Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Challenge, Crutchlow’s Ultimatum, & Sport as Soap Opera

05/30/2013 @ 7:24 pm, by David Emmett26 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossis Challenge, Crutchlows Ultimatum, & Sport as Soap Opera Cal Crutchlow MotoGP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Scott Jones 635x421

Mugello is a spectacular setting. Even when it absolutely pours down, so badly that a river starts running through the Mugello paddock, the setting remains spectacular. It makes navigating the paddock without a life vest fairly treacherous, but at least the view is stunning. The rain looks set to stay for the duration, though the forecast appears to be improving day by day, but the riders need not fear a lack of wet track time.

As always, the riders waxed eloquent on the circuit, almost universal in their praise. Most entertaining simile of the day was from Bradley Smith, who compared Mugello to a motocross track: all undulating surfaces, blind crests and banked corners. He is right, of course, but it is not the first comparison that springs to mind when describing a track as physically large and magnificent as Mugello.

Former Moto2 rival Marc Marquez was the lone dissenting voice in the litany of praise heaped upon the iconic Italian circuit. Did he enjoy the circuit? “If you have a good set up, you enjoy it a lot,” Marquez told the media. “But when you are struggling a lot, it is so difficult.”

The problem is that there are so many changes of direction, and so many fast, flowing corners that lead into one another, that if you have a problem in one corner, then you probably have the same problem in most of the corners around the track. “It’s difficult, and you have to stay so concentrated,” Marquez added, then joked that of course, if he won here, it would naturally be one of his favorite tracks.

Could Marquez win here? That seems beyond his possibilities at the moment. This is a track where he has had no testing, and a circuit which, like Barcelona in two weeks’ time, is highly complicated circuit to ride. “Here and in Montmelo, these are two of the most difficult tracks, so it will be interesting to see what my level is,” Marquez said.

It will also be interesting to see just where Valentino Rossi stands. This is a circuit at which he has had massive success, and the scene of one of his favorite races. In 2006, he fought an epic last-lap battle with Loris Capirossi, crossing the line for the penultimate time with nothing between them, and finally holding off the Ducati rider at the line. “It is the only time in my career that I don’t remember the last lap,” Rossi told the press conference, “I just remember that I won after the line!”

But his last win dates from 2008. In 2009 he was beaten by Casey Stoner, Ducati finally getting a win at their home circuit. In 2010 he broke his leg, and then he spent two fruitless years trying to replicate Stoner’s success at Ducati. Now back on a Yamaha, theoretically he should be back in with a chance.

Press conference speaker and veteran journalist Nick Harris asked Rossi whether he thought that the young riders now dominating MotoGP had taken the sport to another level, and perhaps beyond Rossi’s reach. “For me, it is not right to speak about ‘another level’,” Rossi replied.

The younger riders – Rossi named Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa – were stronger, certainly, but they were like next year’s model of car. That model is always better than the one it replaces, and offered a range of new possibilities. “The way to ride the bike in recent years has changed a lot,” Rossi explained.

“Now you need to do different tricks on the bike that for an ‘old rider’ like me are difficult.” How had riding changed? “Especially change a lot the tires,” Rossi told the press conference. “They change a lot when the monotire rule arrived.”

After the single tire was introduced in 2009, the character of the tires change. They have less grip on the very edge of the tire, changing the way the bikes had to be ridden. Now, Rossi explained, you had to use the ‘traction area’ of the tire, the section just inside of the edge of the tire, when searching for drive out of the corner.

That’s where the acceleration came from, and that required a change in riding style. It was not a style he has yet been able to master. He and his team still had work to do, Rossi said, but he believed that it was an achievable target.

They could find the speed which Rossi was missing, and get him up to speed with Pedrosa, Marquez, Lorenzo, and Cal Crutchlow. “Now with MotoGP you have to be at 100% all through practice, and arrive on Sunday at more than 100% if you want to stay in front from the first lap to the last.”

That Rossi should include Crutchlow in the list of fast riders is not as much of a surprise as it may seem. Crutchlow is fourth in the championship, and ahead of Rossi in the standings, though they have beaten each other twice apiece.

Crutchlow is growing ever more weary of having to prove that he deserves a factory ride, in whatever form that may take, and his performance has clearly caught the attention of Ducati and Suzuki, the two factories which will have seats vacant in 2014. Ideally, Crutchlow would like to remain in the Tech 3 team, with the kind of factory support from Yamaha given to Honda’s satellite riders.

But while Crutchlow continues to put in outstanding performances almost every round, Yamaha are engaged in talks with Pol Espargaro. Espargaro is believed to have signed a letter of intent with Yamaha at the Qatar round of MotoGP, which would put the young Spaniard in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team with factory backing.

At Mugello, Crutchlow lost his patience with the situation, making it clear that Yamaha would have to choose who they want on their bike. “[Yamaha] have signed Pol, as far as I am aware. It’s none of my business and I don’t really care, but one thing is for sure, I won’t ride under Pol Espargaro in my team. So I will be leaving, that’s clear. I won’t ride there if he has a factory contract and I don’t.”

If there is a factory contract to be handed out by Yamaha, then Crutchlow felt that he deserved it over Pol Espargaro, and on the basis of Espargaro’s results, it is hard to fault his logic. Clearly, Yamaha are looking to address the prospect of long-term domination by Marc Marquez.

While Jorge Lorenzo is currently at the peak of his ability, Yamaha have to look to the future to prevent Honda from walking off with MotoGP in the coming years. If that was Yamaha’s aim, Crutchlow said, then they were looking in the wrong direction with Espargaro. “Marc’s a different story, as I’ve said a million times,” Crutchlow told journalists. “Pol Espargaro is no Marc Marquez. Not in any way, shape or form.”

Crutchlow’s future lies in the hands of Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis. It is Jarvis who has decided he wants to sign Espargaro, at least according to Crutchlow, and so it is up to Jarvis to choose whether he wants Espargaro or Crutchlow. If Jarvis decides against Crutchlow, then the Englishman can walk into a Suzuki contract almost straight away.

Jarvis’ dilemma is twofold: does he sign young talent for the future, or does he prepare a rider capable of riding alongside Jorge Lorenzo when Valentino Rossi retires at the end of 2014? And what kind of rider does he want? Espargaro is a charming, friendly and popular figure, and unlikely to kick up a storm.

Crutchlow, too, is charming, but his charm is more rakish, and has an edge that corporate entities can sometimes fear. Crutchlow’s razor-sharp wit will always generate publicity for the company, but it will not always fit neatly inside the corporate message and image which companies like Yamaha like to project. Crutchlow has a hint of danger around him, and while that is very, very good for his popularity, it leaves him feared by PR managers up and down the paddock.

It also leaves him loved by Dorna, by Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal, and by the team’s title sponsor Monster Energy. Crutchlow packs a significant political punch, and could cause severe problems for Yamaha if he decides to leave.

If Crutchlow were to go to Suzuki, for example, then that could potentially have consequences for Monster, and their involvement with the Tech 3 squad, and maybe even the Yamaha factory team. It is a complex situation for all concerned, and not one which will be resolved easily.

Where Crutchlow ends up riding next year will not be decided this weekend, but clearly this will be a pivotal few days in the career of Cal Crutchlow. The series needs spiky characters like Crutchlow, capable of drawing casual fans in to the sport.

The history of all professional sports is built on great rivalries, of clashes of personality and personal style, and it is precisely that which has been missing from the sport in the past couple of years. There has been much mutual respect, and displays of politeness, and fine words back and forth between MotoGP’s protagonists. That leaves MotoGP with only the racing to entertain, and entertainment is what has been sorely missing from the racing virtually since the introduction of the 800cc MotoGP machines.

There is a lesson to be learned from the heyday of Valentino Rossi, and of the World Superbike series in the 1990′s. Rossi understood that a hero needs a villain, and ensured that he always had one, to act as a counterfoil to the role of hero he had set out for himself.

The World Superbike series in the ’90s drew crowds larger than MotoGP – then still 500cc Grand Prix. Those crowds came to see riders who all clearly hated each other, and made no bones about it, Carl Fogarty, Aaron Slight, Scott Russell, Frankie Chili, and John Kocinski never passed up an opportunity to denigrate each other in the press. It may not have been sportsmanlike, but it made for great entertainment, and drew crowds in at every level of the sport.

MotoGP, like all professional sports, is first and foremost entertainment. Without that entertainment value, fans will not watch it, and without fans, there is no money to pay for it, especially a technology-based sport which costs many millions of dollars.

In the words of Barry Hearn, the promoter who turned Snooker, one of the dullest sports on the planet, into a media sensation, professional sports is a soap opera for men. Soap operas are built around characters, and if nothing else, Cal Crutchlow is a real character. We need more of his ilk, or MotoGP will fade out of existence. The sport simply cannot afford to be bland.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. TexusTim says:

    I like crutchlow but I understand his issue..like you say he doesnt fit the corporate mentality like a rossi or even marquez and the espargo brotheres do fit the mold but pol isnt going to be as fast as crutchlow on the same bike…and I am going to say this…. he isnt from spain,italy or the us..this is an issue for him as how many races are run in england? or anywere he is from…this “mold” that motogp riders must fit in doesnt really have a seat for him..thats obvious by the way there doing him…with his most recent statment my guess is this is his last season on a yamaha no matter how he finishes this year…and I say his age doesnt allow him to burn up anymore years proving his value..I have said this before they should give him full support..but yamaha is dead set on rossi finishing this season ahead of him…dont hate me for saying this but its all about rossi this year with yamaha…and I love rossi but would he have as many championships if michellin didnt hook him up before the mono tire rule came into play, remember the late saturday night shippments of fresh otpimised rubber for the current track he was racing on ? this certanly gave him an advantage in those days and since the rule change how many championships has he won ?…just sayin anyone who has been paying attention knows this fact and rossi cant escape that fact…and the elctronics has made a big difference…he says so in a round about way..the youg guns have grown up with tc it;s in there dna ! and they ride differently than someone who has to adapt to it..even rossi

  2. CTK says:

    They can’t change the personalities but I think the fix for races is simple

    - ditch factory teams and let the factories lease and support bikes
    - ditch the stupid spec tires and let people run their own tires
    - cut the grid down a little. I dont want to be mean but nobody really cares about the guys who dont generate points

    I would even suggest going as far to cap horsepower but for some reason everyone hates that.

  3. Faust says:

    I really wonder how many times we need to hear explanations of how the spec tire has changed this sport before people start believing it. The fact that people are still not able to connect the dots between the spec tires and the loss of performance by the Ducatis and riders like Rossi is just beyond me. Get rid of spec tires!!! In one fel swoop you would boost the capability of the Ducs, let Rossi pick tires he can actually use, and eliminate Lorenzo tire blaming drama.

  4. SquidleyMcSquidson says:

    @Tim

    Lets not try to rewrite history here. The michelins were terrible for Rossi towards the end. He won the title on non-spec Bridgestone tires in 2008, not michelins. So to answer your question, without Michelin he’d still have at least one title. Oh wait, he won it again the following year on Bridgestones….

  5. SquidleyMcSquidson says:

    Spec Bridgestones in 2009, I forgot to add, so that’s one more title after the rule change.

  6. TexusTim says:

    squid most of his wins before the mono tire rule were on michellin two out of seven doesnt mean anything look at overall wins and on what tires…if your saying the late night tire shipments didnt happen then your wrong it is common knowledge sir..this is why they made the rule man…most who want to scrap this rule want to see ducatti win more…a little selfish dont you think to scrap a rule that would help only one team ? so duccati needs to grow some and make a radical change to that bike..I think there on the way to that..the old phlosphy didnt work and tire isnt really the right answer long term to there problems, that lies in the chassis and all the stupid crap they wouldnt give up on becasue stoner could win on the bike…well rossi couldnt so i guess we go back and give special treatment with tires to popular racers..is that what you want ?

  7. CTK says:

    The thing that sucks most about Crutchlow is that he’s a late bloomer. I dont know if I see him getting the support he needs. He might have to jump ship to WSBK. That is a league more in tune with his personality anyway. Plus its def more rewarding + enamored w/British riders.

  8. SquidleyMcSquidson says:

    I didn’t say that’s what I wanted, I was just responding to your statement. You asked if he’d have as many title wins without Michelin. He won another title after switching. Then you asked how many championships he won after the switch to spec tires. He won again after the switch. You ended both of those questions with question marks. Normally when people ask questions, they are interested in answers. In no way am I saying I support or don’t support the rule, so don’t put words in my mouth. You made two factually incorrect assertions, that’s all. If you don’t want your questions answered, why ask them? (You’ll note that was a question). As for the tire rule and late night tire shipments, Wayne Rainey used to do that. Kevin Schwantz used to do that. Do their championships not count? (That was also a question). In fact if you look at the 500cc era (which Rossi started in) you’ll see that custom tires were just a part of business. You could just as easily claim that Rainey would not have won multiple titles if not for his partnership with Dunlop. But hey, just trying to set the record straight here. I’m no Rossi fan boy, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t win on tires other than Michelin. He did. It happened. It’s a fact. It’s not debatable. That’s all I stated. Claiming that 2 world titles don’t mean much is…. Wow. He’s got just as many title wins on Bridgestone tires as Lorenzo does.

  9. smiler says:

    Three insightful comments:
    After the single tire was introduced in 2009, the character of the tires change. They have less grip on the very edge of the tire, changing the way the bikes had to be ridden. Now, Rossi explained, you had to use the ‘traction area’ of the tire, the section just inside of the edge of the tire, when searching for drive out of the corner.

    So like F1 the tires are demanding how the bike is built. Lunacy. Intorduce another manufacturer.

    “Crutchlow is growing ever more weary of having to prove that he deserves a factory ride, in whatever form that may take”

    Not that this makes a difference because ” it leaves him feared by PR managers up and down the paddock”

    “crowds came to see riders who all clearly hated each other”.

    You cannot engineer that and having Pol Paella, who as Cal says is no Merguez is a joke.

    Carry on up s**t creek Dorna.

  10. CA_Mark says:

    TexusTim,

    Shuhei Nakamoto thinks multiple tire suppliers would make more exciting racing.

    http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/racing/hrc-shuhei-nakamoto-motogp-2012-interview/

    “When we had the multiple tire supplier system, it was possible to construct tires to exactly match each bike with each rider, and the tire could compensate for other factors. This meant that we had times when satellite team riders beat the factory riders, but that no longer applies under the sole supplier system – when things are good, they’re good for everyone; when they’re bad, everyone suffers the same. Under such equal conditions, you rarely get surprise results. With a single supplier, the factory teams are always very strong since they can apply their past experience, and this leaves little chance of winning for the non-factory riders and teams. For example, this season the podium was almost monopolised by just three riders: Dani, Casey and Jorge. There was no real chance of any other rider winning a race. This is why, from a personal standpoint, I prefer multiple tire suppliers. It simply makes the races more exciting, and I think it is better for the whole grand prix world.”

  11. TexusTim says:

    ok guys i give up here …your wanting it to be more competitve ? then leave the tire rule in place. want to see it end up were whoever gets the best tire support wll win ? see this is what will happen.
    i am not knocking val but he wouldnt have nearly as many wins if the tire rule were in place when he started…..if one manufactor of tires can buil one offs for there favorite rider and not do the same for some others? this used to happen…the riders that want to go back (not many) are the ones who used to get better results when tire company made a special effort to help them……if your so keen for a change then tell me why almost all forms of motorsports at the top end have a one tire spec rule..so no one gets special treatment
    squid your picking a fight for no reason other than you want to…I wont respond with this anymore I am not going to be dragged into a put down over past results when your ignoring the overall facts..thats stupid leading stupid down the worng worm hole…finate

  12. CTK says:

    @TexusTim everyone has their own engines and chassis. I get that Rossi got crazy wild favors but they can stop that. Still though you can’t be for custom engines and bikes and then spec tires. Either everything is spec, or everything is custom, including the tires. Everyone has a different riding style, and while setups have a big effect tires have the biggest effect. You can have the greatest bike on the planet but you are not going to do much on greasy sport touring tires. If you are from before the 800cc electronic era you will prob do better with more edge grip. Etc. F1 is suffering big time because of their stupid ideas on tires which are similar.

    Rossi is not a force or threat anymore so he won’t get those crazy looks, and nobody who wins is as big of a personality as Ross, plus MotoGP is under new management so I don’t think anyone will get those crazy “favors”. But with the spec tires now it’s a 2 and a half bike race. Thats bad for MotoGP

  13. SquidleyMcSquidson says:

    @Tim

    I’m not trying to pick a fight with you. Let me explain my reasoning. This is prototype racing. The whole point is to try new stuff. If not for this class of racing, there would be far less advancement in the world of motorcycle technology. Crossplane cranks, new suspension configurations (like on the CBRs and R1), advancements in electronics, transmissions, engine design, and brake systems. Stuff that worked well spread out (mass centralization efforts by HRC) and stuff that didnt work was tossed. This is the class where you invent stuff and try it out. The same was true for tires. Look at how much better street rubber is now than in the 90s. I think it’s safe to say that Dunlop N-Tecs wouldn’t exist if not for their partnership with GP racers. Multi compound tires with more grip on the edges, stuff like that. My issue with making everything spec, now we’re talking spec ECUs even, is that at what point in the effort to make everything “fair” does it just become a waste of time and money? With all the efforts to reduce other riders competitive edges (or perceived advantage since back in 2006 it was obvious Michelin was giving more support to HRC than Yamaha) I worry that we are reaching the point where “prototype” racing is irrelevant. SBK bikes are almost as fast now. If we aren’t going to have GP open to try new stuff, what’s the point? Just let Brigestone pick your tires for you and let Dorna issue you your software. They are already capping cost for suspension and other stuff, so why bother? THAT is my frustration, I’m not trying to instigate with you. I’m just not agreeing with what you said. Big difference. Prototype racing is here to advance the concept of motorcycling, so let my people go!

  14. Faust says:

    I hate to be ignorant here and I feel stupid, but why do people refer to Marquez as Merguez? And why Pol as Pol Paella? I’m sorry if I missed an inside joke somewhere but I really don’t get it and I keep seeing it in responses here.

  15. Ronald Burgundy says:

    Who is David Emmett? Excellent story again!

    I try not to think of my favorite sports as my “soap operas” but that’s exactly what they are. I’m as intrigued by the personalities as I am the results.

    Crutchlow has a point. My problem is that what he says is so friggin obvious. Even though he’s right he still, for me, comes off as whining and bitching and that grows tiresome. He needs to channel some of Nicky Hayden’s media savvy. In fact, in times of frustration I think we all do!

    The tires rule and electronics changed the game. The new kids like Marquez and the moto2 and moto3 standouts, they got this stuff down pat (bitch all you want Crutchlow, team owners know this). The older guys (to a degree, anyone who’s been in motoGP longer than Marquez), just can’t develop that feel/sense that the new kids have. The new kids will be faster.

    It is what it is.

  16. TRL says:

    @Faust

    Food references, Merguez is s lovely spicy sausage from North Africa and Paella is a lovely dish of rice, saffron, seafood and meat from Spain…..mmmmmm…good stuff!

  17. L2C says:

    Well, this may be a first, but I agree 100% with Faust. Maybe even 110%, that’s how convinced I am with what he had to say about the matter of competition, because that is what he is essentially talking about.

    TexusTim thinks the “midnight specials” were unfair, but I strongly disagree and have said as much in the past. What he says is unfair, I see as burning the midnight oil to get the job done. That’s competition. No sleep. Fierce.

    If a team can pinpoint exactly what is wrong with their setup for a rider’s bike and they have the means and opportunity to solve it, then they should be allowed to solve that problem. Be it chassis, weight distribution, tires or whatever else, let them do what they do best. If it really came down to Rossi on his midnight Michelin specials, then that was an all-around, triple-A+ performance for Rossi and his team, and Michelin. It is simply astounding that all concerned would be able to consistently operate at that level from track to track and through ever-changing conditions, over the full course of a season in order to bring home wins, podiums and championship trophies.

    Ducati has said that the main problem with their bike is the mandatory use of the spec Bridgestones. Ducati knows that a custom-tailored tire would solve many of the Desmo’s problems. For what would take very little time and very little capital to fix, the factory cannot progress in an efficient manner because of some arbitrary rules that are supposed to level the playing field and cut costs. Well, the playing field has been leveled but not in the way that Dorna imagined. The playing field has been decimated instead of being improved to the point of fair play for all. And what’s more, using Ducati as an example, costs to compete have skyrocketed. But this hasn’t plagued only Ducati, Honda have also had an exorbitantly expensive campaign to design its bike around the Bridgestones over the past year or so. The difference between Ducati and Honda’s success comes right down to who was able to spend more money to defeat costly and soul-sucking rules.

    It’s really unfortunate to hear people calling for Rossi’s retirement when that man can still ride with the best of them. Things are not as they used to be, and he’s the first one to say that, but to go further and say that he no longer has what it takes to win is simply paying attention to single line in the whole of the narrative.

    Rossi, Burgess and Co. had their hands tied at Ducati, and now they have their hands tied at Yamaha. But as Rossi has said, the entire grid also has their hands tied, so no one is having an easy go of things. And it’s not that the work has ever been easy, it’s just that now it is much more difficult because every rider and every team has to aspire to compete under the strictest of conditions. (Ducati and others might say harsh.) Conditions that suit few riders and teams at the expense of everybody else in the game. But the fans also pay.

    Economic conditions are playing a part in the ever-threatening demise of MotoGP, but it is also notable that decrease in attendance coincides with the homogenization of the sport. The spec tires, the spec ECU, teams and sponsors who choose the bulk of riders from a ridiculously small talent pool from a ridiculously small, yet favored geographic location.

    Who relates to MotoGP? Barely anybody. And this is because the narrative is so goddamned narrow-minded and shallow in its contrivance that hardly anybody outside of a band of passionate enthusiasts can be bothered to care about it. It is remarkable that casual sports fans around the globe pay any attention to the sport at all, because most people watching have no real connection to the sport or the narrative at all.

    It might be entertainment, but good entertainment is supposed to speak to people. That’s where the art comes in. MotoGP is not just entertainment, it is also art. Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner, Márquez and Crutchlow are convincing evidence to prove this.

    Regular everyday people can make their own cotton candy these days. Smart phones, social networks, blogs, Instagram, cheap flights to anywhere. Who needs to pay for fluff when you can spin your own more easily, and have more fun in the process?

    No, MotoGP is not just entertainment. And the entertainment doesn’t even come first. The art comes first. First there was Valentino Rossi and his bike. The show began much, much later.

    So if Dorna, Poncharal and Monster Energy love Crutchlow so much, they had better make sure that he knows because he’s only going to be able to blow hot air for so long. Even the toughest man on the grid has but so much in him, and but so much to give. Eventually he’ll leave the sport just like those who have come before, and then what? Rossi is going to continue to try to enjoy his last couple of years, and then he will continue on with the rest of his life facing forward as he has always done. Stoner has made clear that he misses the bikes, but not MotoGP.

    The powers that be had better open the floodgates to genuine competition at the service of entertainment once again, or they can continue to complain that MotoGP is only at the level of art house. And just like art house, most of the performers are broke with little to show for their efforts and few to witness them. And projected runs are usually cut short.

  18. L2C says:

    Has any sport ever been so miserable?

  19. Faust says:

    @l2c

    Spot on, we are in agreement here. Motogp was 500cc for several decades before these new “cost cutting measures” came in. Now we’ve had the displacement go from 990, to 800 to 1000 in a short span of time. Tires are supposed to cut cost and level the field? They are making manufacturers completely redesign their bikes every few years! How much money do you think Honda spent developing the 990 V5 just to have to throw it in the trash a few years later and develop an 800, then trash that to make a new 1000…. But people are concerned about tire costs? The constant ridiculous rule changes are discouraging an expanding grid because who wants to develop a machine they will have to toss in 2 years? Its not fair to expect a smaller company like Duc design a new bike over and over and over again because some guy in Spain keeps changing the rules. It’s ok L2C, we can agree occasionally.

  20. TRL says:

    Having to use spec tires is like having a U.S. space program but only being allowed to use Russian rockets to get there… oh wait…

  21. @Faust: I’m pretty sure that only smiler has used disparaging references to Spanish food to discuss riders of a certain country of origin.

    @CTK: “F1 is suffering big time because of their stupid ideas on tires which are similar.”

    While tires are a constant source of discussion in F1, the Pirelli spec tire has brought about the most exciting F1 racing in the last decade. Last season, the first seven races had seven different winners. This year is similarly exciting, although we’re seeing repeat winners already. Spec tires offer an interesting engineering problem. The teams that learn to work well with the tires win races. Those who do not, complain.

    Nakamoto’s claim that spec tires make it impossible for non-factories to win races is just smoke. Non-factories lose because the formula changes dramatically in MotoGP on a regular basis. The 500s had privateer wildcards oft times putting in stellar performances because the formula itself was extremely mature and it was possible for independent builders/tuners to play with the big dogs. Anybody remember photos of Erv Kanemoto rebuilding engines in the parking lot of his motel? That stuff can’t happen anymore. Sealed engines that are stupidly expensive/complex and breakneck pace for changing formulas/regulations means that only the factories have the resources to keep pace with the changes. Everybody else, literally, ends up trailing on the learning curve.

    With regard to spec tires, the issue that Vale mentioned is intrinsic to the way Bridgestone makes their tires; it is not a fact for all spec tires. Vale’s problem isn’t that all spec tires lack edge grip, but that Bridgestone’s tires do. Those tires are forcing the old dog to learn new tricks. His performance in FP2 certainly indicate that he’s working out the kinks.

  22. TRL says:

    @Trane Francks

    Problem is that the idea of GP being a proving ground for designs and technologies that eventually make it to the street is watered down by the need to develop entire bikes only to meet the arbitrary limitation on one of the pieces that has the greatest influence on performance, i.e. Bridgestone tire design. In the end, I question the savings as well, in the big picture. Chasing/loosing sponsorship and loosing sales because of a lack of competitiveness when it is possible that a company might be competitive, if allowed to choose their own tire (just as the consumer does) are costs as well.

  23. Hi, TRL.

    We’re definitely in agreement that keeping costs down is a goal that may not be met by running a spec tire. In the end, though, I’m not sure that I’m either in agreement with a spec tire rule or against it. Both have their advantages and both have their disadvantages. The “company might be competitive, if allowed to choose their own tire” is an interesting conundrum because although it’s clear that specific tires can overcome issues with the bike, the converse is also true: The engineering team doesn’t have its ducks in a row and doesn’t know how else to get edge grip (as an example) with the spec tire.

    The grimmer reality is that developing tires is expensive. If you allow tire wars, not everybody on the grid will have the financial resources with which to play. Which means you end up with the factories in the front and the rest of the field trailing far behind anyway. Same, same. *shrug* During the tire-war era, Ducati wound up engineering a bike that ultimately only Casey Stoner could ride. I’m personally finding it very fascinating to watch them go through the process of reengineering it to be a much _better_ bike.

    YMMV an’ all that. :)

  24. TheSwede says:

    On the subject of spec tires, I offer only this.

    Estoril 2006.

    That brilliant ride by Ellias does not happen without tires made for him and his bike. One manufacturer? Fine, i guess. But there should be a much wider tire selection available..

  25. Steve McLaughlin says:

    David, very entertaining and interesting story, I would suggest all the worry about corporate not liking Crutchlow’s direct manner is not reality ” the factory’s have put up with a lot more and worse to retain the fastest riders”, this corporate blah, blah is an invention of those with little power…again great writing, this will surely be the best GP season I have known and I will look forward to your next repot!