After a tough race on Sunday, managing tires on a drying track, around half of the MotoGP grid headed back to the track on Monday for a day of testing. Not everyone was enthusiastic about that. "Usually we hate Mondays, and this is a Monday that we hate," Danilo Petrucci told us with a wry grin on his face. He pinpointed why testing made a lot less sense for satellite riders than for factory teams. Satellite teams only really have set up changes to test, and the occasional tire, if the single tire supplier has something new. There was a real downside to working on set up at a track you have just raced at, Petrucci said. "If you are angry because you didn't get the best set up on Sunday, you getting more angry if you find it on Monday."
It is but a short trip up the road from Spielberg to Brno, but it is a journey between two very different worlds. From the hyper-modern facility at the Red Bull Ring, to the frayed-around-the-edges buildings of Brno. From a track which has been missing from the calendar for the best part of twenty years to a circuit which has seen racing almost since its inception, where teams often come to test. From a track with a paucity of corners, all hard braking and acceleration, to one which flows from corner to corner, where bikes mostly exit in third gear when getting on the gas.
The starkest difference between the Red Bull Ring and Brno is the layout. Both tracks snake up and down hillsides, but where Austria is a track stuck up against a mountain, Brno is a winding road which threads its way through hills and vales. Where Spielberg is basically seven corners, three of which are almost hairpins, all fourteen of Brno's corners are long and flowing.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after Sunday's historic race at the Spielberg circuit in Austria:
Fantastic 1-2 for Ducati Team riders at Zeltweg, as Iannone wins the Austrian GP ahead of team-mate Dovizioso. Pirro twelfth
The Ducati Team put in an outstanding performance today at the Austrian Grand Prix, round 10 of the MotoGP World Championship, held at Zeltweg’s Red Bull Ring.
After a stroll through the top ten, our mid-season review of MotoGP continues, and gains in both brevity and the number of riders under discussion. Here, we go through the numbers eleven to fifteen, from Aleix Espargaro to Stefan Bradl:
11th: Aleix Espargaro, Suzuki, 51 points
Where his teammate is being heralded as The Next Big Thing, Aleix Espargaro has struggled. At some circuits, his results have been impressive: two fifths at Austin and Jerez, followed by a sixth at Le Mans are right where Espargaro believes he belongs, running close to the front and looking for improvement. But the rest of the season has been mediocre. Two DNFs and three finishes outside the top ten are just not good enough for a factory Suzuki rider.
Why do they call it Silly Season? Its origins lie in the 19th Century, when a London publication found itself concocting trivial stories to try to pad out its pages. Its meaning has mutated to cover any story consisting mainly of speculation and rumor meant to fill empty column inches. And in motorcycle racing, it has come to mean the period of time during which riders and teams are negotiating over new contracts, and working on who will be riding where the following season.
This year, Silly Season has needed a new name. It has gone from beyond silly to being outright insane. In a normal year, riders touch base with teams at Jerez, start talks in earnest at Mugello, and sign contracts during the summer break, announcing deals at the first race after the break. But this is no normal year. As we approach the first race after the summer break of 2016, all but two of the twenty-three seats in MotoGP have already been filled, officially or unofficially, and Silly Season is basically over.
The madness started before the season had even begun. At the Movistar Yamaha launch in January, Jorge Lorenzo stated publicly that he wanted to sign a new deal with the team before the start of the season. Yamaha did their part, sending offers to both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in the period before the first race at Qatar. Lorenzo did not sign his deal, however. Valentino Rossi did. The seven time MotoGP champion has tied his long term future to Yamaha, and never seriously looked elsewhere. Yamaha and Rossi will be making money for each other for many years to come.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
Sensational seventh Sachsenring win for Marquez; Pedrosa fights back to sixth
It was a wild and weird weekend at the Sachsenring. The second in a row, after the bizarre and thrilling two-part race at Assen three weeks ago. The weather proved to be decisive, favoring the brave and the smart. And, perhaps, the lucky, but luck is always a part of racing. Sometimes the conditions come to you, and when they do, you have to capitalize.
That is precisely what happened in the MotoGP race at the Sachsenring – and in the Moto3 race as well, come to think of it. For motorcycle racing's big guns, they started on a soaking wet track with a light drizzle falling, but by the halfway mark, the first hints of a dry line were starting to form. That line would start to grow over the next few laps, and then it came down to two judgment calls: when to come in and swap bikes, and whether to gamble on slicks, or play it safe with intermediates.
Bike swaps are governed by circumstances as well as choice. Windows of opportunity open quickly, but they are often overlooked. The information the riders have to base their decision on is limited to what the team can convey via the pit board, and what they can glean from the jumbotron screens that line the circuit. They find themselves locked in battle with other riders, something which can easily devolve into a game of chicken. Unlike the game of chicken, though, it isn't the rider who blinks last who wins. It's the rider who blinks at exactly the right time.