GRAND PRIX MOTORCYCLE RACING FOR DUMMIES 11/26/2014

Lorenzo airborn on Saturday, finishes 2nd on Sunday!

Lorenzo airborn on Saturday, finishes 2nd on Sunday!

 

LORENZO: SUGGESTION RE FLAG-TO-FLAG RACES IGNORED

I believe this to be true, having read it in a reputable publication.  This is a perfect example of why organizations that make decisions from the bottom up tend to do well, while organizations that make decisions from the top down tend to flounder.

This is the suggestion of one of the top three riders on earth that the rules be changed, as is often done at the drop of a hat, to force riders to pit within 2 laps of a white flag, rather than currently allowing them to do so.  It makes the white flag a consensus from all areas of the track, at which point it is out of the riders hands upon two laps.  It would effectively head off situations such as we saw this fall in which rain played an overly important role in the outcome of several races, far beyond the intent of the current rule.

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HDNot only did this recommendation arise from the bottom, but it arose from Jorge Lorenzo, a double world champion who has been on the sharp end of these rules, has ridden his million dollar motorcycle down, has walked away, and has been carried off.  He, better than the suits at Dorna and their committees, knows a good rule when he sees one.  The Powers That Be determine that the present rule is okay for now.  Someone’s back is getting scratched.

For riders, it is another reminder that they are, in general, employees, employees asked to  give a lot of feedback at high speeds about their employer’s machines.  If they were owners, say, they could vote to change the rules themselves.  As employees, though, those things are better left to the suits who write the checks.

MotoGP white flagThis expendable posture from owners toward riders, ultimately, leaves them little reason to compete hard outside of the team, but to do their best to best their teammate before all things.  So Lorenzo and Rossi go after each other, aware that Marquez travels in another dimension for now.  Pedrosa, one suspects, is training and training and training.  Pedrosa has a two year contract that could easily see him replaced by Alex Marquez after the 2016 season.

So.  Rain will continue to be allowed to affect the outcome of MotoGP races more than it should.  Riders will continue to subject themselves and those around them to elevated risks, continuing to run slicks in wet conditions past the time most suitable for making the change to a wet bike.  The suits, you see, have this thing…

Lorenzo is cool for stepping up and saying something constructive about one of the top issues in rider safety in the entire sport, a Subject Matter Expert if ever there was one. Having watched the 2008 Indianapolis GP in Hurricane Ike, I was astounded as to how much rain Race Direction allowed before calling a halt to the race at Lap 18, with the wind blowing the rain sideways, the cherry-picker camera and helicopter long gone.  That these guys run in rain at all is, in my opinion, ridiculous.  That they run in tropical storms is absurd.  Yet run they do.

There is something vaguely gladiatorial about keeping riders out on the track on slicks in the rain.  Management, whoever they are, makes these decisions for reasons other than good sense.  The driving force in this sport, according to many, is to increase rider safety while increasing wheel-to-wheel competition.  Leveling the field, allowing more riders to compete in the front group, more variation in podiums, higher ratings in more countries.

None of which has anything to do with getting riders off their slicks within two laps, to reduce their risk by taking away a decision that often results in a crash.  The suits are basically asking, “So, what does this Lorenzo guy know about it?”  One suspects that the rule change will take place on its own within two years, by which time the FIM will have claimed the idea as their own.  Regardless, it will probably be known as The Lorenzo Rule.

dumb as meetingsOne of my favorite Demotivator posters shows a group of suited men’s hands together in a huddle, with the caption “None of us is a dumb as all of us.”  So the rule for 2015 stays in place. Lorenzo is thanked for his suggestion, and MotoGP rolls the dice, praying that it either rains or it doesn’t.  Having reported the biggest crowds of their history, Dorna wants to build upon this success and is reluctant to change  a dynamic which appears to be working.  There are teams clamoring to join the fray, with 25 riders on the grid for 2015 as it stands, with KTM in the wings for 2016. Suzuki under pressure from Dorna to create a satellite team.

MotoGP seems happy to remain a boutique sport in the U.S., as Dorna continues to make little effort to cultivate American journalists.  Rather than taking guys like me out to dinner, they give us a hard time getting the kind of credentials they give to they guys who work for print publications, making it hard for us to do our jobs, and forcing us to make things up when we can’t find out what’s really going on.

Personally, I’m inclined to wonder or presume what folks are doing and saying.  As an example, it’s not a big reach to suggest that Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa are concerned about beating Marquez in 2015.  It’s not a big reach to suggest that sponsors and owners have “high level” concerns which transcend those of the gentlemen who ride the bikes, the Spanish guys.

Interest in  MotoGP in Spain is like what they get at NASCAR events n the U.S., the difference being the Spanish economy is in the toilet, while the US economy, while recovering, is still sputtering and trying to get a grip.  Interest in  NASCAR, which peaked some years ago, is its own problem, probably due in part to the economic downturn and saturation in US motor sports.  Somehow, MotoGP continues to draw in Spain, four times a year, more than any spanish_flag2other country.  All the great Spanish riders.  Remarkable.

November of 2014:  Lorenzo recommends that white flag mean mandatory pit within two laps.  Let’s try to remember this, so we can come back to it when it becomes law.  My favorite Russian stand up comic, Yakov Smirnoff, used to joke that back in the old Soviet Union, everything that was not forbidden was mandatory.  The tendency of any bureaucracy is to make more things mandatory; read the MotoGP by-laws some day.  Thus, the institutional inertia favors The Lorenzo Rule.  Just, not now.

For now, we go into the 2015 season with plenty on our plates.  Open, factory and hybrid bikes, more asterisks than the law should allow, all hoping to make some kind of impression in 2015 that will bring them some grace headed into the abyss of 2016 and the beginning of The Michelin Years which, one fears, could easily coincide with and become inseparable from The Marquez Years, into which we’ve already descended.Marquez in Sepang 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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