Archive for the ‘Losail’ Category

MotoGP: No Jocking Required

March 5, 2016

d7f9e438-0c47-467c-8916-2e7aa309cf6aLorenzo imageI’ve just discovered something I, as a would be writer, loathe.  Note to self:  Never use this technique unless it pertains to, say, the last race of the season, 5 points separating teammates and rivals, Marquez in the mix, in which case it may be permissible to jock the sport while you’re reporting on it.  Otherwise, DO NOT PROMOTE MOTOGP WHILE YOU’RE IN REPORTER MODE.

So I’m reading this nice article—pre-season preview—when it finishes with a jee-whiz-MotoGP-is-SUPERBAD or something equally self-serving; starved, as the writer visibly is, for eyeballs.

So, yes, I think it’s a shame more Americans don’t watch MotoGP and yes, I encourage australia-testmaverick-vinales25people I know and people in the universe to read about it.  But when I’m on deadline, getting paid to think hard about the sport, I’m not taking time out to ponder how I love Michelin tires on my ride.  It’s bad form, especially for someone like me who doesn’t ride at all.  Of course, if I ever found a sponsor willing to buy me a disclaimer, no telling what might happen.  None of the OEMs that MO deals with want to sully their reputations by sponsoring the likes of me, and who can blame them?

I feel no need to stroke Dorna, as they seem to derive pleasure from making the process of credentialing excessive.  One with years writing about this stuff should not have to buy tickets from a scalper in Jerez to report on the GP there, the only halfway serious American journalist bothering to make the trip, on his own dime, and they tell me they can’t find me even the usual lousy credential.  Ended up having way more fun in the crowd anyway.

FIM_LogoWhat my readers expect from me is an objective accounting of events up to and including the race, delivered with as many laughs as I can haul out of th
e closet.  They expect me to call a spade a spade, especially when it involves controversy between riders.  The only rider whose picture sits on my wall is Lorenzo, from Indianapolis in 2010, the year he won his first title.  Under the heading “Saving Grace”, the feed from Dorna is superb, and the very British commentary is helpful.  For those of you condemned to TV—now pay TV in the US—with or without commercial breaks, your coverage sucks.  With the Euro down the drain, it’s a cheap time to buy a video pass and stream the race at your leisure.

IannoneSo, we will call the 2016 season the way we see it.  At this juncture, it looks like Vinales is going to be a top four guy, and even Redding, taking to the Duc like a duc to water, is sniffing around the top of the timesheets.  Pedrosa looks miserable, Marquez desperate to stay on the bike with any pace at all, and Rossi sounding unconvincingly like all the changes work in his favor.  Lorenzo, meanwhile, has that look in his eye.  As he learned in 2011 and 2013, however, the look in the eye thing doesn’t necessarily get you a repeat, a threepeat or a fourpeat.

Jorge looks ready to defend his title actively and vigorously.

Everyone is hoping the rest of the grid fights harder for 10th place, with good fights going on all over the track.  If the elapsed time between the finish of the first and last bikes of last year, or top ten bikes of last year, versus this year show the grid tightening up, that’s what Dorna’s after, and that’s what the satellite teams are pushing for.  Whether anyone but the top four or five riders ever finds their way to the podium is another matter.  The world longs to see some new faces at the press conference.

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Let us pray against parades and for flag-to-flag contests and against a championship that gets away from itself in the first eight weeks, with someone emerging at the front by 100 points.  Otherwise, there will always be things to write about.  We will miss Nicky Hayden especially, as he was always good for a laugh.  We pray that Bautista and Bradl don’t end up racing each other for last place each week.  We pray that things end well between Yamaha and 46, and Honda and 26, when the time comes.  And we look forward to meeting the next generation of Aliens, the guys who will take your dollar in a game of reflexes, the guys who can dunk at 5’7”, the guys who can execute a bicycle kick on the soccer field.  And the guys who will join Lorenzo and Marquez in the championship battles leading into the 2020’s.

No jocking required.

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Testing season revelations

February 24, 2016

d7f9e438-0c47-467c-8916-2e7aa309cf6aLorenzo image

australia-testmaverick-vinales25With two of the three major testing sessions behind us and Losail beckoning, life at the top of the MotoGP food chain is beginning to change.  New teams at the top appear certain.  The relative degrees of improvement each team achieved during the offseason are illuminating.

At the end of the 2015 season I would have ranked the major teams in this order:

  • Yamaha
  • Honda
  • Ducati
  • Suzuki
  • Aprilia

Going into the 2016 season my take is that the top four teams are very close, with Aprilia remaining an unknown, in this order:

  • Yamaha
  • Ducati
  • Suzuki
  • Honda
  • Aprilia

I am not convinced Marc Marquez can stay upright on his machine frequently enough to contend on a regular basis.  Dani Pedrosa appears to be gently riding his 2016 bike in the hope of finding some grip anywhere.  Crutchlow has had some impressive moments at LCR, but his tendency to crash out of the top three on race day is a concern.  Neither the injured Jack Miller nor former Moto2 champion and graduate Tito Rabat at Marc VDS have shown anything thus far.

At Team Yamaha the brute talent of Lorenzo and Rossi and a manufacturer that does not espouse dramatic change, have put it in the top position again.  It appears the Yamahas have stood still, while some of the other teams have stepped backwards.  Herve Poncharal is putting pressure on his pair at Tech 3, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, to show some get and go, fighting in the corners as in years past.  Appears the Tech 3 2015 M-1 doesn’t adjust as well to the 2016 ECU and tires.

The Ducatis are very interesting.  I give you one Hectic Hector Barbera, an underachiever every season since his promotion from the 250cc class. Barbera is pushing his GP14.2 within the top five, telling everyone this year’s standard ECU is BETTER than what he’s been riding with since he fell out of the top ten years ago. Iannone  looks to be keeping his powder dry in anticipation of Round 1.  A shame about Dani Petrucci, who will be dealing with a broken hand just at the time he could have cemented his status as a consistent top 10 rider.

The fact that there will be 8 generally competitive Ducs on the grid by itself raises the likelihood of top five finishes.  I will continue to bang the drum, in an effort to hatch conspiracy theories between Ducati and Magneti Morelli having to do with the ECU, the hacking of which has likely become a top three objective for the dev teams at Honda and Yamaha. The other two have their hands full already.

It appears that Maverick Vinales will receive his Alien card this season.  His new Suzuki has done well on tracks not built to its advantages.  It will be interesting to see how it does at cramped little places like The Sachsenring and Le Mans.  It would not surprise me at all for Vinales to stand on the center step on a podium this season.  Hot property.  Teammate Aleix Espargaro is struggling with ECU and tires.  One star rising, one setting on the Suzuki Ecstar team.

Avintia Racing is now sporting Ducati livery in an attempt to regain relevance.  It could happen.  Scott Redding and Loris Baz now have some grunt under them on their respective teams.

As for Gresini Aprilia, it’s a mystery.  The new prototype is not yet complete; the paint will still be tacky when they roll the first one out in Qatar–testing or race unclear at this time–and we will see if they have anything going on.

No one is squawking particularly loudly about ECU issues, but the tires are another subject. 13 crashes at Phillip Island are about 5 more than average. Faster warmup on cold mornings must be priority 1A at Michelin, running just behind Front Grip.

If the season were to start today, my picks for the top six riders would go:

  • Jorge Lorenzo
  • Valentino Rossi
  • Maverick Vinales
  • Marc Marquez
  • Andrea Iannone
  • Dani Pedrosa

We can revisit this in November to see how things pan out.