Between the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, and Coke-Cola 600 Memorial Day weekend is filled with racing. However there is another race on Memorial Day Monday. It’s a major race that sadly is overshadowed year in and year out. The World Superbikes Championship run’s it’s United States Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on Memorial Day Monday. The World Superbike series is one of the most diverse and competitive racing series in the world. Six major motorcycle manufacturers compete with over twenty riders. Unlike in MotoGP the privateer and non factory teams have a shot at getting wins and podium’s. America is lucky to get a USGP, so show your support and watch race one at 4pm and race two at 7pm on SpeedTV!
I really don’t understand why Memorial Day weekend was the date picked for this race. WSBK doesn’t get a lot of press in the US anyways and putting it up against the Coke 600 and Indy 500 doesn’t seem to be a good idea. Internationally, the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix cover the superbike race up as well. With so much focus on the other races the WSBK race at Miller is lucky to continue. I don’t have a feel for how strong or weak attendance is. Somehow the race continues on though so somehow Miller seems to be making money off of it.
To generate more interest in WSBK in the USA the biggest change would be getting an American rider in competitive equipment. There hasn’t been an American rider in competitive equipment since Ben Spies won the title in 2009; unless, of course, you count John Hopkins as an American rider and his Suzuki bike as competitive. Colin Edwards (a former WSBK champion) or Nicky Hayden one day may move into WSBK when their GP career is over which would help generate a lot more interest in the series in America.
The racing in WSBK is generally excellent. It’s one of the closest racing series in the world. Fans of road racing and fans who find other forms of road racing (RE: Indycar street courses) boring should check it out. The only word of warning is Miller, while is should produce good superbike racing, sometimes becomes a bit of a Carlos Checa runaway. So if it’s not the best race in the world it’s worth giving WSBK another chance. WSBK races are under an hour in length with two races run on the same day. There’s no time for fuel saving or waiting for the track to come to you. It’s a full throttle sprint race. If you’re tired of fuel mileage and points racers, tune into the WSBK race on SpeedTV tonight!
The MotoGP season kicks off this weekend at Qatar. I would describe MotoGP as an international road racing series done right. You’ve got great racing, diverse tracks, two US Grand Prix’s and 3 American riders. The main downside to MotoGP is the relatively small field size, 17 bikes. But this isn’t Champcar; MotoGP is the 2nd largest racing series in the world behind only F1. Jorge Lorenzo dominated last season and the Yamaha’s were the superior bikes but so far the Honda’s have dominated pre season testing. For any NASCAR or Indycar fans who are skeptical about road racing I’d suggest you watch a year of MotoGP to get a glimpse at road racing done right. You can watch the MotoGP race on SpeedTV (usually live) along side tape delayed Moto2 and 125GP races. Warning: Watching MotoGP or WSBK may cause Formula One and Indycar fans to become irrationally angry/jealous. You’ll see more passing in a 45 minute MotoGP than in a 2.5 hour F1/Indycar road race. Viewer discretion is advised.
Winner…Casey Stoner: Until recently (last few days) Jorge Lorenzo was my favorite to win the 2011 title. However Casey Stoner’s been unbelievably quick in pre season testing. It’s not just Stoner the entire Honda team including satellite riders Aoyama and Simoncelli have towards the front end of the speed charts. More than just speed Stoner also has a lot more confidence than he’s had the last few years and seems to love his new bike, especially compared to the hard-to-ride Ducati. The only concern is that we’ve seen this movie before, last year in fact. Stoner dominated testing and qualified on pole at Qatar. He dominated the early part of the race until he crashed, and that started a string of wrecks that took him out of title contention and brought him over to Honda.
Likely…Jorge Lorenzo: My old championship favorite who never finished below 4th last season. The Yamaha is not as fast as the Honda’s but it’s considered the best handling bike in MotoGP. They were down on power last year too and the team still managed to win 61% of the races, with most of those wins being Lorenzo’s. He had an amazing season last year but eventually those great streaks (no finishes lower than 4th) end and so far the two riders who’ve won a title during the “Rossi Years” (Stoner, Hayden) have both failed to follow it up with another title. Can Lorenzo change that stat? The Ducati’s of Rossi and Hayden appear to be out of the way… but he’ll have to overcome three very fast Honda’s and his own teammate if he’s going to win it.
Darkhorse…Ben Spies: Spies is a true darkhorse as it’s his second season in MotoGP and his first on a factory bike. He had a good 2010 season where he did everything (podium, finish 2nd, get a pole) but win and now that he has a factory bike he should be able to change that. Spies’s has won been champion at both the AMA Superbike and WSBK (in his rookie year) so he’s got the talent and he’s got the history of being the surprise winner of the championship. The Yamaha’s are down on power compared to the Honda’s but Spies is used to that; his Tech 3 bike last year didn’t have a good top speed and he still took it to the podium and even a pole. Unless the Yamaha’s struggle more than anticipated Spies will be expected to win races and poles to justify his position as a factory rider and both keep his factory ride and not get relegated to a clear number 2 role (RE: Massa, Barrichello). Luckily, this is Ben Spies we’re talking about; Matt Maladin couldn’t shake him, being a rookie in the World Superbikes didn’t phase him (he won the title), why should this be any different??? Is it going to be easy? No… but don’t count Spies out of the championship either.
Rossi and Hayden on the Unrideable Machine: While the Honda riders are ecstatic and the Yamaha riders are satisfied, the Ducati riders are struggling. All of the Ducati riders crashing during the test says a lot about how the bike handles. The issue isn’t power or speed, they’ve got loads of both; the issue is handling. The bike doesn’t turn well and it has a tendency to crash when turning. Even though Rossi brought his crew chief Jeremy Burgess over they still haven’t been able to fix the issues, and while they’ve struggled to improve the other two teams (especially Honda) have continued to improve. The lack of testing has really hurt them, but even the limited testing hasn’t done a whole lot for them. Many (myself included) had hoped that the planned changes to the Ducati in the off season would help Nicky Hayden be more competitive but so far there’s not been much improvement. As bad as everything sounds the Ducati’s not horrible (it’s no Suzuki). Rossi and Hayden should be able to get it into the top 5… but after that it’ll get tough. This year will test both riders talent and ability to both overtake and prevent being overtaken while on slightly inferior equipment.
The combination of Rossi and Ducati is a huge deal for MotoGP fans. How I’d explain it to any NASCAR fans reading this is the combination of Dale Junior and Richard Childeress Racing in the 3 car, if Junior had won 7 championships already. 38,000 fans were in Bologna to see Rossi, Hayden, and the Ducati’s off to the final test which says a lot. Already this combination is making a ton of money in merchandise for both parties… but on the down side all of those happy customers may become very very angry if they struggle (again, look at the Junior fans while he’s struggled with Hendrick). I still expect between 1-3 wins from Rossi. He’s got the talent and the Ducati’s should improve as the year goes on, as he also get’s more comfortable on the bike. He also has to continue to recover from his shoulder and leg injury. All of this combined should see him become competitive again as the season goes on. For Ducati the month break between race 2 and 3 (with Japan being moved back) and a mid-season test in May will be critical for getting the bike up to speed and after that is when Rossi should be able to start winning. Hayden is who I’m really worried for. Since his title in 06 he’s struggled badly and he’s got to change it or else risk losing his ride. Hayden has the talent and is expected to be one of the riders who’ll benefit most from the new technical regulations next year… let’s hope it’s enough.
2011 is the end of an Era… so performance won’t carry over: As bad as the season may be for Rossi and Hayden on the Ducati the good news is that with new technical regulations for 2012 they’ll basically get a reset next year. Teams are believed to already have started development on the bikes and to start testing them (with the test teams) in the spring. One question is, will we see a team (Ducati) decide mid-season to focus on 2012 and abandon 2011 as we’ve seen so many F1 teams do recently? If so a horrible 2011 season may pay off in 2012. For Yamaha and Honda there is a danger that they’ll over develop the current bike and be caught behind next year; but at the same time no one want’s to sacrifice this year’s title…
2012 also will may see a change in fortunes for Suzuki, assuming they put some money into the program. Some rumors suggest Suzuki will increase efforts again in 2012 and run 2 bikes again alongside a satilette bike. Others have them pulling out completely. Either way… their current strategy of being in on a low budget is failing to do anything other than see them finish behind some of the satilette bikes. If Suzuki does expand their efforts again in 2012 then it will be a great destination for riders such as De Puniet, Elias, Dovizioso, and Simoncelli as all the other factory rides appear to be locked up for the next two seasons.
As for how the 2012 regulations will work we’re still not sure. It’ll see the introduction of “Claims Rule Teams” which will be allowed to carry more fuel and have other various tolerances designed to make non factory teams competitive. And of course there is a “claims rule” just like at some short tracks and club racing series where a team can “claim” another teams engine or chassis for a pre-agreed upon price. The idea behind this is to allow privateer teams to enter the series and be competitive as all of the non factory teams at the moment are still satilette teams for the factories. With only 17 bikes on the grid for two years in a row the series is looking to catch back up with F1 and get 22-26 bikes on the grid. How many teams this will add is unknown but the rules are close enough to Moto2 that some of those teams are expected to move up.
Clutch Technology will dominate: It’s believed that one of the main advantages Honda has is their clutch, which appears to use seamless shift technology. This allows the bike to accelerate faster and be more stable in the corners. Remember how in the last two paragraph’s I said performance won’t carry over??? On this it will, unless the new technology get’s banned. Yamaha has already begun development on one. I don’t know if Ducati has started or not but I would imagine they will have to.
Honda Civil War: Honda’s has two other riders who I haven’t mentioned yet. Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrossa are both factory Honda riders who will have a great bike behind them. Dani Pedrossa was runner up last season despite missing three races due to injury. Dani has some question marks over how he’s recovered from his injury last year and hasn’t been quite as fast as Stoner, nor is he as happy. Pedrossa has been horribly inconsistant throughout his career and often seems to injure himself which is largely why I’ve picked Stoner over him on this team. Dani Pedrossa and his manager Alberto Puig are not know for being easy to work with… as Nicky Hayden found out. Stoner was brought to Honda by Livio Suppo and the potential for a Honda Civil War exists.
However if a Honda Civil War breaks out and costs them the riders and team championship it could damage the relationship between whoever starts it and Honda. Honda pushed for the 800cc engines and have never won the title in it. They want to win badly and are throwing everything they have (notice who led all of pre season testing) to win it. Should someone get in the way of that… uh… your future in the HRC camp will be in doubt. My expectation is for a low level war to break out but nothing huge. I would expect it to be around Rossi/Lorenzo, perhaps a little less.
Dovizioso will benefit the most if it does break out. He managed to hold onto his factory ride despite Honda initially planning to move him down to a factory supported satellite bike. However he’s does not have the same influence or importance to the team that Stoner and Pedrossa have. For example they get to pick their chassis, he get’s his assigned. Should he either start winning races or one of the other riders upset HRC that could change. He managed to force Honda to honor his contract and keep him but he’s going to have to do something incredible to keep his ride past that point.
Japanese GP delayed; giving MotoGP a “Spring Break”: The tragedy in Japan has caused MotoGP to reschedule it’s Japanese Grand Prix from April to October 2nd. Unlike Formula One, where the Bahrain GP was canceled/rescheduled with a ton of controversy and horrible sound bites from Bernie, MotoGP handled it like professionals and quietly moved the race back without damaging their series image. There are some questions around whether or not they will be ready by October but it’s way to early to make that call (if MotoGP get’s called off then I’d assume the Indycar race a few weeks earlier will be gone as well). This is the 2nd year in a row that the Japanese GP has been rescheduled as last year the volcanic eruption in Iceland caused airlines to shut down in Europe where MotoGP is largely based.
As for Everybody Else: No non factory rider has won a MotoGP in the 800cc era and the odds of that changing with even more factory riders than normal is unlikely. Spies was the best satellite rider last season and he’s been moved up so the honors of top satellite rider is up for grabs. Marco Simoncelli has the advantage of being a semi-factory rider for Honda, which gives them four factory or semi factory riders!!! With the Honda’s being really good maybe Simoncelli can pull a win out? He is fast and he ended last year strong. His teammate Aoyama is also fast. Aoyama suffered mid season injuries that ruined last year but a move to a better team should help him. He’s been good in testing so maybe we’ll see something good out of him.
Onto Tech 3 things are looking okay… but not great. Colin Edwards had a great 2009 season and a horrible 2010 season. I really can’t tell which Edwards we’re going to see. For Cal Cruchlow things have started poorly. He’s recovering from a shoulder injury and that’s hurt his pace in testing. He has the misfortune of following in Ben Spies’s footsteps for the 2nd year in a row (as he replaced Spies at Yamaha’s WSBK team last year). Cruchlow is the only British rider in the field and the last British rider was also at Tech 3. It didn’t go well for Toseland who washed out after two seasons and then saw Ben Spies enter and become competitive. As long as Cruchlow isn’t awful his ride should be safe… but I would not expect any podiums out of him.
Strangely the happiest Ducati rider is Randy De Puniet. He’s comfortable on the bike and has had pretty good speed for a satellite Ducati rider. He had a pretty strong start last year only to see it derailed by a mid season injury. He could be the surprise rider of the season if he doesn’t wreck too much. Loris Caparossi has been really quite and I’ve not heard a lot about him… but I suppose it can’t be worse than last year at Suzuki. MotoGP’s lone ride-buyer, Karl Abraham, has gotten off to a pretty good start all things considered. By all things I mean the fact he’s on a brand new privateer Ducati team. He won the final round of Moto2 last year and so far in testing he’s not been dead last and in fact has been faster than MotoGP winner and Moto2 Champion Tony Elias. He’s probably not going to see a lot of success this season but he’s also not going to embarrass himself or the series. Hector Barbera also rides a privateer Ducati and I can safely say I know almost nothing about the guy. David Emmet of Motomatters has a little more on the guy in his season preview of the satellite riders.
Last both in this article and on the time charts is LRC Honda’s Tony Elias. This is kind of surprising as he is a former winner in MotoGP (he’s the last non factory rider to win) and won last year’s Moto2 championship. Yet he’s been dead last for most of the tests. According to people who know more (RE: David Emmet) it’s that his riding style and the Bridgestone tires not mixing. Considering he’s been a fixture at the bottom of the time charts it must REALLY not mix. He may be in for a long and possibly career ending (In MotoGP, WSBK is always an option) year.
2 American Races, the USGP@Laguna Seca and the Indy GP@Indianapolis: MotoGP runs two races in the US, which is two more than F1. Laguna Seca is a real road course; no Herman Tilke Syndrome there! Laguna’s also quite short for a MotoGP track and has a bit more rustic feel than many of the other tracks while still being in scenic Monterrey California. The Indy GP is completely different. Indianapolis is good at hosting major sporting events (NFL, NBA, NCAA, Indycar, NASCAR, formerly F1) and it’s a great place for racing and racing fans. While the MotoGP only draws 80,000 people (one of the few places where that doesn’t seem impressive) it’s hard to imagine a place where they’d draw more. Plus it exposes new fans (RE: NASCAR and Indycar fans) to MotoGP who otherwise may never have heard of it. It’s a win win for everyone involved and that’s why I hope the rumors of the 2nd round of the USGP moving to Austin is untrue. How many people is Austin going to draw in??? Despite what the obsessed fanboys think I can’t imagine very many. And how many Indycar or NASCAR fans will ever hear of the Austin MotoGP? Again, not that many. While Tilke Syndrome hasn’t taken over MotoGP the way it has F1 they still don’t need another soulless Tilke track. So please, DORNA, IMS, do the right thing and keep the 2nd race where it belongs!!!
Tire Change Coming???: With Bridgestone reducing spend in tires will we see MotoGP get a new tire maker? Indycar got an extension on their contract by giving massive concessions to Bridgestone but MotoGP doesn’t have a Cult of Bridgestone. They’ll be more than willing to go to another tire maker and rumor has it that Pirelli will continue to pick up the pieces Bridgestone is leaving behind and replace them in the near future. Don’t know if it’ll happen for next year or not but it’s something for MotoGP fans to keep an eye on.
Thursday Thoughts this week is “What Would You do if You Were the FIA President?” Great question! There’s a lot of changes that need to be made, from de-Tilking the tracks to expanding factory interest and of course, removing some downforce!
Let’s start with something simple, race stewards. I cannot believe F1 really doesn’t have the same stewards week after week! I mean, pretty much every major racing series I watch has that, so for the “biggest racing series in the world” (and richest) to not do that is kinda odd. Besides that, I’d also want the same safety crews week after week, because the quality of the staff at the tracks kinda varies. Again, Indycar manages to do that, so I fail to see why F1 can’t/won’t.
Not only consistent stewards, but also more consistent rulings. First off, we’re keeping the team orders rule, though it’d only be enforced for Ferrari-02 style actions. Outside of that, though, I’d want a more Liaise-Faire officiating. With all the penalties for “avoidable contact” and the FIA freak out a couple years ago when they stripped a win from Hamilton for cutting a chicane even though he returned position, they’re just encouraging drivers to not pass or be aggressive, which is the OPPISITE of what we want. Ayrton Senna would never have made it in modern F1, and that fact alone should be enough to cause a massive change in the way the series is officiated.
Next, although technically the FIA president doesn’t write the schedule, Tilke is banned from EVER designing a track again in his life! Not only that, but the current Tilke Tracks will be “De-Tilked” and have the random and unnecessary chicanes taken out of them. By doing this, hopefully the quality of the fly away races improves. And sorry, but Singapore and Valencia are dead. It’s also time to add a second USGP (like MotoGP) and that means a return to Indy! Plus, a return to a French GP. Rome…just no. Keep Istanbul though, it’s an almost good Tilke track, and once it’s fixed, it should become pretty good. Do both Bahrain and Abu Dhabi really deserve a race? Same with Singapore and Malaysia? Instead, how about a race in Africa, and a second race in South America?
For the development series, implement a Road to Indy style scholarship program for GP3 and GP2. Also find a way to get Jonathan Summerton and Conor Daly involved in the GP2/GP3 series. Besides that, I’d work to develop some drivers from the Pacific Rim and Middle East, as if you’re going to race there, you might as well have some drivers local fans can cheer for, and maybe fill out the stands a little.
Series wise, I’d end FIA GT1 and start an FIA sanctioned A1GP style series for the off season, and encourage F1 drivers to participate in it. Since there’s a somewhat limited amount of places to run a race in the winter, here’s where some of the random Arabian and Asian tracks can get a race! Rally wise, I know a lot less, but I’d work to A. incorporate what’s making the X-Games rally successful and B. find a way to make the cars a little more exciting, instead of being a bunch of tiny hatchbacks!
F1’s way behind on the social media/internet thing. Free internet streaming of racing with limited commercial interruptions would be instituted, as would allowing YouTube videos of F1. Blogs and twitter would be embraced, as they’ve been by Indycar, and we’d try and steal some Indycar PR people to help with that! Plus, we’d encourage more teams, and especially larger teams, to be more fan friendly, engage in social media and tours of the race shops.
Last but certainly not least, take away downforce and raise (or at least keep the same) horsepower!!!! I’d repeat that over and over again, and probably commission posters to be placed around the HQ of the FIA to remind everyone. I like the KERS, so we’d keep that, but overall, as few electronics as possible in the car. While I’m not in love with the inline 4 engine decision, as long as they’re keeping HP up at current levels, it’s okay, and maybe it’ll help bring more manufactures back.
Actually, that’s the last point; help the manufactures realize the importance of motor racing, and especially F1. Don’t be greedy and try and take a ton of money from them, but actually partner with them, and help promote each other! Getting American and Japanese automakers back involved is a must! Also someone from the Audi/VW/Lamborghini group needs to be involved! All of that would be a lot better than the pointless new teams!
So what’s my goal as FIA President? Make F1 and the other series stronger and more interesting, and try and expand F1’s fanbase even more. F1’s huge, but it could be even bigger! Improving the quality of racing and the competitiveness of racing would be my two biggest goals, followed by taking F1 to where there are actual people who’d watch it (IE, US, Argentina, South Africa) instead of running it in front of 5 people in Abu Dhabi and re-engaging the auto makers from WTCC to F1 to World Rally. So if you want my help, I’m willing to sign onto the job for a 5th of what Todt is getting paid!
It’s Jorge Lorenzo’s world, the rest of the riders are just living in it. Lorenzo has been truly dominate, winning 6 out of 9 races! He has been having a career season, benefited by Rossi’s injury and Ducati’s problems. Still, he’s been nearly flawless, finishing first or second in every race! He’s effectively won the title half way through the season, with the only possible way to lose being injury, or a massive issue with the engine rule.
I Claim This Series in the Name of Spain:
Dani Pedrossa has been inconsistently good this year as well. He has 2 wins and 5 podiums, but also has 3 finishes outside of the top 5, including a DNF at Laguna Seca. Because of this, he’s about 70 points behind Lorenzo in second. In both of his wins, Pedrossa was able to beat Lorenzo by a good margin. He’d be able to contend for the title if only he didn’t have the consistency issues that have always plagued him. Between him and Lorenzo, the Spanish have won every race but one, the opening round run by Valentino Rossi. And, Spain itself will host 4 rounds of MotoGP, with Portugal hosting another. Not only that, but every 125cc race has been won by a Spaniard, and Toni Elias has 3 wins and the points lead in Moto2. Spain is conquering the MotoGP, when will the Austrians, Americans, and Italian’s strike back?
Rossi is Inhuman:
At Mugello, Valentino Rossi was injured when he highslided during practice. He broke his leg, and was already recovering from a shoulder injury during a Motocross training accident. He wasn’t expected back earlier than Bruno, at the earliest. Some thought it might take him until Indy, or even latter. Rumors said he’d just sit the season out. So when did he return? Sachenring, a month earlier than the earliest expected return date. And when he returned, he finished 4th, battling hard with Casey Stoner for the podium. And at the next round, Laguna Seca, he finished 3rd. Despite his injuries, Rossi has finished every race but one within the podium, and the only race outside the podium was Sachenring, where he finished 4th. Rossi is showing why he’s considered one of the greatest ever to race MotoGP. He’s very likely to be able to win again before the year is up, and with the two week break between Laguna and Bruno, he should be even better than he was at the last race.
The 2006 World Champion is possibly the most underrated riders in MotoGP. After three challenging years after winning his title, Nicky has found his consistent form again! He has 5 top 5 finishes, 4 of which are top 4 finishes. He’s been really close to getting a podium, but has just lost out… There was concern about his future in a factory ride, but his good runs plus Stoner leaving is going to allow him to continue with Factory Ducati, with Hayden fans hoping the move in 2012 to 1000cc again will benefit him. And, his strong runs likely have helped convince Valentino Rossi that the Ducati’s aren’t just bike that Casey Stoner can run, which brings us to…
Silly Season Shakes Things Up:
Silly season has been pretty down in most racing series, but not MotoGP. We know for sure that Casey Stoner will move to Honda. It’s expected that Honda will expand to a 3 bike team, because Andrea Dovizioso is high enough in points to have his contract extended, same for Pedrossa. The biggest story though, is Valentino Rossi. He is expected to announce shortly that he will be joining Ducati for the next season, replacing Casey Stoner and re-uniting with former teammate Nicky Hayden. Rossi will be joining Ducati for an increase in pay, as well as not having to deal with Jorge Lorenzo, who he’s not enjoyed being teamed with, and a bit more of the “number one” status. Also, the mixture of Ducati, the famous Italian brand, and Valentino Rossi, who’s also Italian, is a marketing dream, and is believed to be considered a major positive for the series as a whole. For the American fans, this will mean the moving of Ben Spies up to Factory Yamaha, which means, we may have another American World Champion within a few years! Lorenzo, as is often the case when you win 6/9 races, will stay with factory Yamaha.
Engine Rule= Insanity:
MotoGP has an engine life rule, restricting each rider to a maximum of 6 engines for the year. The idea was the infamous “cost savings”. If you’ve ever wondered why I’m not too positive about “cost savings” in other series (NASCAR, Indycar,) this rule is a great example. Firstly, the rules designed to save money, however, it has caused teams to try and maximize the power/reliability ratio, which isn’t cheap. Tech 3 demonstrates another issue, which is that the satellite teams, which cannot afford to do the more expensive research, now are more down on power than before! If that weren’t enough, Suzuki is about to run out of engines, and is believed to be given extra engines, because otherwise Suzuki is likely to pull out.
Bike count, for all the great things about MotoGP, this is not one of them. With only 17 bikes, the car count is hovering around Champ Car levels. Of course, unlike Champcar, there’s actual money in many of the teams on the grid. Still, with the injuries, and teams being allowed to skip a few races before being forced to field a bike, bike count has been a precarious thing for the MotoGP. The controversial “Claims Rules engine teams” may help alleviate this issue, but with non factory teams having not won a race in the 800cc era, this really isn’t that surprising. I really don’t know the solution, but something needs to be done, because while no one wants to see Lotus, HRT, and Virgin, Champ Car esque car counts aren’t good either.
This year has caused multiple injuries, with Rossi, De Puniet, and Aoyama all having been injured. Which has caused issues with bike count. Being fairly new to MotoGP, I’m really not sure what the cause for these injuries are, it could be just bad luck, or maybe riders pushing harder, I do not know.
Moto2 is Successful:
Moto2 was a controversial and highly debated change to the development ladder. However, by all accounts, it’s been very successful. I’ll come clean, I haven’t seen much of it, but it has been competitive and has a VERY high bike count, unlike the MotoGP. Moto2 would be an example of a develompent series done right, if you want the oppisite argument, there’s no need to go further than NASCAR’s Nationwide or Trucks series. The racing is supposed to be very good and there is no Lorenzo completly dominating.
While F1 may or may not be returning to the US for 2012 (seriously, what is it with racing and 2012?!?!?), MotoGP already has 2 USGP’s, the USGP@Laguna Seca and theIndyGP@Indy. This is a great thing for American race fans, and they are both run at unique locations; with Laguna Seca being run on a county park, and the Indy GP being run on the roval at Indy. There have been some rumors of the IndyGP not returning, hopefully if this were to happen, MotoGP would move to another track, like VIR, Mid Ohio, or Road America. Or, it just stays where it is. Since I believe it’s making money for IMS, which is losing money rapidly with Indycar, it’s likely to stay, at least I hope so…
When Rossi was out with his injuries, both ratings and attendance dropped. It showed how reliant the series is on Rossi as its main star, one who appeals to people of all nationalities, for their popularity. What is going to happen when Rossi retires or worse, leaves for WSBK? This question probably won’t come up for a while, as he wants to become number 1 in all time wins, so he’s likely to stick around for a few more years. However, what’s going to happen if he switches to WSBK??? MotoGP’s going to need Hayden, Pedrossa, Spies, Lorenzo and Stoner to be able to become bigger stars to continue the series momentum.
Ben Spies, The Real Deal:
Spies came into the season with a lot of hype, and he’s handled himself well. With a slight slump after the first round, he’s been a top 5 rider, which is pretty good considering he’s on a Tech 3 bike and fairly new to the tracks and a rookie. He and DePuniet have been battling for the “Best of the Rest” and with De Puniet injured, Spies will likely win both “Best of the Rest” and Rookie of the year. So far, the highlight was Silverstone, where Spies came in third, wining his first podium. He was in contention for a podium at Laguna, but a slight issue caused him to slide and fall down to 6th.
The “aliens” of Stoner, Rossi, Lorenzo, and Pedrossa have continued to dominate, although Stoner has struggled badly, he seems to be returning to form, with 4 podiums in a row. Lorenzo has taken his game to the next level, admittedly helped by Rossi’s injury, although either way, he’s been flawless, as I noted earlier, every finish has been first or second so far this year. The question moving forward is can Hayden, Dovizioso, or Spies move into their ranks over the next few years? And can a non alien win a race? If one’s going to do it, it’ll be between Dovizioso, Hayden, or Spies.
This is my first season of watching MotoGP, and I’ve really enjoyed it. The level of competition is extremely high, and there is actual on track passing, something I’m not used to seeing in Indycar(on road/street courses)/F1! Although Lorenzo is dominate, there’s still been very good racing on track, with unexpectedly strong performances from Dovizioso, Spies, and Hayden. The only thing that could make it better is to see Spies or Hayden winning, which hopefully will happen next year, or at least a more competitive championship battle. Unlike the other series I follow, I’m VERY optimistic about where MotoGP is going to go in the future, as long as the “Claims Rule Engine” team thing doesn’t cause a massive issue. I’m having a great time watching and covering MotoGP and WSBK, and I’ll do a recap about WSBK after Silverstone this weekend. For better MotoGP coverage, go to MotoMatters, Road Racer X, and Asphalt Rubber.
I’m not going to do the usual format for Team Meeting this weekend. Instead, I’m going to do more of a general impression of the weekend. It was a down weekend for two reasons. From a fan perspective, most of the good story lines failed, miserably, look at Massa, Montoya, Spies, Silvestro, and Wilson, and then there was a ton of bad officiating/team orders/management issues from the series themselves.
When Simona got speared by Viso, my heart completely sank. I had already seen that movie TWICE with Montoya’s wreck at Indy and Spies going wide at Laguna. To see it again, was shocking and horrifying. I mean, Simona was able to be FAST, holding off RHR for a long time, eventually losing a spot, but still running 7th, when Viso speared her, putting her into the tire wall and ruining the ONLY interesting storyline in an otherwise Big Two dominated race. The Big Two held ALL of the top spots, it was incredibly dull, so to see the ONE thing that kept me interested taken out by VISO, who’s left an impressive trail of carbon fiber behind him this year, really upset me!
Spies’ issue wasn’t as bad, or as dramatic, and it was also his fault. He got off to a good start, but he then slid back. He recovered and was in 5th chasing down Rossi in 4th and Dovizioso in 3rd, for what could have been his second podium. Then, during a commercial break, he slid wide and lost a bunch of positions, which allowed Rossi to catch and pass Dovizioso. It wasn’t as bad as Montoya or Silvestro, and it was Spies fault, but still, right after seeing Montoya bin it, and then to see Silvestro get speared by Viso an hour latter…
Montoya’s thing was just painful. VERY predictable “debris” yellow came out, bunching the field up and forcing a bunch of late race pit stops. A lot of teams took two tires instead of four, thus Montoya started a lot farther back. He struggled and then ended up hitting the wall, then slid down the field, taking Junior, who was having a fairly good run, out. It was absolutely depressing, I’m a huge Montoya fan, and to see that for the SECOND TIME was horrifying, and hinted at what was to come. It was Montoya’s fault, but if they had just not had that late race yellow… stupid “debris” yellows.
Then of course Wilson had a bad race, and I’ll get to Massa, who almost won an F1 race the year after his massive injury latter… But on the positive side, Jaime McMurray won the Brickyard, and Valentino Rossi fought his way to the podium. Rossi’s podium was impressive, especially because it looked like Laguna hard for him, and his injuries were challenging him. Plus, he seemed to be fading, and then he came back and pushed up to 3rd. That was exciting to watch, and even though the race wasn’t a great one, it still was good, a LOT better than the other races that happened this weekend. And while I’m not a fan of McMurray, his redemption this year has been pretty cool to see, he defiantly seems like a good guy, and a strong win at the Brickyard really is impressive, because that’s a HARD track to win at, it really vindicates him, because most of his other wins are restrictor plates, but that win was pure talent, and Montoya brain fade. Also fun was the Lorenzo Land flag Lorenzo placed at Laguna, he dressed himself up in a space suit, and it was probably the highlight of the weekend racing wise.
Now onto what gave racing a complete black eye. It started in Germany, with the Ferrari team orders, and Massa giving the win up to Alonso. Now, I’ve heard the defense of this, from Varsha and some others, and they do have a really good point, but I’m still not a fan of team orders, although I’ll concede it can make things interesting, and although I didn’t watch the race, it sounds like Alonso would probably have overtaken him anyways. But still, show that to a “stick and ball” fan and see what they say… not a way to get fans….
After this, we go to Indy, where Brian France holds a press conference, and acts like his normal out of touch self. He hinted strongly that we will be moving to WWE on wheels, or the eliminations in the Chase. Then, he went on to talk about the new schedule, which he thinks “fans will like” despite unless a miracle happens, it’s going to have EVEN MORE cookie cutter tracks. Finally, he insanely claims that there’s “no problems” with the HORRIBLE TV broadcasts…. If NASCAR really goes to “elimination format” for the chase, I’m not sure if I’ll cover it or not next year, because that’s ridiculous. Onto the race, where the incredibly predictable “debris” cautions showed up and helped screw Montoya out of a win, can you say WWE on wheels???
Now it’s onto Indycar, surely things can’t go that wrong here, right? Wrong! The race was incredibly boring; with the Big Two holding ALL of the top spot… the only bright spot was Silvestro, who then got taken out by Viso. Eventually, Helio actually managed to pass Power! Still pretty dull, as Big Two held all of the top spots. Then on another restart, Power makes a very aggressive attempt to pass on Helio, fails, and falls to third, behind Dixon. Then, a minute later, the black flag comes out for Helio! Even the booth guys were confused as to why. Helio stayed on track, Dixon couldn’t get near him and after the race, things got heated, with Helio losing it on camera.
The blocking call makes ZERO sense. I’ve read the press release Indycar sent out and the statement on Versus.com by Barnhart, and I still don’t get how Helio was blocking!?!?? I mean, seriously, what the f*ck! I’ve seen multiple replays, and I cannot see HOW you can say that was a block or deserved that penalty! I understood and supported the penalty in 08 at Belle Isle, because that was BLATENT. But this is like Indy, when Rahal got a blocking penalty when he HELD IS F*CKING LINE, and still got hit with a “blocking” penalty. Funny how Danica CHOPPED TK at Texas and DIDN’T get a blocking call…
I mean, if that’s the standard for blocking, about half the field needs a black flag! And if that’s “blocking” then what penalty should Viso get for cutting across the field to get to the pits on the restart to serve his penalty for spearing Simona??? What really gets me is how Barnhart allows a ton of ACTUAL BLOCKIGN not to mention those HORRIBLY spread out starts, and no one get’s penalized, but then he calls blocking on this!?!? I literally cannot fathom what Barnhart was thinking… I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, PARK BRIAN BARNHART!!!! He’s one of the worst race officials I’ve EVER seen!!! The only way I can interpret the rules is that any running on the inside of the track is illegal, which is an INSANE rule to have. I AM ALL FOR BLOCKING PENALTIES, but call them on BLOCKS! It’s not like there’s a shortage of those!!!
That penalty capped off what had been an incredibly boring race. The EVERY SINGLE BIG TWO driver was up front, until Helio was given a 20 second penalty. That’s right, a complete Big Two domination. Not only that, but they put over half the field a lap down, which always tells you it was a pretty dull race. The only good story from Indycar to survive was Tracy, who finished 6th, and after a trying year reminded us why he NEEDS and DESERVES a full time ride.
So what stories do the “mainstream” sports media have on racing? F1’s team orders, and Indycar f*ck up, more contrivances for NASCAR, and generally good storylines getting crushed. What’s sad is the ALMS and MotoGP, who put on good races without massive issues, aren’t getting any attention. It’s especially sad for MotoGP, because really, the MotoGP might have been the best race of the weekend, and they need to get more publicity, because it’s a GREAT series that I really want to grow in America, because it’s international road racing done RIGHT! And the ALMS, considering they have about 4 LMP’s, put on a surprisingly good show, but all the talk is on something else….
Just to cap of this disaster, NASCAR’s attendance at the Brickyard was bad, around 120,000-140,000, which while a lot of people, for Indy, considering NASCAR is supposedly the biggest racing series in the country, not so much. There’s a lot of concern about Indy’s long term future in NASCAR, and that’s sad, because it’s really cool to see NASCAR at Indy, and it’s a track that really shows who’s a good driver. Here’s something funny, the MotoGP this August might just outdrawn the Brickyard. If that happens, well, that would be a pretty big disaster for NASCAR.
Seriously, this weekend of racing just wasn’t that good. If I’m trying to sell a non race fan on racing, I really couldn’t use anything from Indycar, NASCAR, or F1 to do it. I’d show them MotoGP, WSBK, and ALMS instead. It’s too bad, because this weekend had a TON of promise, but in the end, it was pretty much a disaster, from Silvestro’s spearing by Viso, to Montoya’s wreck, to the purposed Chase changes, to the Indycar insanity, it’s just one of those race weekends you wish had never happened.
Pre Race Picks and Predictions: USGP@Laguna, Brickyard 400, IRP, Edmonton, Hockenhiem, and Lime Rock
MotoGP: USGP@ Laguna Seca
MotoGP heads to Laguna Seca in California for the first of two rounds in the United States. Laguna Seca is a very narrow and tight, not to mention short, track. Laguna Seca is infamous for its corkscrew downhill turn, and has hosted races for the Champcar World Series, ALMS, Grand Am, and AMA, as well as the Monterey Historic Races. I’ve not watched very many races there, but I have seen it in both Forza 3 and MotoGP 09/10, and it’s a pretty crazy track. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly difficult to pass on, due to the lack of straights and narrowness of the track. That means qualifying is very important, although the MotoGP has a better time passing than say Champcar or ALMS. A few years ago, Rossi put a very aggressive pass on Stoner for the win.
Because it’s the USGP, SpeedTV will have tape delayed qualifying, which is something they usually don’t have. Also, the race will be live on SpeedTV at 5:00PM Sunday. Due to Laguna Seca being run on a state park, and not having the money that other tracks have, there will be no Moto2 or 125cc races run as support races. Instead, the AMA plays the undercard role.
Yamaha is giving their two American riders on Tech 3 an update for this weekend, which hopefully will help push them to the first win for a non factory team in the 800cc era. Because Laguna is such a unique track, riders such as Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies, and Roger Lee Hayden, who all have had success in the AMA here, have an advantage over much of the field. Nicky Hayden has two wins here, in the first two years this race was held.
Winner… Jorge Lorenzo: Lorenzo has won a ton of races this year, and so he’s the clear favorite for this weekend too. Last time he lost to Pedrossa, earlier this year, Lorenzo came back and won 3 races in a row.
Likely…Nicky Hayden: Hayden is known for his consistency, and after struggling badly over the last two years, this year he’s starting to come back. He’s excellent at Laguna, and with Stoner leaving Ducati, he’s probably their number one rider, at least until Rossi get’s there next year. Can Hayden get the first win for Ducati this year???
Darkhorse…Ben Spies: No non factory rider has won a race in the 800cc era. Can Spies end this trend? If he’s going to do it, this may be his best shot. He’s got experience at Indy and Valencia as well, but Laguna’s not a high speed track, which is something the Tech 3 bikes struggle with. As long as the updates work well, Spies has a fairly good chance at doing well, if he’s going to get a win this year, now’s the time to do it. Qualifying will likely determine his shot, if he’s top 5, watch out, but if he is lower than 5th or 6th, that’s probably too much ground to make up. Free Practice one went well for Spies, finishing 5th, and putting down very competitive times.
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Brickyard 400 at Indy
The Brickyard 400 is, despite what some NASCAR writers like to say, the second biggest race of the year for NASCAR. Sadly, due to the way NASCAR’s COT and gearing rules work, the race itself isn’t probably going to be that great. However, EVERY driver who’s won at Indy in NASCAR is a driver who’s contended for titles and won multiple races in their careers, so success here is a good measure of talent. The future of the Brickyard 400 is starting to get a little bit less positive, though, as since the tire disaster of 2008, ticket sales have been down, and with the general loss of interest in NASCAR, that could lead to this race’s attendance not making it as worthwhile to IMS. However, for years the Brickyard 400 has been a massive money maker, and I’m guessing they’ll stick with it, unless things really start to go downhill.
Last year, Montoya lead a majority of the race, only to have a pit road speeding penalty, which allowed Jimmie Johnson to win. Johnson has in fact won the last two races here, while his teammate Jeff Gordon has won four races here, including the first NASCAR race run here.
Winner…Juan Montoya: Montoya dominated last year, and while he’s not had the same consistency he had last year, he’s still got a lot of speed. Not only that, but he did very well in the first practice. A win here would deficiently help prove how good of driver Montoya is to the NASCAR people. As long as the bad luck that’s been trailing Montoya this year doesn’t strike, he should be able to get his first NASCAR oval win.
Likely…Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie Johnson comes into Indy on a streak of two Brickyard 400’s in a row. He’s got the team and speed to win this race, but going against him is the collective will of almost the entire NASCAR fan base, who probably never want to see him win again. If it turns into a JJ domination, expect ratings to be pretty bad, as it will be about as much fun as watching paint dry.
Darkhorse…Denny Hamlin: Denny Hamlin has never won the Brickyard, but he’s won a lot at Pocono and other flat tracks, so it’s not much of a stretch to see him winning this weekend.
Edmonton is an airport street race, much like Cleveland. Unlike Cleveland, it’s not produced great races. The future for Edmonton is in doubt, although the city council appears to want to continue to run the race. Due to it being run on an airport, there’s a lot less to run into compared to most races, as last year’s race, which had only one yellow flag at the very end, proved. It’s strange that Indycar runs a race on the same weekend as the Brickyard 400, because many of the Indycar media/IMS employees are stuck in Indy, and cannot cover the race.
Luckily, this race is on Versus, so we may actually see the start! Last year at Edmonton, Will Power dominated, and that was when he was a Penske Part timer. Edmonton was a good race for Paul Tracy in 08, as he finished in the top 5 and was pretty competitive. Due to the nature of the track, this shouldn’t’ be as expensive to KV as most other weekends have been. The Indy Lights field is incredibly small this weekend as well, not sure why, probably traveling costs.
Winner…Will Power: Will Power dominated last year when he was in a part time Penske role, now he’s full time and the championship leader. If Power runs well, he can clinch the Road Course Championship, and since he’s won the last two races, there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again.
Likely…Justin Wilson: Justin came so close to winning last weekend, but Power passed him on a restart and he then spun it, ruining what could have been a great finish. But, he’s still one of the best on the road courses, and so hopefully he’ll rebound and help break up the Big Two/Big Three.
Darkhorse…Ryan Hunter Reay: RHR has already won a race, Long Beach, managing to beat Will Power, which is pretty impressive. Also impressive is he’s second in road course points, and is 5th in overall points. As long as he can avoid any team or driver errors which have plagued his team, he should be able to contend for his second win this year.
ALMS: Lime Rock
Lime Rock is another very narrow and short racetrack. Due to the addition of the GTC and LMC class, the traffic during the race is expected to be very high, and should make it fairly interesting to watch. The nature of this track favors smaller and lighter cars over brute power, and will require a driver’s full concentration to get through the traffic without incident. I don’t follow LMC or CTC, so the picks will only be for LMP and GT
Winner…Patron Highcroft: This Acura LMP2 car is has won the last three ALMS races, so think of it like Lorenzo and Power, same thing applies here.
Likely…Dyson Racing: The Dyson Lola’s are interesting cars, with a very different engine than most teams, as well as being a coupe instead of open top. They’ve struggled a bit with mechanical issues which may be their biggest weakness going into this weekend.
Darkhorse…Drayson Lola: The Drayson Lola team is at a disadvantage this weekend because they’re based off a LMP1 car, which means it’s heavier than its LMP2 based competitors. However, traffic and attrition could play into their hands; hence they’re my Darkhorse pick.
Winner…Flying Lizards Porsche: I think Lime Rock should be good for the Porsche’s from Flying Lizard, as they won at the somewhat similar Laguna Seca and the also narrow Long Beach.
Likely…Risi Ferrari: The Risi Ferrari’s have been strong, but more on the larger tracks, winning both Sebring and Miller, which puts them at a disadvantage at Lime Rock.
Darkhorse…Corvette: The Corvette’s haven’t been having the season they’d like, but with the possibilities of attrition and traffic, they’ve got an outside chance at a win this weekend.
NASCAR Nationwide: IRP
Instead of running at Indy, the Nationwide and Truck series run at the short track, IRP, which usually hosts USAC races. Going into IRP is the Edwards/Keselowski rivalry, which got more heated with Edwards wrecking Keselowski again last week. Both drivers are on probation, so they probably will play nicer, however, due to the fact IRP is a short track, there’s still a very good chance that something might happen. I’ll go out on a limb here and predict a Sprint Cup driver to win.
Winner…Kyle Busch: Busch in a Gibbs car, and unlike Edwards or Keselowski, not on probation.
Likely…Brad Keselowski: On probation, but it’s a short track, so…. Edwards may want to watch out, especially if he’s leading on a GWC and Keselowski’s second. Still don’t see why he got probation last week…
Darkhorse… Carl Edwards: He’s a Darkhorse because he got in more trouble with NASCAR than Keselowski after last week’s incident. Still, it’s a short track, and this is where you’re supposed to do you’re payback, not at Atlanta and Gateway!
Camping World Trucks: IRP
Honestly, the truck series is becoming kinda pointless. Really they need to merge trucks and nationwide to make a stronger second tier series. Anyways here’s the picks.
Winner…Kyle Busch: A top tier Cup driver in third tier NASCAR…
Likely…Timothy Peters: A good short track racer on a short track.
Darkhorse…Austin Dillon: He won at Iowa, another short track, a second win so soon after his first would really show he’s becoming a good driver.
Note, F1 picks coming latter.
Winner: Sebastion Vettel
Likely: Mark Webber
Darkhorse: Lewis Hamilton