Data – the reams of information logged by a vast array of sensors on a racing motorcycle – is a contentious issue in MotoGP. Riders differ in their approach to it. Mika Kallio, for example, has a reputation for being a demon for data, wading through his own data after every session. Other riders pay less attention, preferring to let their data engineers, sort the data out from them, and examine their data together.
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.
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.
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.
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.