Archive - Jan 2008
Julian Ryder is fast becoming one of the giants of motorcycle racing journalism, thanks to his MotoGP commentary - together with the inimitable Toby Moody - for Eurosport, and his outstanding annual MotoGP season review.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna s.l., the body which organizes and runs the MotoGP show, is a shrewd political operator. After his most recent coup, forcing Bridgestone to supply Valentino Rossi with tires for 2008 by threatening to turn MotoGP into a single make series, he turned his attention to the racing spectacle of MotoGP. A much-heard lament in the latter half of the 2007 season was that electronics - and more specifically, traction control - were killing the spectacle of racing, and even, it was muttered, removing much of the skill. And so just before Christmas, Ezpeleta once more tried the "cat-among-the-pigeons" gambit by suggesting that a single, standardized ECU could solve MotoGP's problems.
This time, however, he may have pushed the envelope just a fraction too hard: In a fascinating interview with the Italian site GPOne.com, Ezpeleta appears to pull back from the brink, and is now discounting the possiblity of a spec ECU. Rather unsurprisingly, the main objection has come from the factories themselves, who are united in their opposition to any such move to rein in their freedom to innovate, to borrow a rather apposite phrase. But while acknowledging the technical difficulties a spec ECU would present, the wily Ezpeleta is not to be stumped that easily. Ezpeleta neatly sidesteps the factories by placing the option in the hands of the riders, suggesting that if the riders put forward a proposal for Dorna to step in, then he would have to examine the case for a control ECU once again.
Once again, Carmelo Ezpeleta has managed the remarkable balancing act of appearing to put out the fire whilst simultaneously fanning the flames. And by a strange coincidence, during the period when it is quietest on the MotoGP news front.
It sounds almost too bizarre to be true, and our research has failed to turn up any further confirmation, but the Spanish website DailyMotos.com is reporting that Michael Schumacher is to take part in three MotoGP races in 2008. According to DailyMotos, Ducati were so impressed by the times set by Schumacher during his test after the final race of 2007 at Valencia.
As an American who has as much interest in auto racing as he does motorcycle racing, I was more than a bit nervous as the threat of a single-tire-supplier rule loomed over the Fall of '07. Now that I read of the latest seemingly similar threat of a standardized ECU, I'm begging an inquiry into motive.
Valentino Rossi is complaining about the pervasiveness of electronic traction controls. I infer this is a complaint about Dani Pedrosa, since Casey Stoner claims to be using little or none of the stuff. Riding a bike nearly identical to Pedrosa's, Nicky Hayden began to find success after (reportedly) trimming the electronic controls way back. This implies that only certain riders are benefiting from a computerized nanny, and that all of them have the option of limiting its influence. Am I to believe that Rossi - who, when he was winning everything in sight, was as sideways as anyone - believes he was being trounced by Casey Stoner's tires and Dani Pedrosa's computer engineer? Has he just defined the limits of his abilities for all of us to see? Is he really that ashamed of his bike? Or is this some back-handed mind game he thinks will fool everyone next year? Either way, I consider it a fairly remarkable retreat from the greatness he once exuded.
Back to Mr. Ezpeleta... Why grant this complaint such credence? A standardized ECU makes the sport - by default - a spec series. Until we know what goal is being pursued, why is a spec ECU the suggested - or mandated - solution? It seems to be the equivalent of brain surgery with a sledge hammer.
Let me start 2008 by wishing all of MotoGPMatters.com's readers all the best in 2008. May 2008 find you happier, healthier, faster and safer than any year before.