2014 Assen Post-Race Round Up - Of Tire Gambles, The Wisdom Of Thinking For Yourself, And Lorenzo's Fear
A veritable galaxy of stars may have lined up on the grid for the 84th Dutch TT at Assen, but the real stars of the show were the elements. After the rain wreaked havoc on qualifying, shaking up the grid, it was back on Saturday for two of the three races. Riders and teams were forced to rethink their strategy, make decisions quickly, and gamble on tires and the weather. It made for intriguing races, rather than sheer thrills like the MotoGP race at Barcelona. Changing conditions offered the brave and the smart opportunities, and mercilessly punished anyone who got it wrong. You felt for the 45 minutes of the races that anything could happen.
The Moto3 riders had it easiest of all, conditions cool but relatively consistent. The track did not allow for mistakes, however: Jack Miller's strategy of trying to pull a gap early backfired badly, the Australian crashing out of the lead. Miller's saving grace was that Romano Fenati, his main rival in the title chase, made even bigger mistakes than he did, crashing out twice, and failing to score points. The day belonged to the Hondas, with Alex Marquez controlling the race from the front, despite challenges from teammate Alex Rins and a quickly closing Miguel Oliveira. With two Hondas and a Mahindra on the podium, this was the first time since Le Mans 2012 that a KTM was not on the podium, and the first ever Moto3 race where a KTM engine did not power any of the podium bikes.
Conditions were much trickier for the Moto2 riders, rain falling heavily before the race, but then quickly starting to dry. It was clear that if the rain held off, a dry line would soon appear, and a few riders gambled on fitting a slick rear. The rain did not hold off, however, falling heavily again in the early laps. That put riders like Dominique Aegerter, who had reckoned on using a slick rear, a long way behind the leaders, his tire only coming good in the second half of the race. The rain allowed Simone Corsi and Sam Lowes to get away at the front, pulling a big lead in a short period. The pair looked set to dispute victory between the two of them, but Lowes pushed a little too hard, losing the front and going down. Corsi could have just cruised to victory, but that proved too much to ask, the NGM Forward rider crashing out of a commanding lead at the halfway mark.
The 2014 Moto2 rider line up :
The FIM today issued a press release confirming the 18-month ban imposed retrospectively on Ant West for using banned substances. The Australian has had all of his results scrapped, between 20th May 2012 and 19th October 2013. That includes the two podiums he scored at Sepang and Phillip Island at the end of 2012, meaning that Gino Rea moves up to 2nd at Sepang, and Hafizh Syahrin will be awarded 3rd place (and his first podium), while Marc Marquez takes 2nd at Phillip Island, and Scott Redding adds another podium to his tally to take 3rd.
The official FIM Press release is shown below:
Doping - Decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the case of rider Anthony West
The FIM has taken note of the Award handed down on 22 November 2013 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the case of rider Anthony West, participant in the 2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix in the Moto2 Class.
On 20 May 2012, Anthony West underwent an anti-doping test conducted by the FIM at the 2012 French Grand Prix. The urine sample obtained from Mr West revealed the presence of a stimulant (Methylhexaneamine) prohibited in competition under the FIM Anti-doping Code in force.
Ant West has been issued a retroactive ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and has had almost all the results for the last 18 months declared invalid. All of West's results between the Le Mans 2012 race and 20th October 2013 have been declared null and void, and will be scrapped from the official Moto2 results.
The retroactive ban goes back to a failed doping test at Le Mans in 2012. West had bought a supplement energy drink without checking the ingredients, and subsequently failed a drug test. The energy drink (Mesomorph) turned out to contain the banned substance methylhexaneamine, traces of which were found in West's urine. At the time, the FIM imposed a one month suspension on West, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed against the leniency of the ban, and that appeal has now been partially upheld.
Ant West looks certain to miss the final round of Moto2 at Valencia. The Australian has been found guilty of using methylhexaneamine, a mild stimulant on the WADA list of banned substances which is also used by the FIM in their anti-doping code. West tested positive at the Le Mans round of MotoGP, but he has only now been heard before the FIM International Disciplinary Court. The Court found West guilty of violating the anti-doping code, banned West from the Le Mans Moto2 round (meaning that his 7th place finish will be scrapped from the results) and had a 30-day competition ban imposed, starting October 30th. The ban means West will be unable to take race at Valencia in 10 days' time. He has five days to appeal the ban.
The substance West has been banned for is methylhexaneamine, a mild stimulant originally marketed as a nasal decongestant. It also has mild stimulant properties, increasing body metabolism slightly. For this reason, it is a common ingredient in some sports supplements, especially those aimed at weight loss or weight control. However, because it is used in small quantities, it is not always listed in the ingredients of those supplements, making it easy to ingest without knowing it. There are currently programs, such as those run by the NSF, to label sports supplements as being safe for elite athletes to use, without falling foul of various anti-doping regulations.
Two freshly anointed champions, three impressive winners, and a large crowd of ecstatic and yet wistful fans, come to say goodbye to a departing hero and hope to spot a new one arriving. Even the weather cooperated. That's how good the Australian Grand Prix was at Phillip Island this year. All three races were a lot less intense than the previous two weekends, but even that didn't matter, because of the manner in which the winners secured their victories, and because the Australian crowd had something to cheer about in all three categories.
It started in the Moto3 race, where Sandro Cortese rode one of his best races of the year, the title he clinched last weekend at Sepang clearly a weight off his mind, allowing the young German to ride freely. He had Miguel Oliveira to contend with for most of the race, but in the end, he would not be denied. The home crowd still had much to cheer about, as local boy Arthur Sissis, the 17-year-old former Red Bull Rookie, won an intense battle for third, putting an Australian on the podium for the first time on Sunday.
2012 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Confidence, Control, The Half A Second Between The Rider's Ears, And A Minimum Wage
When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 - now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor - he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit. Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. "I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!" Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1'29s (just, his fastest lap being 1'29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1'30s.
Confidence. That's Stoner's secret. And it's the secret of another Australian, a rider almost surprised to find himself at the front of the Moto2 class, Ant West having bagged the 3rd fastest time on the first day of his home Grand Prix. The podium at Sepang had kicked him into gear, West admitted, pointing out the importance of confidence to results. "I must have woke myself up!" West joked. "This class is all about having good confidence, because from 1st to 20th, everyone's fast. I just feel confident, and it makes everything so much easier. Today I feel good, and the bike's working really well." West's success was more than just an overnight transformation, West insisted. Things had slowly been improving since the QMMF team switched from the Moriwaki to the Speed Up chassis, West now able to close the gap the front. "We've been building up the last few races getting better and better, and I'm happy today. It just seem to be going well, even went out the first part of this session on old tires and still had quite a decent time."
The Grand Prix Circus came to Sepang with three titles in the balance. Only one of them got wrapped up on Sunday, though, tropical rainstorms throwing a spanner into the works of the other two, but generating some fascinating racing. The fans had one fantastic dry race, one fantastic wet race, and a processional MotoGP race that looked much the same as it would have had it been dry. There was a packed house - over 77,000 people crowded into the circuit, a highly respectable number for a flyaway round - cheering on local heroes, there was confusion over the rules, and there were a lot of new faces on the podium. There was also a much better balance of nationalities on the podium: where in previous races, the Spanish national anthem has been played three times on a Sunday, at Sepang, it was only heard once. Most of all, though, the Moto2 and MotoGP races ran in the wet would be determined by the timing of the red flags, with Race Direction's decisions on safety also having an outcome on the results of the races, and in the case of MotoGP, possibly implications for the championship.
After Maverick Viñales' shock decision to quit his team, it got a lot easier for Sandro Cortese to wrap up the Moto3 title at Sepang, needing only to keep a watchful eye on Luis Salom during the race and not finish behind him. Salom had made Cortese's task even easier a week previously, by launching an ill-considered dive up the inside of Jonas Folger at the start of the last lap at Motegi, incurring a penalty which dropped him five grid positions at the start. Cortese started from the front row, while Salom had his work cut out, starting from way back in 10th. Cortese could more or less cruise home at Sepang and secure the title.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying at Jerez on Saturday:
With the Moto2 and Moto3 trucks all departed from the paddock, the Jerez circuit is now the domain of the MotoGP teams for the final test ahead of the season opener at Qatar. Thursday, the eve of the test, saw a massive amount of pit lane activity, but mainly among the photographers as they chased up and down the track shooting the riders in their full season livery for publicity shoots and the official MotoGP.com website.
Jerez is the first time that all of the bikes, both the CRTs which have tested in Spain and the factory prototypes which have tested in Sepang, hit the track at the same time. The difference was immediately obvious, from a mosey up pit lane with a camera. At the CRT end of pit lane, garages were open, and mechanics were working on their bikes in full public display. I strolled past bare chassis with engines standing separately waiting to be fitted, bikes in various stages of undress, and stood taking photographs as mechanics worked on their bikes, undisturbed by my presence.
With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.
Young riders coming up today, and even current riders, need to understand that they are no longer being paid to race. This is a major change in mindset, what they are paid to do is work as a marketing tool for their sponsors and patrons. For most of the history of athletics and motorsports, one of two things had to happen for you to compete, you either were either wealthy, or, you had to have a wealthy patron. Patron, another term for sponsor, is something that disappeared, for the most part, post-World War II on a personal level. Post World War II sponsorship came from corporations rather than people though that really didn't become visible until the 1960s with the Lotus Formula One team.
Just hours after Ant West announced on his Facebook page that he would not be racing in MotoGP, as he was unable to find the sponsorship to fund his ride at the Speed Master team, the team issued a press release announcing West's replacement. Italian rider Mattia Pasini is to take West's place, and ride the Speed Master Team's Aprilia CRT bike in MotoGP for 2012.
Rumors had emerged earlier today that Pasini would be racing in Moto2 in 2012, with much speculation that the Italian would be riding for the Stop & Go Racing team. Those reports were based on an announcement on Pasini's Facebook fan page that he had finally signed a contract for the upcoming season, but only later did it emerge that Pasini would be racing in MotoGP rather than Moto2. Despite West's obvious ability - masked during his time at MZ by organizational problems in the team, which made it impossible to ensure a consistent setup for the bike - Pasini is a more natural fit with the Speed Master project. Pasini is highly popular in his native Italy, and having an Italian rider on an Italian bike in an Italian team is a much easier proposition to sell to Italian sponsors.