Ask some of the veterans of the MotoGP paddock who the greatest racer of all time was, and you'll get a fairly short list of names, usually including Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz. But the answer to that question is almost always followed up by the words "And then there's Freddie Spencer, of course..." Spencer's career was cut short by a wrist injury, but before he was forced to retire, the young American shocked the world by being the only man to win both the 500cc and 250cc World Championships in the same year. Fast Freddie was precocious, sensitive and blindingly, mind-bogglingly fast.
Since retiring from racing, Spencer's fortunes have been very mixed. The Louisiana native ran a successful riding school and was the motorcycle racing commentator for the US SpeedTV channel, but both of those ventures have gone sour. Spencer's riding school was forced to shut down at the end of 2008, after financial problems saw the instructors go unpaid and the bikes repossessed. Spencer's commentary work also dried up, with Daytona legend Scott Russell taking his place in the commentary booth.
Since the rumblings began emanating from the machinations of Colin Edwards’, Hervé Poncharal’s, and Lin Jarvis’ closed-door meetings to figure out how to get Ben Spies and Tom Houseworth into MotoGP in 2010, and the subsequent announcement last Fall, one of the most popular ways to cast the story (and indeed, one of the few speculative avenues that doesn’t automatically involve Silly Season 2011) is to suggest that the tensions between Colin Edwards and James Toseland will somehow be amplified in the arrival of the superior abilities of Ben Spies. I realize magazines and newspapers need to manufacture material in the off-season to sell copies, and we who post on The Web need to draw traffic when potential advertisers don’t care that the sport is on hiatus. But I am here to tell you that this particular road is a dead end street. Headlines of “Tension at Tech 3”, “Monster Battle Brewing”, and “Trouble in Paradise” (a city in Texas, but not home to either rider), can be summarily ignored.
The classic conundrum asks:"If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Without settling too deeply into the mire of philosophical speculation, this axiom relates to the idea of objects ceasing to exist when there's nobody around to perceive them. That's the situation that the AMA found themselves in at the running of the Daytona 200 on Friday night. A poor economy, fan indifference and the coldest weather that this reporter has ever seen in northern Florida during bike week conspired to make this year's race the most sparsely attended in, well, maybe ever.
The audience wasn't the only group missing in action. The field was, by some estimates, one of the smallest to take the grid. Eventual winner Josh Herrin said that he didn't have much trouble overtaking backmarkers because the the field was about half of what it was in 2009, the first night running of the 200. Some non-American readers are probably wondering just who the heck Josh Herrin is. This points to another group that was conspicuous by it's absence -- the top riders in America. The greatest rider in the history of the series, Mat Mladin, retired at the end of last season to his Australian home, emerging only to toss barbed tweets into the Twittersphere and the other "name" riders are confining themselves to the Superbike series.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Always something of an oddball race, even by American standards, the 200 is the sole endurance type race on the AMA calendar and requires special tactics and equipment not used during the rest of the schedule. In bygone days, that wouldn't stop the best of the best from appearing at the spring kick-off. The 200 was one of the premiere spectacles in motorcycle racing and world champions would make special pains to appear. People who knew nothing about motorcycle road-racing knew that the Daytona 200 was something special.
Rain once again ruined testing for the Moto2 test at Jerez, the bad weather chasing the class all over Spain throughout its off-season testing program. Hopes that the weather might brighten up for Monday's session were dashed, the rain falling on and off all day. "These three days at Jerez have been pretty much a waste of time," Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told MotoMatters.com, "Even on Sunday, the track was never really dry, there were wet patches still in places."
Ant West took advantage of the wet conditions in the morning to set the fastest time of the mixed session, ahead of Alex de Angelis and Mike di Meglio, but in the 50 minute qualifying simulation at 4pm, De Angelis moved easily ahead of the rest of the field, ending the session and the day with three quarters of a second advantage over his competitors. Toni Elias confirmed his role as favorite for the title, finishing the day in second spot, the Gresini rider having been at or near the top at every test held so far.
Testing continued for the Moto2 and 125cc class at Jerez today under considerably better conditions than prevailed yesterday. The morning saw the best of the weather, the sun coming out to dry a still damp track, but the afternoon saw intermittent rain making the track damp from time to time, and complicating testing.
Toni Elias was the rider who best used the conditions to his advantage, setting a strong lap in the early afternoon of 1'45.024, about 1.7 seconds off the fastest time set during last year's 250 race here, in much sunnier, hotter conditions. Elias was half a second faster than the Colombian Yonny Hernandez, and nearly seven tenths quicker than American Kenny Noyes, who had led during the morning. Alex de Angelis continued his strong form from yesterday, setting the 4th quickest time, ahead of the Forward Racing Team of Jules Cluzel and Claudio Corti. Julian Simon, the fastest man at the previous test at Valencia, crashed early in the session, but walked away unhurt, and could manage only the 10th fastest time.
Here's a treat for the many fans nostalgic for the days of the 500cc two strokes: A three-part documentary about Wayne Gardner's 1986 season in the then 500cc Grand Prix class. It features much to enjoy: A much younger and bearded Jerry Burgess, a much younger and slimmer Stuart Shenton, and interviews with Randy Mamola and Eddie Lawson. It also serves to remind the viewer just how much more dangerous racing was back then: Note the armco and lack of runoff at many of the tracks shown in the documentary. A fascinating look back at the past in 30 minutes. Enjoy!
After a brief respite at Valencia, the rain was back in full force at the Jerez test for the Moto2 and 125cc class, so bad that it was causing flooding in the nearby towns of Cadiz, Conil and Chiclana. The handful of kilometers that separated the Jerez circuit from the flood-affected areas were sufficient to spare the assembled riders most of the problems, other than being cold and wet for much of the session.
The rain dried up in the afternoon, though the track remained tricky, and by the end of the day it was Alex de Angelis who proved best at mastering the difficult conditions for the Moto2 riders, his time of 1'55.835 still over 13 seconds off track record pace. De Angelis finished the day ahead of Tech 3's Raffaele de Rosa and Gresini's Toni Elias, with Swiss rider Thomas Luthi in 4th position.
De Rosa's 2nd place is remarkable turnaround for the Italian, as at Valencia and Barcelona he had been outclassed by his teammate Yuki Takahashi. De Rosa wasn't the only rider whose relative standing changed on a wet track: Heroes of the previous test at Valencia Julian Simon and Kenny Noyes dropped down to 10th and 12th respectively in the wet, two seconds off the pace set by Alex de Angelis.
The weather gods, having given the Moto2 class its first break at Valencia, have struck back with a vengeance at Jerez. The first morning of the three-day test has so far been rained off, with only Toni Elias and Sergio Gadea having braved the conditions, and lapping well over the 2 minute mark, over 20 seconds off the pace. With the wet weather expected to continue for the remainder of Saturday at least, not much is likely to happen today, and the teams will have to hope for better conditions tomorrow.
When the riders are out on track, you can follow the action via live timing, which is available online, and shown embedded below:
Results of the Daytona 200:
American Superbike Race II Results and Notes
Warmup Times from Daytona
The status of the FB Corse project has been shrouded in mystery ever since the Italian team announced they would be contesting the 2010 MotoGP season. Though the bike has been officially presented, and details about the three-cylinder MotoGP machine widely circulated, the bike has yet to turn a wheel in public, and no one knows whether the bike is even capable of achieving race speeds. This latter point has caused some concern inside IRTA, the organization representing the race teams and charged with ensuring the quality of the teams involved. IRTA boss Mike Trimby told MCN last week that FB Corse would not be allowed to take part in MotoGP until the bike had demonstrated its competitiveness, by lapping at a Grand Prix circuit within three seconds of race pace.
FB Corse has now risen to that challenge. Today, the team issued a press release stating that Garry McCoy is to test the FB01 at Valencia on the 15th and 16th of March, before running a timed test in front of Franco Uncini, who will be watching the test on behalf of Dorna. A representative from IRTA will also be present to monitor the test, to ensure the team is proficient enough to be allowed into the MotoGP paddock.
Results of American Superbike Race 1
It's always good to make the boss happy. Jordan Suzuki's Aaron Yates made his boss, Michael Jordan, very happy by taking the inaugural American Superbike pole of the 2010 season and the team's first pole ever at Daytona International Speedway. Jordan, who was perched on the pit wall surrounded by his entourage, smiled broadly and fist-bumped every one in his proximity when the session ended with his rider on top. Second place qualifier Larry Pegram claimed to have a traction control problem that sabotaged his session in the waning moments. Pegram was also a bit irritated at 4th place qualifier Blake Young 's supposed following tactics. Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Tommy Hayden merely had his brother, former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, in his pit to consult with when he took the third slot. Jake Zemke had to qualify on his back-up bike after the motor on his National Guard Suzuki blew late in the last practice session.
American Superbike Final Qualifying
Motomatters.com is on site at the Daytona International Speedway! Daytona Sportbikes are currently on track practicing. Weather this morning is a bit chilly but is expected to warm up to the mid-sixties (f) by this afternoon. Updates forthcoming!