Wednesday, May 23, 2007

PMP Event: Pocono Raceway 5/20

Pocono Raceway is our backyard, the closest racetrack to NYC. At beginning, back in the 90s, Robert Lombardi and I used to ride our bikes there with a bag on our shoulders. I still remember the first time when at 5:30 am we took a desolated Verrazzano bridge at increasing speed so by the time we reached the highest point I thought I was going to jump directly in the sunrise of a memorable day.
I can not recall how many times we have been in PR, too many, or just enough to know that up there any thing can happen with the weather. I have rode under snow flakes in October, or got caught under epical torrential rain in the summer, but regardless you can bet your money that in a matter of a short time the conditions will improve maybe because we are stirring the wind with our beloved bikes, a wind that is constantly sweeping the sky above Pocono Raceway.
Again, last week the Cassandras of the weather forecast were calling for ominous rain, something that it’s not well accepted for an event at the end of May, so Sunday morning it was not surprise that we took our time in wearing our leather suits: the sky was gray and the temperature unpleasantly cold, but right after the first session, Mr. PR Wind woke up and magically remove the blanket of clouds to reveal a beautiful blue sky. From that point on it was downhill: a little adjustment on the never perfect suspensions, a little bit more rubber on the asphalt and the lap timer start proving that the heat was on. The inevitable dicing prompted excitement inside and outside the track. Beside the PMP guys Naim, Antonio, Mike, Almos and myself, we enjoyed the company of our friends Peter Dave, Gabor, Rob and Jerry.

I want to take the opportunity to thank SBTT for organizing a flawless event with the help of Pocono Raceway in the person of Bill Jones, the track service offered by the PA POSSE and its Marshall Speedy, and finally our sponsors and friends that have been helping us in putting together the PMP concept:
Mario Pires from AJS Autowerks, Diana from JSTypography and Dennis from RaceDayPhoto, beside Techline Construction, United Watermains, 666 Cycles, Stucco Antico, SilverLining, Pasticceria Tichetti, MadeinItalyNYC, Strawberry Shakes & Grill, Brooklyn Bike Works, and Lee Miles Transmission in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grand Prix de France: Rain Soaked Only Someone's Dream

Viva la France, Viva la France …Vermuelen, Melandri and Stoner must have thought at the end of the race from the podium. This is the land where back in 1789 a revolution, that in a few centuries has changed the political configuration of the rest of Europe, started. Last Sunday in Le Mans we had a race that most of us could have never imagined: with Edwards and Rossi right on the front grid, we could have never expected such a debacle for the Yamaha – Michelin team. The threatening clouds hovering over the track at the beginning of the race became the different bets of the MotoGp Roulette: while the riders were scrambling to position themselves during the first few laps of the race, their teams were still trying to foresee the next hour weather. With the new rules under rain conditions it’s up to the rider to decide when to go back to change his bike in order to optimize his position and the choice of tires. The tendency is to delay as much as possible the decision to play the best set up for the final leg of the race, but not necessarily this is the best option. Since the beginning Rossi had jumped to the front of the group with the authority given by his seven world titles and his desire to finally play his game after having suffered Ducati top speed in the first four races. Le Mans with its short straights and spiky turns was supposed to give him the opportunity to catch back Stoner in the World Championship. Who knows what he must have thought when the first few rain drops appeared on his windshield ... I know for sure what I was thinking: "...Rossi is one of the best riders in the rain and he is going to prove it again today!..." As soon as the pace was reduced as result of the initial rain the French riders Guintoli and DePuniet gave the spectators a few minutes of national pride: they launched themselves in a sort of kamikaze's charge to the front of the field with the attitude typical of those Japanese wild cards racing at their home track trying to impress the Honda managers with a result that could change their lives. Both of them crashed while still riding slick tires, challenging smarter competitors that in reality had already cautiously reduced their speed.
Indeed, among them Rossi had lost his lead and seemed to suffer under the rain. As soon as he changed the bike he charged back in third position but after a few laps I understood that it was again one of those days. While Vermuelen took the lead of the race in front Melandri, Rossi was passed by Stoner, Pedrosa, Hayden and Hofmann. He was struggling; his body language was the same one that he had in Turkey while dealing with a shredded rear tire. I was expecting him to glide graciously into corners and coming out of them with impressive power slides but none of this happened. With the exception of Stoner loosing suddenly and dangerously the rear a few times, I do not recall anybody riding with the old 990cc style. Both, Rossi and Michelin, have claimed to make a mistake with choosing a rear tire with hard compound: strangely last Sunday Rossi was passed in the corners while having problem in hugging the apex of the turns! But normally this is the result of a lack of reliance on the front tire and not the rear! Maybe it’s just a coincidence but in front the press Melandri has claimed that once he had changed the bike the good feeling with the front end of his bike boosted his confidence. By gathering all these information together my speculation, or better, my guess is that the electronics of the new bikes must have confined Rossi’s well-known throttle control skills. I suppose that the performance of the traction control systems of his M1 along with the Michelin hard-compound rear tire must have affected simultaneously the handling and the power delivery of his bike. Today Rossi, the same guy that a few years ago everybody thought could win even with a scooter, has become the victim of the MotoGp evolution, where the combination of tires and electronics has become more important of the rider: exactly what Honda declared three years ago, convincing Rossi to go to Yamaha a brand that had not won a title in the last twelve years. Rossi has won a title with the new bike but in the mean time Honda has given its own spin to the evolution of MotoGp.
The 800cc, an odd size for the market, it’s was supposed to be a fraction of their old winning engine. And to weaken the Rossi’s effect on the masses Honda has been betting on Pedrosa, a real “factory rider”. But even the biggest corporations and their strategies can fail in front the creativity and passion of the single individuals: Ducati, a small Italian company, has been ruining their plans since the beginning of year.

Picture source: (1), (2), (3)
Video Source

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

MotoGp Poll: Grand Prix de France

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It's already Friday, and normally I would have already posted our PMP MotoGp poll but I haven't been able to look at my computer in the last few days. Anyhow, this morning in FP1 and FP2 Pedrosa and Melandri were the fastest while everybody else was running off the track searching the new brake markers for the 800cc. LeMans is a Michelin track, somehow tight and with short straights: we expect Rossi to win but who is going to take second place? For Stoner it is going to be the track where he has to prove that his results have been achieved because of his skills and not only the extra top speed of his Ducati. So far Yamaha seemed to be very fast in qualification so I will not be surprised to find Edwards on the front row tomorrow, but Sunday, in the race, it is going to be totally different: I see Melandri to take second place and you?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Grand Prix of China: Math is not an opinion

“ …It was another perfect day …” Casey Stoner - 1st place

“… I have never raced in my career against a bike with such a difference of speed versus the rest of the competition …” Valentino Rossi - 2nd place

What happened in China? Very simple: Stoner with his Ducati has smoked the ex Camel Boy. Rossi's perfectly balanced FIAT Yamaha looked almost like a Toyota sedan challenging a red Ferrari. The difference in speed and in acceleration between the two bikes was huge. If we agree that at the end of the 1.2 km stretch Stoner was giving 30 meters or so to Rossi after 20 laps the gap would be 600m! And I am not taking in consideration the other straight! On Saturday the qualification with super sticky Michelin made all of us to dream. We thought that Rossi’s bionic skills along with some good rubber could offset the huge advantage in speed that the Ducatis had over the rest of the field. At the end of the day Stoner won but even Capirossi had very easy time to go from the 14th place to the 6th place and probably Barros would have done better without the accident at the beginning of the race. In a racetrack designed for a F1 where you do not see anymore a single overtake, the incredible speed of the Italian red missile Ducati made once again the difference. Stoner has won 3 races out of four; he is not that American Kid that won a Championship with just a couple of victories during the year. He is proving to be a mature and damn fast 21 year old “man”. It seems that he is not suffering the responsibility of the moment, inside and outside the track: he just goes out and does the job with his red missile, plain and simple. Yes, it looks so easy that I really wonder why Capirossi has not been able to do the same so far. On the other end the stress is only for Valentino. Again, once again, last Sunday he proved to be the best, absolutely the best rider in MotoGp. He could have set for the second position since the start of the race without fighting too much because it was evident that he had not chances against the Aussie. Still he tried to win, with the best strategy? I do not know. In USA the commentator at a certain point asked what Rossi had in his mind given the fact that his passes on the brakes were regularly wiped out with no effort by Stoner on the following straight. He looked more like a club event with the 1000 passing on the gas the small 600s than a MotoGp race! Indeed the commentator has never suggested an answer to his question, because he didn’t know or he couldn’t voice what he thought. His awkward situation was then solved when Rossi missed a turn point on the brakes ending up on the run off: a mistake that gave Stoner the chance to win the race by himself.
Rossi has too much experience and brain to waste front tires and brakes in those stunts. Someone can think that he wanted to make Stoner nervous and so more prone to make a mistake, but what kind of mistake he could have made in those types of hairpins? Personally, I think that the last accident with Elias had somehow suggested to Rossi his Chinese game, a very typical strategy in any type of racing: carry a lot of speed into the inside of your opponent and if he closes the door you can be sure that he will go for the tangent. Do you remember his pass on Gibernau, with the Spaniard going for daises? He would have been criticized, but the at the end of the day it was the only way to challenge a mathematical certainty: Stoner first, Rossi second place.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

PMP Event: Pocono Raceway, May 3rd

After going to Jennings in Florida, last Thursday the PMP crew had its second event hosted by Absolute Cycle, but this time in Pocono Raceway in PA. Luckily, given the unstable temperatures in the North East, we were blessed with a blue sky and a warm sun that made even more pleasant a racetrack day where we started our engines in the morning a turned them off, who knows at what time, in the afternoon.
The PMP crew & Friends have done a wonderful job in helping this new club in organizing a really professional event. While Naim Behdzet, Steve Lombardi, Todd Cuso and I were instructing in the Lombardi School, Mario Pires and Alex Herrera guaranteed the Control Riding in the Intermediate Group and characterized the Expert Group with some exciting dicing.
The school itself was a success because the entire class, 11 riders, improved dramatically from one session to another one. A round of claps definitely goes to Michael and Kevin: these guys were able to push hard their German and British “Cows”. When in the morning I saw their touring bikes, a BMW and a Triumph, I feared the situation where we had to commit an instructor just for them, instead they end up rolling those machines as fast as their colleagues with sport Japanese bikes.
During the day I had the opportunity to leave the classroom to show my face and/or my wheels to all my friends around the track and I have to say that Roy and Mark from Absolute did a wonderful job in putting together a real “stress free” event: their boutique-style club has in its dimensions and care for details a unique combination that has not competitors at local level. Of course on the field we have to give credit to the professionalism of the corner workers, PA POSSE, guided by our friend Speedy and to the passionate work performed by our Control Riders.
I am going to let the email received from my friend, and pure motorbike lover, John Glass, to summarize the event:
Alex, I would like to thank you for being so helpful and going out of your way to check out my progress yesterday at Pocono. Also, my thanks to Alex Herrera for the generous use of his time! My main concern yesterday was to get a good track day behind me without trying to go too fast, and that is exactly what I accomplished. Remember. this is only the second time I have ridden a motorbike since last Fall, but it did wonders for my confidence. I now feel ready for more track time. Also, I really enjoyed the way the event was run by Absolute. It seems to me that Roy is doing this simply for the love of the sport, which makes for a much different atmosphere than an event being run by an organization that is simply trying to make money. I also appreciate that they had an Advanced Life Support unit there. Something that we hope is not needed, but is very important to have if necessary.

Getting back to Alex Herrera, following him was a great experience! He is so quick and smooth and being behind him I saw how late he could turn in to a corner which gave me the necessary confidence to try it. I certainly can't do it like him (or you) but it gives me a good learning base to build on. We are never too old to learn! I spent some of my time between sessions watching the fast guys, and especially Alex H. I saw some very fast and excellent riding.

Lastly, I am sorry I missed you at the end of the day. I waited a while but did not see you and as it was getting late, me being tired and a long ride ahead, I decided it best to get started.

Best wishes to you and all the PMP guys. Hope to see you soon

John Glass


Also I wish to Eliecer Montoya, PMP rider and owner of “Strawberry - Shakes and Grill”, our headquarter in North NJ, a quick recover from the accident that will keep him away from the race tracks for a few weeks.
I have attached a few pictures kindly offered by Dennis Cuevas, from Racedayphoto. The Lombardi School instructors are wearing blue shirts while the students are in red. The control riders were wearing orange shirts.

PMP bikes: Painting by Mario Pires, Decals by Diana

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Bionic" Rossi and Imatra RC Inc.

The Imatra brand that Rossi has been promoting in and outside the track is more than a simple brand of sunglasses produced by Safilo and advertised by Rossi. The Gilmar Group owned by the Gerani family uses the same brand name for a line of street-style clothing. What is interesting about the whole marketing operation is that the IMATRA RC Inc. name is the same name of a mysterious Imatra Rehabilitation Clinic. As explained by the Gilmar Group, the clinic was founded in 1965 in Tampere, Fynland by a certain doctor Bernie Rhodes and then transferred to Savan River in Tasmania. The expensive and luxurious centers are used by rich and famous people to recover from “the temporary excesses ..”: their clients range from rock stars to Hollywood actors, from sport champions to powerful politicians.
According to Spot and Web, Media Communication Magazine, last fall Rossi along with the tennis-hippy Ion Tiriac, the adventurous Mike Horn, and others met the Indian doctor Ali and the photographer Monty Shadow in the Prague Imatra Clinic to promote the 2006-2007 winter clothing line inspired to the most prominent and original clients of the clinique.
Almost to confirm the “special” services provided by the Imatra Centers, I have not been able to collect further information about the clinic: I am just wondering if some special medical secret is behind the bionic skills of the 7 times World Champion.

Picture source