The more time I spend photographing MotoGP, the more fascinating the riders become. In the past few years I’ve come to believe that, while superior physical differences (their reflexes and fine motor skills) are significant, it’s the mental differences that are the most interesting.
I suppose anyone who has ridden a motorcycle even a bit beyond one’s comfort zone can appreciate some part of the physical aspect of riding a racing bike. For most of us, even the speed of racers in local events is impressive compared to our street riding.
By the time we consider Grand Prix riders, their level of performance is so high that I suspect most of us have very little idea how challenging it is to move a motorcycle around a track that deftly.
While the skills with throttle, brakes, and balance are on a level similar to the best athletes in other sports, I think that what really sets motorcycle racers apart is their ability to overcome fear.
The troubled waters through which Cal Crutchlow has found himself sailing with Yamaha have been calmed a little. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider and his manager Bob Moore held their first face-to-face meeting with Yamaha bosses Lin Jarvis and Masahiko Nakajima on the Sunday night after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, to discuss the options for extending their relationship for next year.
Also present at the meeting was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncharal, who has been very vocal in his desire to retain the British rider. Crutchlow’s results have been a real boon for the French team, and his outspoken and impish personality have helped attract a large amount of media attention.
Poncharal has been mediating between Yamaha and Crutchlow, and is trying to secure an extension of Crutchlow’s contract with the team for 2014. He judged the meeting a positive step forward, with all parties involved getting a chance to express their views in person.
“It was good to clear the air,” Poncharal said of the meeting, something which was necessary after Crutchlow’s indignant and very public response to rumors that Yamaha were intending to put Pol Espargaro on Crutchlow’s seat in the Tech 3 garage.
Rumors of an imminent departure for the new factory Suzuki team continue to surround Crutchlow, despite Crutchlow’s continuing protestations that his first objective is to remain with Yamaha.
Max Biaggi’s brief return to MotoGP is over. After two days of testing Ducati’s MotoGP bike at Mugello, filling in for the injured Ben Spies, Biaggi returns to his day job, as TV commentator for the Italian coverage of World Superbikes.
Two short days were not really enough time for Biaggi to get back to grips with a MotoGP bike, especially given that testing stopped early on both days after rain started to fall in the afternoon. Biaggi faced two problems, returning to riding at speed for the first time in eight months, and returning to a MotoGP bike for the first time in over seven years.
Given those difficulties, the times he set in the end were respectable. According to GPOne, who had reporter Luca Semprini on location, Biaggi’s best time was a lap of 1’52.1, which would have seen him qualify in 23rd position for last Sunday’s MotoGP race, just ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama on the FTR Kawasaki CRT machine.
Qualifying doesn’t tell you the whole story. Which is a good thing, as otherwise they could just hand out the trophies after qualifying and be done with it. A lot of things change in the 24 hours between qualifying and the race – weather, temperature, set up – but most of all, qualifying is just a couple of laps, while the race means spending a long time on the track. Mugello turned out to be a perfect example of this.
Dani Pedrosa had been getting faster every session, especially as the temperatures rose and the grip of the track improved. The Repsol Honda man blasted to pole, just pipping Jorge Lorenzo at the end of qualifying and setting a new lap record in the process. With race day looking warmer, and the track cleaning up every session, Pedrosa looked the hot favorite to dominate at the Italian track.
It looks like we may have a race on Sunday at Mugello. In fact, it looks like we might have two races, looking at the times set in MotoGP and Moto2. The last two races of the day at Mugello promise to have battles for the lead and for the podium, and could well provide some top flight entertainment.
There won’t be much of a race in Moto3, however. Mugello’s artisans are probably already engraving Maverick Vinales’s name into the winner’s trophy to save some time, such is the advantage of the young Spaniard. Vinales is basically four tenths a lap faster than anyone else in Moto3, with nobody capable of matching his pace.