Archive for the ‘Fausto Gresini’ Category

Marc Marquez remains undefeated in U.S.

April 12, 2015

MotoGP 2015 COTA Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

Repsol Honda reigning champion Marc Marquez extended his winning streak in the U.S. to six, taking an easy win at The Circuit of the Americas by a country mile over Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso who had himself fought off several challenges from Yamaha former world champion Valentino Rossi. Confirming that Losail was an outlier, and tightening the standings at the top of the premier class food chain, COTA provided few surprises.

A clean start led to a leading group of Dovizioso, Marquez, Rossi and Bradley Smith on the Tech 3 Yamaha. Marquez went through on Dovizioso on Lap 5 and rode quietly into the sunset, coasting to the win by 2.3 seconds over Dovizioso and 3.1 seconds over Rossi. Lorenzo launched a late charge to finish fourth, followed by Iannone on the #2 Ducati, Smith and Crutchlow, who was unable to maintain the winning speeds he showed in practice. Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales claimed 8th and 9th, respectively, and Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci continued to impress in 10th place.

Practice is Occasionally Better than the Race

2015 COTA Q2 Front RowCaptureQ2 was a great example of why the qualifying format of MotoGP is occasionally better than the race. Marquez jumping off his broken bike, the CHECK ENGINE light red, climbing the wall, sprinting 200 yards to his cold #2 bike with the wrong tires, flogging it across the start/finish line seconds before the checkered flag waved, then pushing his RC213V harder on the flying lap to a new track record and his third consecutive pole in Austin. I don’t think any other rider on the grid could manage that.

Add to his natural ability and quality equipment the fact that he’s seeing Austin on the big bike for the third time, and knows exactly where he is on the track. He already knows the correct line here. Now all he has to do is pick the right tires and keep it on the track through turn 1. His lap at the end of qualifying, after an extended sprint, with a big moment, on a #2 bike he described as having “setting not so good,” trashed the previous record by four-tenths. Close to inconceivable.

You get the sense Marc Marquez has GPS in his head and can pretty much go as fast as he wants. He rides a million dollar bike like it was a miniature BMX in the schoolyard in 5th grade. Marquez in Sepang 2013

Jorge Lorenzo Prays for No Rain

Weather was iffy all weekend, at a track that is rapidly gaining a reputation as the most demanding on the 18-round calendar. It is, likewise, becoming increasingly clear that Jorge Lorenzo cannot compete in the rain.

The consecutive crashes at Assen and the Sachsenring in 2013 involved wet weather, and it appears he’s lost his ability to push in the wet. His FP2 in the wet was another example. There was a race or two last year where he failed to post due to the wet. And although the weather ended up not being a factor during the race today… There’s still the damnable Catalan.

Hail Brittaniaprintable-union-jack-color

The Brits seem to be getting it together. Both Crutchlow on the CWMLCRAMF, etc. Honda and Scott Redding on the EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda made appearances in the top three during practice sessions, with CC 2nd in both FP2 in the wet and FP3 in the dry. Redding ran 3rd in FP1 before qualifying 6th. Not to mention young Danny Kent, the great hope of soccer hooligans everywhere, dominating the Moto3 race. Dominating at a track like Austin says you’re good at everything. Sam Lowes’ first win in Moto2 was even sweeter. Could Crutchlow or Redding break into the top three?

Whatareya, nuts?

MotoGP Life Away from the Spotlight

One looks at the bottom four qualifiers and cannot help but ponder how far the mighty have fallen:
• Nicky Hayden, the 2006 World Champion, qualifying 22nd for Honda in his 200th grand prix start.
• Alvaro Bautista, sporting a 125cc world championship in 2006 and a second place finish in the Moto2 class in 2008, in 23rd for a thoroughly grateful Aprilia Racing Gresini team.
• Alex de Angelis, with 3rd place finishes in the 250cc class in 2006 and 2007 and an 8th place finish in MotoGP in 2009 sitting 24th for Octo IodaRacing.
• And, finally, unwilling and unmotivated, Marco Melandri, the #2 Aprilia rider on loan from WSBK, lollygagging in 25th place. His credentials include a world championship in the 250cc class in 2002, and second overall in MotoGP 2005 aboard the factory Honda. In case you’re thinking it’s obvious that Melandri is washed up, he spent the last four seasons in WSBK finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 4th, the last aboard the Aprilia

Happenings in Moto2 and Moto 3

The Moto2 race was led by Kent going away, but the fight for second place was ferocious. The racing surface appeared to be “dirty.” Kent’s margin the largest in Moto3 history. Whoda thunk? The residual battle for second place, won by 15-year old rising star Fabio Quaternaro, was high quality stuff.

Almost as riveting as the MotoGP Q2.

The French teenager Quaternero has it going on in Moto3. 15 years old. His star is, as they say, ascendant. The fact that rookie Alex Rins leads the series indicates the depth of talent at the top of the Moto2 food chain, although something’s up with Tito Rabat.

Danny Kent is a certified winner in Moto3 and needs to move up to Moto2 to determine if he’s the real deal or what. His team earned a 1st and a 3rd at COTA. Not a bad weekend. See what happens in Argentina and Jerez first.

Sam Lowes ran a great race for his first win in Moto2. The sun seems to be rising on The British Empire. Completive at all three levels. Hard to visualize Cal Crutchlow on the podium. But I can’t remember the last time I heard the British national anthem during a podium celebration either.

A Small Confession

Having grown up as a committed Washington Redskins fan I developed an intense dislike of all things remotely related to the state of Texas, from the state flag to the aw-shucks attitude of the coach of the Dallas Cowboys coach may he ever rot in… I digress. But I must admit that the Circuit of The Americas is well-designed and deserves its reputation as the most challenging circuit on the tour. I thought COTA was going to take the place of my home track in Indianapolis. As it turned out, Laguna Seca lost. But this place seems built for motorcycles, and the riders spend an enormous amount of time in turns. Great changes in elevation. Better than Indianapolis. Way better.

Fast Turnaround to Argentina

The crews are working frantically to get the grid packed up, stuffed into the three 747’s Dorna keeps for this purpose, and head off for South America, a nine hour flight, then cutting their way through triple canopy jungle to reach the garage area, portaging their trailers through snake-infested rivers, in time for practice on Friday. It’s no picnic being on one of these crews. And Rio Honda is a little off the beaten path.

We’ll bring you the race preview on Wednesday, with results and analysis on Sunday evening.

GRAND PRIX MOTORCYCLE RACING FOR DUMMIES

November 15, 2014

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Unauthorized Fausto Gresini Bio  GP Racing 1997-present

Fausto Gresini has been an owner in the most difficult of spots for most of his 27 years at the helm of grand prix motorcycle racing teams, generally burning his own money or money he has personally raised from sponsors.  As a rider himself in the 80’s, he won world titles in the 125 cc class.  His teams have included a kaleidoscope of title sponsors and have won titles in the  250 cc and Moto2 classes.  Heading into 2015, he has a right to feel jinxed.

We assume Mr. Gresini to be self-aware, able to acknowledge that his efforts to create championship racing teams over three decades has been a constant struggle against a number of tides.  A strong nationalist, Gresini has always wanted to run a purely Italian team, riding Italian machines with Italian riders and joyful Italian sponsors. However, as a satellite team owner, what we in youth soccer used to manage and refer to as a “B Team,” Gresini has experienced few highs and numerous lows, watching his teams compete for titles in the premier class of MotoGP.

Fausto Gresini, the owner of a satellite team, needs to divide his time between driving the techs and riders, and charming sponsors to sign on the dotted line.  Over the years, these have included names such as Elf, Avo, Telefonica, Fortuna, Movistar (in 2005), and, recently, San Carlo, the big Italian chip manufacturer–snacks, not integrated circuits–from 2008 through 2012.  It is impolitic to observe that during the period 2001 to 2014 his teams have experienced two world champions–Daijiro Kato in the 250 class in 2001 and Toni Elias, the winner of daijiro_katothe intial year of Moto2 bikes in 2009–and the loss of their two top riders, Kato in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli in 2011.

Despite Fausto Gresini’s best efforts, success, or budding success, has been followed twice by tragedy that has set his program, such as it is, into the state in which it now exists, one of tarnished former greatness.

Gresini Racing, including the label of the sponsor of the season, has always had to work harder than his factory counterparts, most recently the factory Yamaha and Honda teams.  Gresini was a Honda man for decades, through the years 2003-2005. Sete Gibernau finished second for the year in 2003 and 2004, with then youngster boy toy Marco Melandri taking 2nd in 2005, 4th in 2006, and 5th in 2007.

Gresini Roars Back after Kato Death

Gresini had overcome the racing death of Kato in 2003 and had come back strong with Gibernau and Melandri in 2003 and beyond, San Carlo by his side from 2008-2012.  His fortunes turned south during 2007 with Melandri in MotoGP but turned north again in 2009 as journeyman Toni Elias won the Moto2 title.

Suddenly, in 2010 along comes Marco Simoncelli, the tall, gangly goofy-looking Italian free spirit who had managedMARCO-SIMONCELLI-1 to wrap his 6’something frame around the 250 cc bike in 2008 tightly enough to take the championship, followed by a third place finish in 2009. Gresini had signed the loose charismatic cannon to a two year contract in 2010 while the full-grown Melandri finished 10th and left for greener pastures.  Simoncelli himself managed 8th place in 2010,  getting joined by Hiro Ayoyama on the #2 bike who would take 10th the following year; the Italian spent most of the off season testing sessions near the top of the Alien rankings.

As the 2011 season approached, life was looking up for Fausto Gresini.  In addition to a for-real competitive MotoGP team of Somencelli on the #1 bike and Aoyama on the #2, he was looking at a promising Moto2 team featuring Michele Pirro, who can ride, and Yuki Takahashi, the great Japanese hope.  (Both would disappoint, with Pirro finishing ninth for the season and Takahashi 11th.)

Simoncelli, ruling the headlines but a hazard to himself and those around him, began the 2011 season showing promise on the factory-supported RC213V, but crashing out of three of the first six races, ruining the season of Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans, getting chippy with Lorenzo at a press conference, and slugging it out in the media with Albert Puig, Pedrosa’s Svengali, who seemingly had enough at that point to later re-define his job away from both Pedrosa and Simoncelli.

A disruptive force was Gresini Racing’s Marco Simoncelli in early 2011.

Lightning Strikes Again

Simoncelli, as we all now know, got things turned around in the second half of the 2011 season, with 4th place finishes at San Marino, Aragon and Motegi.  His second place finish at Phillip Island showed him capable of taking podia on a regular basis, all things being equal, which they never are.  Along came Sepang, along came the unthinkable, and Simoncelli was, instantly, snatched from the board.  The personal tragedy was accompanied by a corporate disaster, as the rug had suddenly been violently pulled out from under the Italian sponsors.  San Carlo would stick around for another year, a year in which they were left with Spanish underachiever Alvaro Bautista who was the only credible rider available late in the 2011 season, when they were suddenly bereft looking ahead to 2012.

Bautista who, one suspects, was never Gresini’s first choice on any count–ethnic, performance history–never did much with the Italian’s beloved factory-supported Honda (5th in 2012, falling to 11th in 2014) leading, ultimately, to Honda making it, um, unfeasible for Gresini to field a Honda-affiliated team in 2015.  This coincided with Aprilia’s decision to enter the MotoGP fray a year earlier than had been previously announced, intending to field a two-man factory team in 2015 under the expert direction of, guess who, Fausto Gresini, and giving themselves a year to adjust to the program before Michelin enters in 2016 with the new line of MotoGP tires.

Gresini, still today stuck with the increasingly dysfunctional Bautista, finally signed the aging, microscopic Melandri in early November to ride the second glued-together Aprilia factory entry in 2015 , as Melandri was going to be a victim of corporate Aprilia’s decision to support MotoGP at the apparent expense of a highly successful World Super Bikes program that had produced titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

There’s just something about running with the big dogs…

A Look Ahead

Gresini, for all his efforts, despite brutal events which disrupted the fabric of two separate teams, and through a financial crisis that continues in Italy, finds himself today heading up a factory Aprilia team that plans to enter two glued-together prototypes while they develop a new from-the-bottom-up prototype for 2016, complete with Michelin tires, for their amico, although they were, through financial worry and corporate dithering, unable to prevent chief engineer Gigi Dall’Igna’s discouraging defection to Ducati Corse.

Despite his best efforts, Gresini is still stuck with Bautista and, now, with an aging Melandri, kind of an Italian Colin Edwards, whose grizzled features and extensive tenure are promoted as being directly helpful to Bautista, who has proven himself mostly un-coachable since winning the 2006 championship in the 125 cc class.  Bautista, always super-concerned with his appearance and less with his performance, has managed to finish twice in 13th place for the struggling factory Suzuki program in 2010 and 2011, and as a seriously underachieving factory spec Honda rider for Gresini in 2012 through 2014, able to deliver only 5th, 6th and 11th place finishes for the name sponsors in those years.

Honda said sayonara to Gresini at the same moment Aprilia decided to compress their timeline to enter MotoGP in 2015, putting Gresini in charge of two riders, lending to the belief that Gresini had been looking.  The program will be a bottom third team in the grand scheme of things, its riders likely to get lapped during a race or two.  Whether the underfunded Italian group can produce a competitive MotoGP setup for 2016 remains to be seen.

If Fausto Gresini has anything to say about it, Aprilia will come out in 2016 with an Italian name sponsor, factory support, a brand new bike and a new Italian rider to replace Bautista, with Melandri either hanging around or not, depending upon the availability of a stud Moto3 rider, such as Romano Fenati or Enea Bastianni, who could fill the vacuum at the top of the 2015 Moto3 class left by the graduation of Marquez, Miller, and Rins.  Such could presage the assumption of the #1 Aprilia bike in 2016 by an aggressive young Italian stud able to compete with a grid, all of whom are going to be adjusting to new controls and new tires.  A world full of Marquezes and Espargaros.  Rossis and Lorenzos. Vinales and Smiths.

It could happen.  One never knows.  Tires change everything.  Electronics and data have taken over.

At Least For Now

At least for now, Fausto Gresini will have some help from Aprilia keeping things together while life at the top of MotoGP prepares to adjust to common ECU hardware and new rubber in 2016.  Though there is less to do on the money side, there is much to do on the high octane side, which is where he’s probably most comfortable anyway.

Fausto Gresini’s MotoGP team will not challenge for a world championship in 2015.  He will probably be around, perhaps in a good way, in 2016, when things change for everyone.  He’s survived the loss of two riders and more sponsors than most people can name.  But there he is, riding herd on a group of paisano gearheads, still with that damned Spanish guy, and now with the old Italian guy, trying to glue together a credible effort for the home team in 2015 and beyond.

Are Fausto Gresini’s salad days behind him?  Probably.  Is he still in position to enjoy himself and get some visceral return on the investment of his time and effort as a year-round owner and operator?  Seems that way.

Perhaps he’s developed the perspective, after 27 years in the business, and with the passing of two riders, to be able to live life in the moment, to not obsess on what might have been, to accept his position in the corporate superstructure of a team as well as his prospects for achieving his goals, which haven’t changed in 27 years.  Perhaps he’s had to, in the words of Stonewall Jackson, “elevate them gun sights just a little lower, boys,” understanding where he currently stands in the scheme of GP racing, where there are the haves and the have nots.

Gresini is a poster child for an athlete incapable of generating consistent winning results as a coach, owner or engineer after a sparkling career behind the handlebars.  He could never coax performance at a level he could himself achieve from the bulk of the riders with whom he worked.  Kato and Simoncelli were exceptions, in more ways than one.

We return to the original question.  Questions, actually.

Does Fausto Gresini have a right to feel jinxed?  Most definitely.  Does Fausto Gresini have a realistic chance of coming back in 2016 with a competitive Aprilia factory team?  Depends on how you define realistic.  Is Fausto Gresini fully engaged in making things happen with his new team?  Undoubtedly.  Is Gresini, like Melandri, on the back end of his career?  Probably.  Would he do it all over again in much the same way?  Probably.  Would he give anything to have Kato and Simoncelli back?

You’re kidding, right?

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The best thing, in my opinion, would be for Fausto Gresini to purchase the Pramac Ducati team and bring the hot young Italian riders through on Ducati machines with factory support.  One thinks his contract has an out clause permitting him to do such a thing, and that he would then be in position to achieve his dream once again.  Hot Italian riders on third generation Ducati equipment with standard ECUs and new rubber.  A Pramac team, even one featuring Hernandez and  Petrucci, purchased in 2015, could be competitive in the new world of 2016.  Bring in the young Italian guns and let them go at it in 2016 with Dall’Igna calling the shots.  I think Fausto would thrive in such a situation.

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I know nothing.

As a recovering econ major, we learned that the only value of a theory was its ability to predict things.  So much of the previous stuff is pure conjecture on my part, which is why it needs a byline.  If, however, much of it turns out right, then you need to keep reading everything on this site.  The sponsors need you.  My future here depends on it.  I seek comments from all of you about this and that, and don’t mind poking you when you’re, um, wrong.  If you ride, you should actually read the other stuff, too, because those guys have forgotten more about bikes than I’ve ever known.  They’re very good at what they do.  They will help you make better decisions about how to spend your discretionary dollars in this business.  Unlike myself, they are helpful.