Monday, September 24, 2007

MotoGP: Lucky Loris Wins In Japan

Sly old fox Loris Capirossi has been complaining all year that Ducati aren't giving him enough support, but he rubbed their noses in it at Motegi when a brilliantly timed switch from wet tyres to slicks secured him his first victory of the year.

The conditions in Japan were wet, but it had already stopped raining when the start lights went out, so the race was run on a drying track. Miniature hero Dani Pedrosa had taken a stunning pole position in the dry qualifying session, blowing even 2nd-placed Valentino Rossi into the weeds by around 4 tenths of a second. Casey Stoner looks like a 12 year old, and he certainly acted like one when he failed to find a setup for his Ducati, stomping out the back of the garage in a major huff after qualifying 9th, 1.2 seconds behind the teeny Spaniard. As the Aussies would say, he spat the dummy.

Kawasaki's Ant West was too keen, jumping the start. Pedrosa took the lead, and started to stretch away, but was reeled in by Westy, who overtook for first place. It wouldn't last long, as he was penalized with a ride-through. The Bridgestone tyres were the ones to be on with the track in that state, so Pedrosa dropped back, as did Rossi a few places behind him. Bridgestone runners Melandri and Stoner were on the attack, with Marco leading the race after West peeled off into the pit lane to serve his penalty.

However, as the track dried, the pendulum swung back to Michelin. Valentino Rossi was now lapping half a second faster than the Bridgestone runners in front of him. He dispatched both Stoner and Melandri with forceful passing moves. The problem was that riders behind them had already started pitting to switch bikes, jumping off the machines they started on and leaping onto their spare bikes, which were fitted with slick or cut slick tyres. Capirossi used his great skill and experience to time the switch perfectly. While Stoner was battling for the lead with 2 minute laps, Capirex was screaming around on slicks, an incredible 7 seconds a lap faster. With a 30 second deficit to the leaders and about 15 laps left, it was clear that the little Italian would pass them within about 4 laps and take off into the distance. Stoner's pitcrew held out a pitboard with the word "Box", which is Italian for "What the hell are you still doing out there on wets?"

Stoner and Melandri pitted, while Rossi and Pedrosa stayed out. Behind them, it was clear that Michelin runners were in serious trouble. Hayden came out on Michelin cut slicks and disappeared, prompting people to assume he had been off the track. Nope, the problem was that the Michelin tyres were garbage, Nicky later saying that he thought the front tyre was flat. Rossi pitted next time round, and pitted again the next time thinking there was something seriously wrong with his front tyre as he couldn't brake, never mind get around corners. Nothing wrong, except that it was a Michelin! Colin Edwards thought about pitting again like Valentino, but decided to stay out while he worked out "what on earth was going on" with his front tyre.

Tyres again. Yawn. I really hope all the MotoGP snobs enjoy seeing half the field struggling on rubbish tyres while the rest merrily disappear in to the wide blue yonder. I'm sick of it. This tyre war has ruined an entire season. Dorna are now proposing a one tyre rule, which has purists fainting like 18th century damsons in distress. They say Dorna are just panicking. Well, here's a newsflash for you guys, if the money men are panicking, you'd damn well better start worrying, because MotoGP will die without money and TV viewers. Think I'm being melodramatic? Look at Indycar racing in the USA. Once a prototype series with a tyre war and a damn sight more money slopping round than MotoGP has ever had, now it has degenerated into 2 separate one-make series with no TV audience and therefore no sponsors or money. NASCAR has buried them, and it's essentially a one-make series itself. F1 used to be a raw prototype class, now they're on spec tyres with effectively spec engines, and they have ten times more money and technology than MotoGP can dream of.

Think that can't happen to MotoGP? Gimme a call, I have some magic beans to sell.

Capirossi won, de Puniet came 2nd after forgetting to crash, and Toni Elias was 3rd. Guintoli finished 4th after Dunlop came up with their yearly half-decent tyre. Stoner was only 6th after delaying his bike switch too long, but it didn't matter. Stoner is 2007 World MotoGP Champion. Rossi could do nothing, yet again, because he was let down by his tyres, yet again. It has been a strange world title for Stoner, as he simply hasn't been pushed in a year when lead Bridgestone rider means World Champion. The little Aussie has been brilliant, but how on earth can you quantify how much has been Stoner and how much has been Bridgestone? You can't. I believe that Stoner and Ducati would still have won the title if they'd been on the same tyres as Rossi and Yamaha, and I find it depressing that we'll never find out. In motorcycle racing, the man is supposed to be 80% and the machine 20% of the equation. That definitely hasn't been the case this year.

Let's stop all this snooty posing and bring in a control tyre for next year.


Rob said...

No control tyre for MotoGP, thanks. Finally, Bridgestone manage to win the world championship after 6 years of trying and we suddenly need to change the rules? Come on! Don't let a couple of whingers (#46 and #26) dictate the rules. Make 'em dig deep and try harder. They and Michelin have done for the last couple of races, let's see more. Keep the competition, it's what the sport is all about. Michelin have won every championship since '94, and I didn't hear a call for a control tyre for the last 13 years when they were winning.

Stoner and the Ducati/Bridgestone package have been unbeatable this year, give them credit where it is due. You only have to look at Capirossi's season to see where Stoner should have been, and how well he has performed. Rossi was beaten, fair and square.

Jimmy said...

Well, I couldn't give a monkey's about tyres.
I want to see racing, and it's been rubbish this year. I couldn't care less if Bridgestone have done a good job. When tyres start dictating the race, it's time to fix the rules because nobody cares which tyre company wins.
Anyway, it's looking very likely that there will be a control tyre. The TV audiences in the crucial Spanish and Italian markets are in freefall. Dorna won't let them hit rock bottom.

Jordan said...

I like the way you think with the tires and all. When I read this entry I felt like I was reading something I had writen. You feel exactly the same way I do about the runaway victories that occured this year. It's ridiculous and a change needs to be made.

Jimmy said...

Yep, now that it's confirmed there won't be a single tyre rule, I'm hoping that the changes they make to the rules will level things up a bit.