The 2013 Season Is Upon Us

The long off-season is ending! It has crept up on me quite quietly and the four or five posts I’d intended to write since New Year never came to be written, so I’ll condense a few thoughts here.

We’ve already seen several races this year, some of them were prestigious and some of them were very good, but really this weekend has to be considered the true start of the motorsport season, for two reasons:  Firstly, it is the first weekend of the year with two properly major events (the Australian F1 GP and the 12 Hours of Sebring), secondly, from this weekend there isn’t really an off week from major racing until the end of November! The season starts properly this very weekend.

I didn’t get anything like as much done this off-season as I’d planned. Partly I have been enjoying the freedom to do as I like after work, partly I haven’t had the energy because I find a cold winter to be mentally draining, and partly I’ve felt I had a lot of time so kept pushing things back. As a result there are fewer blog posts written, fewer DVR or backlog races watched, and a whole side-project was left alone. Admittedly an old and dying computer slowed me down, which finally died recently – now I have a new PC for a new season and I can get cracking!

What have I been watching this off-season?

Continue reading “The 2013 Season Is Upon Us”

I’m Watching.. Race of Champions

This weekend I watched the online feed of the Race of Champions. On the whole I enjoyed it, unfortunately there were a great many problems with it this year – and they are fairly similar to problems with past events.

My RoC History

I’ve been disappointed by the Race of Champions in the past. I went to Wembley in 2007 to sit in expensive seats (they were very much over-priced, in hindsight) watching slow cars on a twisty track. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really good event and we had a superb view, it was just that the track was just too tight and too cold so the cars didn’t have any speed at all, so the costs didn’t justify it at all. I heard they became more realistic for 2008.

For the 2010 event I was really pleased to see they had been able to use the different dimensions of the ESPRIT Arena in Düsseldorf to create a faster, wider, more open race track. I’m also pleased they moved it a few weeks earlier and into a venue with heating, which I hope the crowd enjoyed!

The other problem in 2007 was that not enough information was given to the crowd. Stadium commentary from Martin Haven was good when describing the on-track action, not so good at explaining to the fans just who these people in the cars actually were. I swear most of the crowd were not dedicated motorsport fans so had no idea who half the drivers were, yet the whole organisation seemed geared around assumed knowledge among fans. I mean.. no video of their achievements on the big screen- surely this is a fairly basic requirement. To this day my Dad who came with me thinks ’07 RoC winner Mattias Ekstrom is a champion rally driver, I keep telling him he’s DTM but it doesn’t go in. What I’m saying is, the 2007 RoC was a good event with flaws, not the great event I’d expected and hoped for.

I’d not seen the RoC before or since because I didn’t have access to Sky Sports or Eurosport during this period and there was no web streaming. In 2009 there was web streaming but I was at work, for some inexplicable reason they’d held it midweek – all reports from those trying to watch it were that it was diabolical and the worst streaming experience they’d ever encountered.

This Year

This year there was web streaming for a fee, and coverage on MotorsTV which I don’t have. I wasn’t going to watch this year because of all the above problems and to start with I objected to paying for something other championships provide for free these days. But as the day approached I grew more excited for the event, the photos and videos being posted on Twitter by the likes of Heikki Kovalainen, Martin Haven and Neil Cole were really getting me into it. With less than hour before it started I’d decided, I was in. There were other reasons I relented:

  • I wanted to see this excellent match up of names;
  • This is an annual event unable to spread the investment costs of web coverage over a full season, on that basis a small charge is justified;
  • The circuit has been improved considerably, it is faster and more exciting;
  • I didn’t want to miss out on the excitement everyone else was getting caught up in;

Largely I am glad I did.

The Positives

– The actual racing itself was superb, there were some fantastic battles particularly in the VW Sciroccos with push-to-pass. When I first saw them I was convinced they would be the most boring vehicles of the lot, yet they really were the best as it seemed almost all the close finishes came with these cars. I wonder if it was the added bonus of the P2P tactics that brought me in? Not sure. Anyway, overall there were many close finishes and even some photo finishes, brilliant, this is why I got excited about it originally a few years ago. Loved both the Nations Cup and Race of Champions aspects. I have no complaints about the racing whatsoever, it was fantastic.

– As I said above, the track was far better than in 2007 and 2008, which I think was an improvement again over the Stade de France layout. I can’t speak for 2009 as like most people in Europe I was at work during that event and the streaming apparently didn’t work anyway.

– I liked the inclusion of the VW Sciroccos and the Audi R8s.

– Moving Martin Haven to join John Hindhaugh in the TV/online booth was a good decision, it didn’t always work (indeed for Saturday’s round-robin action they were thoroughly confused) but I thought when it did work it was really good (with the caveat of the criticisms below). Neil Cole and David Croft were top notch pit/paddock reporters and didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend.

– A big positive this year was the use of social media, @RaceofChampions was tweeting furiously throughout (including retweets of commentators, pit reporters and even some of the competing drivers – many of whom were posting photos/videos). Don’t underestimate how useful this was for catching things missed elsewhere and I relayed many messages on to my followers in case they weren’t following the account.

– Holding an event in Germany. Excellent choice.

– Despite what I’m about to say below I really did enjoy the event, the competition and cameradarie is everything it should be and more.

The… Less Than Positive

While the racing was good that’s not to say the weekend went smoothly. There were many problems, both major and minor. Several of them were fixed for the second day, some will need a bit more of a rethink on the part of the organisers.

– We have to start with the major problem first: the paid-for web feed was abysmal during Saturday’s Nations Cup. It stuttered, stopped and looped so many times it drove everyone to distraction and made the event unwatchable for a while. It started really well with a good quality feed so I wonder if the problems were caused by demand? I forget how long it was down for, it kept requiring a reset of the page (simple F5 and press Play again did the trick) which didn’t always work. Several of us missed a chunk of the Nations Cup because of it. Sidepodcast even gave up watching and demanded a refund, both actions I disagreed with vehemently because I had every expectation it would improve and it did, but the fact remains the stream should have worked well enough not to cause that reaction. It did eventually get going again without cutting out, but it was still scratchy with buffering and small amounts of looping and jumping. It wasn’t until Sunday’s running that the problems were truly cured, Sunday’s running suffered no problems whatsoever, it was flawless. It left me wondering if perhaps in 2011 they ought to offer Friday’s free practices live in order to shake out all these bugs, get them fixed for the real competition.

The stream was more than a little irritating and unprofessional. Had it been a free stream I’d have abandoned it just as early as others did without hesitation. Because I’d paid for it I was determined to keep trying until I absolutely knew it wouldn’t work, because frankly I’ve sat through enough web feeds of live sporting events to know they are incredibly tempermental and you just have to wait it out. This isn’t like some press conference in a hall somewhere, it is far more complicated, and equally these people don’t have BBC-levels of resources to provide their level of streaming. It means patience is required. Of course, if Sunday had been just as bad I’d have been queueing up for my money back.

There were two really bad instances and after that it got better, relatively. I did have to refresh some more times which was annoying, later that turned to buffering, frozen picture then replaying itself for 2-3 seconds as it sorted itself out which left me a minute or so behind. This kind of behaviour is what I expect from a web feed in my experience. For me it is is rare to expect a live web stream to work 100% flawlessly so I expect buffering and stuttering to some degree – then when it does work seamlessly I’m left impressed. The earlier stuff with the cut-outs and the dropping back 5 minutes were totally unacceptable though, more so since we paid for it.

– I am not sure what happened during the Nations Cup, it was one of two things:  Either 1) the commentary team had been given the wrong information beforehand, or 2) the organisers of the event changed the format at the last second. The opening rounds were set up like the World Cup, a round-robin competition with the drivers finishing 1st and 2nd in the group progressing to the next round, based on number of wins and with a tiebreak on time. Unfortunately Haven & Hindy seemed to think it was still the best-of-3 knockout competition of previous years. When they figured out it was a group format, they didn’t know what the ‘Time’ column meant on the on-screen captions. They knew it was a tiebreak but didn’t know if it was cumulative time, best times, or something else. All this stuff should have been prepped and learned beforehand, if it was their error I’d be quite surprised (but not impossible) because they are experienced guys so I’m willing to believe it was either a late change or someone had given them the wrong details. Haven and Hindy were left holding the baby, trying to work with it but really ought to have given up at one stage and went with the flow. I like to think I know enough about these guys by now that they’d do the proper research before the event to know what the format was supposed to be – surely? – so for the time being I’ll blame the RoC organisers. I might be wrong, it could be the guys’ fault. Sunday was pretty much flawless, there were a few calls of a driver leading when I was sure it was the other one.. but that could’ve been me.

– The TV coverage was on MotorsTV only, which was a shame. I quite like Motors and they do reasonably well on a tiny budget but their audience share is negligible. The Race of Champions should be on Eurosport, ESPN or Sky Sports. I don’t want MotorsTV to go out of business but ‘champions’ ought to be represented somewhere with a higher profile.

– Organising an event in Germany was brilliant. Doing so when their main domestic championship was out of the country was not. I’ve no idea who fixed a date first, it could be DTM’s fault – either way it was a disappointment. I have to assume RoC and ITR/DTM consulted each other and couldn’t reach agreement on a date. Shame. DTM champ Mattias Ekstrom is a past RoC champion and he demonstrated his Audi at Wembley.

Minor Issues

– The driver line-ups are still curious and there are some strange choices, many seemingly flouting the ‘Champions’ name. I still don’t know how Albuquerque, Pastrana and Foust qualify even though they are great personalities and great talents – indeed the first named won Sunday’s RoC so he’s no slouch and I think this event could be the making of the man. But.. if this is a true Race of Champions, what had they won before this weekend? It might be that some of them actually have won things – we weren’t told. Even with people as good as Kovalainen, people maybe ought to have been told he qualifies as winner of the 2004 Renault World Series (or Nissan, as was). And while the BTCC champion in my eyes is a perfectly valid addition, do many people outside the UK know who Jason Plato is? Do many in Europe know who Carl Edwards is, for that matter? I’m not talking dedicated racing freaks like us, I mean normal people! I do completely understand that not all invitees might be there, due to contractual obligations and such like.

It goes back to what I said before about telling the audience who people are. Haven/Hindy did a fair job but you have to wonder if it should be left to the commentary to do it. There were some great little segments introducing each vehicle before each round and these began to be repeated a little too often – could it hurt to have something similar for drivers in that space in the coverage?

– The failing of the circuit timing (apparently a new system) would not normally be forgiveable. As an end-of-year knockaround I’m not quite so bothered as I would be for a major championship event, and I wouldn’t be at all if it had remained a knockout format start to finish as the timing would be irrelevant. Since the tiebreaker for progressing to the semi-finals was based on time (though we’re still not sure how – it seemed to be the two best times added together) and the system was broken, you do have to wonder if any of the drivers or teams were promoted incorrectly.

– Tell the drivers what is happening, the pit reporters shouldn’t be the ones to tell them they are in the final.

Summary

Despite many flaws I really thoroughly enjoyed the Race of Champions. It may not seem like it but I’m trying to provide constructive feedback! Once again it was a good event with flaws, not a truly great event, and the reason I’m being critical is because the potential is there for everyone to see, it is so tantalisingly close. I don’t know many that don’t like the RoC as a concept, the execution could be a little better that’s all. If they are able to address even half of these issues – web streaming is a must – then it will be even better.

I have every intention of watching next year and I expect to see improvements.

I’m Watching.. MotoGP Estoril

MotoGP 2010 – Portuguese GP

Estoril, Portugal – Round 17 of 18

31st October 2010
BBC coverage

Front row: Jorge Lorenzo is on pole, with Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi alongside him.
Dani Pedrosa has returned after his Japanese GP injury but starts well down the order, it’ll be interesting to see if he can work his way through.
Ben Spies crashed on the way to the grid and injured himself, he won’t be starting.

With all the rain over the weekend so far there has been no dry practice, this is going to be a dry race yet the track seems damp and greasy.

Race Start

Fast start from Lorenzo, behind him its 5 wide into turn 1. Dovizioso has jumped up to 2nd but is passed by Hayden who now leads this 5 bike group. Espagaro is off and limping.
Midway through lap two, passing all over the place, Hayden leads! Stoner passes Dovi and Rossi until the Italian re-takes him and positions changing all the time, I can’t keep up! Into lap 3 and the order is Lorenzo, Hayden, Rossi, Dovi, Stoner.

Lap 4 – Fantastic stuff but now it is a duel, Lorenzo vs Rossi with the Ducatis of Hayden and Stoner heading the chasing group.

Rossi leads! Passes Lorenzo into the uphill chicane at turn 9.

Stoner is off! It drops out from under him and he’s into the gravel at the Parabolica. Real shame as he was up to 3rd. Pedrosa is now 7th. Huge wobble from Simoncelli on to the main straight.

News from race control – “Spies diagnosed with left ankle dislocation” – ouch.

Lap 8 and things have calmed considerably as the gaps open up. Rossi leads Lorenzo by a second and a half, with Hayden a similar gap behind, then Simoncelli leading the works Hondas of Dovizioso and Pedrosa and de Puniet is on the back of them. Edwards isn’t far behind.

Dovizioso spins up his rear wheel and is nearly thrown off his bike, he drops behind Pedrosa and de Puniet and continues.

Replay: Carlos Checa loses a place and brings the bike in to the pits to retire, Steve Parrish on commentary suggests it is ‘arm pump’, i.e. he’s not physically used to the force of squeezing the brakes on the big MotoGP bikes.

Lap 15, the Yamahas have opened a gap the length of the pit straight over Hayden. Lorenzo is very gradually catching Rossi and on the next time through the main straight he’s on him, slipstreams past into turn 1, Lorenzo leads!

Simoncelli has taken 3rd from Hayden, and now Dovizioso retakes 5th from Pedrosa. This group of four are still circulating together.

9 to go. Edwards passes de Puniet and these two have recaught the group of four ahead, big group of six now.

8 to go and Dovizioso jumps Simoncelli for 3rd, this group has been epic all race and Simoncelli takes it back again! Dovizioso finally seals the deal into turn one. While this was going on Pedrosa got shuffled to the back of the group falls away, Parrish suggests this is probably because he’s not ‘race fit’ yet. Edwards was dropped off a little too.

5 to go, Dovizioso missed the apex and Simoncelli pounced immediately, he’s back to third. Hayden is lurking but doesn’t look likely to make a pass just yet.

Lorenzo is now 5 seconds ahead of Rossi and riding away. This is a bit like the last race, front two places sealed but an epic battle for 3rd.

2 to go, Dovizioso is back into 3rd, he’s clearly the faster of the two but keeps making errors allowing Simoncelli back through – can he hold on this time?

They are fighting like dogs on the last lap.. who’s got it?

Podium:
1. Lorenzo,
2. Rossi,
3….. Dovizioso in a near photo finish at the line!

Simoncelli 4th, Hayden, de Puniet, Edwards, Pedrosa, Melandri, Barbera for the top ten.

Verdict:

A really good race, even though the front two cleared off into the distance there was still action up and down the field. The head-to-head between Rossi and Lorenzo was excellent, and the group fighting over third was absolutely superb. A lot of MotoGP races this year have been really disappointing – now it has its mojo back!

Apologies for the lack of photo in this post, Picapp pulled their WordPress.com support and I haven’t registered for media access with anyone as yet.

Points:
Lorenzo 358; Pedrosa 236; Rossi 217; Stoner 205; Dovizioso 195; Spies & Hayden 163;

The next round is the finale at Valencia, it has already taken place (as you know) and I’ll have a little review up in a few days.

I’m Watching.. MotoGP

MotoGP 2010 – Australian GP

Phillip Island, Australia – Round 17 of 18

17th October 2010
BBC coverage

Front row: Casey Stoner is on pole at his home circuit, new champion Jorge Lorenzo 2nd, Ben Spies an impressive 3rd.
Dani Pedrosa is still out through injury after crashing in free practice at Motegi.

This will be Mika Kallio’s last race of the year which is a shame, he’d been tipped as a new talent but after a few poor races he’s shuffled out. He’ll be replaced by Carlos Checa, who spent 12 years in the top class before moving to World Superbikes.

Conditions are very windy and it has been raining for three days straight – but today it is dry.

Race Start

Stoner and Lorenzo make a good initial start before Spies tries to run around the outside, but he gets mugged by Simoncelli and Hayden. By the end of lap one Stoner already had a 1.5 second lead over Lorenzo! Simoncelli’s Honda passes Hayden’s Ducati on the front straight. Check up with the Doctor, Rossi is down in 9th.

A bit of a battle between Dovi and Spies ends up with Spies ahead and Dovi dropping back, slowing which allows Rossi (now 6th) to catch up to Spies. Replay: Dovizioso’s bike is going slowly and multiple riders pass him, he pits shortly afterwards.

Lap 5 and the battle for 3rd is suddenly Spies vs Hayden vs Simoncelli vs Rossi in that order, I don’t remember seeing Spies move up through the group, but here goes Rossi, up another position.
Lap 6, Stoner has a 2.6sec lead over Lorenzo who’s 4 seconds ahead of this mad battle for 3rd.

BBC commentary reminds us that the new engine rule is in effect, most guys are on their 6th engine of the year but because Rossi missed races he’s able to keep using new engines when others are saving theirs. Rossi and Simoncelli make their way past Hayden who’s back up to speed on their tail – and just a few corners later Rossi is past Spies for 3rd, having made two places in a lap. Spies then gets shuffled back to 6th by the other two who continue scrapping as Rossi darts away from them.

A couple of laps later and I didn’t expect this, Hayden is catching Rossi! The 2011 teammates are running together with a gap to the pair of Simoncelli and Spies. Things calmed down for a while thereafter, small groups of bikes circulated and while they weren’t trying any less the amount of passing seemed to drop for a bit. It was a bit like the Aragon race with pairs or threes racing and the gaps enlarging between the groups.

Further back, de Puniet, Bautista and Kallio make it three abreast in the fast southern loop! Dangerous stuff, it is barely wide enough for three bikes at these speeds. Spies gets ahead of Simoncelli once more.

Wow, suddenly Hayden makes a move and is past Rossi into second! 3 laps remaining, can he hold on to it? Rossi attacks Hayden just as hard as Nicky had been doing for so long, but with only three-quarters of a lap to go this could go either way.
Vale dive-bombs him, they are side-by-side as they hang on around the low grip right-hander, does it he make it.. yes! Amazing. All credit to the pair of them for a cracking race in which they were the undoubted highlight, and well done to Casey Stoner on his dominant, flawless win.

Podium: 1. Stoner, 2. Lorenzo, 3. Rossi.
Hayden 4th, Spies, Simoncelli, Edwards, Espargaro, Melandri etc.

The race for the first two positions was over at the first corner of the first lap, the race for 3rd wasn’t settled until the last corner of the last lap! Excellent race.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Phillip+Island&iid=9993557″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9993557/motogp-australia-race/motogp-australia-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=9993557″ width=”380″ height=”265″ /]

Points:

Lorenzo 333 (C), Pedrosa 228, Stoner 205, Rossi 197, Dovizioso 179, Spies 163

The next round is the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril this weekend.

Photo credit: Rossi stalks Hayden in the closing stages at Phillip Island – Lucas Dawson / Getty Images via PicApp.com

I’m Watching.. MotoGP

MotoGP 2010 – Malaysian GP

Sepang, Malaysia – Rnd 15 of 18

3 October 2010
BBC coverage

I have a massive backlog of articles but as I’m in the middle of sorting a move to another flat things are a bit delayed.

Front row: Jorge Lorenzo starts on pole, Nicky Hayden 2nd, Andrea ‘Dovi’ Dovizioso 3rd.
Dani Pedrosa is still out with an injury sustained in free practice in Japan.

At the start Lorenzo gets away with a small gap, yet by the end of lap one Dovi had got side by side with him at the last corner – Lorenzo fended him off and the battle continued. Just as they were dropping the Ducatis one of them, Stoner, found himself in the gravel thus enlargening the gap between the leaders and the other Ducati of Hayden, who had about 6 bikes on his tail.

Valentino Rossi had dropped from 6th to 11th at the start and immediately set about re-passing people. After just a couple of laps he was in 6th again, two laps more and he was up to 3rd! Incredible even for him, if you consider he’s still carrying an injury from earlier in the season. We’re told his leg has fully healed, his shoulder has not.

Capirossi parked up and limped away, he’s still carrying an injury from a few races before. A pit report from Matt Roberts later in the race confirms he retired due to an electrical fault on his Suzuki, it wasn’t down to his injury.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Sepang&iid=10016264″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/10016264/motogp-malaysia-race/motogp-malaysia-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=10016264″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

Dovi hassled Lorenzo for lap after lap as Rossi slowly, slowly closed in on them, before Dovizioso was able to make the move on lap 8 with a great pass! Edwards retired from 8th somewhere here.

Rossi passes Lorenzo for 2nd, I don’t think Lorenzo worked TOO hard for it because he wants to secure the title in this race. In the same place one lap later Rossi takes the lead! He dove into the tight left-hander and darted away into the lead, immediately opening a little gap. Simply brilliant.

Hayden slipped to the back of the fairly big pack running in the upper midfield as Spies and Simoncelli fought to head this group. Suddenly on lap 15 Dovizioso seems to come from nowhere to retake the race lead from Rossi! Half a lap later Vale retakes the place in his favourite overtaking spot. This is really fantastic stuff!

Wow, great scrap between Simoncelli, Bautista, Hayden and Ayama. Bautista passed two guys in one move! It continued and Simoncelli and Aoyama bumped and bruised until they run wide (Simoncelli’s fault) allowing Hayden to pass both.
Up front, Rossi and Dovi dropped Lorenzo by a big margin, the trio miles ahead of the rest. That’s how it finished.

Podium: 1. Rossi, 2. Dovizioso, 3. Lorenzo. Jorge Lorenzo confirmed as 2010 MotoGP World Champion!
Some guys dressed as Mario and Luigi meet him on the cooldown lap and he holds up a Game Over sign to the bike’s onboard camera! Massive cheers from the crowd, and it is a big crowd.
Spies finished 4th, Bautista, Hayden, Aoyama, etc.

What a stunning race. After several really boring GPs the series has regained its old form in style, well done to all concerned.

Well done to both race winner Rossi and champion Lorenzo, who’s run of race wins and other podium positions were going to be incredibly hard to beat even if the opposition hadn’t struggled with injury, there’s no false title here as Lorenzo worked for every result.

Points:

Lorenzo 313 (C), Pedrosa 228, Rossi 181, Stoner 180, Dovizioso 179, Spies 152

The next round is Phillip Island, Australia, for which there will be a post up in a few days.

Photo credit:  Andrea Dovizioso leads after passing Jorge Lorenzo, while Valentino Rossi is closing, closing, closing. (c) Getty Images via Picapp.

I’m Watching… MotoGP

I watch racing so you don’t have to. Missed any MotoGP lately? Allow me to briefly recap.

[I’ve changed the format of these posts to do one championship at a time, makes it less scattergun, you can pick the ones you’re interested in, and helps me find things in the archive – and yes I am still miles behind, I’ve got loads of these in draft for different series]

MotoGP
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
29 August 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Indianapolis&iid=9627002″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9627002/ben-spies-leads-dani/ben-spies-leads-dani.jpg?size=500&imageId=9627002″ width=”234″ height=”134″ /]

I’m glad MotoGP visits the US twice but both Indianapolis visits prior to this one were pretty unspectacular, the weather intervened with the one and the other was just plain boring. Unfortunately this year’s race was also uninspiring. This is a real shame because the local crowd is enthusiastic, if looking a little lost in the massive stands of Indy. I maintain this date is not helped by having an IndyCar race the previous night in Chicago, much of the local IndyCar media might be expected to cover this race too and they weren’t all able to do so. Got to hurt publicity, etc.

The first half of the race was reasonably good. Pedrosa put in a storming ride to dominate the field, a really excellent performance involving passing three or four other riders – including an impressive Ben Spies (pictured) – in the early running before disappearing into the distance in the second half of the race. For me that was the extent of the action, there were a few changes among the lower positions but after the wholesale change of riders at that end of the grid for this season I don’t really care for any of them. Bring back Vermuelen, Toseland and co, I say.

*

MotoGP
Misano, Italy

5 September 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+San+Marino&iid=9653951″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9653951/honda-motogp-rider-pedrosa/honda-motogp-rider-pedrosa.jpg?size=500&imageId=9653951″ width=”234″ height=”116″ /]

Again this race featured some great early battling before settling down into a Pedrosa benefit. It is great to see the guy on an upswing in form and taking the fight to Lorenzo because somebody had to, yet #99 still finished 2nd so his points advantage over Dani is remains massive. Rossi finished an amazing 3rd given his injuries, a stellar performance in the circumstances and he must’ve been hurting. That was about it for this race! We’re all hoping the new-for-2011 rules will bring back the great races seen in the top flight of motorcycle racing just a few short years ago, some series can get away with a long string of boring races but I don’t think MotoGP can for much longer, it is renowned for action and right now we aren’t getting it.

Both Indy and Misano races were held under a cloud following the death in Indy of the 13-year old Peter Lenz in the USGPRU support race warm-up, and an in Misano a Moto2 accident involving 19-year old Shoya Tomizawa which led to his eventual passing and was announced just as the main race came to an end. They were both accidents that even the best safety precautions would have struggled to prevent but that doesn’t make them any less sad or tragic. My thoughts are with their families and colleagues.

*

MotoGP
Motorland Aragon, Alcaniz, Spain
19 September 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Aragon&iid=9812324″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9812324/ducati-motogp-rider-stoner/ducati-motogp-rider-stoner.jpg?size=500&imageId=9812324″ width=”234″ height=”140″ /]

A new venue for MotoGP, this recently constructed circuit in Northern Spain is a Tilke creation with some quite interesting sections, including elevation changes and tight and fairly narrow twisty bits by Tilke’s standards – it is a good design. Unfortunately it all looks a bit bland simply because there is no scenery to speak of, it is a yellow/orange dustbowl.

Lorenzo and Stoner battled hard on the opening lap, with Casey coming off best. He soon disappeared into a handy lead over Pedrosa who’d also passed #99. Pedrosa then made an error and had to recover, this could’ve sunk him but he battled back hard – helped in no small part by his Honda engine on the very long back straight, that engine is the class of the field this year. It still needed to be ridden though and Dani did so brilliantly to recover up to 2nd place and only a second down on Stoner at times, until he had to give best and the Aussie duly took the win.

A tip of the hat to Nicky Hayden for finishing an improved 3rd in spectacular style by sending it up the inside of Lorenzo on the very final lap. They’d been fighting closely for some time, as had Dovisiozo and Spies which went the American’s way when Dovi crashed out, again on the last lap.

*

MotoGP
Twin-Ring Motegi, Japan
3 October 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Motegi&iid=9904276″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9904276/yamaha-motogp-rider-rossi/yamaha-motogp-rider-rossi.jpg?size=500&imageId=9904276″ width=”234″ height=”216″ /]

This round was originally scheduled for April but was postponed due to the volcanic ash cloud over Europe, preventing travel. Drama immediately! No Pedrosa for this race because he crashed badly in free practice with a stuck throttle – he’s flown home to Spain. Lorenzo had his worse qualifying session of the year and starts all the way down in 4th, the first man on the second row – how will he possibly cope? It was really good to see Edwards returning to the front end of the grid in 5th alongside his team-mate Spies 6th.

Dovisiozo got a good start initially but Stoner came breezing by in the first sequence of corners, then just rode away from the field. Lorenzo passed Rossi for 3rd and Capirossi got from 10th to 6th in the early running, well done Loris. Spies dropped to 8th before clashing with Hayden and both wound up fighting for last, at least until they caught the usual tailenders.

Simoncelli put a good pass on Edwards for 5th, he’s having an impressive season. Meanwhile, the race nearer the front came alive – what a brilliant battle between Lorenzo and Rossi! Vale pushed and harried him until he was able to make the move, and while he does have a newer engine with a later development step he is still carrying that injury. They passed an repassed each other for several laps, and these people are supposed to be teammates!

Back in the field Colin Edwards pulled himself together to attack Simoncelli again, couldn’t quite do it but never gave up and fought all the way, a great comeback after finishing only 12th in Aragon, his 100th start. His team-mate Spies who’d fallen to the back had fought his way through the field into the top eight, while Hayden got up to 12th. After the frenetic action in the middle of the race things were pretty quiet in the top half dozen for a long while, until 3 to go when Lorenzo suddenly launched attack after attack on Rossi for 3rd. He wasn’t able to pull it off. Stoner made it two races in a row, Dovi 2nd and Rossi claimed the final podium spot from Lorenzo. Everyone else was half a minute behind.

*

After these races the top of the standings were:

297 Lorenzo
228 Pedrosa
180 Stoner
159 Dovisiozo
156 Rossi

With no Pedrosa and a commanding lead Lorenzo was now aiming to claim the title at the next round, which was Sepang last week. I’m sure you’ve probably seen the outcome already. Then the circus moves on to Phillip Island this week and then heads back to Portugal and Spain to close the season. I’ll recap all four together in roughly a month from now, and I hope this summary has been useful!

All photos courtesy of PicApp.

I’m Watching… #6

I watch too much racing. Here are the races I watched in the few weeks before going away to Belgium, back in August. Sorry I’m late with this post!

American Le Mans Series
Mid-Ohio 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=American+Le+Mans&iid=9507520″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9507520/mid-ohio-sports-car/mid-ohio-sports-car.jpg?size=500&imageId=9507520″ width=”234″ height=”149″ /]

What a great race! The GT race was the undoubted highlight, multiple lead changes among several cars throughout the 2 hours and 45 minutes. Just as it looked like someone had settled in for the win there would be a twist and another car would be leading, great stuff. Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, BMW – no matter what it was it seemed to take a turn at leading. The GT2 class in the ALMS is arguably the best GT class anywhere in the world at the moment. The class battle was won by the Risi Ferrari team of Melo and Bruni.

The Prototype field was sparse and on a clear track probably would have been terrible, but on a narrow track with a large GT entry it became a fascinating test of who could work through the slower classes more effectively. Even with so few cars there was a good level of passing and strategy and it too was a good race. Dyson eventually won to take it’s first outright ALMS victory and beat the Highcroft entry by just half a second after 2hrs 45 minutes! Intersport’s Lola led much of the running but lost out with a poorly-timed driver change under yellow, dropping them to third. I get the Fields confused but one of them was very irate on the team radio when he realised the outcome of that decision – that frustation surely became insignificant when the car retired from the race with mechanical failure.

GTC was quite entertaining and LMPC seemed to be a case of nursing the cars home from what I recall. There was some good racing but I’m not a fan of spec series in endurance racing and particularly ACO/IMSA-sanctioned endurance racing. Open these classes up to competition – under heavy restriction if necessary – and I may well become a fan.

I watched this live on the ALMS website with video streaming complete with Radio Le Mans commentary – all sportscar races should be available this way.

*

IndyCar Series
Mid-Ohio 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=IndyCar+Lexington&iid=9512110″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9512110/honda-indy-200/honda-indy-200.jpg?size=500&imageId=9512110″ width=”234″ height=”150″ /]

For an open-wheel race at Mid-Ohio this wasn’t too bad. I’ve seen some pretty dire ones over the years and this was among the better ones. You can hardly complain about a race when the top two finish half a second apart, the second major race at this venue in two days to achieve that feat, as Dario Franchitti managed to hold off a challenging Will Power all the way to the end. Justin Wilson was involved in a crash which was a shame as he was doing fairly well. The Andretti suite of cars were all generally quite slow for some reason, they seem to be getting worse on road courses.

The race was led for a large chunk by Alex Tagliani who’d switched to a different strategy to the rest of the field, he stopped early and was helped when a yellow followed not long after. Having started outside the top ten, the strategy worked and he wound up 4th. Tony Kanaan tried something similar but couldn’t make it work and had to make an extra stop.

I watched this live on the IndyCar website which seemed to be having a rare good day with a decent quality stream throughout.

*

MotoGP
Brno 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Brno&iid=9553113″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9553113/motogp-czech-republic-race/motogp-czech-republic-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=9553113″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]

Pedrosa took the lead after his now customary good start, this time from pole – that was until Lorenzo from the outside of the front row jumped both Pedrosa and Spies, knocking Dani to 3rd. A couple of laps later Pedrosa got his way past Spies and set about chasing Jorge. Dovisioso had a scary fall when he dropped it in front of a chasing pack of bikes who somehow missed both rider and bike lying on the track, luckily he was able to pick it up and continue but had to pit the bike as it had apparently been too damaged in the fall.

The Finn, Kallio, ran into the gravel just seconds after the BBC team praised his good performance – the curse of the commentator. Stoner took 3rd from Spies in a fairly straightforward move and that was pretty much it for the remaining 13 laps, though there was a nice battle for 8th in the closing stages – when Bautista fell at the very last corner. Lorenzo had the legs of Pedrosa and held him back to take yet another win.

*

GP2 Series
Silverstone 2009

Feature – Romain Grosjean took an immediate lead off the start as most of the field had to avoid the stalled 4th-placed qualifier Jerome d’Ambrosio. There were a couple of spinners on lap one, Chandhok picked his way through the opening lap melee to move from 11th to 6th. It all settled into a rythym for several laps until Grosjean seemed to slow a little and allowed Valerio to challenge. Grosjean had speed on the straights but was slow through the corners and Valerio eventually made the pass into the Abbey chicane when Grosjean left the door wide open. This became the story the cameras followed as Grosjean did his best to fight off car after car.

Lucas di Grassi moved alongside Grosjean through Maggotts/Becketts and they tried to make it side-by-side through the sequence, but Grosjean couldn’t hold on and took to the grass. After the stops, Grosjean found himself heading a train of cars in 6th with Chandhok leading the chase. This became 5th with attrition and that was his position at the flag. Near the end, di Grassi and Perez raced a struggling Hulkenberg who seemed to have his own tyre troubles (the Perez battle was superb, he switched from side to side trying different lines through almost every corner as he tried to pass). Valerio held the lead to the end to take his first GP2 win, di Grassi 2nd and Hulkenberg 3rd with Perez a very close 4th – Perez was largely unseen but came from the very back with an early pitstop to almost reach the podium.

Sprint – After an extra formation lap for stalled cars, Maldonado took the lead from Zuber at the start with Chandhok 3rd. Di Grassi’s car wouldn’t move off the start but he eventually got going in 24th, but spun while setting fastest laps trying to catch the field. On the 3rd lap Petrov put a great move on Fillipi at Stowe, flying past him. Parente was making up lots of places. There was a long stint with no action until half distance when Razia tried to pass Clos for 13th but the cars collided, Razia retired on the spot and Clos had to pit for new tyres. A few laps later Fillipi seemed to lose pace completely, everyone started passing him. Drama at the end as Mortara’s engine blew and Clos spun into the middle of the track on the oil, causing a Safety Car with 3 laps to go, race over. Positions at the top remained unchanged as Maldonado won from Zuber and Chandhok.

*

That’s all for now, I’ll be back soon with more racing I’ve been watching.