Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Red: Fatal Attraction.

Red is one of the most interesting colors. If in certain cultures is linked to luck, heroism, success and erotism, just to mention a few symbolisms, in motorsport, red is synonymous of speed and success, something built by Ferrari in F1 and Ducati in the WSBK.

The 2007 MotoGp World Championship won by Stoner in such authoritative way has projected Team Ducati at the top of the competition. In the last two years the Japanese have been forced to chase the development and the performances of the Red Missile. A lot of you still remember the 2007 MotoGp in China when at the end of the race Rossi claimed that in his career he had never seen such a difference in performance among factory bikes.

With Stoner winning the #1 plate and still being the fastest guy at every circuit, it’s normal to see riders hoping to get into Team Ducati. As Jimmy will probably recall, at the end of 2006 I was disappointed that Melandri had chosen Gresini and his satellite Honda instead of going to Borgo Panicale. I was also quite superficial in thinking that the issue Capirossi- Ducati was related to him and the new 800cc bikes in general. When Macho finally moved to Ducati, I was positive he would have had a great season ahead. Well, I am glad that I didn't bet money on it because now I would be in RED! Ducati is a fast horse but only with the right rider, the Aussie. I still have hard time to accept the fact that Capirossi and then Melandri have suffered their worst season in their career while riding the current World Champion’s bike.

While the first one has found a great team and a competitive bike in the Rizla Suzuki, I hope that Melandri’s choice with the Kawasaki in 2009, instead of the satellite Gresini-Honda, will be the right one: green is normally linked to hope.

With Rossi and Lorenzo in Yamaha and Pedrosa in Honda, as long as they give him Bridgestone tires I would add, the only “available” rider to become witched by the Red Beauty is Nicky Hayden: good luck champ, we wish you all the best!

Picture| Via

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grand Prix Ceske Republiky:The Doctor’s winning therapy.

Today, at the end of the MotoGp, Rossi compared Stoner’s crash to Biaggi’s one in 2001 at the same track. It could be a pure coincidence or a planned analogy but, regardless, the result doesn’t change since the Doctor’s medicine for his adversaries it is the same inside and outside the track: building a steady mounting pressure. In the last couple of years Yamaha and especially Michelin didn’t support his game, but now the Doctor is back with a competitive bike and tires as good as his competitors. With 5 wins and 50 points over Stoner, only Rossi can loose his 8th World Title. Stoner seems to have lost momentum with two questionable performances right when we was asked to prove his real talent, his ability to “outperform” under pressure. If in Laguna Seca he let Rossi to suck him in a fight where he lost the victory and, I would add his confidence, today in Brno he gave away the championship on a silver plate. If in Laguna Stoner almost searched the dice with Rossi, today he played his most obvious card, the solo ride from the start to the finish. Strong of 6 consecutive poles, he thought that by building a buffer zone he could have avoided the Italian pressure. He went down with a stupid low-side, maybe over a little bump that must have suddenly challenged the grip of his crazy-glue Bridgestone. Most likely it wasn’t his fault and this is what he wants to hear now, but the reality is that he took that line, released the front brake and hit that apex. After taking off like a missile at the green light, the Aussie wasn’t able to disappear because Rossi after a couple of laps seemed capable to stabilize the gap with a very efficient ride of his Yamaha in the twisty sections of the track. Stoner’s time board must have appeared like a mirror filled by Rossi’s contour and, if I recall it properly, the Ducati rider rode his fasted lap right before crashing.
At this point it’s totally normal to question the assumption that Ducati had found a talent able to obliterate, in a few seasons, Rossi, the greatest rider of the modern history. I don’t want to elaborate too much this topic because there are still six races to watch where Stoner will do his best not only to win but to help everybody to forget the past two MotoGps. Anyhow Ducati shouldn’t be too disappointed since today after Rossi and Stoner there is nobody, particularly now that Pedrosa is injured. Another issue about which everybody agrees is that Ducati is not for every rider, as Capirossi and Melandri have proved. They need someone fearless, able to take the red bull by the horns, like a real matador, maybe someone like Elias. Yes, Elias was the real surprise of the day, the only rider able to add some salt on a race that was quite boring. I don’t want to forget to mention Capirossi’s podium, but his result was announced in the first day of practice in dry conditions. On the other end Elias’s performance was totally unexpected and made even more special by the rumors that his presence in MotoGp had recenlty been questioned.
I wonder if today Elias has somehow mixed the cards on the table for the Ducati Team. We know that Hayden would love to be in red and Gibernau would definitely come back and I speculate for considerable amount of money, but what about Elias? His second place was only the result of a lucky day, the outcome of a providential bike set-up that he wouldn’t be able to replicate in the future, or the simple dividend of his hard work on a bike that it’s evidently difficult to understand? Misano will answer.

Photo source| via YouTube

Thursday, August 14, 2008

MotoGp Poll: Grand Prix Ceske Republiky

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With Rossi and Stoner shaking hands, yes I repeat it, shaking hands and showing their best smiles during the press conference before the long weekend in Brno, the PMP blog is back with its traditional MotoGp Poll. I am suggesting the first 6 riders in the championship as candidates to “to miss the victory”. Pedrosa should have recovered from the injuries suffered in his high speed crash as well as Lorenzo who, hopefully, has been able to get back his mojo lost somehow at the beginning of the season after his sensational couple of races. Also we should keep an eye on Dovizioso, a young rider who has impressed every body for his consistency, somehow unexpected for a MotoGp rookie.
Rumors appear to confirm Carlos Checa as substitute for Nicky Hayden: the outgoing Kentucky Kid has injured his foot in a recent supermoto race and hopefully will be back in Misano.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good manners count: always.

The Laguna Seca show couldn’t have happened at a better time: for three weeks, it left us wondering what will happen in the second leg of the season.
Rossi and Stoner, the protagonists of one of the most breathtaking races in the last few years, have vacationed in different parts of the world, but I am positive that they must have re-played in their minds, over and over, the crucial moments of their last race. Who knows how many times they have asked themselves if the outcome in Laguna, indeed, reflects their real level of skills. In a recent interview, Valentino wished that the rest of the races would be as much fun as the last one was. Stoner’s reply: I have rested in Australia with my family and my wife while training and now I cannot wait to race again. My guess is that the Aussie is still in pain from the last defeat during which his performance has raised obvious questions. Is he as good as Rossi? Can he stand that kind of pressure? Can he win in a tight dice where he cannot use the extra speed of his Ducati?
Have said that, as Rossi’s fan, I am not the most neutral person to conduct a comparison among the two riders, I believe that Stoner in Laguna Seca cracked under the pressure built by the Italian champion one overtaking action after another one. We don’t know if Stoner’s strategy was the result of something planned ahead of just the outcome of the testosterone typical of a young rider. Anyhow, in his boots, after realizing the type of race that I had ahead, I would have gave Rossi the false impression that I had given up, only to attack him in the last couple of laps. Also, with an eye on the championship it would have been better to “accept” a second place than to crash and jeopardize the final classification.
Last note just for the records of the PMP blog, we, Rossi’s fan, motorbike lovers and sport people in general, have not forgot Stoner’s refusal in shaking Valentino’s hand at the end of the race: a terrible example of sportsmanship for the millions of viewers all around the globe.

Picture Via|Motoblog

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Toseland's style praised by someone, criticized by others.

Toseland's debut in MotoGp has surprised riders as well commentators for his ability to adapt to a totally new bike and riding technique. While moving from 250 to 800cc is certainly less traumatic today than in the past, for WSBK riders MotoGp is still very different to what they are used to. Regardless since the last winter tests "Giacomino" Toseland has proved to be totally comfortable with his M1, to the point that only his Yamaha top speed seemed to be the limit factor in the first two races of the season. If in the straights, he has been relegated in holding slipstreams of other faster bikes, oppositely he has been very aggressive overtaking other riders going into the turns. We, MotoGp enthusiasts, have been delighted by his breathtaking maneuvers but he has definitely upset if not frightened other riders.
If touching or hitting other competitors is, to a certain degree, something normal in Superbike, we cannot claim the same for MotoGp. Every time it happens fans are very quick in finding the past actions, or skeletons in riders closets. So, today I read that Capirossi and Vermeulen have vented their criticism toward Toseland abrupt passing in the first two rounds of the season, with Loris claiming that if it should happened again he will find himself among the spectators! Indeed Vermuelen's experience must have been quite unpleasant since his leather suit got somehow ripped during the regrettable contact. Another rider suffering Toseland's roughness was Lorenzo, who if certainly astonished by Toseland's move, didn't complain too much especially after the incredible performance at his first race in Qatar. On his end, Toseland has not been apologetic for his moves, stating that he has not choice if not to pass on the brakes. In my opinion his moves are certainly very dangerous and in the long run could take out some riders out. Yes, he is passing on the brakes, but only a few feet away from reaching the apex, while the other rider is almost on the point to accelerate again while looking at the exit of the turn. While his move is still acceptable, I do recognize that the other rider will realize that Toseland is taking his inside only when his body and/or bike get hit or brushed by the English rider.
Unfortunately to win a racer has to get to the border line of what is acceptable or not, gambling with a potential crash or victory at every turn during the most critical moments of the race. Capirossi, who I esteem as a stout rider, has some famous skeletons too in his career as shown in the following video.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

MotoGp: Gran Premio de Espana

Jerez was a Spaniard affair, a domestic matter between the humorless and grey Pedrosa and the flashy Loren-show. The recent 250 World Champion was hoping to consolidate the fantastic start of the season in 800cc after collecting two pole positions and a strong 2nd place in Quatar behind the untouchable Stoner. In his own track he was dreaming of challenging in one event everybody, from Stoner to Pedrosa going through Rossi. The authority that he had shown during the qualification tests was definitely stimulating, if not supporting, his dreams, but yesterday morning, once the traffic light became green he must immediately have come to conclusions that it was only a dream.
Danny Pedrosa started like a bullet, in an obvious mission to play the game in his own way, by taking the lead and building on it. He has done it so many times in 250 in a fashion that reminds to all of us the “old” Biaggi. When leading a race, Danny is able to ride at 100% until the end without loosing concentration or making even the slightest mistake. Yesterday, his body, so petit even for the new “miniature” Honda, worked relentlessly to detach his bike at the exit of each turn to whack-open the throttle in a fashion that belongs more to the past than to today’s electronic traction control era. The new 800 machines cannot be managed with the traditional skills, particularly those ones requiring use of the hands or body. Ask Melandri or Capirossi if they agree with my claim.
Today a rider is required an extra dose of courage or willful blindness in the tool, the magic triad of suspension set up – electronics – tires. The modern centaur, once released the brakes after the turn point, has to hold the breath and open the throttle with a full trust in the magic of the electronics, with the faith that tha paratrooper would have in his parachute before jumping from the areoplane. Do you remember Rossi, Gibernau, Capirossi or Melandri a couple of years ago? They were able to compensate the wearing-off of tires by sapiently edging bike and throttle to put down power at the exit of each turn. Sensitive buttocks and skilful wrists were making the difference between an average rider and a champion. Today if the triad equation is not solved and tested nobody can win. Rossi and Capirossi have learned it in the last two years. Indeed the new WSBK star Biaggi was the first one to claim electronic issues a long time ago. Last year, Rossi on his end could evidently blame Michelin, but the poor Capirossi on the Red Missile Ducati, even though was faster than his teammate Aussie up to the apex of a corner, he wasn’t able to match the acceleration of Stoner at the exit of it. A lot of people were using as justification his age if not the fact that he had recently become father, as to say that he had not more the guts to take the extra risk to stay on the front of the field. The same sunset have been pictured for Rossi, with the extra malicious comment that the Tavullia champion had finally stop receiving a favorable treatment by factory teams and Michelin. In Quatar, the same people were very quick in calling his end, stating that “ …you see… even with Stoner’s Bridgestone he cannot stay in the front ..”.

Last MotoGp race has brought back some logic! Stoner proved to be very human, if not childish during the weekend while trying to solve normal technical issues. I say normal and not usual because since last year, he has never experienced any relevant technical issue with a Ducati that has worked for him with the consistence of a trustful videogame. Why childish? Well was it really necessary to kick that foot after passing his ex teammate Capirossi? Yes, he blamed the Italian for ruining his best lap, but what to say about all those mistakes during the race? And his obvious desire to “hide himself” by wearing the helmet while seating on a chait after the race? To my eyes Stoner has still to learn how to lose before reaching the status of well weathered old time champions.
On the other end, Sunday the other ex World Champion, Nicky Hayden confirmed to be a top rider, able to adjust his style to an ever changing machine obviously tailored to his blazoned teammate Pedrosa. In the last part of the race Nicky seemed to be able to challenge Lorenzo's third position. Unfortunately he trail-braked a bit too much losing the front grip and jeopardizing his attack to the third position. Curiously in Jerez both Hayden and Edward were able to save a clear low side by leveraging their elbows. The spectacular move proves the incredible results achieved by the tire companies (in this case Michelin) in improving grip and shoulder flexibility. I remember a few years ago while riding the yellow Honda Nastro Azzurro, Rossi was able to save a low-side by resting on his knee, and not on his elbow.
Last but not the least, I want to stress the incredible performance of Toseland and Capirossi. The first one looks totally at home in MotoGp and his overtaking technique going to the apex, tested in Quatar with Lorenzo and in Jerez with Dovizioso, is becoming his signature. He was an obvious protagonist of the battle for the 5th place, but at the end it was a determined Capirossi on his new Suzuki to win the dicing.

Picture Via|
Chart by Almos

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Born to turn!

Now you know why even the average rider or driver in Europe is so good! Because they are conceived, born and raised in natural tracks with every sort of corner: from the increasing radius to the double apex, from the U-shaped turn to double esses. You name it. Even Valentino Rossi as kid used to "practice" on a mountain road nearby his town. Obviously I am not suggesting that riders or drivers should consider public roads as local tracks, because it's too dangerous and irresponsible. My point is that for a kid used to ride in twisty road like in the video, it becomes totally natural to "use" the available asphalt at the entrance as well as the exit of the corner. Have you notice the crispy lines, the bold apexes and the easy management of the rear to close the slower corners? Given the rider's position on the supermotard, I am speculating that the rider doesn't have a professional background: indeed it suggests to me that he is one of the many talented street riders that you could meet while riding in the European countryside.

Video found by Almos.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I wanna ride ... soon.

Almos has tickled my desire for riding with the video of a new '08 GSX-R 600 tested in Misano Adriatica, Italy. Supposedly it is a bone stock bike in the hands of an evidently skilled rider. The fast double right turn? Definitely in apnea!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Motorcycle Racing: a long and deep passion

By Jimmy Martin

When I was a young kid in the 1980s, Barry Sheene was a national hero in the UK. Not only was he double 500cc Grand Prix world champion, but his cockney charms gained him literally millions of fans. What amazed me as a youngster was that Sheene's skeleton was held together with various metal plates and screws, mainly thanks to his rear tyre exploding at 178mph on the banking at Daytona. I mean, setting off airport metal detectors with your body, how cool is that?

I didn't get to see much 500GP racing because the BBC only televised the British GP, so my love of motorcycle racing was really formed by TV coverage of British national bike series such as F1. One of the coolest bikes in history came along in the early 1990s: the Norton rotary F1. With a sleek black colour scheme and the spine-tingling howl of its crazy Wankel rotary engine, if Darth Vader rode a motorcycle it would be this one.

Around the mid-1990s there was a shake up of the British racing scene with the introduction of an all-new British Superbike championship. My fellow Scotsman Niall McKenzie had taken podiums in 500GP, and he won the first 3 BSB titles in a row with his smooth, calm riding style, despite making atrocious starts in nearly every race. His main rivals in those 3 years were his Yamaha team-mates, who were Steve Hislop, Jamie Whitham and Chris Walker. The late Steve Hislop was a Scotsman who had won many Isle of Man TT races. He was an extremely quick rider who usually thought that his bike was unrideable and that the entire world was lined up against him (very Biaggi-like in that respect), but was a fans' favourite. Jamie Whitham's hair-raising riding style was reminiscent of Ruben Xaus. Whitham claimed that he used the race number 69 because it looks the same when it's upside-down in a gravel trap. He is now a TV commentator known for his outrageous sense of humour. Chris Walker took a double victory at the first British Superbike round that I attended at Knockhill, Scotland. Knockhill is a short, twisty track in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sheep-covered hillsides. Turn one is a mirror image of the Laguna Seca corkscrew: turn right, plummet off the edge of the world and remember to turn left when you reach the bottom. There is a chicane insanely situated on the crest of a hill, with the start-finish line on the crest of another. The track's only hairpin sits in a natural arena filled with crazed fans, making it more like a rock concert than a bike race.
This is where I was standing when Walker, by then a Suzuki rider, passed Neil Hodgson's Ducati for the lead. The crowd, who were bigger fans of "The Stalker" than of the clean-cut Hodgson, erupted with joy as if Ozzy Osbourne had just bitten the head off a chicken in front of them. Walker repaid the compliment by stopping for a huge victory burnout, choking us half to death on rubber smoke as we were so close to the track.

Ducati dominated superbike racing at the time, and it was electrifying to stand just fifteen yards away while a pack of Ducatis thundered past at 150mph, the ground shaking under your feet. In between them were the screaming 4-cylinder Japanese bikes, making the kind of noise that a UFO would be proud of. These are the experiences that created my passion for motorcycle racing. I don't care whether a bike is a prototype or a road bike with the headlight removed. As long as the racing is close and the riders are crazy, I'll be watching.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chupa Chups: to suck is good for you!

Out of curiosity I have searched Chupa Chups, the big logo displayed on Lorenzo’s X-Lite helmet to discover that it’s a Spanish lollipop created by a certain Enric Bernat in 1958 and now owned by the Italian-Dutch corporation Perfetti Van Melle. The simple, essential and straightforward logo was designed by the surrealist Salvator Dali’, in what could be a perfect example of less is more. The name Chupa Chups originates from chupar, Spanish verb meaning to suck.

As Rossi has openly admitted in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, he had request Yamaha to postpone the acquisition of the new young talent, however it was not possible so, even though he has still “ to get in front” of him, once it will happen, Lorenzo will be an extra stimulus to improve.

The Spaniard has already let people know that he will not be the Colin of the past: he is in MotoGp to win. His skills and potential are proven, but so far he has struggled in getting the right feeling from the M1 to lower significantly his lap time. Lorenzo has justified his results with a lack of confidence in the front end coumpounded by an annoying vibration. As Jim has written in his blog Armchairbikefan, there is a good chance that Jorge will have to change his riding style, maybe shaving a bit of entrance speed to focus more in accelerating at the exit of the turn using the traction control at its full potential. Lorenzo should keep in mind that Stoner has won a World Championship by skyrocketing out of the turns while his ex teammate Capirossi, consistently faster than him in the first part of the corners, finished the season with a meager 7th position.
Normally a new and young rider would keep a low profile in order to absorb or better steal as much as he can from the more experienced teammate, but this is not the case of Lorenzo. He is openly in competition with everybody starting from Rossi. That’s why they have separated their garages with a wall or they have recently had an “accident” when one of Rossi’s crew-members was invited to leave immediately Lorenzo’s pit area.
The swellheaded Lorenzo will undoubtedly add salt to the coming season, but his egocentric attitude is going to draw a lot of attention and critics: anything less than an exceptional performance will remind us of the English meaning of chupar