indy or bust

September 19, 2008

a couple friend and i made the trip out to the hoosier state for last weekend’s inaugural indy gp. it was an eventful weekend that will be forever remembered.

the day started out damp. rain spoiled the ride and forced us into the cage. it was for the better as the drive to indy from cleveland is rather boring. it’s 315 highway miles and takes a little more than 5 hrs. along the way we encountered some torrential downpours once we crossed into indiana. we arrived in allisonville, a suburb in the northeastern corner of the city, at around 6. i need a nap before dinner after driving. we ate thai, which was so-so.

we then headed downtown to check out the indy nightlife. from the condo, it was a 20 min drive to the epicenter. parking was scarce but we eventually found a spot on the street after 5 mins of driving around. we then walked to the strip of bars. it was very underwhelming. there wasn’t much to choose from. you had jillians, have a nice day cafe, blu, and a few others. basically, about a block of bars total. we went to have a nice day and it was weak. it was a sausagefest – 10 guys to 1 girl. and then it was another 10 not-so-good-looking girls to 1 cute girl. music was also garbage pop/country/hip-hop horribly mashed together by the sketchy looking dj. there were two positives: cute bartenders and only $0.50 beers! 

the weather on sat was perfect – sunny and 80 deg f. we had a hulman suite which runs down the straight on the outside of the track (thanks, pepsi). it had a great vantage point. you could see from turns 11 to start/finish. best thing, they had paddock passes!!! paddock passes were unobtainable except if you knew someone or had a suite. we headed down to the infield right after 250 fp3 and wandered around. it seemed very empty. stopped by the bike tents and got a chance to sit on the new R1 (i’m sold!!!). the merchandising area was small. not much to choose from. stopped by ducati island. it seemed so isolated from everything else. getting into and out was a chore. 

i liked the layout of the track except that it was completely flat. throw in some elevation changes (they’ve got a golf course next door fer cryin’ out loud) and it would be probably the best layout on the calendar. there were plenty of great areas to shoot from. and, the security wasn’t too bad. the track personnel were friendly and didn’t give you too hard of a time if you were not where you were supposed to be. 

paddock access was fantastic. there weren’t a million people there. riders and teams were walking about. umbrella girls were flaunting their wares. well done. 

rain day – i mean race day – started where sat left off. it was warm and sunny for all warmup sessions. after the 125cc race, i headed down to the track to stake out a spot in turn 2 (thought it’d be the best place to catch a spill). next up, the red bull rookies cup. those kids charge hard! very entertaining to watch them bash fairings and overcooking corners. love it! they managed to eke out their race before the remnants of hurricane ike whipped through. 

the heavens unleashed a fury. luckily, i was prepared. i was wearing my moonstone gore-tex park, dri-fit shorts and sandals. i had my camera and lens wrapped in a gift bag to protect it from the elements. it worked perfect. first it was buckets of rain then gale force winds. i stood in my spot for 2 hrs waiting for the weather to pass. eventually, the grounds crew got the track to a manageable state and they got the race underway. unfortunately (i hate to say it), no one went down in turn 2 and after snapping some pics during the first few laps. i then ventured over to turn 9 and met up with jules who was also shooting photos. at around lap 17 or so, the weather returned and forced the the red flag out ending the race on lap 20. allegedly, the wind was so fierce that it was ripping out the staples that held the promo banners around the track flinging them onto the track. the wind knocked over bikes and even upended the yamaha tent injuring several people. craziness…

i strolled down to the paddock to snap some post-race photos, met up with jules, and bs’ed about the race.

the return trip was a repeat of fri.

the weekend was one for the record books – first race on the brickyard, abysmal weather, and hanging out with friends. you can’t beat it.


school of hard knocks – motogp round 4 shanghai

May 6, 2008

the shanghai gp was the first round this year that i enjoyed from end to end. three televised hours of great action.

the weekend started off with a bang, especially for jorge lorenzo (fiat yamaha). on his 11th lap of the first practice session, lorenzo was launched into orbit as his m1 highsided.

upon touchdown, he fractured both ankles as he smashed into the unforgiving tarmac. you know it’s bad when rossi covers his eyes. unbelievably, he returned the next day suffering more troubles (a horrendous tankslapper in qualifying) and subsequently finished a stellar 4th, salvaging a rough weekend for the rookie. the boy deserves my R-E-S-T-E-C-P

after 2 podiums this year, valentino rossi (fiat yamaha) was itching for a victory to keep his championship hopes alive. he and his crew finally got the package (rider/bike/tires) right and nabbed the much-needed win. but it wasn’t easy. dani pedrosa (repsol honda) brought the fight pushing rossi until the end. pedrosa erred on the side of caution and eased the pace on the waining laps. he, along with most of the field, was caught out by the tailwind on the back straight as engines were tap dancing on the rev limiter. rossi nailed the setup of his m1 perfectly.

casey stoner (marlboro ducati) came in a lonely 3rd with lorenzo coming on strong at the end of the race. i wonder if rossi would have had to battle with his teammate if he was 100%?

marco melandri (marlboro ducati) and toni elias (alice ducati) both seemed to tame their wild gp8’s coming in 5th and 8th, respectively. melandri probably saved his seat on the factory squad with this ride. hopefully, it’ll continue throughout the season.

shanghai seemed like a tire neutral circuit as bridgestones and michelins were nicely spread throughout the field.

i’d like to point out that this weekend’s tv converage was very well produced cutting to action wherever it was, which was everywhere. mad props, bro!

with four winners from as many rounds, the championship is up for grabs as only 9 points separate the top three. grab your beret and baguette because in a fortnight we’ll be at le mans. a bientot!


a TRIUMPHant british supersport debut – round 2 thruxton

April 23, 2008

the bsb and bss finally got underway this weekend at thruxton, a fast flowing circuit found in south central uk. it was a great weekend for the factory-backed map embassy racing team. glen richards piloted his 675 to a second place podium position while teammate paul young managed a top 10 finish (9th to be exact).

surprisingly, richards stunned the paddock claiming pole position on the first outing for the 675 in bss.

richards got a great start and lead the field for the first lap. however, steve brogan (hm plant honda) pried the lead from him coming into the chicane at the end of the second lap. throughout the race, the triumph looked unsettled braking into the double apex right-hander. richards then shadowed brogan for several laps until the safety car came out on lap 8 when james webb (padgetts honda) and dennis hobbs (centurion honda) clashed at the chicane. the safety car (a sweet audi r8) was out for a couple laps and then racing resumed with richards taking the lead. brogan answered back and stuck it out until the checkered flag. richards almost stole the win just missing the mark by 0.09 sec.

paul young also had a great start launching him from 12th to 6th on the first lap. he maintained his position until the safety car came out and then leaped into a rostrum position for a brief moment. however, his tires began to fade and young prudently decided to consolidate his 9th place. 

not a bad start for the fledgling team. battling with such a notable squad as hm plant honda (basically factory-backed by hrc) means that the 675 is a force to be reckoned with. this circuit probably favors the rev-happy i-4’s with the high speeds so expect the triumph to be even more competitive on the tight, twisty tracks where drive out of the corners (torque) is more important. 


jerez “analysis”

April 7, 2008

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nothing can really rival the the spectacle that is motogp… except the women of andalusia. jorge must’ve found it very difficult to focus with that chica guapa at his side. i know i would!!! i’ll (gladly) have to do a post on all the team’s grid girls one of these days.

see what i mean??? on to my assessment of jerez…

repsol honda 

despite competing with the 2007 engine, the repsol hondas looked comfortable at the tight and twisty jerez circuit. priority numero uno for honda was handling. in fact, they flew in new frames (developed with data from the qatar race) just for this race. power was an afterthought as they continued to run with the conventional, underpowered spring-valve engine. honda look to have perfected the rc212v’s electronics and chassis as dani handily won while nicky came in a respectable fourth position (10th in qatar).

pedrosa is technically one of the best riders in the paddock and this race was proof of his skill. in essence, he was at one with the bike and he made it look easy from start to finish. like qatar, he got a fantastic start, took the lead going into the first corner, and never looked back. that’s his style.

his teammate is quite the opposite. hayden is a scrapper. he prefers minimal traction control and instead wrings the bike, exiting corners sideways with wisps of smoke coming from the rear tire. that’s his style – loose and on the knife edge. in fact, he pulled an “edwards” almost tucking the front end at turn 1 but using his elbow to right himself.

honda must have it’s hands full having two riders with opposite riding styles. 

pedrosa will be a title contender this year. he’s currently leading the championship and looks consistent. he also looks like he’s enjoying himself which is surprising.

expect to see a see a big jump in the rc212v’s performance once the pneumatic-valve engine is unleashed allegedly for the chinese gp.

fiat yamaha

2008 is a year of learning for both fiat yamaha riders. it’s the first year valentino is riding on bridgestones and jorge on an 800cc machine and they’re both getting on with it pretty well.

rossi is considered to be a few races behind the paddock due to his switch to japanese rubber but his performance hasn’t been hindered. he’s third in the championship at the moment but, more importantly, the yamaha appears more competitive. rossi on bridgestone is one less variable that separates his bike from stoner’s. furthermore, the m1’s pneumatic-valve engine looks to be on equal ground with the gp8’s desmo system even though it wasn’t all too necessary at jerez. though, it never hurts to be fastest down the chute as they were last weekend.

to the paddock’s suprise (as well as mine), jorge lorenzo has quickly adapted to the m1 finishing on the podium in both races. i knew he was going to be fast but i didn’t think he was going to be THIS fast. the yamaha/michelin package looks like an “easy” package to ride as fellow rookie james toseland is riding well with a similar bike.

marlboro ducati

ducati stuggled this weekend. like the year before, jerez, for some reason, is their “bogey track.” stoner finished in a dismal 11th after running off the track two times while teammate melandri floundered at the back of the grid. the gp8 is one mean machine and it reminds me of aprilia’s failed rs^3. let’s see, both are: 

  • italian 
  • extremely difficult to ride (colin edwards said that the rs^3 was “born bad”) 
  • implemented a lot of electronics/traction control to manage the engine 
  • considered most powerful bike in paddock

with the gp8, when it’s “on” it’s (qatar) it’s on. when it’s “off” or even not fully “on,” it’s a more than handful (no, not that kind…).

melandri is catching a lot of heat from the factory and there are rumors that he may be sacked if he doesn’t pick up the pace. the question is, who in their right mind would want to ride this beast?

tech 3 yamaha

herve poncharal, team boss of the satellite yamaha team, must be ecstatic with the start of the season. it’s been a long time since they’ve been competitive. the past two years, they were experimenting with dunlop and they were way off the pace. this year, they made the switch to michelin and picked up two very competent riders on the team. the only thing missing is the more powerful pneumatic-valve engine which they expect to run next race in estoril.

toseland looks confident on the m1. like lorenzo, he’s adapting well and his results are proof. he rides with chip on his shoulder and is willing to mix it up with the veterans.

edwards, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have the drive that he used to have. having qualified on the front row in both races, he knows how to set up the bike. but when it comes to the race, he just can’t keep up and gets dropped to midpack or crashes out.

satellite hondas

ironic, that jir/scot aka konica-minolta is doing so well this year. the past two years were atrocious. new management and new rider have revitalized this team and they are currently the best satellite honda on the grid. dovi’s all-or-nothing attitude is apparent and like, hayden, he rides his 2007 rc211v past its limit. get him on factory equipment, and he’ll be challenging for podiums if not wins.

i don’t want to even get into san marco-gresini or lcr…

alice ducati

all that can be said is that the alice gp8’s are “off.” elias and guintoli are riding raging bulls rather than thoroughbred race horses.

next weekend is estoril which should either provide answers or generate more questions (call me capt obvious). i just hope racing is a little closer.


european homecoming – motogp jerez report

April 1, 2008

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after a three week break (which felt like six), the circus that is motogp arived in southern spain for the second round of the champioship and first round on european soil. this was a race for spanish supremacy with no quarter given. the outcome was surprising in more ways than one.

i consider this race to be the proper first round of the season since conditions in qatar were so unfamiliar. world champ casey stoner (marlboro ducati) dominated the historic night race and must’ve had the paddock scratching their heads in disbelief.

jerez is quite the opposite to qatar. first, the race run during the day and, second, the track layout is much tighter with only a 600 m back straight (400 m less than losail). 

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the atmosphere is also totally different. the spanish are notorious for their exuberance and fanaticism when it comes to motorsport whereas the arabic culture is subdued and austere.

but i digress… let’s get on with the racing!!!

free practice

the weekend got going with no real surprises in fp1. however, things started getting interesting in the afternoon session. riders began pushing and the top 12 were within a second of each other with spanish rookie jorge lorenzo (fiat yamaha) leading. several riders went down, in particular pre-event favorite stoner who suffered a heavy fall when he tucked the front in turn 7, a fast left-hander that leads into the stadium section. this incident was, unfortunatly, a sign of things to come. ultimately, he ended the day on the backfoot only 6th fastest. the resilient valentino rossi (fiat yamaha) looked to be back in good form just 0.04 sec behind his teammate.

sat morning began well for another spanish rider. dani pedrosa (repsol honda) bounced back from a dismal fri to lead the morning session with americans colin edwards (tech 3 yamaha) and nicky hayden (repsol honda) nipping at his heels. stoner couldn’t overcome his woes with his gp8 suffering handling problems throughout the weekend.

qualifying

qp was fantastic!!! lots of action. bikes looked like unbroken horses, bucking and sliding under their courageous riders. a wily edwards showed everyone why he’s still on a motogp bike by saving an inevitable low-side in turn 1 with sheer grit and determination. genius!!!

lorenzo proved to be too much and set a blistering couple of laps that broke the lap record by almost a second (and they thought the 800’s would slow things down). pedrosa fueled by hate for his compatriot was second fastest. edwards on a severely underpowered bike rounded out the front row. rossi suffered an “electrical” problem on his final qualifier and could only muster a 2nd row start. and stoner continued to struggle with setup leading the 3rd row of the grid.

race

i hate to say it, but the beginning and end were the only real moments to watch in this race. the rest was just filler. jerez was like a bottlerocket – sparks and anticipation while the fuse burns, lift off, nothing…, nothing…, then a raucous BANG!!! at the end. u’ll see what i mean if u check the lap chart.

dani blitzed the field taking the holeshot with teammate hayden in tow. in addition, stoner got a great start rocketing up to 3rd by turn 2. hayden dropped back to 4th after almost missing turn 2 while lorenzo took advantage of it passing the stoner and hayden in one fell swoop snatching 2nd. hayden regained his composure and was putting the heat back on stoner. rossi dropped a position to 6th on the start (he’s never been great out of the blocks) but eventually recovered and slipped past ex-teammate edwards in turn 1 on the 2nd lap. stoner still lacking front end confidence had a moment at curva dry sac and ran it wide and hayden then subsequently hung him out to dry (har! har! har!). at the next corner, rossi, smelling blood, dive-bombed past the out of shape ducati relegating stoner to 5th (it gets worse…). meanwhile, pedrosa is pulling out at gap on lorenzo. rossi then outbrakes hayden into turn 8 while stoner, pushing way too hard, can’t make the corner and runs it into the gravel (same place where he lost the front on the previous lap). stoner rejoined but at the tail end of the pack. edwards again couldn’t hang and was getting passed left-and-right until he ultimately crashed out on the 5th lap. rossi was then on a mission to catch lorenzo who pulled out a lead of 0.4 sec (pedrosa was a further 1 sec ahead). curva sito pons (turn 5) must be a favorite of rossi’s because he again put the pass on lorenzo there on the 3rd lap. phew!

so by the 6th lap, the race settles with only andrea dovisioso (jir/scot honda) moving up the field and a sick james toseland (tech 3 yamaha) literally roughing up chris vermeulen (rizla suzuki). we haven’t mentioned loris capirossi (rizla suzuki) yet and he’s been traipsing around in 5th since the 3rd lap when casey ran off. speaking of which, stoner had another moment in, u guessed it, curva dry sac. he didn’t lose a spot and eventually ended the day in a paltry 11th place.

basically, the top 4 didn’t change for the the last 24 laps. not much happened behind them, either, until the last couple laps. rossi almost made a rookie mistake and thought that the penultimate lap was actually the final lap. luckily, he kept his head down and didn’t lose a position as lorezo was not too far behind. his crew was probably having a heart attack.

capirossi lost a few places and was down to 6th as he passed the white flag. toseland and dovi, respectively, got past him while john hopkins (kawasaki) was gaining on the group. it all went down at the hairpin that leads to the finish on the last lap. as toseland and dovi were having at it running wide and opening the door, a wily capirossi squeezed by to take 5th demonstrating to the rookies how it’s done! respect ur elders, young-uns. surprisingly, hopkins also capitalized on the mistake and pipped dovi at the line for 6th. fantastic stuff!!!

pedrosa won by a comfortable margin (he had a lead of over 4 sec on rossi) with rossi and lorenzo comprising the podium. unbelievably, dani aka pedrobot showed some emotion as he crossed the finish line. he is human!!!

…and breath.

it’s getting late so i’ll have my “analysis” of the race tomorrow…


meh – motogp qatar wrapup

March 10, 2008

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title says it all. i’m thoroughly unimpressed with the first round on the motogp calendar. probably not what u really wanted to hear but as the spanish say, “es la verdad.” 

the historic race (first gp event ever held under lights) started out great but then fizzled out at the end much like last year’s races. maybe there was too much hype…

imo, qualifying was the highlight of the weekend. unbelievably, the yamaha-michelin trifecta trumped the world champ casey stoner (marlboro ducati) by snatching up the WHOLE front row. pole went to rookie jorge lorenzo (fiat yamaha) followed by another rookie james toseland (tech 3 yamaha) and vet colin edwards (tech 3 yamaha). toseland smartly set the marker early in the qualifying as the track temp was warmer at the beginning of the session. stoner’s last attempt at pole was hampered by a slowing toni elias (alice ducati). stoner was 4th quickest. valentino rossi (fiat yamaha) headed up the 3rd row. from the looks of things, rossi’s gamble with bridgestone did not pay off. he hasn’t topped timesheets since his win at estoril 6 months ago. since then, rossi has riding pillion.

the 22 lap race was a bit lackluster in the entertainment dept. however, several interesting stories unraveled during the race.

like last year, casey stoner ran away with the win, 5.3 sec ahead of lorenzo (we’ll get to this later). the stoner-ducati-bridgestone package set the standard that night and probably for the rest of the season. he bided his time sitting in 4th position for 7 laps dicing it up with lorenzo. as the top 4 positions barreled down the front straight to complete the 7th lap, the ducati out-muscled everyone and snatched the lead going into turn 1 with lorenzo close behind. once in clean air, stoner put the hammer down and set consistent fastest laps and walked away from the field.

this, however, wasn’t the case for everyone on a ducati. stoner’s teammate marco melandri (marlboro ducati) and both alice ducatis struggled throughout the race. melandri was the 2nd ducati across the line in 11th 44.3 sec behind his teammate. i wouldn’t consider the italian a slouch by any means, either. he’s been on the podium 19 times and won the 250 championship. furthermore, toni elias and sylvain guintoli finished further behind claiming the last 2 point scoring places, respectively. this suggests that the gp8 is a beast unlike any other in the paddock with only stoner able to tame it. top speeds of all 4 ducatis are around 324kph (4kph faster than the rest of the field) so it’s not a question of engine spec. that leaves suspension set up and rider skill. julian ryder said that he had a chance to look at the data sheets for the ducati riders and that they were all relatively equal except for stoner carrying much highers speeds on corner entry (thanks, j4rno-ro2).

i think michelin has rebounded from its dismal 2007 season. first, they occupy the entire front row of the grid and, second, they took 7 out of the top 10 positions. i really think that if rossi would’ve stuck with michelin he would have been battling at least his teammate for second instead of floundering in 5th. in fact, james toseland on the inferior spring-valve yamaha was ready to pounce on rossi on the last lap. michelin is back and they’re furieux!

speaking of pissed, dani pedrosa (repsol honda) rode like rambo after he learned that murdock double-crossed him (watch this, u’ll know what i mean then).

pedrosa, fighting a severe wrist injury, got the holeshot (8th to 1st by turn 1) and lead the race for 4 laps. rossi clawed the the position away and the two were duking it out for several laps even after stoner and lorenzo passed them. it looked like pedrosa was being held back by rossi and once past the gap between grew quickly. i’m not a pedrosa fan (not even close) but i was seriously impressed that he gutted it out.

i was also very impressed with the crew of rookies. lorenzo, toseland, and andrea dovizioso (jir-scot honda) all faired well. they occupied positions 2-4 in only their first race. dovi is geat fun to watch as he manhandles his rcv212. he also pulled a “valentino” on the man himself stuffing him on penultimate corner on the last lap.

even though the race was a bit boring (i almost dozed off midrace) plenty of news came from it. the next race is in 3 weeks at jerez which is a more technical, twisty track where hp shouldn’t be as much a factor. hopefully, the field will bring it to stoner and end this madness.

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