Repsol Honda have just officially announced that Nicky Hayden will miss the Czech Grand Prix at Brno this weekend. The Kentuckian damaged his heel when he landed heavily after a jump during a Supermoto race at the X Games in Los Angeles on August 1st, and is still in a lot of pain.
Although the injury does not necessarily prevent Hayden from riding, racing at Brno could exacerbate the damage, leaving the American with problems for the rest of the season. Citing the examples of other riders who have ridden with injuries only to make their problems worse, Hayden said he would prefer to concentrate on recovery rehab, and come back at Misano fit, and try to finish the season well.
Hayden apologized to his team, especially after having received special permission to take part in the race at the X Games. "I just wanted to do some riding during the break, have some fun and I thought that maybe it'd give me a little spark for the rest of the season, but it backfired on me," he stated in the press release.
Hayden's decision to withdraw from Brno is interesting, from a number of perspectives. Firstly, it points to a shift in thinking inside the paddock about riding with injuries. Every rider does it, as it's just not possible to ride an entire MotoGP season without crashing at some point, whether it be during the race, practice or just on a training ride. If you want to ride on the limit, first you have to find the limit. And that means that sometimes you have to go over the limit. Thanks to the outstanding protection offered by modern protective motorcycle gear and the never-ending push to improve safety at racetracks, injuries are becoming less severe, meaning often riders are racing with some discomfort, rather than serious pain. But riding a large, hard object with protuding parts at high speed will inevitably mean that riders end up hurt, leaving them the choice to brave the pain and score points, or sit the race out and focus on recovery.
No need for an introduction this time, just straight into more of Jules Cisek's fabulous photographs from Laguna Seca.
Typical Californian weather: foggy and cold
You know you're in trouble when you have to use intermediates in the dry
Of course, if you had Bridgestones, the conditions didn't bother you
Laguna's front straight, not long, but still fast
Last year, we ran some photos from Laguna Seca by friend of MotoGPMatters.com, and one of the driving forces behind the rideontwo.com forums and the outstanding MotoGPOD podcast, Jules Cisek, who many of you will know by the nickname Popmonkey. Jules' day job is "something in computers", an occupation which seems to be almost compulsory in his native San Francisco. But it's quite clear from his fantastic photography that IT's gain is photography's loss. Fortunately for us, he's allowed us to share some of his superb pictures from the 2008 US GP at Laguna Seca. And what's even better is that Jules' skill as a snapper is obviously improving.
The Doctor's bike at the Hard Rock Cafe
Names To Watch For: The Red Bull Rookies
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's poor Jorge Lorenzo
The big time:
Like many sports, motorcycle racing is a numbers game. Some of those numbers, like horsepower figures, the dimensions of engine internals and chassis geometry are closely guarded secrets, and kept carefully concealed. Others, the numbers which result from those secret figures, are almost painfully public. Every lap, even every sector of every lap, is recorded, then published on the MotoGP.com website and exposed to the full glare of public scrutiny. Anyone wanting to know just how fast a specific rider rode on a particular lap during a particular session at a given track, and to see where they finished a specific race, and where that left them in the championship, can pop over to MotoGP.com and look it up.
Of course, the ability to look at find that information is completely different from the ability to digest and understand it. To many people, those figures quickly become a jungle of numbers, and they end up not being able to see the MotoGP wood for the trees.
Fortunately, the internet being what it is, there are a few rare individuals who have an affinity for figures, a passion for MotoGP, and the necessary skills to present those numbers in a more digestible form. There are even one or two people who, from sheer love of the sport, then put the result of their labors up for the rest of the world to enjoy.
One such person is Ming-En Cho, a software engineer and interaction designer from San Francisco. She has used her formidable talents to create a MotoGP stats viewer, which displays the results of each race and the resulting championship standings in an easily comprehensible form. No longer are you left attempting to do mental arithmetic and juggling results to work out what really happened, Ming-En Cho has created a simple yet beautiful representation which helps you understand what went on during the race at a glance.
The race viewer shows you the positions for every rider on every lap of each race.
If Valentino Rossi's victory at Laguna Seca made one thing clear, it is that Yamaha is in serious need of more horsepower. For despite Rossi's brilliant tactical race, his victory was in large part due to the tightness of the Laguna Seca track rendering outright speed less relevant. Down the front straight, Casey Stoner's Ducati was clearly faster and Rossi was forced to use every defensive trick in the book, including a few that expanded the definition of a tough move, to avoid being blown away by Stoner's blistering pace.
At Brno, the next race and one of the widest tracks on the calendar, it's going to be a great deal more difficult to get in Casey Stoner's way. Though there are plenty of corner combinations, there are also several places round the track where the extra speed and horsepower of the Ducati will gain Stoner just enough space to start riding at his own unstoppable rhythm. And after Brno, the majority of the tracks MotoGP visits have the wide open spaces that will give Stoner ample opportunity to get past Rossi. If Rossi is to defend his line once again, he will need more horsepower to match the pace of the Ducati round the faster sections of the tracks which are to follow.
So, what do MotoGP riders do during the summer break? Well, while some spend time relaxing at holiday resorts, and others are hard at work recovering from their injuries, Nicky Hayden will be going racing. Racer X, the motocross magazine and sister publication to the excellent RoadRacer X magazine, has confirmed that Hayden will take part in Saturday's AMA Supermoto race to be held at the X Games this weekend.
The race will be run at 4 PM PST on Saturday, August 2nd, and will be shown on live television, on the ESPN network. Hayden has qualified in 15th position.
Hayden has considerable prowess as a Supermoto rider, and spends a good deal of time practicing the art when staying at his California home with his brothers. The combination of sliding and corner speed makes it an excellent discipline for honing racing skills, which is why a lot of road racers use it to keep their skills sharp.
As a taster for Saturday's race, here's a great video, in which Nicky Hayden and Max Biaggi get to show off their skills:
The news that MotoGP would be going to Indianapolis, bringing the return of motorcycle racing to this historic track, was met with interest and acclaim all around the world. The Brickyard at Indy is one of the world's legendary tracks, a name recognized by both race fans and non-race fans alike.
But not everyone is enthusiastic. And we're not talking about riders worrying about problems with grip or the final turn back onto the front straight. No, it seems that the town elders of Speedway, Indiana - the town which is home to the track - are afraid that the arrival of thousands of MotoGP fans on their noisy motorcycles could keep the upstanding citizens of their town awake at night.
Perhaps fearing scenes from The Wild One, the Town Council are attempting to pass a special ordinance banning "unnecessary noises made by certain motor vehicles". The ordinance is specifically aimed at motorcycles revving their engines noisily, and will give police the power to impose fines on anyone they believe are causing a nuisance by making a lot of noise with their bikes.
The renewed suggestion from Carmelo Ezpeleta, that a spec-ECU needs to be forced onto the manufacturers, has crossed over from "concerning" to insulting, disturbing, and offensive. For some background on my opinion, I'd like to refer you to my thoughts at the beginning of the year.
The pervasive or ubiquitous use of the phrase "traction control", when speaking of a problem with the quality of MotoGP racing, is a red herring, at best. Second only to the even more nebulous "electronics", it is now used as a pejorative, intended to suggest that the riders are not in control of their machines and that this is somehow the fault of everyone but the governing body for the sport. Every team is confronted with the same issue: the electronics are more intrusive in the 800cc era so that the bikes can finish the races on artificially small fuel loads.
I'll put this another way, in order to be more blunt: attempting to call this "traction control" is fraudulent. Rev-limiters and throttle-limiters functioning as fuel misers have overlapping benefits with traction control mapping, but the objectives are different. As Jorge Lorenzo has shown us, a bike can still high side while "thinking" it is saving fuel and "controlling traction". Anyone suggesting that a spec-ECU is the solution to overly paternalistic electronics, or excessive cornering speed, is (L-Y-I-N-G) not telling the truth. A rough equivalent would be to feed a child only rice and water and then begin to lament that he or she is problematically thin. Believing that a subsequent change to "homogenized rice" will solve the problem would be considered sophistry by anyone observing from the outside. This is obfuscation, and an inquiry into motive is begged...
I don't know if governmental leaders around the world behave as they do in the United States - I've read just enough Machiavelli to believe that it's probable - but here we have many problems whose origins are in governmental regulations. The Congress, with the "help" of regulators and well-funded "special interests", author new legislation that often drastically alters the course and cost of living or doing business; changing the rules mid-game, if you will. What ensues is voluminous, expensive "study" into the "unintended consequences" of the legislation and regulations, attempting to identify the problems that are, somehow, not traced back to the changes brought about by the new laws. What eventually follows is more legislation to make the whole process even more complicated and expensive, and more controlled by the governing body or bodies. However, a repeal of the problematic catalyst never manages to make the light of day, because lawmakers do not relinquish control of something they plotted and labored over seizing in the first place. This is a psychological invasion campaign whose initial purpose was to obtain increased - or total - control, with incremental implementation.
Why do this in a prototype racing series? Frankly, I don't know, but all the fingerprints are there. Constant rules tampering makes the sport extraordinarily expensive for the manufacturers willing to compete, but the consequences become highly unpredictable. The onset of the 800cc era - again, in Mr. Ezpeleta's own opinion, on the heels of the sport's best rules package - brought about a decrease in fuel capacity and a drastic change in tire regulations at a time when the largest tire manufacturer was suffering a significant shakeup at home. Ever since, the CEO of the governing body has been steadily waging a psychological campaign against his own rules package, but he is not recommending a reversal in direction towards something that worked well. Instead, he pursues even more control of the elements of a sport that is supposed to be innovative, by definition. How this benefits anyone escapes me, but there is precedence in Formula 1, and it is not attractive.
Laguna Seca wasn't the only race Scott Jones attended. He also went to Donington, and shot some fantastic images there as well. Now, he's provided us with some of those photographs for use as desktop backgrounds as well. You can find the full selection over on the following page:
Here's a few to whet your appetites:
If the acuity of a political operator can be measured by the skill with which they manage to find alternative ways to achieve their goals, then the people at Dorna are truly masterful. After Carmelo Ezpeleta's previous attempts to introduce a spec ECU into MotoGP was met with widespread disapproval, the wily Spaniard has found another approach.
This time, according to Spanish sports daily AS.com, Dorna will be pushing for introduction of a spec ECU on the grounds of safety at a meeting to be held at the Czech Grand Prix in Brno. After the reduction in capacity from 990 to 800 cc failed so spectacularly to slow the MotoGP bikes down - with lap records falling during the very first season of the reduced capacity - Dorna is looking around for another way to reduce speeds. The reduced top speed has led to dramatically increased corner speeds, meaning that crashes are now happening at higher speeds, and that the smaller bikes are arguably more dangerous than the old fire-breathing 990s.
The idea is that a spec ECU could be used to artificially reduce performance, meaning that the bikes could be made slower. However, even the most cursory examination of this argument reveals how deeply flawed it is, as it is essentially a rehash of the capacity reduction. If you reduce performance, you simply increase the importance of corner speed, and make crashes happen at even higher speeds, as riders struggle to maintain as much momentum as possible through the corners.
We gave you a little appetizer earlier, now we have the full 19 course meal. Scott Jones' fantastic photographs shot at Laguna Seca as MotoGPMatters.com's official representative are now online, and ready to gracefully adorn your desktop.
You can find them here:
Here's a taster, to let you know what you're in for:
As promised last week, we now have some of Scott Jones' fantastic photographs from Laguna Seca and Donington available for download as desktop images. The images are available in three sizes to suit most desktops: 1280x1024, 1280x800 and 1024x768. If you would like to see the images in other resolutions, let us know. So, here's the first few of Scott's images, with the rest of them available on this page.
As expected, the Chinese round of MotoGP at Shanghai is off the calendar, and as predicted earlier this week, the Hungarian Grand Prix will take place in late summer. But the calendar has a lot of significant shakeups: Motegi moves from late September to the spring, June is a lot less busy, with only 2 lots of back-to-back races in 2009, rather than three pairs which we saw this year. The British Grand Prix moves from June to late July, and Estoril switches back to October.
|May 17th||France||Le Mans|
|July 5th***||United States||Laguna Seca|
|July 26th||Great Britain||Donington Park|
|August 16th||Czech Republic||Brno|
|September 6th||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Misano|
|October 18th||Australia||Phillip Island|
|November 8th||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo - Valencia|
* Evening race
** Saturday race
*** Only MotoGP class
Dorna officially announced today that MotoGP is likely to be returning to Hungary for the 2009 season. The proposed race will be held at the Balatonring, a circuit currently being built near Lake Balaton in Hungary. The series has visited Hungary twice before, in 1990 and 1992, and MotoGP has a huge following in the country, in part due to the phenomenal success of Gabor Talmacsi in the 125 cc class.
The announcement is not a confirmation that the race will actually take place. Dorna merely proposed to the FIM, the official sanctioning body, that the race be included on the calendar. The FIM is not obliged to accept the proposal - though they generally tend to - and the track will need to be approved before racing can take place.
This is likely to mean a shakeup in the rest of the calendar. The track, which is still under construction, has to be approved two months before the race is to take place, which would be cutting it very close if the race is to replace the Chinese Grand Prix, which took place at the beginning of May. A more likely scenario is that Misano will be brought forward to early May, the weather on Italy's Adriatic coast allowing such a move, and the Hungarian Grand Prix could take place in early September, giving the consortium currently building the facility plenty of time to finish construction.
Since the end of last season, Honda has been in a quandary about what to do with its pneumatic valve engine. Despite the vast amounts of time and money being poured into the lump, the air valve RC212V remains a powerplant with non-trivial problems. Only Nicky Hayden's loud and public demands to be allowed to use the engine have caused HRC to relent, and to give the American what he wants.
Meanwhile, Honda has been forced to continue development on the steel-spring valve engine as well, just to allow Dani Pedrosa to keep up with the Ducati and the Yamaha. Having two engines being developed in parallel is a time-consuming and expensive exercise.
Pedrosa had every reason to stay with the steel spring engine: Despite the small power deficit, the bike suited Pedrosa's style perfectly, and helped keep him either near or at the front of the 2008 MotoGP championship race. Until the Spaniard crashed out of the lead at the Sachsenring, that is. A DNF in Germany, followed by another blank at Laguna Seca, where Pedrosa failed to start due to the injuries he sustained in the crash, means that Pedrosa has seen a 4 point lead be replaced by a 41 point deficit.