Monday, July 30, 2007

You never know ....

As posted by our friend Todd Cuso, under the comment section to the US red Bull Gp:
not1scar aka Todd Cuso --
After the wonderful day teaching at Pocono Monday the 23rd I left on a red-eye flight to L.A. -- My wife and I both had business in town. My meeting was lucky enough to be done poolside at the Mondrian Hotel where we were staying. Between the perfect weather (after the Mon. rain) and the "beautiful xxx scenery" all was good. Had noticed directly across the pool from me not 12yrds away the most incredible dark haired, tanned, toned, tattooed Italian speaking woman. Not long after a thin curly haired guy joins her and her girlfriend. Holy Shit! Is that Valentino? Raised my shades and YES it was! I am never one to go oooooh a star but I felt I had to say something. After another hour of lounging I packed up and headed around. I stopped and introduced myself "Valentino? Hey I'm Todd Cuso -- I road-race and instruct on the east coast, NOT even close to your level; I know, but wanted you to know the great impression I have of you. -- A class act all around." We shook hands and he thanked me for my words. We spoke for about 15mins about the Laguna track surface, tires, his pinky was bandaged from the practice crash, his celebrity (nobody there knew who he was), living in England -- just a very easy chill moment. A quick take care and good luck and I was off. I left with an even greater admiration for his down to earth demeanor and friendliness. What a fantastic surprise that afternoon was. BTW the girl he was with was Elisabetta Canalis (insane!)
8:20 PM

Dainese buys AGV from the Belgian group Imag

As reported by Il Sole 24 Ore on 7/28/2007, Dainese has concluded the acquisition of AGV from the Belgian Imag, bringing back to Italy the ownership of the company specialized in motorcycle helmet. Indeed Dainese has had for a long time its line of helmets but they has never reached volume of sales similar to those attained by the apparel line. Dainese and AGV has been Valentino Rossi’s brands for as long as I remember, so, from a marketing perspective, it was the most logic move to make for Dainese to improve the return of image from its own investments. Other major brands are ARAI used by Hayden and probably the most fashionable; Nolan used by Stoner and then Suomy, Shark, Z-Lite. The helmet, more then the leather suit is linked to the rider’s personality, as matter of fact often we have to pay almost twice the price to buy a specific graphic used by our heros.
Dainese now can count on 2300 stores world wide, a number that it’s going to increase in the future: in NYC, a new store will be open in 2008. As of now, in the west coast we can order Dainese suits from any supplier that carry the Italian brand, but only a few people are so lucky to enjoy a perfect fit right out of the box. This is most likely the reason why the custom-made Vanson leather suits have been the choice of most American riders. In Vanson they use a very thick cow leather that is definitely sturdy but, at the same time, a bit too heavy. I have never weighted mine, even thought I am positive that it’s not even close to the Rossi’s 7.7-pound Dainese leather suit or the Pedrosa’s 6.6-pound made by Alpinestar: both of them are in kangaroo skin leather, a much lighter material that also offers more resistance and flexibility than cowhide.
Together, Dainese and AGC have almost 100 years of experience in creating and manufacturing products aimed to reduce the risks involved in motorcycle racing, a tremendous amount of knowledge now available under the same umbrella.

Friday, July 27, 2007

PMP Event: Pocono Raceway 7/23

We had hoped for beautiful weather but we were told that it was going to be overcast all day with some rain late in the afternoon. Then on Monday morning we heard that we would have had a few drops in the morning followed by a break leading to the afternoon shower but … we got not break, just a long shower.
The event was hosted by Absolute Cycle, a new club that in a short term has already position itself as one, or maybe the best, NYC road-racing club. Unfortunately the rain has ruined the party so in the morning we had a limited number of people that took the chance to drive up to the Pocono Raceway to gamble with the volatility of the weather conditions. In the Robert Lombardi school we had only 5 students, a situation that would have been perfect for them under dry conditions, given the instructor to student ratio of 4:5, typical of more advanced classes. Anyhow along with Steven Lombardi, Todd Cuso and Naim Behdzet, I tried to give the school hoping that the sky would open but in reality it got worse by the hour: after only two sessions we decided to call the day and issued a credit for the class to be used in one of our future school events. In the Lombardi School we believe that a course should be thought in fair conditions, the only way for the students to refine and improve their skills while achieving the “Basic Level” goals.
A special thank to the control riders Frank Aluzzo and Joe Russo for riding with the participants to the event under such inclement conditions.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

US Red Bull GP: another victory for the Aussie Red Missile

Another victory for Casey Stoner, another step to lock the 2007 MotoGp World Championship before the end of the season.
It’s Thursday and I have just finished watching the race. Over the weekend I was away and so I have learned the results by phone. Normally I would watch the race as soon as I come home, staying up late at night or by getting up early in the morning and sipping a couple of cups of Italian espresso in front of the pc. Well this time it didn’t happen. With Hayden, Hopkins and Capirossi out of the race and Rossi and Pedrosa getting 30 to 35 sec by Stoner, I knew that I had not missed such a great show. Casey “stormed’ again the race by conquering the lead and cruising his way to the checker flag. Behind him Vermeulen proved that he is able to finish in the top three positions even in dry conditions, as Jimmy had already speculated in our MotoGp Poll. Melandri got a third position, an impressive result in consideration that he rode with an ankle dislocated in a scary high-speed crash caused by Guintoli during the QP.
A podium with three different bikes on the same Bridgestone tires … Yes, even Sunday, the outcome of the race was determined by the tires. With the exception of Rossi, who finished 4th at almost 31’ from Stoner, every other Michelin rider finished the race in a worse position versus what he had done in qualification. Pedrosa started in second position with a gap of .209 but in the race finished the race with 35’ from the winner! Edwards started in 8th position, conquered a 5th position that he maintained until he fell backwards in 11th position. Edwards had high expectations for this race and he knows the track like his pockets but there was nothing he could do to solve the problem: he and his team had changed everything they could to offset the lack of grip going into the race but, evidently, with no success.
By bringing up the tire topic I am not aiming to diminish Stoner’s dominance: there are other 3 Ducati riders and no one of them is even close to his performance. The red Italian bike has been shining only for the Aussie rider’s skills: his ability to open the throttle while still edging the tires, his consistence from race to race and the self-confidence have made the difference. At this point only bad luck or …the Bridgestone/Michelin saga could subvert his leadership.
Two days ago during an interview with the Italian media, Rossi bluntly claimed the now the most important variable in a MotoGp race is …tires . In Laguna he took 30 second from Stoner while in Germany it was Casey battling for the 5th position well behind the winner. Also, he said that fans want to see riders or teams winning and not tire brands.
His comments have been highly criticized because he didn’t bring up the issue when he was winning championships with Michelin tires supposedly built and delivered two hours before the race while Ducati was struggling with Bridgestone. That’s true but at the same time I cannot forget the breathtaking battles with Biaggi, Gibernau, Capirossi, Barros and others. Today the combination of electronics and tires creates a situation where races are finished with the group of participants all stretched out over the field. No more adrenaline in the last few laps with tires smoking on brakes and throttle. Today MotoGp top riders lean vertiginously their bikes and whack-open the accelerator while edging their … tires: if these are not in the money they will be lucky if able to finish the race in the first 10 places.
Our friend and PMP member Almos took a coast to coast trip to California to watch the race: he has sent me some pictures that I am posting but I am sure that I will add more material once he is back in Brooklyn.

Main Picture: Source

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

MotoGp Poll: Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

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Everybody should agree on Nicky Hayden's victory in Laguna Seca, but who is going to take the second place? Logic wants that I pick Edwards, always faster than Rossi in USA, but my heart goes to Valentino, to an epic victory in a track so difficult to an European rider born and raised in circuits that are totally different at least in width and run-offs. The Tavullia Champion is a rider who learns quickly from his own mistakes, someone able to change his riding style according to the conditions even during the same race by processing continuously the information collected from lap to lap. As much as I try to be rational, when it comes to MotoGp, I like to imagine what it would excite me and so, my pick is Hayden, second behind an irresistible Rossi. Unfortunately we have to choose among the first 7 riders in the World Championship, so I will be even more naive, Edwards (again like logic wanted) but again behind Rossi, for a historic Yamaha podium!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Grand Prix Deutschland: a strange race

Only on Saturday I pointed out that Honda had been suffering one of the worst years of the last decade and on Sunday Pedrosa and Hayden took the first and third steps of the podium in the Sachsenring circuit. Indeed at the same track last year Pedrosa had the fastest time and Hayden took another third position. So the surprise was not much about the riders but the bikes and the …. tires. Once again in this championship tires were the critical factor. The Bridgestone squad, Stoner, Melandri, Capirossi, Hopkins and De Puniet chased Pedrosa for more than half of the race until the deterioration of their tires forced them to slow down the pace. Very strange weekend: if in the qualifying practice on Saturday we had 16 riders wrapped in .81 of a second, at the end of the race we had several seconds of gap from one rider to the other one with the exception of Stoner, Melandri and Hopkins that fought for the fifth position up to the end. I had expected a tight race with a lot of dicing and we got just the opposite. In reality the race was quite boring with just a few moments of thrill or, if you want, disappointment. On the fifth lap Rossi crashed after passing West on a long double right. He lost the front end and even thought he held courageously the clutch to keep the engine on until the bike stopped sliding into the gravel trap, a bent clip-on didn’t allow the Italian champion to jump back on the bike. After the race he apologized for his mistake with his team and his fans, all of them frustrated by the accident. After all, in 2006 he won the Gp starting from the 11th position, in the same way he did in Assen two weeks ago, and his record in the Sachsenring was certain one of the reasons we were expecting from him a better weekend. Personally my disappointment was mitigated once I learned that Valentino was suffering the effects of a bronchitis with fever at 38C (100.4 F): not too much but enough to dull the skills of our hero since it was a hot day, 33C (92F).
Rossi has spontaneously admitted his mistake, but was his crash really caused by an objective oversight? He had been trying to pass West unsuccessfully with his Yamaha overheating behind the opponent’s bike, when the Kawasaki rider went a bit wide into the turn and opened the door to him. Rossi, in grabbing the opportunity, was forced to connect the two apexes of the double right in a very tight arch that eventually overpowered the front tire grip. His desire to reach the race leaders had induced him to force the pace and gamble a race that, after the Bridgestone’s debacle, I say that he could have won.
Strange race for a strange podium … Pedrosa wins in his manner, riding the RC212V like a 250cc, and leading the whole race without being seriously challenged by anybody. I am sure that his miniature body must be an advantage in a track characterized by turns where the riders use the edge of their tires for a long time. Same comment goes to Capirossi who, for the first time in 2007, was able to precede his teammate Stoner. Sometime ago I read that Capirex carries more speed into the corner up to the apex than the Aussie but then he cannot match Casey on the throttle at the exit. Well this time Stoner’s aggressiveness didn’t pay because he worn too much his rear tire and trashed a potential second place.
For Nicky Hayden another third place before the Laguna Seca race was like shots of testosterone for his ego: he will be the man to set the standards in California.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Honda or ... not Honda?

With Hopper emigrating to Kawasaki along with Capirossi, Melandri to Ducati, and Pedrosa getting most of the pressure and the blame for the lack of results of the new bike, I have yet to read something explaining how Honda intends to solve its 2007 flop. Last year, the Honda- Repsol Team was able to win the championship with Hayden’s podiums, Rossi’s misfortunes and with a competitive bike that was evolved earlier by Valentino and his boys. Indeed so far the RC212V has not won a race and even if someone will be able to do it before the end of the season, the bike remains a lemon. For years, if not forever the HRC Team has been considered the ultimate Team, the team that has been behind most of the world champion stories of the modern era, but today the same team doesn’t seem to be as appealing as we think and the lack of rumors in the pre-market season seems to confirm it. Probably the Japanese will end up importing new talents from the 250 or from WSBK but with what promises? In fact they too could turn to be other Pedrosas ….

Thursday, July 12, 2007

MotoGp Poll: Grand Prix Deutschland

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Who is going to get the second place Sunday in Germany? I say Stoner. Why? Because last year Rossi won the race starting from 11th position, as he did in Assen 2 weeks ago. The Sachsenring circuit has 14 turns, it’s tight, bumpy and with change of elevations that tend to upset the bikes. Also by being a short track usually the lap times are very close so we should expect some close racing for Sunday. Having said that I believe that in dry conditions Rossi should be able to win in front of the 2007 matador Stoner and, why not, Hayden. Indeed Nicky has taken third place at this circuit for the past three GPs. He is very excited for his recent improvements and looking forward for a winning in Laguna Seca, but in Germany last year he fought for the victory right up to the end of the race so he knows that this is a track where his style could make the difference.
Anyhow, I speculate a very tight race, with a lot of dicing and Stoner getting even more determined in closing the doors to contain Rossi, so in such a scenario anything could happen, and we should not be surprised to see “strangers” on the podium.