome: “ That was aggressive and I think there was contact, but Dovi chose to give Lorenzo room. If Lorenzo had caused him to fall off, then the physics that caused it would have been different, and it would be judged accordingly.” Criticised by Lorenzo for describing MotoGP as “a contact sport” in an earlier interview, Butler enlarged on the point: “Contact is pretty much unavoidable in racing, when riders are competing for the same piece of road. They have to respect one another. Sometimes it becomes a matter of judgement as to whether riding was irresponsible or dangerous – and it is our job to make that judgement,” he said. Race Director defends Simoncelli penalty “Not biased, not personal” – Paul Butler