Of the 51 races that took place in 2011, just over half of them were won by a single nation. This same nation also plays host to nearly a quarter of the entire season. Grand Prix motorcycle racing is firmly in a Spanish stranglehold. Two of the three classes are currently led by Spaniards too and with Barcelona set to host the second of four home races, can they complete a clean sweep this weekend?
|Riders Championship (4/18)|
|13||R de Puniet||6|
If this year's MotoGP season is anything to go by, they have a very reasonable chance of success in the premier class. The race for the title is already shaping up to be a three-way tussle between Casey Stoner, Mallorca's Jorge Lorenzo and Barcelona's own Dani Pedrosa. With the exception of Valentino Rossi's sensational ride at Le Mans, the trio have had the podium all to themselves and one would expect the winner to come from that select group. Stoner will be out for an away win after losing the championship lead to Lorenzo in France while his competitors will be out for revenge after the World Champion won on their first home outing at Jerez.
The Circuit de Catalunya is one of the calendar's ultimate tests for man and machine while the numerous high-speed right-handers will tyres under heavy strain. Past results don't seem to indicate suitability toward the Yamaha or the Honda with both manufacturers sharing the last four victories so a close race looks likely.
Tight racing comes with the ticket when you attend a Moto2 race and the thousands that will pour through the gates on Sunday morning will be expecting victory from one of their own. Thomas Luthi's victory at Le Mans has launched him into championship contention but the standings are led by two Spaniards, Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez.
Marquez began the season as the overwhelming favourite but the teenager is still prone to the odd crash, as proven in France and Espargaro will arrive in Barcelona a point ahead. Both have home advantage but with Marquez racing at a venue situated just an hour's drive from his home town, he must surely be the man most of the spectators will be pinning their hopes on this Sunday.
In Moto3, the pressure will be on Maverick Vinales to kick off the day's proceedings for the capacity crowd. The Avintia Blusens rider made history by winning the first ever race in the new class in Qatar but his title challenge has faltered since, not helped by crashing from the lead last time out. For inspiration, the 17 year old need look no further than Louis Rossi though, who sent the French fans into ecstasy by winning at Le Mans.
Sandro Cortese will be the man seeking to spoil the party after extending his championship lead to 12 points following Vinales' slip-up. Mallorca's Luis Salom is yet to taste victory in Grand Prix racing but his consistency has moved him to within 16 points of the summit. Now would certainly be the perfect time for him to break his duck.
From a British point of view, Cal Crutchlow's wait for a podium finish goes on after his crash two weeks ago but once again, the Tech 3 Yamaha showed its potential to compete at the front and Crutchlow will feel optimistic of spraying some champagne on Sunday, if he can get the better of teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Meanwhile, James Ellison had his best race of the year at Le Mans where he ended up the top CRT rider and Paul Bird Motorsport will hope to carry on the momentum.
Scott Redding was another rider to excel in the French rain, scoring his first Moto2 podium since 2010, and the next target for the teenager is to fight for victory. Bradley Smith could've done that in France but for an off-track excursion but after a productive test earlier this week, the Tech 3 rider is confident of an improved showing in the dry. Smith will have a new teammate this weekend as Jordi Torres stands in for the injured Xavier Simeon.
Gino Rea raced with a Suter chassis for the first time at Le Mans and looked completely at home, especially in wet conditions. The Gresini rider was firmly in the leading group before being taken out by Johann Zarco and will be looking to translate potential into points this time.
Three British youngsters will be involved in Moto3 with Danny Kent and Danny Webb joined by Scotland's John McPhee who returns as a wildcard. The Oban teenager has impressed in the Spanish Championship and if he can continue that form, he may spring a surprise. Kent's season has yet to spark into life despite flashes of promise while Webb will simply be praying that his Mahindra runs reliably for a full weekend.
Free practice gets underway tomorrow morning with the opening Moto3 session at 8:15am UK time. The Checkered Flag will have extensive coverage throughout the weekend.
Catalunya Former Winners:
|2011||Casey Stoner||Stefan Bradl||Nicolas Terol|
|2010||Jorge Lorenzo||Yuki Takahashi||Marc Marquez|
|2009||Valentino Rossi||Alvaro Bautista||Andrea Iannone|
|2008||Dani Pedrosa||Marco Simoncelli||Mike Di Meglio|
|2007||Casey Stoner||Jorge Lorenzo||Tomoyoshi Koyama|
|2006||Valentino Rossi||Andrea Dovizioso||Alvaro Bautista|
|2005||Valentino Rossi||Dani Pedrosa||Mattia Pasini|
|2004||Valentino Rossi||Randy de Puniet||Hector Barbera|
|2003||Loris Capirossi||Randy de Puniet||Dani Pedrosa|
|2002||Valentino Rossi||Marco Melandri||Manuel Poggiali|
|*No Moto3 races have been held at Catalunya|