It has been over a year since we had to report the passing of Nicky Hayden. Struck by a car outside of the Misano circuit, while he was training on his bicycle, Hayden’s death was felt around the world.
Though always in our hearts, the motorcycle industry has begun to move on from the loss of its beloved world champion, but the legal proceedings in Italy have nevertheless been toiling away.
There are two matters before the Italian courts. One, the criminal proceedings for the unnamed driver of the car that struck and killed Hayden; and two, a civil suit by the Hayden family against the car’s driver.
Now, the initial criminal proceedings of the incident have concluded, with the Italian court finding the driver of the car guilty of homicide.
Set to take place during five European grand prix rounds, MotoE will rely on teams already in the MotoGP paddock. Those teams will campaign the Energica Evo Corse electric superbike, which is very similar to the road-going version, sans 45 lbs of street-legal bulk.
We have yet to see the names of riders who will be on the spec 160hp machines, but the series of sprint races should prove to be an interesting spectacle for the fans in attendance, with a plethora of bikes banging handlebars each lap (albeit, quietly).
Before we can get to a dissection of the weekend’s racing, the first part of the show covers the Romano Fenati situation, and gets the perspective of these three MotoGP pundits regarding the Moto2 incident.
After a lengthy conversation about Fenati, the show turns to the Ducati MotoGP program, and talks about how the Italian motorcycle is widely held as the best on the grid. Despite having to take on the Ducatis though, Marc Marquez has still been able to fend off Dovizioso and Lorenzo in the Championship results.
Another San Marino GP means that we have another special helmet design from Valentino Rossi. Celebrating his home grand prix, The Doctor this time riffs on the movie Back to the Future, borrowing the movie’s typeface for his “Back to Misano” title, and throwing a nod to the DeLoren time machine.
The new design for the Rossi’s helmet is also a reference to last year’s edition of the San Marino GP, which Rossi had to miss because of a training incident where he broke his tibia and fibula bones.
Romano Fenati burst onto the racing scene like a meteor, burning bright and lighting up Moto3. In his first race, at Qatar in 2012, he finished second behind Maverick Viñales. In his second, at Jerez, in difficult conditions, he won by a fearsome 36 seconds. Here was surely a rider to watch for the future.
His ascension to greatness did not run as smoothly as those early races promised. A couple more podiums in 2012 saw him finish sixth in the championship on the underpowered FTR Honda.
After a tough 2013, he rediscovered his form when he was invited to become part of the VR46 Academy, and signed to ride a KTM with the Sky VR46 Racing Team the following year. The change did him good, winning four races and finishing fifth in the championship.
2015 saw less success, Fenati showing signs of frustration. During the warm up in Argentina, the Italian lashed out at Niklas Ajo inexplicably, first trying to kick him, then stopping next to the Finn for a practice start, and reaching over a flicking his kill switch.
The Moto2 Championship doesn’t often make the headlines in the motorcycle racing sphere, but I bet you are hearing all about this weekend’s Moto2 race at the San Marino GP. For those who are late to the story, much is being said about an incident where Romano Fenati grabbed Stefano Manzi’s front brake lever, as the pair hurled down the Misano circuit at over 200 km/h.
Caught on camera, the incident in just one of several between the two riders during the Moto2 race this weekend, as Fenati and Manzi traded paint and hand gestures at several points of the competition, but the focus of the attention remains on the shocking act that Fenati took down the back straight of the circuit.
For the fans in attendance, and for those watching at home, you were witness to one of the most irresponsible events that can take place on a race track – an act that I would argue is tantamount to attempted murder on a motorcycle.
It therefore boggles the mind that at this point in time, Romano Fenati still has a license to race with the FIM, once his two-race suspension is completed.
In an interview I did with him at Assen, I asked Marc Márquez if he was ever afraid. “At the moment, no,” he replied. The one time when he had been scared was after his big crash at Mugello, when he had locked the front wheel over the crest of the hill, and bailed at around 270 km/h to avoid hitting a wall.
After that, whenever he crested the hill at the end of the straight, he had subconsciously backed off the gas. He did not believe he was afraid, until his data engineer showed him the throttle trace, which showed him closing the gas.
Surely the teams who tested at Misano prior to Silverstone would have an advantage once MotoGP arrived at the Italian circuit? With a day to set up the bikes ahead of time, they would start the Misano weekend with a head start.
That is the theory, anyway. But when I spoke to one of Johann Zarco’s mechanics, he dismissed the idea out of hand. “You have an advantage for about five laps,” he said. The problem is the period of time between the test and the race. Conditions change too much. “What you find is a setup for the conditions on the day. When you get there for the race, the track is dirtier, the weather’s different, the temperature’s lower.”
The track definitely changed a lot between the test and the race weekend, as those who were at the test pointed out. “When we came here for the test, the grip level of the track was higher,” Valentino Rossi said. “But for some reason, also for the rain yesterday, the track even if it’s a bit colder is more slippery.”
“The track condition when we tested here was fantastic,” Cal Crutchlow said. “And today, it was not very good. I don’t know why, but it was.”
The legacy of the Lost Grand Prix lingers on. Silverstone was on the minds of many at Misano, and there was still much to be said about the race. The conclusion remained nearly unanimous, with one dissenting opinion: it was way too dangerous to race at Silverstone, and the new surface was simply not draining correctly.
Riders chimed in with their opinions of what had gone wrong with laying the asphalt, but those opinions should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. They may be intimately familiar with the feel and texture of asphalt, but the ability to ride a motorcycle almost inhumanly fast does not equate to understanding the underlying engineering and chemistry of large-scale civil engineering projects.
What riders do understand better than anyone, of course, is whether a race track is safe to race on, and all but Jack Miller felt the same way eleven days on from Silverstone. “The amount of rain was not enough to produce those conditions on the track,” Marc Márquez told the press conference.
“For me it was more about the asphalt, more than the weather conditions. And it was T2 and T3, that part was something that you cannot ride like this. Because there are many bumps, the water was there but inside the bump was even more water, and it was impossible to understand the track.”
It had rained far more in 2015, when the race had been able to go ahead, than it had in 2018, when the race had been called off, Márquez said. “For example in 2015 it was raining much more, in Motegi last year it was raining much more. But for some reason, we already went out from the box and it was only light rain but the water was there. It was something strange.”
2015 Was Worse
Valentino Rossi agreed. “For me, the rain was hard, for sure, but from what I remember very similar to 2015,” the Movistar Yamaha rider said. “In 2015 it was very slippery but the amount of water on the track was normal. The problem of this year is that also with less rain, the water remained on the track. In fact, during FP4, when all the riders arrived to Turn 7, half-crashed and half went straight on.”
“So it means that it’s not normal, because also in FP4 it started to rain quite lightly. And for example last year, in Motegi, it rained a lot more. But there wasn’t a worst place of the track, it was all the same. When we did the sighting lap to the grid, the amount of water was too much everywhere. The problem is the asphalt more than the bumps, I think.”
Jorge Lorenzo was one of the first riders to run into problems during FP4, being forced to run straight on into the gravel when the heavy rain came. He explained his view of proceedings. “I was one of the riders who went straight in FP4,” he said. “It was very strange, because before arriving there, before arriving in the second part of the long straight, there was almost no water, or only very little splashes.”
“An almost dry track, so we were riding with confidence. But then I went into fourth or fifth gear, it was a different world there, it was like a big swimming pool in the straight, a little bit foggy. It was very strange and I started to close the throttle, but even like that it was not enough to stop the bike. To stop the bike, I needed like 400 meters, 500 meters, and even like that, the front was locking, the rear was locking, and I couldn’t stop.”
Things had improved by Sunday, after the work done at Stowe to try to improve drainage. “In the two sighting laps on Sunday before the race, it looks like they made some work in that area on Saturday afternoon, they improved a little bit the drainage of the tarmac, so it was a little bit better in that zone, but the problem was everywhere, in all the corners that the drainage was not correct, and we were spinning in all acceleration points, and it was very difficult to ride.”