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GP Week : Issue 121
Crutchlow also a ‘wait-and-see’ GROWING concerns over the cold-track performance of the one-size-fits-all control Bridgestone tyres loomed large for next weekend’s Dutch TT, in the wake of the cold-tyre crash that injured Cal Crutchlow at Silverstone. With rain forecast at Assen for the coming week, and temperatures predicted to drop to 14 degrees on race Saturday, a repeat of Silverstone is feared.At the British track the ambient temperature on race day was even colder at 11 degrees; but the Assen circuit in the far north of the Netherlands is as notorious as Silverstone for cold winds and frequent showers. In the days of open competition tyres were made for individual riders, bikes and circuits. Bridgestone’s single supply contract works differently. Tyres need to be the opposite of specialised, operating over as wide a range of styles, machines and conditions as possible. At the same time, tyre designs are finalised and the tyres made months in advance and shipped by sea to the races, with no opportunity to react to unexpected conditions. Until now riders have praised the versatility of the wet and dry Bridgestones; but when a prototype for next year was tested after Estoril a number of riders including Stoner and Pedrosa requested in vain that it be made available immediately. The difficulty is racing’s Catch 22: the tyres need to be warmed up (to more than 100 degrees C) to be used hard, but they need to be used hard in order to warm up. Conditions don’t have to be that cold for problems to arise. According to Stoner, there are instances when if you slow down for a few corners in practice to get a clear track, the tyres drop out of their optimum range. Just such an occurrence caused Rossi’s crash at Mugello last year, when he broke his leg. Crutchlow’s injurious qualifying crash was blamed on a tyre still too cold in spite of having already completed two laps. But the three race crashes at Silverstone (Lorenzo, Spies, Simoncelli) were for a different reason, according to Bridgestone’s Hirohide Hamashima, who was satisfied with the performance of the wet tyre. “The biggest challenge was the amount of standing water on the circuit. Some riders were caught out by aquaplaning,” he said. “Overall Casey Stoner in particular was able to demonstrate great performance in what were very slippery and difficult conditions.” to access a huge global audience ADVeRTISe in gPWeeK BRITISH rookie Cal Crutchlow, whose impressive debut in MotoGP was abruptly interrupted when he crashed at Silverstone, is the second rider fighting for fitness for the Assen race next weekend. Crutchlow was looking set for a second- row qualifying slot and a strong race, but crashed after only two laps of the qualifying session, landing heavily and breaking his left collar-bone in five places. But repairs had to be delayed as doctors in Oxford checked a suspected fracture in his neck, as well as concussion. Only after the all clear was he released for surgery at Derby, two days later. The shattered bone was repaired with a titanium plate, but according to Crutchlow the damage was worse than that suffered by team-mate Colin Edwards, and he was unsure whether he would be fit for Assen. Edwards’s right collarbone was broken in seven places and required 13 screws for repair, but a week after being released from hospital the 37-year-old claimed a heroic third in the wet Silverstone race. Crutchlow wrote on his Twitter page, describing a lot of pain and bad swelling after being immobilised on his back for two days, and saying “just because Colin rode a week later it doesn't mean I can.” He added: “I am not risking my health or anyone else’s to ride a circuit I already know.” HIGH SIDES n Jorge Lorenzo’s crash at Silverstone broke a remarkable run of 25 races when he hadn’t finished out of the top four. His last non-finish was in Australia 2009, when he crashed out on the first lap. But, as he wrote to his fans, “I look on the bright side. Perhaps the zero at Silverstone takes away some pressure. Now it will all be on Casey, the hare pursued by greyhounds.” n There have been so few girl GP racers that the debut of the latest Spanish prospect will turn heads at Assen. She is 25-year-old Elena Rosell, who will take the place of injured Moto2 star Julian Simon on the top-level Team Aspar bike. She rides for Aspar’s team in the national championship, lying fourth in the Stock Extreme class. Her only full-time GP predecessors have been Finn Taru Rinne in the 1980s, Japan’s Tomoko Igata in the 1990s, and German Katja Poensgen in 2001. n John Hopkins has been approached by a third MotoGP team, LCR Honda, after declining offers from Repsol Honda to replace Pedrosa and Tech 3 Yamaha to replace Edwards at Silverstone, preferring to stick with Suzuki, for whom he races in British Superbikes. The latest offer would be for selected GPs alongside Toni Elias, but the Spanish Moto2 champion’s return to the class has been so disappointing he may be axed. n Suzuki’s race team is waiting anxiously for the outcome of major management meeting in Japan before the end of June, where the company’s future racing policy is expected to be decided. The company is hard pressed, with the after-effects of the global financial crisis as well as the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami catastrophe, and had already cut factory support for World Superbikes and pulled back its MotoGP involvement to one rider in 2011. Continued grand prix participation is in the balance. Tyre fears continue as Assen weather looms 16