From: Mark N on 13 Sep 2009 13:39
With the last trifecta of the year behind us (the AMA, WSB and GP all
racing last weekend), DMG's first year at the helm over, GP and WSB in
the home stretch now, it's worth backing up a step and looking at the
big picture, not so much the racing itself but everything else that
surrounds it. So, with no further ado...
Silly season - The big news lately, and in the end it was less settled
and more just suspended, until this time next year. Right now The Big
Four all seem to be unhappy, but all are returning to their present
situations. The whole thing revolved around two issues, Lorenzo's second
fiddle status at Fiat and Stoner's health questions. Those two things
resulted in Marlboro's stratospheric offer to Jorge, which in turn
resulted in Yamaha sweetening the machinery pot for Jorge and Stoner
deciding maybe it was his turn to move on as well, understandably taking
it very personally. Then Marlboro made a run at Pedrosa, who was
apparently irritated by Honda's greater interest in bringing in Jorge
and lesser interest in keeping Dani's Svengali around, plus frustration
with HRC and their inability to provide him with a machine that he can
win on more than twice a year.
In the end Lorenzo and Pedrosa signed one-year deals, which have their
contracts expiring just as Rossi's and Stoner's do. Rossi joins Stoner
in the irritated camp, not happy that Yamaha agreed to give Lorenzo
everything His Doctorness gets, and recall that the story which
circulated back in 2003 was that this sort of decision by Honda started
the ball rolling on Rossi's jump to Yamaha. In any case, the fate of
these four riders will hang over MotoGP and cast its shadow until the
chips start to fall on their 2011 contracts sometime next summer, a
perpetual silly season. And it seems they all are developing monster
egos and a sense of entitlement, which would be the expectation, given
the way that GP today is built around and for these guys, who all
arrived as teenagers and became stars shortly thereafter.
The lesser stories were the recent decisions by Honda to finally sign
Dovizioso (one year, with a Honda option after that, and not the two
originally announced by Honda) and Ducati finally exercising their 2010
option on Hayden, with the Marlboro dramatics ending in failure for
them. The Dovizioso deal makes sense, given the uncertainty of 2011 and
perhaps his failure to not quite deliver at the expected level (only one
podium, not quite at the Big Four's pace and sometimes worse, losing to
Elias and de Angelis shortly before signing). Hayden had to wait out the
Marlboro dramatics while he slowly made progress on the problematic
Ducati, and in the end was the best of what was left it seems. That
whole process left unanswered some interesting questions - who really
makes these decisions, Marlboro or Ducati, and what do both parties
really think about their machine and who can ride it? The recent Suppo
interview from Indy at Soup suggests Ducati is still in denial about
their bike, still blaming riders (his claim that Melandri was doing
better on the Ducati than he is on the Kawi was completely lame), but
who knows if that's really how they feel behind closed doors. It's also
not clear how they feel about Stoner, but one might assume it's a bit
different than Marlboro, who seem to have almost dismissed him. Of
course it's no shock that they would quickly move on from their current
Australian/American riders and go chasing Italians and Spaniards - I see
coming a VERY serious run at Rossi next year...
The last piece of any magnitude remains the fate of Ben Spies, and it
seems his deal has him moving over to Tech 3 if he wins the WSB
championship this year, and in 2011 if he doesn't. Which perhaps leaves
guys like Toseland and Vermeulen in a bind on potential WSB contracts -
unless the contract is with Yamaha Italia, that is, in which case Spies
will decide their fate. Edwards appears safe at T3, but who will get
that coveted 2nd seat if it waits on Spies' championship fate? And then
there is all the riff-raff at the remaining satellite teams, of little
consequence, Pramac and Scot/LCR sorting through the Eliases, de
Puniets, Kallios, de Angelises, Aoyamas, Talmacsis.
March of the Midgets - My final silly season comment is on Suzuki, who
will have two EuroMed 125/250-bred midgets on their machines next year,
a stunning reversal for the one factory team who have historically
followed a different drummer in GP. Really reflective of the overall
trend in 800 MotoGP, which has been overwhelmingly slanted toward the
little guys from 125/250 and which is running out the very few SB world
guys left, replacing them with 125-pound 250 disappointments like
Barbera and Bautista.
The Big Four are a reflection of this trends as well, with Rossi the
GOAT being seriously challenged in 800 MotoGP by three guys who are all
22-23 years old, all weigh under 130 pounds (the absurd MotoGP.com claim
that Lorenzo now weighs 143 pounds, a 22-pound weight gain in one year,
notwithstanding), and have been in the premier class for less than four
years. Lorenzo makes the most compelling case, at age 22, riding a
somewhat lesser version of the same bike as Rossi to this point, only
one previous MotoGP season under his belt, first year on Bridgestone
tires, and yet he's making a greater challenge to Rossi than anyone ever
has in the Doctor's multiple championship seasons, more than anyone ever
has when Rossi hasn't been down on bike or tires or luck and wasn't a
So why is that? A combination of the riding approach mandated by the
bikes and tires, the electronic rider aids, and package weight
differences. Perhaps even less than I believe Rossi is head and
shoulders above anyone else in his era, I don't believe Lorenzo is at
his level or higher, and I also don't believe Rossi has lost anything
yet. So really he's a victim of the machinery that in part created him,
the overwhelming desire of the financial powers in GP to have
internally-grown heroes primarily from Spain and Italy. Ironic. And one
wonders what the prospects of relative giants Simoncelli and Spies
really are in MotoGP.
GP1/GP2 - An interesting process has been moving forward regarding the
future of GP machinery and the nature of the racing. First came the
initial GP2 concept, driven by the desire to move away from two strokes
but with cost as a limiting factor, and likely by the Japanese - racing
chassis housing modified middleweight production motors, which fell away
under threat of the Flammini's lawyers. Then the notion of
non-production motors built to a specific spec, and finally a spec
motor. The initial opposition and skepticism has given way to a growing
enthusiasm, while the notion of a GP1 class has been floated as well, an
answer to the shrinking grids and/or astronomical costs in MotoGP. But
the opposition to running 1000cc production-motored bike as grid filler
has resulted in the factories conceding the need to produce lease motors
and some relatively reasonable cost. If one steps back and looks at this
process in its entirety, it seems GP is dealing with one of its biggest
issues in what looks like a manner that should be applauded, even though
it's an evolutionary development process with a still-undetermined
conclusion. But they are heading in the right direction, it seems,
although problems remain...
The 2007 Nightmare: of tires and 800s - Spec tires were supposed to be
this year's solution, but have they done what was promised? Not really,
the racing really isn't any closer than it has been, at least in some
respects. For instance, in 2006 the average margin from first to fifth
in the races was 13.16 seconds, and so far this year it's at 22.77
seconds. Racing at the very front is somewhat better than it's been, but
that's likely as much because the factory team bikes are closer than
they have ever been in the 800 era, but the gap grows once you get
beyond the Big Four. And the best racing has been between Rossi and
Lorenzo on the same machine; there really hasn't been markedly improved
fighting between differing machines at the front. So the fundamental
problems with 800s remain, I think, and that was clearly displayed at
Misano, where the MotoGP race was a sleeper after two wild support class
"The best racing"? - The spec tire myth has undergone a challenge in its
WSB birthplace this year, with relative dominance by Spies and the
factory Ducatis. Spies reinforces the notion that WSB has had a lot of
very good racers but really no great ones, which likely speaks to the
close racing as much as the spec tires. And it reinforces the notion
that the best SB racer in the world in this decade wasn't ever in WSB.
Well, other than a couple wildcard appearances. In any case, Spies will
be gone by 2011, likely Haga as well, and also Biaggi, Corser, Checa,
Kagayama and others. And it seems that some of the younger WSS riders
and perhaps WSB guys as well may find a home in GP2, Crutchlow being the
most-discussed now. There will be more MotoGP rejects to be sure, but
WSB hasn't yet turned the corner on its rider problem, which is really a
series stature problem, also reflected in the level of Japanese factory
The Chronic Ducati Problem - Right now we have a first-time event in the
1200cc twin era, at last a championship leader who doesn't ride a
Ducati. The rule added to help balance the formula between twins and
fours on the fly when displacement was increased for twins has to date
never been brought into play, because the results to date have been
balanced as that rule defines a proper balance (i.e,, a Ducati winning
the championship, one assumes). But if Spies manages to get through the
next round without losing the points lead, the rule will for the first
time become activated, allowing all Ducatis to operate at a minimum
weight reduced by 3kg, which would apply over the last two rounds. This
will occur because a four cylinder leads the championship and the points
accumulated by the top two race finishers on fours are at 842, compared
to the top two finishers on Ducatis, which are at 715 - the difference
between the two can't exceed an average of five points per round. This
despite the fact that the top two finishers for Honda is only at 562,
for Yamaha 531, for Aprilia 310, and down from there. The machine rules
balance is unfair to Ducati.
This absurd aspect of the rules points up the chronic WSB problem, that
it is a series run in part to promote Ducati, which in turn will benefit
the series (which runs three events in Italy and mostly remains a
European championship). That got lost a bit during the brief
1000-4/1000-2 era, when both Suzuki and Honda managed to win a
championship, and people probably forgot the world BoTT championship
that existed immediately before that. A Spies championship might paper
it over for another year, but what happens when he's gone to GP? Or when
Ducati lands a Vermeulen or a Hayden rejected by MotoGP neck-deep
politics? What would have happened had Spies not had those various DNFs
and had instead been leading the championship most of the year, what
would his chances be against a Ducati of equal weight and without
restrictors (which would be the case by now)? Until IMS gets serious
about running a fair series it will remain second-rate. I guess they're
building on the BMWs and Aprilias instead of the Japanese, but how long
will even they tolerate the Ducati bias?
DMG, year one - Where to start? I'll skip all the blunders and
embarrassing moments for now. Their stated desire was close,
multi-brand/multi-configuration racing, and to some extent they
delivered. ASB had three manufacturers win, and DSB had close racing
between 600 fours and liter twins. The devil is in the details, however,
which are examined by class:
ASB - Mladin won 10 of the first 12 races, but then he seemed to lose
his desire to race, beaten down by a year and a half of DMG and the loss
of serious competition with Spies' departure, and never won again.
The last eight races were won by the two manufacturers who had won
the other two earlier, Yamaha and Ducati, coincidentally the two major
manufacturers who sided with DMG and their "vision" of literbike racing.
With Mladin seriously detuned and Spies gone, the racing was closer or
at least less predictable. But would it have been much different under
the AMA's proposed 2009 rules? Maybe Mladin would have remained more
inspired and therefore more dominant, maybe Yamaha couldn't have caught
Suzuki without their earlier start due to their alliance with DMG and
the delay in the entry of the 2009 Suzuki due to DMG's rules. Did spec
tires and fuel matter? Probably not at the very front, although they
likely helped someone like Celtic's Laverty stay close. But DMG likely
contributed in a major way to the departure of Honda and Kawasaki from
the class. And these weren't "real" superbikes, of course.
DSB - This is DMG's baby, and in a sense they were wildly successful
with it - they actually managed to elevate an American bike to the
championship in the very first year, an achievement that took three
years for the Italians of WSB. Of course having a 900cc twin racing
against 750cc fours is a bit different than having a 1125cc twin race
against 600cc fours, isn't it? 19 of the 20 races were won by teams who
sided with DMG last year - Graves Yamaha, Ulrich's M4 Suzuki, Rossmeyer
Geico Buell. Yes, the racing was usually close and exciting, but is that
at all unusual for a 600 class? The spec tires were most notable for
being bad, and meant the DSB lap times were usually slower than the
previous SSport times. The Buell could just motor by the 600s on any
decent straight, and the defensive line that only Eslick was doing it
grew hollow as other Buells got up to speed. And of course Hacking and
Zemke went winless this year on factory-supported teams, which makes one
wonder about it all.
The big surprise this year about DMG was their utter incompetence in
running the series. Whatever what one thought of their intentions with
the racing and classes, the assumption was that at least they would make
the trains run on time. And they didn't, far from it. What they did do
was establish that the rules really mean nothing, as a dictatorship they
will just do what they want. So, for instance, Suzuki couldn't run their
'09 machine in the first several rounds, because not enough street
models had been imported yet, but Buell could race a bike that had no
street model and never would, in racing terms a prototype, not even a
mere homologation special (like the Ducati 1098R which should have never
been allowed under these rules either).
What DMG is doing is what has already been happening in MotoGP and WSB,
creating the contenders and winners they want, that they think will line
their pockets in the longer run. For GP it's Italians and Spaniards, for
WSB it's Ducatis, and for DMG it seems to be American and European
machines. And as much as anything that's the story of big-time racing
this year, it's all about manipulation and the bottom line, which is, of
course, winning the money game and not winning on the track.
Mladin - The retirement of the greatest SB racer of his era, and no
doubt one of the five top riders anywhere, in the way that it happened
is symbolic of these times, a dinosaur being whisked out to pasture, who
outstayed his welcome. Sad to see, and sad to see how he lost his mojo
under the assault of lunacy that is the DMG-led AMA. He will be missed,
along with most everything that was AMA SB racing during his previous 13
years here, in many ways a golden era. But eventually the sun sets on
From: Julian Bond on 13 Sep 2009 15:30
Welcome back. I wondered where you'd gone.
Mark N <menusbaumNYETSPAM(a)earthlink.net> Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:39:01
>March of the Midgets - My final silly season comment is on Suzuki, who
>will have two EuroMed 125/250-bred midgets on their machines next year,
>a stunning reversal for the one factory team who have historically
>followed a different drummer in GP. Really reflective of the overall
>trend in 800 MotoGP, which has been overwhelmingly slanted toward the
>little guys from 125/250 and which is running out the very few SB world
>guys left, replacing them with 125-pound 250 disappointments like
>Barbera and Bautista.
Except that Barbera is on a Pramac Ducati and it's Capirossi staying at
Suzuki to be joined by Bautista. But then I suppose the old bruiser
Capirex is a 125/250 refugee midget (with an ugly mug but beautiful
wife) so you'll still be able to use that to justify your argument.
I'm undecided about Dovizioso. There's been times when he looked like he
was very close to Pedrosa, others where it was all a bit lacklustre and
crash prone. On balance it's probably not a bad rookie year.
Meanwhile, in BSB, Camier is running away from everyone. We lost a lot
of good riders (mostly to WSB/WSS) at the end of last year and it's
apparent that what's left really wasn't in the same league. But while
BSB has been pretty boring, BSS has had some unbelievable races and it's
now led by that 41 year old journeyman Steve Plater.
Then there's the money. There's a lot of riders in all the major
championships who are unable to show what they can really do because the
team is virtually broke. Hard times.
There are two bikes I really want to see in Moto2. The Aprilia (whatever
they end up calling it) and Guy Coulon's Tech3 machine.
Julian Bond E&MSN: julian_bond at voidstar.com M: +44 (0)77 5907 2173
Webmaster: http://www.ecademy.com/ T: +44 (0)192 0412 433
Personal WebLog: http://www.voidstar.com/ skype:julian.bond?chat
To Be Human Is To Communicate
From: Michael Sierchio on 13 Sep 2009 16:00
Julian Bond wrote:
> There are two bikes I really want to see in Moto2. The Aprilia (whatever
> they end up calling it) and Guy Coulon's Tech3 machine.
Tigcraft are making a Moto2 chassis, n'est-ce pas?
From: sturd on 13 Sep 2009 19:35
Mark N spouts:
[Largely typical whinging with a few gems mixed in deleted]
> Lorenzo makes the most compelling case, at age 22, riding a
> somewhat lesser version of the same bike as Rossi to this point, only
> one previous MotoGP season under his belt, first year on Bridgestone
> tires, and yet he's making a greater challenge to Rossi than anyone ever
> has in the Doctor's multiple championship seasons
Say what? 2 full races down pre-Indy is a greater challenge than
Go fast. Take chances.
From: Mark N on 13 Sep 2009 20:28
sturd reaches back in time:
> Mark N spouts:
>> Lorenzo makes the most compelling case, at age 22, riding a
>> somewhat lesser version of the same bike as Rossi to this point, only
>> one previous MotoGP season under his belt, first year on Bridgestone
>> tires, and yet he's making a greater challenge to Rossi than anyone ever
>> has in the Doctor's multiple championship seasons
> Say what? 2 full races down pre-Indy is a greater challenge than
> who exactly?
13 races into this season he leads Lorenzo by 30 points. Here is where
he stood in his other championship seasons:
1997 - Led Ueda by 98 points.
1999 - Led Ukawa by 47 points.
2001 - Led Biaggi by 67 points.
2002 - Led Ukawa by 121 points.
2003 - Led Gibernau by 58 points.
2004 - Led Gibernau by 14 points.
2005 - Led Biaggi by 122 points.
2008 - Led Stoner by 75 points.
2004 was right after Qatar, where Rossi crashed out and Gibs won, and
that was the year that Rossi won on what legend has as the impossible
Yamaha. After that Rossi won the last three races and the championship
by 47 points. And recall that Gibernau was 31 then and in his 8th season
in 500/MotoGP. More to the point, Lorenzo has challenged Rossi very
directly on the track quite consistently, making Rossi work for almost
every win. Jorge has made his mistakes to be sure, but he's very
consistently had the pace and pushed Rossi.