2013 Mugello Moto2 And Moto3 Round Up: Redding Stokes Up A War of Words, And Why KTM Is Killing It In Moto3

In many ways, the Moto2 race at Mugello resembled the MotoGP race. One rider seized the initiative, sized up the competition, and when he saw that they were no match for him, pressed home his advantage. While Scott Redding's victory at Mugello was not quite as dominant as Jorge Lorenzo's in MotoGP - after watching it again at leisure, it is clear just how totally Lorenzo controlled every aspect of that race, from his tough pass on Dani Pedrosa in the first corner to the devastating pace increase he forced when he sensed the Repsol Honda man weaken - it is still one of the most commanding Moto2 wins for some time.

Redding did not quite lead from the start, but he disposed of Takaaki Nakagami without too much difficulty. He then pulled a gap, with only Nico Terol and Johann Zarco able to follow his pace. Terol passed Redding just before the halfway mark, exploiting the slipstream provided by the oversized Englishman, but that was all Terol could do. Redding was puzzled when Terol failed to pull a gap after passing. "I couldn't understand how he caught me, because when he passed me, I was expecting to be fighting to hold on to him, but I was really comfortable behind," Redding said afterwards. He got past four laps later, and turned up the pressure, and while Terol and Zarco could hang on along the front straight, once Redding broke the slipstream he was gone. It was the first back-to-back victory by a British rider in 42 years.

"This is how you earn it," Redding said afterwards. He had wanted to make a point, and he had done so extremely forcefully. But he had done so without taking risks, prepared to sacrifice the victory to maintain his advantage in the championship. After Terol had passed, Redding had been prepared to settle for a podium, but Terol's inability to up the pace once he had passed the Marc VDS Racing rider convinced Redding the win was there for the taking.

It is precisely this kind of long-term prospect that has given Redding such a commanding lead in the championship. Look solely at podium finishes, and Terol, Pol Espargaro, Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio all look strong, with two podiums apiece. But they also all have at least one DNF, and most have a finish outside the top ten to their name as well. Redding, on the other hand, knows that consistency is key to winning a title, and while he clearly enjoyed his wins, collecting points in every round is just as important.

"When you see any championship being won, consistency is the main thing. In Texas, I could have pushed for the podium and I could have crashed. I think to take the points for the fifth position is better than to take none," Redding said after the race. "Sometimes you have to think this way, but like Dave Thorpe [former three-time motocross world champion - DE] told me, when you feel good, take the most points you can take in the situation. Today was just one of those days, same as Le Mans."

Redding also knows he has to capitalize on the situation of his opponents. The young Englishman has seen Pol Espargaro struggling to be competitive, and has been happy to make Espargaro's life even more difficult whenever possible. When Espargaro criticized him in the Spanish press in the lead up to Mugello, Redding took careful note of his words and bided his time. After the qualifying press conference on Saturday, and then again after the race press conference on Sunday, Redding made sure to point out to representatives of the Spanish media that Espargaro's charges did not hold water. On Saturday, he told a reporter from one Spanish magazine, "there was a quote from Pol [Espargaro] last week about me being weak and inconsistent. But for me it's not true. To have a crash in the morning, and put it on pole, it's giving [him] the words back."

On Sunday, Redding was even more crushing, this time in the guise of being benevolent. Asked about Espargaro's difficulties this year - the Spaniard is struggling with an inexplicable lack of grip - Redding cranked up the pressure a little bit more, this time to Catalan radio reporters, once again an important media source in Spain. "I don't really know why Pol is struggling," Redding mused. "The first race, we were fighting, and then he just sort of dropped down the order a bit, I don't know why. I think he feels some pressure from me, because he didn't expect it after the testing, where I stayed quiet, and then in Qatar I was there. It kind of took him off his feet a little bit, and now when he sees I'm constantly fast it's not helping." He also pointed to his crash in free practice, and the coincidence that saw Espargaro go fastest in a session from which Redding was absent. "Same with the crash in FP3, he was fastest then, and then in qualifying I put it on pole. I think for my opponents this is quite destroying for the mind, because I've been in this situation when I was racing against Marc, you know, so I know the feeling." He also made it clear he was under no illusions this was permanent. "He's going to bounce, but it's just a matter of when," he said.

On Monday, at the test, Espargaro showed every sign of having bounced back immediately. The Tuenti HP 40 rider was the fastest man of the day, and faster than both he and even Redding had been all weekend. Clearly Espargaro has lost none of his actual speed, what is missing at the moment is the mental resilience. Given the pressure he is under from the media in Spain, that is not surprising, but he has been in difficult situations before.

The war of words between Espargaro and Redding is frankly rather refreshing. The atmosphere between riders who should have been fierce rivals has been rather too respectful over the past few years. While writing a magazine article recently about Carl Fogarty's reign in World Superbikes, the animosity and needle between riders both increased their motivation and added much to the entertainment for the fans. Trading insults via the media and in press conferences used to be part of the sport, but that edge has disappeared in recent seasons, to the detriment of the sport.

So who's winning the war of words? At the moment, you'd have to say Redding, but that's because words sting more when backed up by results. Espargaro's comments about Redding's lack of consistency have rung rather hollow when you look at his results, but no doubt the Spaniard will want to start backing up the talk with some action. His home track - literally, Espargaro hailing from Granollers, which is walking distance from the Montmelo circuit - would be a very good place to start.

With the press focusing on Redding and Espargaro, Nico Terol is slipping under the radar. Since his first podium at Valencia last year, Terol has started to find his feet in Moto2. He followed that podium with a win at Austin, and now a second place at Mugello. The Spaniard is improving rapidly, and could well start to pose more of a challenge. He is equal on points with Mika Kallio, Redding's Marc VDS teammate, the Finnish rider also showing signs of progress this year. The 2013 Moto2 season is not turning out as expected. Or rather, it is only turning out as expected by Scott Redding.

The Moto3 race at Mugello was a barnstormer, a typical multi-rider battle from start to finish. It did not go as predicted by many, including myself. Ahead of the race, Maverick Viñales looked like running away with victory, but it did not turn out that way. On a Moto3 bike, Mugello's massive straight and long sweeping corners offer too many opportunities to gain ground in the slipstream and recover time lost elsewhere. Escaping is almost impossible, unless you can find a way of breaking the tow, or you have a speed advantage over the riders behind you.

But that was not the case. Five KTMs were evenly matched, and the Suter-built Mahindra is a massive improvement on the Italian Engines Engineering unit which powered the Indian-backed machine in 2012. Viñales' advantage had disappeared into thin air, and he was left to battle it out with 'Team Alex' - the Estrella Galicia 0,0 pairing of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez - Jonas Folger and Luis Salom. That the factory KTMs are capable of outgunning the Kalex KTMs is evident from the difficult which Folger has following the leaders, the factory KTMs having gained an advantage over the winter. But that still left four other KTMs and the Mahindra to fend off, no mean feat for the championship leader.

He was not successful. Viñales had finally to surrender to Luis Salom and Alex Rins, and settle for third. Salom was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on a mistake by Alex Marquez, which allowed him to put a little bit of daylight between himself and the rest. Rins' attempt to chase him down failed in the final corner, as the young Spaniard ran in hot and wide. Viñales crossed the line in third, and holds on to his lead in the championship, though it shrinks to just four points. The Calvo Team rider put his third-place finish down to an engine problem, lacking the power to pull away as he had during qualifying. He lacked the top speed when in the slipstream, and could not slingshot past the rest to take the lead and try to escape.

So where are the Hondas in all this? The answer to that is mid-pack, which is a shame, as there are some fantastic riders on Hondas this year. Romano Fenati has struggled in his second year in Moto3, and Jack Miller's great leap forward is hitting the glass ceiling imposed by the performance of the Honda NSF250R powerplant. HRC have little interest in going all out to try to match KTM - Geo Tech are supplying updates for the engine, but those still don't get the Honda engine near the KTM's power output - and it should be feared that the Moto3 class is heading in the same direction as the 125s which they replace, with a single manufacturer having a monopoly of the class.

Behind the performance differential lies a difference in philosophy, and in approach to the Moto3 class. HRC is treating Moto3 as a class in which it can sell its production racers, and then provide racing kits, much as it did with its RS125. KTM are producing factory racing bikes, and making them available to a number of teams. The fact that KTM are dominating demonstrates rather forcefully that it is much easier to put cheap parts on a fast bike to make it go slower than to put hotrod parts on a slow bike to make it go faster. Honda's unwillingness to listen to input on the weaknesses of the engine or ideas for improving it underlines the philosophical choice they have made. The new rules in 2014 - all engines to be sealed, and supplied at random to customers of each manufacturer - may help remove some of the differential, but unless Honda take drastic action, they still won't be matching the KTMs.

HRC may find themselves displaced by Mahindra. Suter has clearly done an outstanding job - assisted by generous funding from the Indian industrial giant, as well as engineering support from the firm - in building an engine and bike which is competitive. They have two good riders in Miguel Oliveira and Efren Vazquez, which helps a lot, and the results they are booking mean that they are likely to have customers lining up around the block for 2014. It would be even better if another factory entered - rumors of a Suzuki entry never failed to materialize - but for the moment, Mahindra are preventing Moto3 from descending into a monoculture.

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Comments

I don't want to watch the testosterone version of a soap opera every other weekend. Being motorsport and inherently dangerous already provides enough drama as it is. Let Hollywood handle the rest. Extreme animosities in the paddock (always happily assisted by the media) don't add anything to the show, they detract from it, because they tend to overshadow what's actually happening on track.

Naturally, not all riders like each other and some have to build up personal "enemies" to push themselves, but I find grudge matches rather silly and wouldn't mind never seeing seem again in MotoGP.

I've been very competitive in sport (though not motorsport) and some of my fiercest competitors, those I was racing against for coveted spots on elite teams, were also great friends of mine. That didn't diminish the competition one bit. Had the media or public cared at all about us our friendships may have made for blander stories than if we hated each other, and maybe animosity would generate more interest for some, but I believe it would still tarnish the sport.

I find it much easier to respect and cheer for the MotoGP riders who respect each other, and to me respect includes not badmouthing your opponent publicly. The camaraderie I see amongst riders on the podium draws me closer to the sport, and I believe it is better for everyone. Let's hope for more of that, not less.

I really like the coverage of moto2 class in this site. But also think it can be improved upon. It is the class we see most action from.

And yes I do agree raw passion is something missing in motogp. I like riders stating their heart out. But completely disrespecting something or someone and constantly moaning and complaining is something we all are not so enthusiastic about. I liked how Scott answered Pol through his result. He also has respect for Pol's ability. But on the other side, Cal's constant moaning are beyond my tolerance. He doesn't respect the company which helped him in his WSS title and carved a way towards a motogp career. He isn't thankful of his machinery or has any respect for any rider and by respect I dont mean giving way to others on track or hugs and shakes off track. His ego has simply clouded his mind. This is not whats needed though. Competition, passion, hate, fairing bashing, having a little dig on your competitors is all fine. But being rude is not.

Surprised we haven't seen him break out in tears yet. He is fast, but over rated. Go Scott.

Funny, that's what I think about Scott Redding. Fast, but having a couple of good races while your main opponent struggles is no reason to start a hype.

For the same reason it's foolish to already be writing off Espargaro. It's only round 5.

I hate to see him struggling this season, hopefully he can get going again

No, No, No !

If only we had some real hatred among these anodine racers then we might see some real action.

Of course, I'm not advocating some ludicrous "all-star wrestling" action, where the size of your mullet usually indicates the small size of your "p***s", but I am sick and tired of these totally boring pre and post race interviews where the riders are so scared of revealing their true emotions in case they may upset a white haired old widow in Wilmslow, that they end up saying precisely nothing.

For god's sake, these guys are supposed to be hanging it all out with no safety net and yet you would think it's third round of an engrossing world tiddleywinks championship.

My point - I suppose I'm just wishing, as in most forms of motor sports, that the rule makers (greedy bastards all) would just let the machines be far more powerful and unrestricted than the supposed superstars that ride them can handle.

We caught a glimpse of this in the first year of the 1 litre machines, but no, the factories (god bless 'em), decided that this was far too entertaining and killed them off.

Just when I thought political correctness couldn't be taken any further, someone comes along who is afraid to write penis. And in inverted commas? C'mon mate.

One of the reasons my writing here is not as riddled with the obscenities which characterize my speech is because too many of those obscenities mean that websites get  blocked by corporate firewalls. And that means that people commenting on posts can inadvertently end up getting the site blocked for other visitors. Sometimes so-called 'political correctness' serves a purpose. A purpose beyond that supposed by the reader.

Is it possible for riders just to do their taking on the track anymore?
All this PR stuff is just sorting out the riders who can talk nonsense & those who can read prepared nonsense!

Honda's apparent influence over MotoGP has seemingly pushed the whole party the way it preferred and other than four strokes matching the configuration of the bikes they sell most have turned out palpably untrue.

Despite being the driving force behind the adoption of four strokes it now seems they've got to the stage where they can't even be bothered in the smaller classes: their low powered moto3 (incidentally leaving Moto3 with KTM seeming remarkably similar to 125s with Aprilia) and with barely more than standard output CBR6s moto2, it's no wonder they don't want other manufacturers present. This should be embarrassing for the company and, I fear, demonstrative of how they view racing as a whole and what they would be satisfied with.

A real shame for a company with the history and excellence of Honda.