The top 20 MotoGP stories of 2011
|Saturday, December 31st 2011, 13:07 GMT|
The 2011 MotoGP season saw the end of the unloved 800cc rules package, and runaway title success for Casey Stoner and Honda.
But the headlines were dominated by two Italians - one an established legend struggling for form, the other a potential future legend cut down in his prime - as the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli in Malaysia and Valentino Rossi's tribulations at Ducati became the stories for which 2011 will be remembered.
Such was the interest in Rossi and Simoncelli, big topics such as Jorge Lorenzo's unsuccessful title defence, Suzuki's departure from MotoGP and the threat of a rider boycott of the Japanese Grand Prix failed to make the end of year top 20 most-read MotoGP stories on AUTOSPORT.com.
20. Rossi ready to review riding position
With victory looking as far away as ever as the season progressed, Rossi was considering absolutely any change that might give him a hope of a breakthrough with the difficult Ducati GP11.
19. Sepang defends decision to cancel race
The Malaysian Grand Prix was abandoned after the accident that claimed the life of Simoncelli - a decision that the circuit felt it needed to justify as analysis of the crash continued.
18. Rossi changing riding style for Ducati
Rossi's struggles were already obvious in testing, and the seven-time MotoGP champion was soon acknowledging that with fundamental changes to the Ducati now impossible, it was up to him to try and adapt.
17. Rossi downbeat over Ducati's pace
As the second of three pre-season tests progresssed, Rossi and Ducati were outside the top 10 and nearly two seconds off the pace, leaving the Italian concerned.
16. Agostini suggests changes to tyres
Due to the unusual nature of Simoncelli's fatal accident, there were inevitably questions over whether any changes to the MotoGP package could prevent such falls. The legendary Giacomo Agostini wondered if the nature of the 2011 tyres had been a factor.
15. Ducati will not build a Yamaha 'clone'
As the year began, Ducati was confident that it would be able to produce a competitive bike for Rossi on its own terms, without having to lean too heavily on the knowledge the Italian and his crew would bring from their ultra-successful time at Yamaha.
14. Stoner threatens to leave over rules
The switch to 1000cc engines and the introduction of the lower-cost CRT rules package will change the face of MotoGP from 2012. The rulemakers believe the new era will see bigger fields and better racing, but Stoner warned that he had little interest in a 'dumbed-down' formula.
13. Malaysian GP cancelled after crash
When the Malaysian GP organisers announced that the Sepang race would have to be abandoned as medical personnel were too focused on treating Simoncelli, hopes of a miracle escape for the popular Italian began to fade.
12. Ducati unveils new MotoGP bike
Few rider moves have ever prompted as much excitement as the union of Rossi and Ducati, so there was inevitably huge interest when the MotoGP legend's 2011 challenger was unveiled in Italy in January.
11. Rossi 'wasn't trying to pass Stoner'
The most read-about collision of the 2011 MotoGP season was not any of Simoncelli's incidents, but the clash between long-time arch-rivals Stoner and Rossi at a damp Jerez early in the season. A contrite Rossi admitted he had not even been trying to overtake when he slid to the ground and took Stoner with him.
10. Stoner slams 'lack of help' after crash
What really angered Stoner in the Jerez incident was not Rossi crashing into him, but the marshals' response, with the Australian claiming their enthusiasm for helping him get his bike going again was limited to say the least.
9. Gardner feels for Edwards and Rossi
One man who could particularly empathise with Colin Edwards and Rossi after their involvement in Simoncelli's fatal crash was 1987 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner, who struck Franco Uncini in a similar incident in 1983. On that occasion there was a happier ending, as Uncini survived his severe injuries.
8. Rossi retirement talk played down
Given Rossi's close friendship with Simoncelli, his role in the accident, and his struggles this season, it was perhaps unsurprising that there were rumours that it might be the trigger for the former champion to quit the sport. But his long-time colleague Davide Brivio was quick to dismiss this suggestion.
7. 'Minute's noise' mooted for Simoncelli
Simoncelli's father Paolo had no doubt that MotoGP's tribute to his son should be noisy, spectacular and unsubtle...
6. Malaysian GP halted by crash
It was immediately clear that Simoncelli's accident was an extremely severe one, with the race instantly halted while track medics tried in vain to save his life.
5. Simoncelli crash was 'unpreventable'
MotoGP safety representative Franco Uncini reckoned there were no changes that could be made to prevent accidents such as the one that claimed Simoncelli.
4. Tributes paid to Marco Simoncelli
The motorcycle and car racing communities were united in grief after Simoncelli's death.
3. Simoncelli died of multiple injuries
In a press conference hours after the accident, MotoGP medical director Dr Claudio Macchiagodena explained that Simoncelli sustained injuries to his head, neck and chest in the horrific Sepang crash.
2. Simoncelli's father pays tribute
In the wake of Simoncelli's death, his father Paolo's poignant words to the Italian media were an incredible tribute that struck a chord with fans and competitors the world over.
1. Simoncelli dies from injuries
Simoncelli's eventful journey towards the top had lit up the 2011 MotoGP season, but his fatal crash at Sepang meant we would never get chance to see just how good he could have become. His spectacular style and engaging personality made Simoncelli massively popular among fans, meaning his death resonated across the sporting world.