Scott Jones, Ducati Corse
When I entered the media center at Losail a few weeks ago, I happened to be thinking about how many people contribute to our enjoyment of MotoGP. From the journalists who write the background stories and race reports, to photographers who show us things we can't see on video, to the large number of people who produce the TV feed, each has his or her role in bringing us closer to the racing and increasing our enjoyment of what we see.
Years ago I was an avid bicycle racer, very much inspired by watching Greg Lemond take on the world in a sport dominated by Europeans. The TV broadcasts featured the commentary of a man named Phil Liggett, who still works as one of the main voices of cycling broadcasts in English. Liggett's enthusiasm and passion for cycling are inseparable from my experience of watching those 1980s Tours de France (and every one since, in fact), and he has stuck in my mind as someone who will be, for many, as big a part of the events he described as the events themselves.
One of the great pleasures in watching Casey Stoner ride a MotoGP machine is the controlled way in which he manages to slide the bike through the corners. In an era when the spectacular slides once so beloved by fans have been tamed by electronic intervention, Stoner has managed to convince his engineers to limit the electronics sufficiently to give him enough control to slide the bike to help get it turned.
His ability has fascinated both fans and journalists around the world, and many have tried to get him to explain how he does it, but Stoner himself has always found it very hard to say exactly what he is doing. At Qatar, a group of journalists - including MotoMatters.com - pressed the Repsol Honda rider again to explain exactly where and when he chooses to slide the rear, and what benefits it provides. Though he protested it was hard - "It's really difficult to explain, so many people have asked me," he said - he went on to talk at length about what he does and why.
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One of my most abiding motorcycle racing memories comes from my first trip to Indianapolis for the 2009 MotoGP race. On the Saturday night, I joined the majority of the paddock in making the pilgrimage to the Indiana State Fairground for the Indy Mile flat track races, the first time I had ever visited a flat track race. In addition to the overwhelming visceral experience of having a couple of dozen thundering twins roar by at over a hundred miles an hour, rear wheel sideways and looking for grip, came something very special indeed. Kenny Roberts Senior, three-times world champion took his Yamaha TZ750-powered flat tracker, one of the most legendary motorcycles ever to grace a racetrack - though Roberts would probably reject the verb "grace" - out for a spin, 34 years after it made its debut at the State Fairground.
Ducati, in partnership with Italian telecommunications company TIM, presented their 2012 bike today in an online launch for a reported audience of 96,000 fans and media around the world. Much excitement had surrounded the launch of the new livery, the color scheme feature a lot more white than in previous years. A hint to that effect had been seen in the new team gear sported by Ducati staff at the Sepang tests, which also had a lot more white than last year's all-red clothing.
The best of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels is, in my opinion, his last, the title of which I've borrowed for this piece. In The Long Goodbye, Chandler shows us more of what makes Philip Marlowe tick than in any of the previous novels, and along the way, as observed by my old professor Thomas Steiner, the book itself seems often to be Chandler's personal farewell to Marlowe and to the hardboiled detective novel itself.
This off-season has been a kind of Long Goodbye of my own, in this case not to a genre of fiction or to a fictional character, but to a real one. My main task over the past few months has been to go through my photos from each race weekend I've attended since 2008 and pull out the best images to show on Photo.GP, my online archive. Each time I open a new catalog or revisit one partially processed, I'm confronted with more images of Marco Simoncelli to edit and decide if they belong on Photo.GP or not.
You don't get many chances to get an image like this, with the entire grid together on track. Some circuits don't have a good first couple of turns, or it's hard to get there from the grid in time for the shot, or a good plan to get there is ruined by some unforeseen problem like a broken down shuttle, V.I.P. traffic on the access road, etc.