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MotoGP: Catalunya Grand Prix Storylines

The 2013 MotoGP World Championship continues June 14-16 with the Grand Prix of Catalunya, with action in all three classes – MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.

The 18-round World Championship includes the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here’s a look at four storylines after the first day of the Grand Prix of Catalunya:

Now or Never for Rossi?: Crunch time has arrived for seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, and it’s only the sixth race of the 2013 season.

Rossi made a heralded return this year to Yamaha Factory Racing, which which he won four world titles from 2004-10, after two fruitless seasons with Ducati. But Rossi has just one podium finish so far this season, second in the season opener at Qatar. He is sixth in the standings, 56 points behind leader Dani Pedrosa and 44 behind teammate and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo.

This season plunged to new depths for Rossi on June 2 at the Italian Grand Prix. He tumbled into the fence in a hard crash on the first lap and didn’t finish. Rossi admitted after that crash that his 34-year-old body ached much more than after similar crashes earlier in his career.

But Rossi responded in fast fashion Friday during the first day of practice at Barcelona, posting the top overall lap. He was .049 of a second quicker than Lorenzo and will try to earning a front-row starting spot for the first time this season in qualifying Saturday.

Watch For Cal: Cal Crutchlow continued his superb season on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha, ending up fourth overall in practice Friday, just .195 of a second slower than leader Valentino Rossi.

But there’s an important distinction to be made between Crutchlow and Rossi’s laps Friday. Rossi used the softer Bridgestone rear tire – which provides more grip at the expense of durability – on his top lap, while Crutchlow used the hard rear tire.

So there’s a very good chance Crutchlow could earn his third consecutive podium finish this season Sunday, as his top lap proved his machine will have speed and the staying power of a more durable rear tire.

Spanish Civil War: The Grand Prix of Catalunya will put motorcycle racing’s regional civil war on center stage this weekend.

Catalunya, located in the northeast of Spain on the French border, is Spain’s wealthiest and most industrialized region. Its regional capital is Barcelona, which has an intense rivalry in all things with Madrid, the capital and largest city in Spain.

Catalans speak their own distinct dialect of Spanish. The region has its own parliament and executive.

Regional pride was one of the components of the fierce rivalry between Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo in 125cc, 250cc and the early stages of their respective MotoGP careers. Pedrosa hails from the Barcelona area; Lorenzo grew up on the island of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands off the central eastern coast of Spain.

Rookie Marc Marquez is the latest member of the two-wheeled Catalan corps, as he grew up in Cervera, located in the heart of Catalunya.

So if Pedrosa or Marquez win this weekend at Barcelona, expect them to carry the gold-and-red striped flag of Catalunya on their victory lap instead of the similar flag of Spain.

Storm Clouds for Ducati: Ducati continues to creep closer to competitiveness with its GP13 bike this season, the manufacturer’s first full year under the ownership of German auto giant Audi.

Factory team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden are fifth and seventh, respectively, in the World Championship standings. Both have finished in the top 10 in all five races this season, which is a step ahead of Ducati’s nightmares known as the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

But trouble may be looming for Italian icon Ducati.

Dovizioso and Hayden both were not impressed with the team’s “lab bike” – a further development of the GP13 – during testing last week in Italy. The bike continues to suffer from chronic understeer, which has plagued Ducati’s MotoGP machines for the last few seasons.

Both Ducati factory riders reportedly are urging the team’s technical staff to try a radical revision of the GP13 since the “lab” bike offers little to no improvement over their current race bike.

RACE DETAILS:

Race:             Grand Prix of Catalunya

Date:            Sunday, June 16

Round:        Sixth of 18 races in 2013

Circuit:         Circuit de Catalunya, Montmelo, Spain

Distance:         25 laps on 13-turn, 2.937-mile circuit

2012 Winner:        Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha

U.S. Riders:    Nicky Hayden, Owensboro, Ky., Ducati Team; Colin Edwards, Houston, NGM Mobile Forward Racing.

TV:     MotoGP: 7:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday, June 16, SPEED. Moto2: 5 p.m. (ET), Sunday, June 16, SPEED. Moto3: Noon (ET) Tuesday, June 18, SPEED.

Web:            www.motogp.com

Twitter:        @MotoGP


***


2013 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2013 Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP event. Visit www.ims.com/tickets, call (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700 or visit the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

Information on camping at IMS during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP is available at www.ims.com/tickets. Hotel package information can be found at visitindy.com/redbullhotels.
 

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