Archive - Jun 2009
Ever since the old North Loop at Assen was removed, emasculating the glorious old track, the scarcity of fast left hand corners have made those remain potentially lethal. So far, since the track was shortened prior to 2006, the MotoGP race at Assen has claimed at least one victim forced to miss a race every year: Toni Elias in 2006 and 2007, John Hopkins in 2008, and now Mika Kallio in 2009.
The Finn crashed on the very last lap of the race, grinding his ring finger on his left hand and suffering friction burns severe enough for him to lose the fingernail on that finger for good. As a result of his injuries, Kallio has elected to miss the Laguna Seca round this Sunday, preferring to make his return at the Sachsenring. After Donington, to be run a week after the German Grand Prix, Kallio will undergo surgery to have a skin graft placed over the affected area, but until then, the young rookie will race with artificial skin protecting the affected area. As Kallio will only be missing a single race, the Pramac team have elected not to replace him at Laguna Seca.
Numbers are funny things. On their own, they are meaningless, just abstract inventions, a way of keeping track, of measuring and quantifying objects. There is no intrinsic difference between the numbers 1, 4, 7, 12, 666 and 26017 other than their size. Yet stop someone on the street and ask them about those numbers and you will hear a host of opinions on those numbers, their meaning and whether they are good or bad, depending on who and where you happened to have stopped.
In most countries, the number 7 is greeted with enthusiasm, being considered lucky almost everywhere round the world. In Europe and America, the number 4 will barely register, but stay in a hotel in Asia, and you'll notice that there's no 4th floor, nor 14th or 24th for that matter. For the number 4 is considered very bad luck in Asia, as it sounds like the word for "death" in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. The number 666 will be greeted with fear in the more religious parts of the American Deep South, but go unnoticed in Cambodia. As for 26017, it will almost certainly be met with blank stares, unless the person you should stop to ask happens to be a mathematician, and immediately recognizes it as a prime number, a class of numbers math geeks tend to get terrifically excited about.
As these numbers attach themselves to events, their significance is magnified. One cold, dark winter night a few years ago, the entire world got caught up in a fit of festive abandon celebrating one number being replaced with another. Convention dictates that a new year begins on January 1st, and on that day 9 years ago, the most significant digit of the number used to designate years was incremented, increasing from 1999 to 2000. The 48 hour period spanning that moment saw very few major climatic, social or historical changes, yet almost the entire population of the planet attached a huge significance to that change, speaking endlessly of a new century, a new age and a new era.
That sense of anticipation, of foreboding almost, hung over Valentino Rossi at Assen. Thirteen days previously, the Italian had taken the 99th victory of his career, and speculation about the 100th had started literally seconds after he had crossed the line at Barcelona. He was getting used to it, for the storm had been brewing for a while.
Victory at Jerez had put him in line to take his 100th win at Mugello, if he could just win at Le Mans first. But a disastrous flag-to-flag race put paid to that plan. Another flag-to-flag race at Mugello saw his seven-year winning streak there dashed by the rain. Since then, talk of 100 victories abated a little, until Rossi crossed the line to take victory number 99 at Catalunya.
The manner of Rossi's victory at Barcelona helped mitigate some of the pressure. The breathtaking last lap and final corner pass over his team mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo had the fans and followers full of the excitement of that race, rather than its significance as a stepping stone for Rossi's century. Even the questions at the pre-race press conference focused more on whether Assen would see a repeat of that blood-curdling last lap than on whether Rossi expected to take his 100th win here.
Rossi downplayed both possibilities. When asked about his 100th victory, he said his focus was on the championship, not winning a particular race. And he concurred with Jorge Lorenzo, who pointed out that Barcelona had been the exception rather than the rule, and that this was the first race since the switch to the 800cc formula that had come down to the last lap.
Noriyuki Haga seems to have had a lucky escape at Donington, after his huge crash at Coppice Corner saw him being slammed multiple times by his tumbling Ducati 1198F09. The cracked vertebrae he was suspected of suffering turned out to have been older injuries which had already healed, and scans in the local hospital in Derby revealed just a broken arm and a fractured shoulder blade. The Japanese star had surgery today to fix his arm, and looks set to rejoin the series at Brno to defend his championship lead against Ben Spies. The silver lining to Haga's crash is the four-week break between the Donington round and Brno, which should allow his injuries to heal sufficiently for Haga to race well enough to limit any points damage to Spies in the Czech Republic.
The details of Haga's surgery and expected recovery were released in a press release from Ducati, which follows:
At 5pm this afternoon Ducati Xerox rider Noriyuki Haga underwent successful surgery at the Derby City Hospital. Having fractured the ulna in his right arm in yesterday's crash at Donington Park, Noriyuki today had a plate and screws inserted to set the bone. The surgical team deemed the surgery a success and there were no unforeseen complications.
Prior to the operation, medical staff took a closer look at his right shoulder blade and an x-ray unfortunately confirmed that he has multiple fractures to his left scapula. The scapula will not necessitate surgical intervention and the bone should knit itself back together in time; this complication should not prolong Noriyuki’s recovery time. The Japanese rider should be discharged from hospital tomorrow (Tuesday) and he and his family will fly back to Italy so that Noriyuki can begin the necessary physiotherapy treatment.
The Ducati Xerox rider will not participate in the next tests at Imola but it is foreseen that he will compete in the next round at Brno.
From the moment Gabor Talmacsi confirmed the rumors of a ride with the Team Scot Honda squad in MotoGP by turning up at Barcelona with a new sponsor and a contract, the writing has been on the wall for Yuki Takahashi. Despite the denials and promises from the team to try and find a way of accommodating both riders, in reality, it was merely a question of time before the Japanese rider would be forced to make way for the Hungarian, who was bringing a much-needed cash injection into the squad.
That time, according to the authoratitive Italian site GPOne.com, is now. Takahashi, it is being reported, has been withdrawn from the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, ostensibly to allow surgery to be performed for back problems Takahashi suffered in his crash at Barcelona. The surgery will require a recovery period of 3 months, leaving Takahashi sidelined for the rest of the season. Just how badly Takahashi required surgery remains open to speculation, but his back injury is extremely convenient.
Team Scot manager Cirano Mularoni was open about the problems faced running two riders without spare bikes. "It was a difficult situation," he told GPone.com," because contrary to what I had read, extra spares were not available for the RC212V, a situation which would have gotten worse after Brno, with the limit on the numbers of engines. Not to mention the problems we would have faced in a flag-to-flag race, where we would have been forced to change wheels instead of bikes." Just where Mularoni read that Honda had extra RC212V parts lying around is a bit of a mystery, for HRC have made no secret of their aversion to supplying any more bikes, especially since sales slumped in aftermath of the global financial crisis.
The previous round of World Superbikes at Misano looked to have been a pivotal point in the season. After another dominant win in race 1, Ben Spies lost championship points he could ill afford in race 2, suffering with mechanical problems for the third time this year. For every three steps that Spies took towards Haga, mechanical problems seemed to force him two steps back.
So Ben Spies arrived at Donington with extra help in the garage, in the shape of Greg Wood, his former mechanic with Yoshimura Suzuki, a team where he never suffered a single mechanical DNF in all his time there. The arrival of Woody was meant to put an end to all the costly mistakes that had been sucking the life out of Spies' rookie title challenge.
Spies laid out his statement of intent during qualifying, taking pole for the 8th time in 9 races, and marking Jakub Smrz' pole at Misano out as an aberration rather than a feat likely to be repeated. And off the line in race 1, Spies underlined his determination to turn the title chase around by leaping into Redgate corner first and ahead of the pack, and attempting to make his escape. His plan was only partly successful, in that he left the pack behind him, but he brought Max Biaggi and Noriyuki Haga trailing in his wake.
Like Spies, Biaggi had been vociferous in his complaints about the Aprilia RSV4, the competitiveness of the bike being extremely unpredictable. At Donington, there was no doubt about its performance, Biaggi following Spies early with relative ease.
Behind Biaggi, Haga was having a little more trouble following. The Xerox Ducati rider was on Biaggi in the early laps, and probing for a way past and on towards Spies, but his efforts were not to last, fading after 6 laps and dropping off the back of the leaders.
So far this year, Noriyuki Haga has been praised for his consistency, finishing every race but one until Donington, his one DNF so far down to a bird strike rather than rider error. But in the UK, his run of consistency came to an unfortunate end. Haga scored good points in race 1, unable to match the pace of Ben Spies and Max Biaggi, but in race 2, Haga was not so lucky. The Japanese Xerox Ducati rider crashed out in race 2, falling at Coppice in a crash which was all too reminiscent of Troy Bayliss' horrific crash there two years before. But Haga's crash was even worse than Bayliss', as Haga's Xerox Ducati tumbled through the gravel with him, landing on top of him at least once before coming to a standstill.
After the incident, Haga was seen walking away, and was thought to have come away relatively unharmed, though clearly very beaten up. Sadly, this was not to be the case: Examination at the trackside medical revealed a suspected fractured vertebrae, and Haga was immediately airlifted to a nearby hospital in Derby. At the hospital, Haga was stabilized and had fluid drained from around the injury as a preventative measure. Initial reports indicated that the Japanese rider had indeed suffered a fractured vertebra, and would be out for at least 2 to 3 months.
A CAT scan later revealed more promising results. The scan did not find any indication of recent fractured vertebrae, meaning that the worst of the danger has probably passed for Haga. However, the scan confirmed the results of earlier examinations, which showed that Haga had fractured his left shoulder blade and broken his right ulna, one of the two long bones in the forearm. Haga is due to have surgery to fix the broken arm, while the fractured shoulder blade is still being examined at the time of writing (10pm CET, Sunday 28th June).
Results and summary of World Superbike race 2 at Donington:
Results of the Superstock 600 race at Donington:
Results of the World Supersport race at Donington:
Results and summary of Donington World Superbikes race 1:
Results of the FIM Superstock 1000 race from Donington:
Result of the Red Bull Rookies Cup race at Assen: