Bruce Anstey comes in for another nose-dive landing at Ballaugh bridge during the Superstock TT race. The 42-year-old had just won the Supersport event earlier in the day by the second smallest margin of victory in the history of the TT, a mere .77 seconds over Cameron Donald. His TT wins tally is now up to nine.
Despite having photographed road racing for the last few years this was my first time witnessing road bikes going airborne, at least intentionally. While Ballaugh bridge is a relatively slow part of the course, the added element of a jump alone was enough to provide a substantial challenge to me as a first-time visitor to the TT.
Ian Hutchinson has experienced the extreme highs and lows of racing, from taking the first clean sweep of all five solo class wins at the 2010 Isle of Man TT, to nearly losing his leg in a first lap accident in a British Supersport race at Silverstone later that same season. After sitting out of the 2011 event, “Hutchy” is back at the TT on the esteemed Swan Yamaha team’s Isle of Man debut entry.
It was just after 8pm last night, and Ian was on his final lap of the day. Even after a year off the Mountain Course, he was still able to promptly churn out an average speed of 123.025 miles per hour by the end of the first Superbike practice session.
All last season, and for the first three races of 2012, when I’ve walked past the Ducati garage and looked in at Rossi’s side, watching for an interesting moment to photograph, I’ve seen pretty much the same thing: Immensely talented people looking immensely frustrated. I stand there for a moment and think, I’ve already taken this photo, many times. When are things going to change in there?
Things changed this weekend at Le Mans. But after three races in a row, I’d elected to be home for some family events instead of away at the French GP. From the perspective of getting different images of the Ducati box, this was bad timing. But in other ways, and not just family-related, it was good timing indeed, because I watched the race with friends at the San Francisco Dainese Store, which was, as one might expect, full of Rossi fans. And being there was a bit like going back in time.
The Hypermotard series is growing long in the tooth, and while everyone expects the Ducati’s smaller Superbike to get revamped in 2013, here is some evidence to suggest that the big news at EICMA this year will be an all-new Hypermotard model. Expected to have a water-cooled motor, best guesses would have the new Hypermotard using the 849cc Testastretta power plant, which would dovetail nicely with the supersport-sized Superbike getting an ~800cc variant of the new Superquadro motor.
This, race fans, is Danilo Petrucci, one of the brave souls trying his luck on the future of MotoGP hardware, in his case the doggedly underpowered Came IodaRacing Project machine. Not on a (relatively) zippy Aprilia ART, or a Honda-powered FTR, Petrucci qualifies on the same grid as Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, and brings to this gunfight a knife that packs a whopping 185 bhp, compared to the factory prototype engines that are rumored to be around 260 bhp.
As I photograph a race, I see a much different version of the event than TV viewers. I watch the recorded TV broadcast later, and can tell you that there is a lot going on with the Claiming Rule Team bikes that doesn’t make in onto TV. I’m generally moving the entire time (when I haven’t stopped to photograph a turn obviously), so I see the entire field go past, lap after lap. Since Qatar I’ve noticed that most of the CRT talk has centered around the machines, and that no one I’ve seen has talked much about what the CRT riders are going through.
Though we currently have in the sub-set of MotoGP bikes a group of machines that are less expensive to run and correspondingly less impressive in the performance category, the fellows riding them are not similarly handicapped when it comes to racing spirit. They aren’t trying half as hard because they have no chance to win. Much of the time it seems just the opposite; because they don’t want to be six seconds a lap slower, they are trying that much harder merely to get within four seconds of the fastest times.
Blurred to protect against spoilers, we’ll just leave things simply by saying that World Superbike’s Race 2 at Donington Park is well worth a watching if you haven’t already seen it. Decided right down to the last few turns, race pundits surely will be discussing the race and its outcome over the next week. Unsurprisingly, geography is playing a major a role in how things are being viewed.
Though in a race where a number of questionable passes occurred, it is hard to single out this one event from the plethora of others that occurred during the race, but of course this one had the biggest effect on the race outcome. Click past the jump for the he said, she said, and of course for some slightly sharper photos. Also, be sure to leave your thoughts on the racing incident, was someone, if anyone, at fault?
As I listened to Casey Stoner explain how he rode around the flu, a chattering bike, and his latest bout with arm pump to stay just far enough ahead of Jorge Lorenzo to win the final GP at Estoril, I couldn’t help but wonderi how Lorenzo sees his future. It can’t seem as bright as it did at the end of his nearly perfect 2010 season.
Lorenzo had succeeded in mounting so much pressure on his Fiat-Yamaha teammate that Rossi started crashing, and ultimately left Yamaha for Ducati, rather than remain on the same team as the Spaniard. But for Lorenzo, that only exchanged one demon for another, this one in the form on Stoner on a Honda — a combination that now appears pretty much unbeatable over the course of a season.
As the 2012 MotoGP plot thickens, no chapter is more complex than that of Ducati. Trying to turn the GP12 into a red Yamaha has been unsuccessful, but along the way it has become something the team’s second rider likes quite a bit. This is the best Ducati Nicky Hayden has ridden according to The Kentucky Kid, and his 3rd place in Jerez qualifying and up-front pace at the beginning of the race makes that plain to see.
For Nicky, the job is about finding a setting that allows him to keep that pace over race distance, whereas Rossi has admitted he needs to regroup and redefine his approach to a bike that is simply never going to be a Yamaha. “I must get used to riding the bike a bit differently than I’m used to,” he said after the race. “A bit differently” may be an understatement, for if it were only “a bit” he’d likely have done that already.
Ben Spies’s sophomore MotoGP season of 2011 can only be described as a wild roller coaster ride. The former AMA and World Superbike champion finished on the podium four times in 2011 including a legitimate alien-slaying maiden victory at Assen, but was also tempered by an equal number of non-scores and several other generally forgettable weekends.
Indianapolis was the scene of a season highlight for the Texan. Running Yamaha’s red and white 50th anniversary GP colors for the final time, Ben sliced his way to a podium finish against track conditions that provided no real passing line to speak of and finishing behind only the lightning fast Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Having nearly won the last race of the 800cc era, Ben will no doubt be looking to challenge for the 2012 title. “There’s always a changing of the guard”, he has been quoted as saying on more than one occasion. Could he be referring to himself? Time will tell.
If you haven’t seen World Superbike’s Race 2 at Assen yet, you will want to stop reading now. Battling for the last spot on the podium, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Leon Haslam put on a great charge to the finish line. With Laverty getting some distant away from the two factory BMW Motorrad riders, Melandri and Haslam were left fighting for fourth and the bragging rights of beating the other.
What a difference a tire makes. Last season in each of Cal Crutchlow’s rider debriefs that I attended, the topic at some point came around to the Bridgestone tire and how treacherous it was during warm-up. Once the tire reached operating temperature, it was fantastic if the rider could keep it hot enough. But until it gathered enough heat, it was flat out dangerous, as so many cold tire high-side crashes proved in 2011.
Crutchlow was one of the most outspoken riders in asking Bridgestone to change the tire design, which they have done for 2012. This year’s control tire warms up much faster, allowing riders to get through the early laps of a session without a dramatic high side, of which we had none in Qatar.