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