It’s the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, and that means another special AGV helmet from Valentino Rossi. A wonderful tradition from the nine-time World Champion, Rossi’s helmets can however at times be enigmatic, especially to non-Italians.
Thankfully, the folks at AGV have helped us understand Aldo Drudi’s latest work, which we assume will popularly be called the “Di Vale Helmet” hence forth. We decode the receipe, with photos, after the jump.
Bad news for American MotoGP fans, as Nicky Hayden has withdrawn from the Italian GP at Mugello due to wrist pain. Hayden was a question mark after Friday’s sessions, and sure enough just before this morning’s FP3 session, The Kentucky Kid opted to sit out this round, and is due to have surgery on his wrist this coming Tuesday, in Italy.
Hayden has been nursing a wrist injury for sometime now, with the cause of his swelling and pain being unknown. The American will undergo exploratory surgery by hand specialist Riccardo Luchetti, who will hopefully be able to identify the cause of Hayden’s ails, while also cleaning up any affected areas.
The weather didn’t really play ball at Mugello on Friday. The forecast rain held off until the last five minutes of Moto3 FP2, before sprinkling just enough water on the track to make conditions too wet for slicks, too dry for wet tires. That left the entire MotoGP field sitting in their garages waiting for the rain to either get heavier and wet the track completely, or else stop, and allow it to dry up.
Dani Pedrosa explained that though the track was dry in most places, San Donato, the first corner at the end of the high speed straight, was still wet. Bridgestone slicks need to be pushed hard to get them up to temperature, and if you can’t push in Turn 1, then they don’t. That leaves you with cold tires, which will come back and bite you further round the track.
One of the items on the list of requirements Dorna sent to Michelin was the need for an intermediate tire. Would anyone have gone out if they had had intermediates? Pedrosa believed they would have. “With intermediates you can go out. I’m not sure whether you get anything out of it, but for sure you don’t have 24 bikes in the box.”
You don’t learn much in terms of set up when you go out on intermediates, but more people might venture out. One team manager I spoke to was less convinced. “We have five engines and a limited number of tires. We can’t afford to lose an engine in a crash. Why take a risk, when it’s better to save miles on the engine?”
The wasted afternoon session left Marc Marquez – who else? – on the top of the timesheets. It had not looked that way for much of the session. Valentino Rossi had led the way from early on, Marquez only taking over in the front towards the end. For Marquez, this was a conscious strategy.
The Italian GP at Mugello kicked off with a special tribute, as Marco Simoncelli was posthumously inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame as a MotoGP Legend.
A popular figure in the MotoGP paddock, Simoncelli tragically lost his life in 2011, during the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The paradox of the motorcycle racer is that every race is a big race, yet no race is more important than any other. The pressure on the MotoGP elite is so great that they have to perform at their maximum at every circuit, every weekend.
Every race is like a championship decider, not just the race which decides the championship. There may be extra pressure at a home race, or on a special occasion, or when a title is at stake, but the riders cannot let it get to them. There is too much at stake to be overawed by the occasion.
Still, Mugello 2014 is a very big race indeed. It is Valentino Rossi’s 300th Grand Prix, and a chance for him to return to the podium on merit again, and not just because the crowds were calling his name.
It is the best hope of a Jorge Lorenzo revival, the Yamaha man having won the last three races in a row at the spectacular Tuscan track. It is the best hope for Ducati, the Italian factory having run well here in the past.
And it is the first realistic chance for Marc Marquez to fail, the Spaniard has never found the track an easy one, though it did not stop him winning there.
Colin Edwards is to finally get the new chassis he has been waiting for. NGM Forward boss Giovanni Cuzari told MotoGP.com that the team will have a new frame at Mugello, along with a new front fairing. A new seat unit and subframe would also be available. The new parts will only make their appearance on race day, Cuzari said.
More parts would appear after Barcelona, Cuzari said, which would bring their bike to approximately 75% of the machine planned for next year, which will be a complete rolling chassis with Yamaha engines. The parts would initially only be given to Colin Edwards, who has struggled to get to grips with the Yamaha chassis.
He has been unable to get the bike to turn, leaving him well off the pace of teammate Aleix Espargaro. Espargaro has been very happy with the chassis supplied by Yamaha, when supply problems left Forward with a frame. In 2015, Yamaha have committed to only supplying engines, with chassis no longer being available.
MotoGP riders are to get some help with braking. From Mugello onward, all riders will be able to choose once again between running 320mm and 340mm brake discs on the front wheel. Use of the 340mm discs had been made compulsory at Motegi for safety reasons, but now, they will be available at all circuits.
The 320mm brake discs had been made compulsory at the end of the 2011 season, in an effort to cut costs. At that point, teams were free to choose from multiple sizes and masses of brake disc, meaning they were forced to purchase and transport sizeable numbers of discs to each race, while only using one or two sizes. Limiting choice was meant to rationalize the process, and cut costs for the teams.
Unfortunately, the compulsory brake disc size was imposed at the same time as bike capacity and weight were increased. In 2012, the first year of the restrictions, capacity of MotoGP machines was increased to 1000cc, and weights were increased to 157kg, and a year later to 160kg. With more power and nearly 7% more weight, braking forces were growing very large once again.
The MotoGP Championship is in Sepang this week, for the first of its pre-season tests ahead of the 2014 season. Making an announcement at the site where Marco Simoncelli tragically lost his life during the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2011, MotoGP has come up with a fitting way to tribute the popular Italian rider.
Simoncelli will thus join Grand Prix racing’s hall of fame, and officially become a “MotoGP Legend” — the 21st rider to receive the sport’s high honor — with a ceremony that will be held at the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello.
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.