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The Gathering Storm Over Tires

There's an old saying, that goes "Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it." Ever since the introduction of the restrictions on tires - introduced rather foolishly at the same time as the 800cc rule, breaking the engineer's golden rule of only changing one variable at a time - complaining about how tires have come to dominate racing has taken on epic proportions. Fans complained that the racing had become boring, riders complained that they were left powerless to compete if they were given the wrong tires or the tire companies got it wrong, and sponsors muttered that they were unhappy pouring money into teams who would be invisible all weekend because of a simple hoop of not-so-sticky rubber.

After a false start last year, the baying crowd were finally given what they wanted three weeks ago at Motegi: Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta announced that in 2009, the MotoGP series would have only a single tire manufacturer, and that he was open to bids for the contract from tire companies.

What happened next completely altered the balance of power: Michelin, knowing that it stood no chance of actually getting the contract, as any result other than Bridgestone would have caused a bombshell of tactical nuclear warhead proportions to go off in the paddock, threw Dorna a curve ball, and decided not to submit a bid. With Bridgestone the only company to have submitted a proposal, the deal was theirs.

But this leaves Dorna with a problem. They too knew that realistically, Bridgestone was the only option, but had hoped to use the bid from Michelin as a stick to beat Bridgestone with to get more favorable conditions. With Michelin declining to play ball, Dorna is now stuck, forced to accept whatever deal Bridgestone offers them, their leverage removed by Michelin's very clever, and very spiteful move.

The Bells! The Bells!

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Five Different Champions, Five Different Machines

Over the past few weeks, it seems as if almost the entire world has been wallowing in doom and gloom. The world's financial system is being shaken to its core, jobs are disappearing all around the world, and Conquest, War, Famine and Death stalk the face of the planet.

Even in the cosy corner of the world occupied by reckless young men and improbably fast motorcycles, things have not been well. The motorcycling press, including this website, has been filled with stories of the end of motorcycle racing as we know it. MotoGP has gone to a single tire, the 250 class is set to disappear and World Superbikes is likely to start banning technology already available on the street bikes the class is based on. Even the two-wheeled world seems to have boarded the handbasket and set course for Hades.

So it behoves us to stand still for a moment to mark a significant fact. Of the five global road race championships which are contested at the behest of the FIM, all have been (or will be) won aboard a different brand of motorcycle. Valentino Rossi wrapped up the MotoGP title aboard his Yamaha M1, while Mike di Meglio clinched the 125cc title on a Derbi. In the World Superbike series, Troy Bayliss took his third World Superbike title on his third different Ducati, and in the World Supersport series, Andrew Pitt prolonged Ten Kate's dominance snatching the title on a Honda. The only title still left open, in the 250cc world championship, will go to either Marco Simoncelli on a Gilera, or if Simoncelli makes a serious mistake, Alvaro Bautista on an Aprilia.

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Please, no more "spec" talk!

For those fans of MotoGP who aren't properly afraid of Dorna's desire to imitate Formula One, rather than maintain a superior product, perhaps this news tidbit will shed some light on the road we have feared all along.

Now that Formula One already have spec-tires and spec-ECU's, and now that Dorna are seeking to establish both in MotoGP, this haunting promise/threat was issued from the Great Fiasco Machine himself, Max Mosely (speaking of a spec-engine formula, where "manufacturers" simply "re-badge" a spec powerplant, and presumably KERS is no longer life-threatening):

"I know there are those who say this is not the right move, but I'm talking about the real world. If Volkswagen, say, can buy a {road car} engine less expensively {than to build one}, they'll undoubtedly do it. After they put a VW badge on it, it's all the same. Unless we think very seriously about cutting costs, in the next 10 years, we'll be in trouble."

Considering that I proposed something akin to this a year ago for MotoGP - as a joke - I wonder why Mr. SS thinks people will pay to see a world-wide spec series any more than they didn't to see a U.S. one. 

Please, Mr. Ezpeleta, see this path for the foolishness that it is and quit now while you are still ahead!

 

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Spec ECU Again?

The renewed suggestion from Carmelo Ezpeleta, that a spec-ECU needs to be forced onto the manufacturers, has crossed over from "concerning" to insulting, disturbing, and offensive. For some background on my opinion, I'd like to refer you to my thoughts at the beginning of the year.

The pervasive or ubiquitous use of the phrase "traction control", when speaking of a problem with the quality of MotoGP racing, is a red herring, at best. Second only to the even more nebulous "electronics", it is now used as a pejorative, intended to suggest that the riders are not in control of their machines and that this is somehow the fault of everyone but the governing body for the sport. Every team is confronted with the same issue: the electronics are more intrusive in the 800cc era so that the bikes can finish the races on artificially small fuel loads.

I'll put this another way, in order to be more blunt: attempting to call this "traction control" is fraudulent. Rev-limiters and throttle-limiters functioning as fuel misers have overlapping benefits with traction control mapping, but the objectives are different. As Jorge Lorenzo has shown us, a bike can still high side while "thinking" it is saving fuel and "controlling traction". Anyone suggesting that a spec-ECU is the solution to overly paternalistic electronics, or excessive cornering speed, is (L-Y-I-N-G) not telling the truth. A rough equivalent would be to feed a child only rice and water and then begin to lament that he or she is problematically thin. Believing that a subsequent change to "homogenized rice" will solve the problem would be considered sophistry by anyone observing from the outside. This is obfuscation, and an inquiry into motive is begged...

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Make Sure You See The 2008 Laguna Seca MotoGP Race

If you haven't already seen the 2008 Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, then make sure you do, as quickly as possible. Beg, borrow, steal a copy of the race. Head on over to MotoGP.com and sign up for the rest of the season package, just so you can watch the race online. Whatever they're asking, just pay them, because it's worth it. That race was a piece of history. If you love motorcycle racing, or even if you only have a mild interest in motorcycle racing, watch that race.

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Where NOT To Stay If You're Visiting Assen

As I've alluded to in several items on this site, modern racetracks have a hard time. Once built out in the sticks, away from the masses, urban sprawl has meant that houses have gotten ever nearer to the circuits, and as a consequence, complaints have started to increase. The more astute among you may want to point out that those new residents must surely have been aware of the existence of the circuit before buying their home, but that fact doesn't seem to stop people from complaining.

While such complaints might be regarded as rather stupid, some complaints are even worse. Like many other circuits, the TT Circuit in Assen has suffered increasing complaints from neighboring properties. Among the most vocal of these has been a local campsite and recreation park, Camping Witterzomer. Understandable as it may be for a recreation park to complain about noise from an adjacent racetrack - one that has been there for 53 years, a good deal longer than most of the other business in the area - it would seem rank hypocrisy for the same campsite to try to attract business from the very race fans whose activities they despise.

Yet that is exactly what is happening. The owners of Camping Witterzomer have put a good deal of time, money and effort into legal proceedings to limit the activities at the racetrack, including trying to prevent the Champ Car series from running at the track. The mass of complaints and procedures has culminated in the canceling of 20 track days and the KNMV Cup, a Dutch club race series aimed at offering riders a cheap and safe way into racing, and taking their first steps on the track in a safe and organized way.

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