Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Friday, July 29, 2005

Push left, lean left…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

Rossi, Rossi, Rossi…yeah, I know that all I do is talk about Rossi. Well, really now, what other choice is there? The guy is an animal. Besides, Rossi keeps finding new ways to make utter domination stay exciting. At Donington, Vale spent 22 laps looking like he was on the ragged edge. He was getting kicked out of the seat about once a lap, sliding the bike in every corner and even ran off the track once. He duped the entire viewing audience into thinking he was at his limit. Then, with seven laps to go, he ups the pace *two seconds per lap* and then holds that pace for three consecutive laps. Even if we’re tired of him always win it remains pure magic to see what he can actually do on a motorcycle regardless of the track conditions.


So why all this talk about Rossi when previewing the German round of the MotoGP series? Because he will again be the person to watch. Rossi has won every race but two this season: He was beaten in the rain in Portugal and by two of the yanks at Laguna Seca. Now he goes to one of the few tracks he doesn’t like and at which he hasn’t won a race in the past two years: The Sachsenring It would have been three years had a crash in 2002 not taken out the two front runners and gifted the Italian with win. Rossi doesn’t like the track and credits his distaste for the track in its preponderance of left hand turns. Unlike Laguna, which Valention also didn’t like, he has a lot of experience in Germany and has regularly been on the premier class podium. Still, any chink in the Rossi armour is something worth talking about. This may be his opponents best chance for the remainder of the season to take the battle to the Yamaha rider. In Rossi’s corner is that this is his 150th Grand Prix start, that he has won twice here in two support classes and that he holds a 104 point lead in the ‘05 championship. As always, don’t count out Rossi.

The old computer geeks in the audience will remember that the Colossal Cave Adventure, game, circa 1980, had a section with various rooms described with titles like “a maze of twisty little passages”. Well, that is pretty apt description of the Sachsenring circuit. Directly off the front straight there is a tight series of first and second gear corners that is unlike anything else on the GP calendar and that compromises about one third of the track’s 2.28 mile length. Then, like Alice going through the looking glass, the remaining two thirds of the circuit is a completely different world and one that is seen mainly with a distinct left hand slant. After emerging from the go-kart track, there is a series of five left hand turns all taken in third gear at over 100 mph. Then, after a quick right hand kink, there is another string of two second/third gear left-handers before being shot back onto the 180+ mph front straight and back into the maze to do it all over again. Getting a bike to handle the slow transitions while also being stable on the fast left-handers is the secret to having a winning bike. Having some serious stones is the secret to having a winning rider here, as all those left hand turns really burn up the side of the tire.

For the other guys, well, both Biaggi and Gibernau have had wins at the ex-East German track
over the past two years. Both badly need good results to salvage anything from the 2005 MotoGP season. Hayden and Melandri were both expected to do well at Donington but the rain threw them a curve ball. They have to get great results at the Sachsenring or lose the small amount of momentum they have been able to generate this season…especially since silly season decisions are at this very moment being made by pissed off Honda managers at boardrooms back in Japan. Speaking of momentum, Yamaha has more to look forward to than just Rossi. Colin has finished in the top four at the last three races and those results have propelled him into third in the championship, only one point away from being tied with Melandri for second. Yamaha’s goal in adding the Texan to their factory MotoGP team was not just to win the riders’ championship but also to win the manufacturers’ title as well. Their investment in Colin is really beginning to pay off and, given the two Yamaha teammates’ attitude towards Honda, I’m sure they both find their chance to go one-two for the season to be especially sweet. Doubly so if the points from that help Yamaha carry home the manufacturer’s trophy.

There are still seven rounds left in the season but it may already be too late for anyone to stop Rossi from carrying the #1 plate in 2006 but there are still six riders fighting for the runner-up position. The one that can keep the throttle screwed open with the left hand side of the tire smoking hot is the one that will earn much needed points towards that championship fight.

[image from the web site.]

Thursday, July 28, 2005

July \’05 Odds and Ends…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP, Other Forms Of Racing

The month of July is almost over so here is this month’s list of items that aren’t gonna get longer write-ups. This is the third of my “Odds and Ends” postings so it looks like this is going to be a monthly occurrence during these crazy summer months.

The Long Way Round web site has news that an extended version of the Long Way Round TV series is being shown in England. This new edit of the series is ten episodes long and includes some new footage not shown in the original. Lets hope that Bravo will opt to air this enhanced version of the series. On the down side, there still isn’t any news about a US release for the DVD.

As long as I’m talking about Long Way Round, I read on a few different web sites that Charlie Boorman is entered to compete in the 2006 Paris Dakar rally. Better yet, it is supposed to be filmed for British Sky TV. Since SpeedTV dropped their Dakar cover and OLN did a poor job with their coverage last year, perhaps Bravo will pick up this new series in 2006 and give us Dakar fans another way to get our fix.

Also in Paris Dakar news came a press release that this is the first time in the events 26 year history that the rally registrations for all classes have been filled as early as July. With more applications received than spots for participants and with those applications showing up earlier in the year than in the past, the 2006 Paris Dakar is proving more popular than ever before. What is surprising about this is that the event run this past January featured two fatal accidents, including Italian superstar Fabrizio Meoni. Many, including myself, felt that these deaths might dampen enthusiasm for rally racing. It is great to see that interest in the sport is still booming despite this year’s tragedy.

The news that shocked me the most this month was the press release from Polaris Industries that it is purchasing a 24% stake in Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM for $80 million. This agreement means that Polaris and KTM will cooperate on R&D (hmmmm…KTM motors in Polaris ATVs?, Victory assembly line technology helping KTM ramp up their manufacturing) and that KTM bikes can be sold through the Polaris/Victory dealer network. Even more intriguing is the news that in two years, either KTM will buy back the 24% stake purchased by Polaris or Polaris will buy the remaining 76% of KTM. The combination of Victory and the new line of KTM street bikes could put some serious hurt on Buell. Victory gaining a sport bike line-up and KTM engineers gaining much needed knowledge with ATV, watercraft and cruiser products. My hope is that it speeds up the importing of the 990 SuperDuke which I’m seriously lusting over as Victory’s involvement may help KTM speed up US DOT approval for their 990cc motor.

In another case of me waiting for something cool to make it to the US, it looks like a second volume of the Joe Bar Team comic has been translated into English and should be available in Britain some time this year. Aerostich carries the first volume, so hopefully they will carry this one as well. Less exciting is the knowledge that they are up to volume seven in the author’s native French language and it has taken something like 10 years to get the first one translated. Volume seven may not be available in a language I can read until 2015…I can probably learn French faster than that!

John Hopkins

Another import, English born John Hopkins, is set to test Red Bull driver Antonio Liuzzi’s F1 car at the Silverstone track. Even more fascinating, Liuzzi is supposed to ride Hopper’s Suzuki MotoGP bike. Putting a non-racer, even if they are an experienced motorcycle rider, on a 250hp Grand Prix bike seems fairly dangerous. Then again, maybe this is part of the plan since it seems like the Red Bull F1 team is hoping to get rid of Liuzzi anyway.

In other MotoGP news, a French court finally resolved a lawsuit filed against Alex Barros by Altadis after Barros broke his two year contract with the Gauloises Yamaha team early to accept a ride with the Camel Honda team this season. The court ruled against Barros which resulted in fines, penalities and court costs which will total over two million Euros. Ouch! I don’t know what Barros’ salary has been for the past few years but surely two mil takes a bite out of the old retirement fund.

The final news is my favorite: The date for the 2006 USGP race at Laguna Seca has already been set for July 23. Tickets go on sale September 1st. You can be sure I’ll be on the phone first thing that morning!

[image from the Yahoo Italy Sports web page.]

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The rain reigns…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

Britain is know known for many things but perhaps its most famous feature is it’s weather. Think of Jolly Olde England and you probably think cold and wet. Last weekend’s race at the historic Donington circuit in Derbyshire was unusual, even when judged by the normal English weather standards. It rained…it poured…it dumped…it was so bad that only 75,000 fans showed up to watch the race. (Wait! 75,000 shivering fans showed up in chilly torrential rains to watch a MotoGP race?!?! Damn, add England to the list of countries I should be living in!). A drenched track combined with 250hp motorcycles is a recipe for disaster but more on that later.

When the green flag flew and the field sloshed its way into turn one it was Sete Gibernau that came out the other side with the lead. Just like in Portugal earlier this year, Gibernau pulled a significant gap on the first lap despite the harsh conditions. In my pre-race blog entry I commented on how Honda riders Melandri, Hayden and Biaggi were the ones to watch this weekend. Well, if you took my advice you could have turned your TV off at half race distance. It only took that long for all three, along with Gibernau, Bayliss, Xaus, Bryne, Ellison, Battaini and Nakano to park their bikes in the Donington gravel traps. In fact, only eleven bikes finished the race and one of those was two laps down after a crash. When only ten bikes out of a field of twenty one finish a race without crashing, you know it was a brutal day at the races. Perhaps even a disasterous day.

As the Hondas threw themselves down the track (five of the seven Hondas were out within the first six laps) it was Alex Barros who emerged as the best hope for a V5 victory. He was joined up at the front by the two factory Yamahas of Rossi and Edwards and the two factory Suzukis of Roberts and Hopkins. Yes, you read that right, the two Suzukis were running at the front. I told you it was a bizarre day.

Rossi reigns in England

As is to be expected, “home boy” Rossi, now living in London, was the favorite no matter what the weather conditions. While Gibernau was watching his chances of this year’s championship evaporate like the steam off his mud covered Honda, Rossi inherited the lead despite a frantic battle with Edwards, Roberts, Hopkins and Barros. Hopkins took a turn at the front, surely shocking even the die hard Suzuki faithful with the idea that there was a chance a Suzuki could win this thing. That hope was somewhat diminished when Hopkins ran off the track eventually returning to the race two laps down after some hasty repairs in the pits. Rossi seemed able to comfortably retake the front position whenever he wanted. He also seemed comfortably able to recover from near-crashes and displayed that comfort nearly every lap. His luck nearly ran out in the middle of the race when he ran wide at the Esses but a miracle save allowed him to pull it back onto the track after only losing a couple of seconds. Barros and Roberts traded the lead, while Rossi put in some fast laps to catch back up and retake the point. Edwards eventually faded back from the lead trip after a few exciting moments of his own and with seven laps to go Rossi put the hammer down to record three consecutive fastest laps. Everyone, including Barros and Roberts, had to be impressed by that. Those laps, with seven still to go, sealed the fate of anyone beating the Italian maestro on this day. Rossi cruised to the win while Roberts snuck under Barros in the last few corners for second. Barros closed out the podium and Edwards trailed them home in forth.

The final damage? Rossi now holds a 104 point lead over Melandri in the championship. Edwards vaults from fifth to third, only one point down on second. Roberts’ second place finish should have all of Hamamatsu going crazy as it was the first time a Suzuki as been on the rostrum since 2002. Barros’ podium shows there are still tricks left in the old dog, especially when the track is damp, which should be helpful now that silly season is in full swing. It was also another harsh bath of salt water for the wounded Repsol factory Honda team. Expect more heads to be rolling in that garage if things aren’t dramatically different at the Sachsenring this coming weekend.

[image from the Tiscali Europe web site.]

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The wayback machine…

Author: site admin
Category: WSBK

“Age and experience will always beat out youth and inexperience.” —Tonny Robbins

Its been a week since the World Superbike races at Brno but I’m just now getting caught up enough to comment. Consider this late posting a little case of time travel going back a week. For another instance of time travel, just watch the races…

Corser at Brno

Race one looked like the calendar had rolled back to the first races of the season. Troy Corser took his Corona Suzuki to the front on the first lap and never looked back. Just like the early races, Corser was untouchable. The battle for second, on the other hand, was much more contemporary with the Ducati’s maintaining their recent return to form. Even more exciting, Chris Walker had his Kawasaki in the mix, meaning that perhaps the green team has made a step forward with their bike. In the end, the two Ducati teammates seemed to have burned the last vestiges of their friendship which resulted in some harsh passes. Eventually, it was Toseland that handed out the last harsh pass over Laconi and thus earned the middle step on the podium. Walker trailed behind for forth and Chili charged through the field for an eventual fifth place finish. Impressive stuff considering this was his fifth top five finish of the season. In fact, except for his DNF at the first round, the 40 year old Italian has finished in the top 10 at every race.

The second race was exciting from the beginning as Laconi hit the front and started pulling a lead only to have the race red flagged after someone’s bike lunched it’s motor and sprayed oil on the track. On the restart, it was Corser who returned everything to its normal order by again getting to turn one first and leading the race. It was another flashback, this time to race one, as Corser started to pull away while the Ducati teammates again went at each other, this time slight further down the order. Then the surprise of the season…Haga, on his under-performing Yamaha, suddenly charged forward to lead Corser after starting from 18th on the grid. Not only did he lead but he actually pulled away to win. This performance perhaps indicates that Yamaha has finally made the changes necessary to become competitive but it remains to be seen if this win will give Haga the confidence to run at the front for the remainder of the season. Given that Nitro Nori was expected to be a challenger for the title this year, his performance thus far has been abysmal with only one other podium appearance and only three other top five finishes this season. As for the rest of the finishers, it was Corser who cruised home for second and continued to extend his points lead over Vermeulen and Laconi. Third was a determined Chris Vermeulen who is still grasping for the rapidly vanishing chances of a Superbike championship. Forth a surprisingly strong finish by Norick Abe, again perhaps indicating that Yamaha has turned a corner. Continuing his trend, Chili turned in yet another top five finish. Go Frankie!

The best news: with both Kawasaki and Yamaha having strong performances at Brno the final ingredients may finally be falling into place to boost the WSBK series into the best motorcycle racing series on the planet. A little bad blood between the Ducati teammates will crank the intensity level to 11. Having guys like Walker and Abe up front with their over-the-edge riding style is the final icing on the cake. Why, oh, why can’t we just fast forward two weeks to the upcoming Brands Hatch round?

But ultimately, it was seeing old guys Corser, Haga and Chili up front that made Brno seem more like 1998 that 2005. These guys are the legends of the WSBK championship and it is awesome to see them still on the bleeding edge of superbike racing. Hopefully, the young guys like Vermeulen, Muggeridge, Neukirchner, Pitt and Lanzi can learn from these guys.

[image from the Motorcycle News web page.]

Monday, July 25, 2005

Glad to be wrong…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX

Well, I’m glad to say I was wrong. In my posting last week about the Colorado round of the AMA Motocross series I said didn’t seem that Thunder Valley was ready to host a national. Well, I’m glad to say that I was wrong.

I headed down on Sunday with my co-worker Michael, his brother Dave and his friend James. Because most of Rooney Road was closed, Michael had forecast that traffic coming into the track via Alameda would suck. We came over Dinosaur Ridge instead and breezed right up to the parking area. It was 8:30am and there was already a 2+ mile long line of cars backed up on Alameda. Whew, good call.

The first thing that was obvious is that the track and the city of Lakewood had put a lot more thought into this event that I’d anticipated. Parking was plentiful, though packed to the gills, and there were hired buses to shuttle people to/from the remote parking areas. There was a motorcycle only parking area in the Dinosaur Ridge parking area but it was in an uneven field which wasn’t particularly flat. This made for a lot of unstable bikes. Its a minor nit to pick but a better motorcycle parking area would have been appreciated!

Another issue that was immediately obvious was that the vendor area wasn’t ready for the massive turnout. From what I could see there were only three food booths and that meant hour long lines for any lunch or drinks. I packed in some snacks and a water bottle but was unable to refill with H2O once I ran out of water. This was potentially the worst problem at the track since 100 degree heat and limited water supply could have been a deadly combination. Fortunately, the cloud cover cooled things off a bit.

Vendors aside, the track itself was a revelation. Michael and I rode down to the track on Friday at lunch so we’d already gotten a peek at the track improvements but once we got inside on Sunday it was even more impressive. First, the track was laid out so that you could walk to nearly everywhere in the infield and all around the outside of the course. There were a few new sections added to the track and a massive amount of dirt brought in to improve the entire circuit, changing it from dinky to national caliber. In most sections, the fresh dirt was two to three feet deep and, unlike the majority of Colorado, soft and loamy rather than hard and rocky. Best yet, the track staff were equipped with water hoses to keep the place damp and tractors to groom out the ruts. Overall, it was a class A facility.

Ricky at Thunder Valley

The racing was class A as well. I’d have preferred it had been tighter racing but it was awesome to watch Ricky Carmichael at the height of dominance. RC just ran away with both main event motos, with the duplicate finishes continuing when Kevin Windham was runner up and Chad Reed rounded out the podium in both races. While Windham put up an admirable defense in the second race, the writing was on the wall after seeing how easily Carmichael had run away with the win in the earlier moto. Ricky was blazing fast in the early laps, seemingly on the verge of crashing all through the rough stuff, then cranked it back down to a smooth consistent pace once he had a gap over Windham. Windham tried to hang tough and was clearly pushing the whole race but ultimately lost time on each lap. Reed was well off the pace and its a miracle he made it through 30+ laps without getting thrown off the bike…make that a double miracle because he still managed two third place finishes. Chad was clearly not comfortable running the times of the front runners.

By the time the second set of motos started, the track was horribly rutted. The braking bumps coming down from the highest point on the track looked like a wicked mogul run at a ski resort and regularly had the fast riders up on the front wheel…fantastic saves were the norm. The knarly track affected the lighter, less powerful “125″ class (actually four stroke 250s) the most. There were some spectacular crashes in the 125 class, including front-runner Grant Langston who got kicked off during the second moto. One person that didn’t have problems with the ruts was Ivan Tedesco. He blazed to wins in both motos with a sizable margin of victory in both. Ex-local boy Andrew Short netted two second place finishes and was clearly the crowd favorite. I was worried that Short would throw it away because he had Tedesco in sight both times and the throngs of fans were urging him to go for it. Thankfully, he put in a very mature ride to earn his two podium spots. Langston lead early but faded back to eventually finish third after being challenged by Short. In moto #2, Alessi took up the fight with Short while Langston crashed and spent the race trying to salvage points. Alessi looked strong the whole race but Short was ultimately stronger…just not strong enough to catch Tedesco. The rough track made passing difficult but unlike the bigger bikes Short made things interesting by providing a bit of dicing in the battle for second.

It is my understanding that Thunder Valley has a two year deal to host an AMA motocross event here in Colorado. With 22,000 fans showing up this weekend, it would seem that this could easily become a run-away success. There are still a few things that need to be sorted out, parking still needs some help and more food vendors are a must, but overall the event was fantastic. Perhaps if I forecast a failure again next year, it will turn out to be even better.

[image from my photo collection.]

Friday, July 22, 2005

What a difference two weeks makes…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes, MotoGP

Two weeks ago, the international MotoGP and the domestic AMA series were racing on the same track. Now, two weeks later, things could hardly be more different.

Donington Park as seen from Craner Curves

The MotoGP series is visiting Donington Park in England. The track is a great layout and is blessed with fresh pavement thanks to a repaving job last year. The 2.5 mile long circuit is highlighted by four fantastic right hand turns, all taken at 70+ miles per hour and two different straights with speeds topping out over 150. Unfortunately, this high speed ballet is interrupted by a “S” shaped section which has the riders bogging in first gear. The bikes have to be set up for the high speed stability and fast transitions required in the sweeping stuff while also being able to handle the hard braking and acceleration that come with the stop-n-go section. Achieving a setup compromise will be crucial but, as with Assen, expect the Yamahas to be strong any time handling is more key than outright power. This is made even more likely since Rossi has historically dominated at the English track, having won here four times (five if you count his 2003 win which was later nullified because he passed under a waving yellow during the race). If Rossi isn’t in front this weekend, it will probably be because Melandri, Gibernau and Biaggi aren’t either. Rossi is close enough to a fifth championship that he doesn’t need to risk a crash while fighting with those out of title contention. The riders I’ll be watching the most closely are Marco Melandri, Nicky Hayden and Max Biaggi. Melandri is probably the only rider with any chance of catching Rossi for the #1 plate and he needs to quickly rebound from a lousy round at Laguna Seca. Hayden, just the opposite, needs to continue the momentum from his USGP victory if he wants to prove that wasn’t a Yankee version of the Rising Sun Syndrome (in which Japanese riders can dominate in their homeland but then struggle when it comes to putting together a championship run). Finally, Honda officially announced this weekend that Dani Pedrosa will be graduating from the 250s to MotoGP next year with a full factory contract. That probably means Repsol and that probably means either Biaggi or Hayden are getting the boot at the end of this season. With Hayden both young and still improving, that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the Roman Emperor…and history tends to show that Max never does well under pressure.

Meanwhile, the AMA racers are at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Like Donington, serious effort was put forth last year to improve the track. Unfortunately, the bulk of that work was grinding down the sharp edges from the concrete patches used in the turns to prevent cars from breaking the asphalt. While the grinding helped with the transitions to and from the concrete it created an amazingly slippery surface in some of the turns which resulted in a record number of crashes last year. The 2.4 mile long road race course is perhaps the twistiest track on the AMA calendar and thus the worst (except perhaps the high speed stuff at Rd. America and the NASCAR ovals) in which to have questionable traction. However, there are some similarities between the MotoGP and AMA weekends. First, rain is threatening both which could play a huge role, especially at Mid-Ohio which doesn’t normally race in wet conditions. Both races also have championship leaders who hold a significant points advantage over their competitors. Mladin, like Rossi, can afford to play it conservative in Ohio. Moreso because Mladin has perhaps a more strategic view of racing than his Italian GP counterpart who may well get the red mist just to have the satisfaction of beating everyone else at any given track. Expect Mladin to hang it out, if the conditions allow it, for one more victory to consolidate his championship lead, if not this weekend then the next, then play the points game until he wraps up title #6. The riders to watch in Superbike are Ben Spies, Eric Bostrom and Neil Hodgson. Spies still needs to beat Mladin straight up in order to cover one of his goals for this year and the chances for doing that are rapidly dwindling. He also still has a long shot at the title and has to gain points in a big way this weekend if he’s to win his first superbike title this year. Eric Bostrom seems to have returned to his ways of old but has to continue running at the front (finishing 3rd while 20 seconds down doesn’t count as running at the front) to prove it. Finally, Neil Hodgson’s fortunes have changed dramatically since he showed up at Pikes Peak with crashes and DNFs seeming to be the norm. He needs to create a reversal of his luck this weekend since race wins (and a renewal of his contract) are all he has left to shoot for this year.

Finally, silly season is upon us. Expect every racer to put in a little extra effort for the next few months to prove their value and to justify their ride. I’ll try to put together a silly season web page over the next month to track who ends up where.

[image from the MIVEC web page.]

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rinky-dink Colorado tracks, part II…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX

Colorado in general and Denver in particular is a sports crazy place. Football, hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer…even indoor football and lacrosse seem to have huge followings. It seems like the entire place turns blue and orange during football season (whenever that is…I can’t keep track of which damned stick and ball sport happens when!) Likewise, don’t even think of driving through downtown just after a baseball or hockey game as the interstate will be jammed. Why is it then, that there seems to be so little support for motor sports here? The closest national level roadrace track is 90 miles away in Fountain, Colorado? Worse yet, why it is such a dumpy little track even by NASCAR oval standards?

Thunder Valley MX Park

Well, chalk up another question… This year the AMA motocross series is returning to Colorado have a 20-something year absense. The event is going to run this coming weekend at the Thunder Valley MX Park in Lakewood, Colorado. This track is a nice local MX track. Its carved into the side of a hill and, until recently, was owned by the city of Lakewood who provided it as a resource to the community. Nice work and a great place to go ride motorcycles. What it isn’t is a national caliber track…certainly rinky-dink when compared with the classic tracks on the AMA MX schedule. Why can’t Colorado provide something better?

This morning, I was ready to turn this blog entry into one of my rare rants. Railing (futilely, as always) against the craziness of the world but mainly just embarrassingly admitting that once again the best stars of the various forms of motorcycle competition will be laughing behind our back at Colorado’s sad state of affairs when it comes to race circuits. However, before I could summon up all my righteous indignation, a co-worker pointed out a link on the Racer X web site that showed some “secret” photos of the work that has been carried out at Thunder Valley over the past week. While this hasn’t turned the place into another Budd’s Creek overnight, it has added significant length to the track as well as increased the complexity of the place. I don’t know if the plans to make these last minute improvements have been in place all along or if they are a last minute addition based on the feedback offered from the factory teams which tested at the the circuit over the past couple of months. Either way, I am now reserving a bit of judgement about just how inappropriate the place is for holding an AMA national until I see it for myself. (Which, BTW, I plan to do Friday at lunch in hopes of scoping the scene out before heading down on Sunday for the race).

This desperate lunchtime scouting foray leads to another issue that apparently hasn’t been addressed…access to the park. Again, Thunder Valley seems like a perfectly adequate local track. Riders can park close to the entrance and the smattering of fans that may show up for a local MX race can easily filter in or park along the nearby access road. But an AMA national is a whole other beast. Even Pikes Peak has trouble dealing with the fans that show up for an AMA Superbike race and road racing isn’t nearly as popular as motocross. While I’m reluctant to throw out an prospective attendance figure, after all this is the first time the AMA has raced here in two decades, I still suspect the number will be in the thousands. The current plan is to force all the attendees into the track via a single road: South Rooney which is off of Alameda. This seems like a prime fustercluck in the making! Even if the crowds naturally enter the track over the course of a few hours on Sunday morning, you can be sure everyone will try to leave all together once the second moto is over. Nearby E-470 and I-70 can handle a lot of traffic but that doesn’t matter if all of it has to funnel through a single two lane road to get there. Then there is the whole question of parking. I’m not sure the city of Lakewood or the track owners are really ready for this event as there aren’t huge parking areas available in that area…Add in record setting temperatures, along with the last minute news that Bubba Stewart is sitting out the race due to injury, and things are bound to be interesting. Lets hope for a lot of patient fans this weekend!

The recent improvements at Thunder Valley notwithstanding, I still wonder why Denver can spend who knows how many metric crap-loads of cash building a baseball stadium in the middle of downtown and another pile building a huge arena for hockey games, why can’t just a little money get slipped into the budget to build a decent motorsports facility with multi-use tracks (roadrace, oval and MX for example) and with decent highway access?

[image from the Thunder Valley MX Park web page.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Once is a fluke, twice is a sign…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes

With all the excitement from the MotoGP and WSBK races over the past two weeks, I haven’t talked about the AMA events which ran as support races over the USGP weekend.

EBoz at Laguna

The biggest news there was Eric Bostrom. After a convincing win at the historically EBoz friendly PPIR, it remained to be seen whether Bostrom had really found some competitiveness or whether its just a flike that he just knows how to win at the Colorado track no matter what he’s riding. Laguna Seca offered up an answer to that question by offering up another flag-to-flag victory for the Ducati rider. It is perhaps true that Mladin didn’t have any reason to hang it all out at Laguna, after all Eric isn’t in the championship points battle, but it appeared that Eric was just the fastest guy on the track for that race no matter what the other riders were or weren’t doing. With two wins under his belt this season on vastly different types of tracks, perhaps this is a sign that Eric has finally come to terms with the 999’s set up.

As for Mladin, he again had a race weekend where he didn’t win but still triumphed. In this case, he gained more points over teammate Ben Spies, his nearest rival for the ‘05 Superbike title, and how holds a 31 point lead. Superbike title #6 is nearly in his grasp. With just three more rounds, all being double headers, there are still 228 points available. However, with only six points between first and second, it is rapidly nearing the point where Mladin could finish directly behind Spies at every event and still win the #1 plate. Expect Mladin to ride hard at Mid-Ohio, then ride strategically for the last four rounds to sew up the title.

The two AMA support class races were the most exciting races of the weekend at Laguna. In Superstock, Tommy Hayden put in an incredible performance only to be thwarted in the closing laps by a backmarker. Hayden, trying to pull a gap over pursuing Aaron Yates and Jason Disalvo, attempted to go around the outside of a slower rider in Turn 4 but instead made contact and crashed. He ended up with a broken right hand, as well as virtually losing any chance he had of winning the Superstock title this year. The race boiled down to a last lap dual between Yates and Disalvo in which Yates baited a trap for the young Yamaha rider and snapped is down hard. In this case, Yates braked late into Turn 11 on the last lap but then swung wide to leave an opening up the inside. Jason dove for the hole but then ran wide on the exit to the corner. Yates had already turned in early setting him up for a killer drive onto the front straight. Aaron, the part-time drag racer, won the acceleration contest and the race. This win extends his gap in the title fight to 10 points over Disalvo.

The Supersport race, the final race of the weekend, was a barn-burner with Roger Lee Hayden and Jason Disalvo fighting until the finish line. Even the start of the race was exciting as Attack Kawasaki’s Ben Attard ran at the front for a lap before tossing the bike in turn 9. Hayden and Disalvo went at for the last two laps with Jason again making his bid for the win in Turn 11. However, having learned from Yates in the Superstock race, Jason used an aggressive pass to block Roger Lee from turning in underneath him and thus held on for the victory. Tommy Hayden rode, despite the broken hand, and earned a sixth place. He holds a 41 point lead over teammate Roger Lee for the Supersport championship.

I suspect that, like last year, the Supersport and Superstock races will continue to be the ones to watch for the last three rounds of the series. Despite all the talk about why Yamaha and Kawasaki should be racing in Superbike and Formula Xtreme, its hard to argue that the racing in the support classes is exciting and that part of that excitement is there because some very talented factory riders are going for the title. Does anyone remember how exciting the 600 Supersport classs was when Honda and Suzuki were duking it out with Yamaha and Kawasaki?

You can bet I’ll be watching the Mid-Ohio races. Tommy Hayden already has one Supersport title and is close to a second…was last year a fluke or a sign?

[image from the official AMA Superbike web site.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ride your motorcycle, make a difference…

Author: site admin
Category: Motorcycles

Ride to Work poster

Tomorrow, Wednesday July 20th, is the 14th annual Ride To Work Day when motorcyclists are encouraged to ride their motorcycles to work. The reasoning is that a mass turnout of motorcycles on Ride To Work Day will help show the size of the riding community and that will help underscore all the reasons why riding motorcycles are a good thing: Better gas mileage than most cars, taking up less space than cars, easing parking problems, etc, etc. If lots of people are riding then a bigger bite is being taken out of all those issues. But really…do riders really need encouragement to ride their motorcycles? Come on, get on that bike and ride! I’m a pinko-commie long hair and I’m all for the positive environmental impact that motorcycles represent but I’m ultimately in it for the fun. Not only do I have a barrel full of giggles every time I get on my GS, I also arrive at work relatively stress free and manage to get most of the day’s crap out of my head somewhere on the curvy road between work and home. Now *that* is a positive side affect to riding motorcycles!

In an amazing show of support, my co-worker Jeff actually managed to get The Man to fork out some corporate green to buy us riders breakfast tomorrow. I hope many other companies are doing the same…then again, if you require a breakfast burrito before agreeing to ride your motorcycle shame on you!

[image from the Ride To Work web site.]

Monday, July 18, 2005

More USGP thoughts…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

Since I can’t actually read the web, less I find out the results of the tape delayed World Superbike races from Brno, Czech Republic, I’ll take some time this evening to talk some more about last week’s USGP.

First, I think there are two different groups that demand, or at least expect, some changes to be made before the 2006 USGP. First, the riders want additional efforts made to improve security around the track, specifically by moving the wall along side Turn 1 further back into the hillside and also expanding the run-off in Turn 6 further into that hillside. Yamaha ponied up the big bucks for the track improvements this year as part of their 50th year anniversary marketing/PR campaign but I doubt they’ll be quite so free with their cash next year. Unless someone else opens up a real fat checkbook, making these safety changes will be difficult. (Needless to say, I’m sure more that one person is trying to drum up some serious intra-corporate rivalry between Yamaha and Honda right now!)

Traffic trying to get into Laguna Seca on Sunday

Second, the spectators seem to be pretty clear in condemning Laguna Seca for being unable to cope with the sheer volume of people that showed up this year. Parking, and thus traffic in general, was very poorly organized. I waited two hours on Saturday to get into the track and ended up parked about a mile from turn 2 where I eventually watched the races. Even when we took the free bus on Sunday, we ended up walking in from the main entrance because the bus was stuck in a traffic jam. I probably did as much hiking at the MotoGP races than I do hiking in Colorado! Traffic wasn’t the only thing backing up…the bathroom facilities, the food vendors and the souvenir booths were all insufficient to deal with 60,000 fans. I spent an hour in line for an event T-shirt on Friday and that was when lines were relatively short and all the merchandise was in stock. By Sunday the lines were hours long and many items were sold out. Food was another frustrating issue. As a vegetarian, I’m used to limited choices but the lengthy lines combined with price gouging meant my wife and I just packed snacks on Sunday saving both time and money. I’d originally read that the track improvements would include terracing the turn 2 hillside but instead it was just a steep, hot and dusty incline. The viewing was great but it wasn’t an ideal location to sit or to slide down. I think that Laguna needs to address at least some of these issues in order to keep up attendance. Otherwise, like in the early 90s, a great event will continually decline until it is no longer financially viable.

If, as rumored, Laguna got a break on the normal Dorna fees for the first two years of the five year contract then the SCRAMP officials need to spend some of that extra profit on improvements. If they can get a corporate donor to help then perhaps they can address the issues from both the riders *and* the fans. If not, they’ll need to carefully balance their future improvements so that both groups continue to come back year after year. I’ve read many suggestions on various web sites with suggestions on making next year’s event go more smoothly. I don’t pretend to know all the constraints that SCRAMP and Laguna Seca are up against but I do know they’ve been burned once before (’88 - ‘94) and hope they are smart enough to work hard to prevent it happening again.

[image from my photo collection.]