2011 MotoGP Preview: Catalunya

catalunya_gpThe MotoGP riders will return to action this weekend after a two-week break for the fifth round of the 2011 MotoGP season at Catalunya. Jorge Lorenzo will be looking to extend his lead in front of his home crowd, while Casey Stoner will try for his second consecutive victory.

The big story in the MotoGP, however, is Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa will not be racing at Catalunya, his home circuit, because of the injury he suffered during the French GP. Pedrosa has been a constant fixture on the podium this season, but he fractured his collarbone after a crash involving Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans. Pedrosa dropped down to third place after scoring no points in France, and could be passed up again this weekend if Valentino Rossi can find the podium once more.

Rossi scored his first podium of the season at Le Mans and his record at Catalunya shows that he’s clearly capable of repeating the feat this weekend. Rossi has 9 wins across all categories at Catalunya, and another four podiums. Rossi’s worst finish at Catalunya in the premier class was third, but the Doctor did not compete at Catalunya in 2010 due to a broken leg.

“I’m really happy to return to the track, since I had to watch the race from my house last year,” Rossi said. “I’ve always been quite strong at the track, so I have many nice memories, the most recent of which is the 2009 win after a great battle with Lorenzo. We’re very motivated and we’re working really hard on the bike; step-by-step, we can see that we’re making progress. We know there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we need to keep trying to get closer to the front.”

Lorenzo, who took the win at Catalunya in 2010, currently leads the series in points. Lorenzo has 12 points over Casey Stoner. The 2010 champ will be eager to return to the podium this weekend after missing the rostrom for the first time this season at Le Mans.

Andrea Dovizioso will also be a prime contender this weekend. Dovizioso took his first podium at the last race in Le Mans, and is more than capable of doing the same in Barcelona.

Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden will also be vying for the top spots this weekend. Hayden took a podium at Catalunya during his championship season, and looks like he is finally getting a handle on the Ducati machine. Spies has had a disappointing sophomore season so far, but the American is determined to turn things around.

The MotoGP riders should also look out for Marco Simoncelli. After the controversy involving the crash with Dani Pedrosa, a number of riders have spoken out and called Simoncelli “reckless.” If the young Italian can put a win on the board, he might be able to change the conversation.

Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com

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