Misano Preview: 250cc & 125cc
The 250cc battle this weekend will be another crucial episode in the title race, with current standings leader Hiroshi Aoyama and second placed Álvaro Bautista coming under increasing pressure from World Champion Marco Simoncelli.
The ultra-consistent Aoyama has a 16 point advantage over Bautista in the general classification with five rounds remaining, having scored good points at every GP this season – missing the top five on just two occasions. The Japanese rider got his sixth podium of 2009 on Sunday at Indianapolis, in second place, and has also featured on the rostrum at Misano previously, when he was the runner-up in the 2007 250cc race.
Had Bautista not crashed out in Assen earlier this year he would be in charge of the championship fight at present, but he conceded further ground at Indianapolis in third place. The Spaniard has now gone five races without a victory and he would love to halt that trend this weekend by repeating his 2008 Misano win, which he achieved from 11th place on the grid.
The man of the moment following his Brno and Indy triumphs, 250cc title holder Simoncelli will be the man to beat on the Rimini coast. The long-haired Italian now trails Aoyama by 27 points and will be extremely keen to improve his record at Misano – which is less than 5km from his home town of Cattolica – having never been on the podium there.
In fourth place in the standings, Héctor Barberá’s two consecutive third places at the San Marino event in ’07 & ’08 mean he will be confident of improving his current form this weekend, having been outside of the top five at the last three rounds.
In addition to Simoncelli, there are three additional Italian riders in the current top eight, fifth placed Mattia Pasini (the 2007 125cc Misano race winner), sixth placed Raffaele de Rosa and eighth placed Roberto Locatelli, which should make this Sunday’s 250cc race an extra spicy affair.
None of the riders currently competing in the 125cc class have previously won a Grand Prix at the Misano circuit, but on the basis of their 2009 form so far Julián Simón, Nico Terol and Bradley Smith are likely to have a say in proceedings.
A dramatic last lap at Indianapolis saw five riders competing for glory, with a maiden Grand Prix victory ultimately seized by Spanish youngster Pol Espargaró and with Simón ending up at the back of that quintet. The result will not overly trouble Simón, however, as he still enjoys a 52.5 point advantage at the head of the standings.
Simón has of course been racing in the 250cc class for the past two years, and his Misano results were tenth in 2007 for Honda and fifth last year on a KTM.
Like Simón, Terol also lost out in the final stages at The Brickyard, crossing the line fourth after leading for much of the race. That result kept him second in the classification, with a one point lead over Englishman Smith.
Bancaja Aspar rider Smith finished second last year at Misano which equaled his best result of 2008 and was also the position in which he finished the race at Indianapolis on Sunday, a tenth of a second behind the victorious Espargaró.
In fourth place overall is Simón and Smith’s team-mate Sergio Gadea, who was a disappointing 15th at Indy, whilst in fifth place in the points table sits the frustratingly inconsistent Andrea Iannone who crashed out in the States having been on the podium two weeks earlier at Brno. The Italian will hope to be on his best form as he visits Rimini from his native Abruzzo.
Indianapolis victor Espargaró now occupies sixth place in the championship and is set to make his 50th Grand Prix start on Sunday.
Free practice at the Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini commences at 12.40pm local time for the 125cc class, with the MotoGP riders starting at 1.55pm and the 250cc field getting underway at 3.10pm on Friday 4th September.