Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Friday, June 3, 2005

The heart of the matter…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Supermoto, MotoGP

This weekend brings racing to two tracks which may well be the heart and soul of their respective series: MotoGP comes to Mugello in Italy and the AMA Superbike series travels to Rd. America in Wisconsin.

Mugello crowds

The headliner has to be the MotoGP race. Mugello is perhaps the heart of MotoGP. The organizing body (the FIM) is based in Italy, the top rider is Italian, the largest fan base is arguably in Italy and the Italian track has provided some of the most exciting races of the series going back to the glorious days of Doohan domination. The Mugello race was the best race of the 2004 MotoGP season and may have been the best race of 2003 as well. In addition to incredible racing, Mugello keeps things interesting by having the second longest straight of the entire series (second to the new Shanghai track in China). This long straight puts stresses on tires and engines that mean the teams have to be on their A game. Last year Bridgestone found the limits of their new MotoGP tire thanks to a horrific tire failure which slammed Kawasaki’s Shinya Nakano to the tarmac at 190 mph+. That long straight also means that everyone better bring horsepower and plenty of it. Honda seemed to have Yamaha covered in that respect last year but this fact just allowed Rossi’s amazing skill as a rider to shine through. The RC211V’s of Tamada, Biaggi and Gibernau could pull four or five bike lengths on the M1 of Rossi down the straight but impossibly late braking and crazy corner speed allowed Rossi to pass them back in turns one or two. It was extraordinary riding and that accomplishment was made that much better when rain late in the race meant the event was finished as a six lap wet sprint race. Rossi showed he was a master of the wet as well as the dry by slicing through the pack for the ultimate win. If this year’s race at Mugello is only half as exciting it will still be the best race of the season. Another aspect of the Tuscan track and its fanatical crowd of spectators is that it always seems to make the Italian racers ride just a little bit harder. As a result, the red-blooded natives seem to switch into “win it or bin it” mode. This reached its peak in 2003 when Rossi, Capirossi and Biaggi all fought from start to finish in a ferocious battle to win in front of their countrymen. All came close to crashing and in the end it was an all Italian podium, including an Italian Ducati, so the crowd really got its money’s worth. If Melandri, Biaggi or Capirossi are going to challenge Rossi this season, this race may be their best shot. Expect all of them to ride with 100% of their heart.

The AMA trip to Road America brings them to the heartland of America and one of the best tracks in the country. The four mile long circuit includes a very, very fast straight away and some 14 turns meaning it is a challenging place to race. In the past, the Wisconsin track has been dominated by Ducati and Honda. The two brands have won 18 of the 30 races at the track and it is no coincidence that both brands have been known for making race bikes with lots of power. Last year the event was dominated by one man: Miguel Duhamel. In fact, the Canadian has won both legs of double-headers there twice, also winning in 2002. The Honda doesn’t appear to be the bike it was in 2004 but the track is the closest thing to a home race for Duhamel and he always seems to set it up there. Naturally, another favorite has to be Mat Mladin. The Suzukis have plenty of horsepower this year and Mladin is riding his best ever. Finally, the Ducati of Neil Hodgson should do well. Road America is similar to the traditional European race tracks on which the Brit has raced for the past three or four years and its high speed corners should play to his strengths. The track always makes for exciting racing and this year should be no different.

Sunday will bring five hours of road racing on SpeedTV including both legs of the AMA Superbike races and the AMA Supersport race from Road America as well as the MotoGP and 250GP races from Mugello. Should be a great weekend of racing!

[image from the waepoint web site.]

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