Bold and fearless or brash and ill-advised? There was a lot of that sort of thing at the Sachsenring on Sunday, in all three classes. (Spoiler Alert — Ed.) The most obvious example begging that question was what would have been Casey Stoner’s last-corner lunge past Dani Pedrosa, had it not gone horribly wrong as he lined the pass up the corner before. We’ll come to that later, but with a Moto3 race run in drying conditions and a Moto2 race where one of the favorites had to start from well down on the grid, there were plenty more to choose from.

Moto3 turned into the usual war of attrition among the more psychotic contingent of the paddock – or more precisely, teenagers on fast motorbikes – with the coolest head of the front runners eventually prevailing. With Luis Salom and Alexis Masbou pushing Sandro Cortese down to the wire, it could have gone horribly wrong, but Cortese had saved his tire for the last few laps, pushing to break his two wild-eyed pursuers before he crossed the line, and preventing any late lunges which could have ended in tears. It was a race worthy of a champion, by Cortese, despite the massive pressure on him. In the press conference, he thanked his team manager Aki Ajo, for bringing some Finnish coolness to calm Cortese’s Italian heritage.

In Moto2, Marc Marquez gave his usual masterclass, though he did not have it easy. Andrea Iannone pushed him hard in the first half of the race, before crashing in the style that has earned him the nickname Crazy Joe, pushing too hard and losing the front. Mika Kallio then stepped up the pressure, but the Finn (Sunday was in some small way a Scandinavian day in Germany) did not have the pace to seriously threaten Marquez.

Further back, Pol Espargaro took it right to the limit in his pursuit of points, even sticking his toes over the edge at one point, having a massive moment round the fast right-hander at the top of the Waterfall, running off and through the gravel, rejoining having lost some of the places he had lost. In the end, he crossed the line in 5th, an astounding result given that he had been forced to start from 17th on the grid in the ultra-competitive Moto2 class.

But MotoGP is where the most talked about incidents occurred. Casey Stoner’s crash was a typical coin-toss affair: he felt he had the pace to beat Pedrosa, he had a plan to pass his teammate – lunging up the inside of Turn 12 and getting the drive across the line, the ideal pass at the Sachsenring, giving your opponent no time to respond – his only miscalculation, perhaps, was the fact that Dani Pedrosa was in the process of setting his fastest lap, and Stoner had already been forced to push hard to catch Pedrosa again after making a mistake earlier on the final lap. When he tipped in a little harder than in previous laps and let off the brakes, unweighting the front, down he went and into the gravel.

Why would you risk a move like that, when you are in a position to take the lead in the championship over a rival who has proven to be extremely formidable this season? Especially after having profited from Lorenzo’s misfortune, when the factory Yamaha-man was taken down by Alvaro Bautista in a bone-headed move at Assen? You and I may have hesitated, and chosen to settle for the points, but that is not Casey Stoner’s philosophy. Win races, and the Championships will come of their own accord, Stoner believes, and his two world titles would suggest he knows what he is talking about.

More fundamentally, however, it is a question of attitude; Stoner loves to win races, and after his Championship win in 2011, he told reporters that the rush from winning races was far better than that of winning a title. A title is a slow and complex process, and as motorcycle racing is primarily and adrenaline-driven sport, many riders choose to go for a win in the heat of the moment.

At the heart of the matter, it remains that Casey Stoner is not like you and me; indeed, he’s not that much like many other motorcycle racers, whose passion for the sport would have kept them racing, rather than retiring at the tender age of 26. To me, Stoner’s crash trying to beat Dani Pedrosa to the line was a rash and foolish move. Casey Stoner doesn’t agree. But then he’s the one with the World Championships, and another on the line, while I’m just an idiot with a keyboard.

While Stoner was happy to accept the blame for crashing out while challenging Pedrosa, he was less than happy with the conduct of the marshals. According to the Australian, the marshals would not help him try to bumpstart his RC213V, to allow him to rejoin the race and grab a few points. It should have been relatively easy, Stoner said, but they simply refused. “There was nothing wrong with the bike, but they said no,” Stoner said. “This is disappointing, when at different tracks they’ll help different people, and then won’t others.”

Usually there is a reason why the marshals won’t help some riders. It really depends on where you crash. Race Direction keeps a watchful eye on all crashes around the circuit, and if a bike ends up in a hazardous place, then Race Direction can tell the marshals to clear the bike as quickly as possible, rather than trying to help restart it. The bottom of the hill at the Sachsenring, with the fastest approach to a corner anywhere on the track, could probably be considered as a hazardous location.

Of course, Stoner rightly pointed out, if we didn’t have a limited engine allocation, then this would not even be an issue. The bikes cut out automatically, immediately during practice and after a few seconds during the race, to stop the engine from destroying itself if the bike runs while it is laying on its side. But Stoner laid the blame for introducing engine allocations firmly at the door of Dorna, despite it being public knowledge that the request for limited engines came from the factories themselves, in casu, Honda.

With the Japanese factories flying engines back to Japan for complete revisions every race, mileage being between 300 and 500km an engine, the MSMA proposed introducing a maximum of six engines a season. Once the initial redesign was completed, required to give the engines the necessary durability, costs have been saved. Engines now stay in the race trucks, instead of being flown to Japan at great expense, where an expensive crew of engineers carefully stripped and rebuilt the motors.

This is exactly the kind of regulation which Stoner refers to when he says that the rule changes are making him lose his passion for the sport. That is understandable; what is not understandable is why he refuses to lay the blame at the actual culprits, rather than the party he views as the villains of the piece.

Stoner’s move was not the only act of bravery or hubris, depending on which view you take. Cal Crutchlow did something similar, though the Englishman was rather more colorful in his mea culpa. “In all honesty, it was a stupid race, where I should have done so many things differently,” Crutchlow said. He had the pace to run with Lorenzo, Crutchlow believed, but he had sat behind his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, with a plan to pass him with five laps to go.

Crutchlow’s problem was that he had no speed on the straight, and so he had had to risk more going into Turn 1. So much more that he ended up running straight on, into the gravel, and losing six places. He did not understand why he was so much slower than his teammate, he said, but the answer perhaps lies in Dovizioso’s history on the Honda. When talking about the switch between the two, Dovizioso has continually said that the Honda’s biggest strength is drive out of the corners.

The Italian spent four years trying to capitalize on that strength, using the drive to catapult himself out of the corners. Now that he is on the Yamaha, Dovizioso has retained that skill, driving the bike forward more quickly than the other Yamaha riders and making it hard for Crutchlow to catch him along the front straight.

For an act of cold, calculated cunning, look no further than Valentino Rossi. The Italian had got mixed up with Nicky Hayden and Hector Barbera, and decided against spending all his time battling with the two Ducatis. The setup change his team had tried – a reversion to the settings used at Estoril and Barcelona, and away from the slightly more Ducati-driven settings of Silverstone and Assen – had worked out well, allowing Rossi to run a consistent pace, a little slower than otherwise, but at least keeping his tire in one piece.

As the end of the race drew near, Rossi made his move, disposing of Hayden and Barbera with relative ease. He was even lining up Stefan Bradl for a pass at the bottom of the hill, but Casey Stoner thwarted his plans, the yellow flags from the Australian’s crash making a pass at that point of the track illegal. Still, this was the best result in the dry for Rossi and Ducati this season, and signs of progress were good.

More is obviously needed, Rossi said, as the problems can’t all be solved using setup. The Mugello test would be crucial, he repeated. Help could be coming his way from Audi; senior Audi management was at the track on Sunday, and met with Rossi to share their plans with him. They were extremely enthusiastic about Ducati’s MotoGP project, Rossi said, and were keen to have the Italian involved. They had not discussed any details, but Audi had made clear to Rossi that they were willing to make resources available and make the changes necessary for the bike to be fixed. Valentino Rossi, it appears, took a step closer to renewing his contract with Ducati at the Sachsenring.

Rossi’s decision to switch from Yamaha to Ducati is yet another of those decisions which are either brave or foolhardy, depending on your point of view. Unlike Stoner’s overly optimistic move on Pedrosa, however, Rossi doesn’t get another shot at it next week. That kind of hubris is much, much longer term, but if it pays off, it will be the stuff of legend. The trouble is, that’s a very, very big if.

Photo: Ducati Corse

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

  • MikeD

    ” Help could be coming his way from Audi; senior Audi management was at the track on Sunday, and met with Rossi to share their plans with him. They were extremely enthusiastic about Ducati’s MotoGP project, Rossi said, and were keen to have the Italian involved. They had not discussed any details, but Audi had made clear to Rossi that they were willing to make resources available and make the changes necessary for the bike to be fixed. ”

    WRONG. The Audi Tool was there to see how much $$$ is the whole MotoGP operation BLEEDING (costing) to Audi…and if it’s WORTH IT to keep this “Act” up.
    Unless they subcontract some MotoGP Experts 3rd Party what that hell does Audi knows about motorcycles anyways ? These are GP Machines…not some VOLKS-MOTORRAD built by the millions on a steel press in Mexico or Brasil.

    But to quote the author, im just another fool with a keyboard. (^_^)

  • BBQdog

    Great race for Cortese, the pressure of performing for a home crowd must have been massive. The conditions were very difficult but he kept his head cool. I don’t know what was wrong with Vinales but the way he struggeled was not worthy of a championship contender. The Moto3 is the cherry on the pie.

  • Ducman

    “what that hell does Audi knows about motorcycles anyways ”

    Maybe not a lot but they know a great deal about winning:
    1o victories at LeMans out of 13 races
    9 consecutive victories in the USA LeMans series
    61 race wins in DTM

    They also know quite a fair bit about designing and building Italian machinery – Lamborghini/Bugatti

  • MikeD


    Indeed, they have a lot of win…just not on Motorcycles…unless they find a way to transplant all that win into their newly bought 2wheeled division all their titles are as good as NOTHING when it comes to bikes.

  • Bryan Niese

    I don’t know that Audi will be that apalled by Ducati’s MotoGP expenditures. Remember that while MotoGP is extremely expensive within the world of motorcycle racing, it’s not as bad compared to some forms of auto racing. While the machines are different, the economics and logistics of running successful race teams are similar. If Ducati’s MotoGP emphasis is decreased next year it would at least be for the sake of ensuring the success of the Panigale in WSBK. Superbike is where Ducati’s racing name has been made. Next year should see the return of Ducati’s factory WSBK team and expectations for that team could be even higher than those for the MotoGP program. Ducati fans HOPE for the MotoGP team to do well, but they EXPECT success in superbike racing.

  • RyanN

    Audis sole purpose in life is to beat bmw… in everything. They will spend as much money as ot takes to one.. make the panigale destroy the s1000 and 2. Win more races.. even though the only “bmw” in motogp is Edward’s terrible machine.. they would like nothing more than to throw it in bmws face that they win more races.

  • alex zapata

    They may not build bikes, but they do know how to engeneer electronics and engines, and they have an array of programmers that could put ducati’s rider aids into this century, also VW is very keen on image, they bought Ducati for The same reason they bought bugatti back then, for corporate image, and they will lose as much money as needed to make Ducati succesful, and that’s The other thing Ducati doesn’t have that VW can help with, money…

    They also have as much of a reputation for success in racing as Valentino, so trust me when I tell you, they are going to do anything and everything they can to make Ducati’s MotoGP effort a successful one, after all, Ducati’s image and what that gives to Audi’s portfolio is The sole reason why they bought them…

  • SBPilot

    Reading interviews of Rossi, I think he’s taking this Audi talk with a huge grain of salt.
    He’s clearly not convinced as he said “Audi makes cars not bikes” and that there is no “magic wand”. Even with money, you need the manpower and time to fix a bike, it’s not all about money. I don’t think money ever was the problem, and if that’s the case, how can Audi help a fix a bike.

    Rossi is at that point where he’s seen too many broken promises as Ducati promised they would change the bike as to what he and his crew say, but as Rossi stated himself, Ducati has no technical updates planned for the bike. They simply don’t listen to him, they said they would have but they don’t. So now, Audi is also saying all these “enthusiastic” things but Rossi is probably thinking “right..I’ve heard this before…”

    I’d do anything in my power to hop back on that Yamaha if I were Rossi, even if it’s a Tech 3 as those bikes are proven to be as good as factory Yamahas. Plus if at Tech 3 upgrades are paid from the rider themselves, Rossi will have the sponsorship money to buy those parts. Rossi is a Monster guy too so no conflict with the main sponsor. Cal goes to Ducati, Dovi goes to factory Yamaha, and Spies goes back to Tech 3 and someone in Tech 3 says “sorry Smith, we’re amending your contract” cause he doesn’t deserve that ride anyway. And that’s that!

  • smiler

    1. Audi now make bikes don’t they?

    2. Honda have won more titles and championships in motogp because they spend more money and make more bikes than anyone else. Can’t imagine Audi have not figured this out.

    3. The Germans tend to bring a fanatasism to anything they do, which in engineering is a good thing isn’t it?
    Take some examples: Jaguar is run by German management and some engineers and now makes superb cars, so is Aston, Lambo, Bugatti, Audi diesels at Le Mans – a success? BMW entering WSB and doing a pretty good job etc. The rr1000 went stright to the top of the class in sportsbike terms.
    I have no doubt that given their understanding of engine management (with the help of Bosch), electronics, suspension they will make it work.

    4. The comment about BMW is also clearly true or else they would not have purchased Ducati. It is never going to make them huge amounts of profit.

    5. The only reason racing bikes and racing cars are different is because in terms of tech they are often behind.
    6. Most new sports bikes now have complex multi mode riding programs and traction control. The new Panigale is a good example of how the game is moving on. These are all ideas and engineering solutions Audi understand and that have been used in cars for ages.

    Whether Audi are able to resist meddling with the character of Ducati is another thing. They seem to have tamed Lambo. They are more reliable but less larey and dangerous, which for some is a step backwards.

    Whether they make the Desmo work however is another matter. The national line up is interesting, Italians, Americans, Aussie’s and now Germans. Lets hope they get each nation doing the right activities. Having Audi do the paint job or PR for example!

  • JTB

    I the irony in Audi owning Ducati is Desmodronic valves were first used by Mercedes in their 1954-55 race cars.

    Other than that Audi will hopefully bring money and much needed organization to Ducati.

  • I love the idea have that Audi mechanics are going to be in the pit box or in Bologna working on motorcycles. Audi knows better than to start meddling in Ducati’ kitchen at a technical level.

    Now, they do have a vast number of resources that they can open up to Ducati, but I suspect the real influence Audi will have on Ducati’s MotoGP effort will be the continued employment of certain individuals high-up in the Corse management.

  • Damo


    “Audi now make bikes don’t they?”-No actually they don’t. Last I checked a nice little plant in Bologna was still making them.

    Lets not forget BMW didn’t go “right to the top” of the sport bike pyramid. BMW has been making bikes since wearing red, black and white was fashionable in Germany. Also it took BMW almost four years to get their first win in WSBK.

    The only thing Audi has is money to throw at the problem IF they choose too. Like Jensen said, the idea that German Engineers (with no motorcycle experience mind you) will be down in Bologna wrench on two wheeled machines is just pure fantasy.

  • Damo

    “The only reason racing bikes and racing cars are different is because in terms of tech they are often behind.”

    Not to jump all over you again, but this is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever read on A&R.

  • paulus

    There has been a lot of money spent… this needs to be justified by wins.
    Wins = bike sales.

  • Keith

    Race was kinda boring, processional aside from the pack involving Hayden, Rossi, Bradl, etc. swapping amongst themselves. Not many places to pass. Still hope to see Nicky in MotoGP next year; but don’t see any opportunities based on current rumormill; not enough seats and not enough good bikes – wish the folks making the rules would wake up and stop limiting the # of factory/satellite bikes available to 4 – seems insane when they should be looking to build the field. If not MotoGP I hope he gets a chance to race in WSBK on a factory supported team.

  • Ben

    Oh dear, Emmett still has Rossi-coloured stars in his eyes, predicting a ‘stuff of legend’ if Ducati can turn things around. Tip: It’s not going to happen. Hondas and Yamahas rule, and the guys riding them even more so. There is no room for Rossi in MotoGP any more. He should have already gone.

    In my mind I see a cartoon, a parody, a skinny little old man hobbling around thinking he can still win.

    Even still, I enjoy reading Emmett’s articles. He is refreshingly free of any impartialism that a ‘real’ journalist has. (yeah, ouch)

  • David, I don’t think I can agree that Moto3 was the “usual war of attrition among the more psychotic contingent of the paddock”. Yes, there were 8 retirements, but only 3 or 4 of those were crash-outs. The balance retired due to technical issues, most of those because of overheating (they’d taped up rads to keep temperatures up, only to have the sun blazing down for most of the race). Luis Salom was THE most unhappy podium finisher I think I’ve ever seen, complaining about the disaster of destroying his engine on the way to 3rd place.

    Hats off to Jack Miller for a superb race! It was great to see him leading the pack for so long.

  • Neil

    David Emmett = Rossi Lover…..

  • Neil

    Rossi’s arrogance and burnt bridges have left him with very few options, he has to make the Ducati work now……