Faster & Faster:
Rather than start another thread, it just makes more sense to continue this one with the 2nd installment: “Faster & Faster”, or “Faster 2”. Since it is a shorter movie, there is less to comment on. Essentially, it starts at the end – the beginning of the 2004 season – as a perspective on the 2003 season and contrasting the 990’s against the 500’s.
My miscellaneous thoughts on Faster 2:
The initial topic is the impact of Ducati’s arrival and Livio Suppo pointing out that the regulations allow up to 130dB. So, they tried straight pipes and were under the limit and stuck with it. Everyone else followed by mid-2003. This, for me, begs the question: why didn’t the FIM consider putting silencers back on before all of these other radical rules changes? What about 120dB or 115dB? Still loud enough to hear what makes them awesome, but not quite so severe, and cut a few HP for free. I still think they should go back to the 990cc formula, but make them put silencers on the bikes, and drop this pretense of “slowing the bikes down”.
Right at the beginning, we are treated to Kenny Roberts, Sr. telling us, “The sport has never been better. If you look at the grid, it’s never been this good.” The next voice you hear is Nicky Hayden’s, talking about 212mph. Just a minute later, KR Sr explains: “The things are so powerful, it’s about who can get it pointed and get it going; more important than corner speed.” (my emphasis)
A few clips of Nicky Hayden, fearless at Philip Island ’03, his first race there… Easy to understand, in hindsight.
The death of Daijiro Kato is still such a tragedy. What kind of year would ’03 have been with Kato and Gibernau as team mates near the front every week?! Kato probably would have gotten the HRC Repsol seat vacated by Rossi’s move to Yamaha, and ’04 would surely have been so much different. We North Americans experienced a similar loss in CART in 2000 and beyond with the loss of Greg Moore at the end of ‘99. He died because of poor track design, while on the way up to what was obviously going to be a bright future.
For the next significant portion of the movie, the same question kept repeating in my head: “What happened to Gibernau?” I think it is far too simplistic to keep tagging him with the “mentally fragile” label that is so common now. It just can’t be that simple. If you really pay attention to Julian Ryder’s comments after he won at Welkom – the race after his own team mate’s death – it is clear that the one thing Sete is not, it’s mentally insecure. When you listen to him explain his thinking as he narrates his race footage from the ’03 season, there is no doubt he knows how to play this game. It seems to me like he understood his place; he knew that Rossi was the best, but understood how he could be beaten when the opportunities presented themselves. I realize that Rossi spooked him, somehow, but there just has to be more to it. Like Hopkins, Gibernau’s history should not be what it has been.
“The Suzuki is like a computer with a virus…” Michael Scott. Now it’s just slow.
Haga returned to WSBK after one year on the Aprilia, preferring to ride “…an analog bike rather than a digital one.” I don’t think they’ll be calling him to ride that new WSBK bike.
The last scene in the movie is of Rossi seated in front of his M1, after winning at Welkom to begin the ’04 season. It appears to be an emotional moment where Valentino savors an unlikely triumph over the seemingly impossible – changing to an inferior bike in the off-season and winning right out of the blocks. In reading his book, you rather find out that he is laughing to himself at all those who said it was impossible, and perhaps those at Honda who insist that the riders are as replaceable as light bulbs.
If you contrast this scene with those shown near the beginning of the movie from a year earlier - at the same track - where Sete Gibernau is far more dramatically moved by his triumph while also carrying the weight of his lost teammate (remember that Kato did not die immediately, so his actual passing was during the week immediately preceding the round in South Africa), you get, I think, a glimpse at a significant difference between these two individuals. I am somebody who truly appreciates Valentino Rossi and his ability as much as anyone can from afar (make sure that is clear up front)… but if you compare him to Gibernau, you will probably come up with a word similar to “arrogant” pretty quickly. Sete, compared to Rossi, and especially Biaggi, seems to talk about himself a lot less, especially in any relationship to the center of the Universe. It is perhaps an unfair comparison, because I am not suggesting that Rossi is inappropriately confident, especially in the years since. The way he was so sour about losing the Sachsenring race seemed a bit childish. In direct contrast to each other, it is unavoidable to note that in the same place a year apart (Welkom), similar images have endured with very different meanings; one is honoring the loss of a friend, the other is celebrating himself.
In the “Wheels & Tyres” extra, there is the information I used for a post on a different thread a couple weeks ago… When McCoy started winning on the 16.5” rear wheel, everybody thought that was the secret and tried to copy it, even though they didn’t like it as much as the 17” they were all more used to. In reality, it was a unique situation of McCoy’s light weight and riding style that allowed him to use that smaller wheel and softer compound. Even though he was constantly dirt-tracking the bike, he never had tire wear problems. But, after everyone made the copy-cat move to 16.5”, Michelin stopped making the McCoy Special super-soft compound because the molds would be busy supplying the rest of the grid with the harder compounds they needed. As near as I can tell, this is about the point that McCoy had a lot of rear grip problems and more season-shortening crashes. After he got better service from Dunlop, it was too late, because he as aboard the Kawasaki and that bike needed more help than good rubber. My understanding of the timeline could be wrong, so I beg that caveat on the following conclusions: we had one of the most popular riders on the grid pushed out of the sport because of a fairly short-sighted series of economic decisions by the dominant supplier and the teams. Said differently: the only real competitor to Rossi was locked out by the company who supplied both of them with tires. Does this sound familiar? Single tire rule, anyone?
This also reminded me that I think Rossi, before he retires, should have to do penance on a vastly inferior bike. IF he and JB can turn the Suzuki and/or Kawasaki bikes into winners, then they will unquestionably own the GOAT mantle.
The internal combustion engine was not put on wheels just to rest the horses.