Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Thursday, September 22, 2005

FIM = Funny Italian Management…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

As I mentioned in my post-race review on Tuesday this past weekend’s race at Motegi was overshadowed by the crash between Rossi and Melandri. I think everyone that saw the race will agree that the accident was Rossi’s fault as he ran into the back of Melandri’s Honda while braking into the corner which then took them both out. Even Rossi has admitted the crash was his fault, as least to the degree that any interview or press release will ever directly state such a thing. Even though Melandri was one of the two people with a mathematical chance of challenging Rossi for the 2005 MotoGP championship, I also think that most people will also agree that there wasn’t anything inherently malicious in the accident. Rossi made a mistake and ran into his countryman but he did not seem to be deliberately aiming to take him out. As a result, the accident has been declared a “racing incident”. In most cases, this would end the matter…

…but in this case, it doesn’t just stop there. First, there is the fact that Melandri was in the title hunt and thus had the most to lose in the event of a DNF. Since Rossi could basically sit out the rest of the season and probably still win the championship a catastrophic accident wouldn’t necessarily end his championship hopes but the Motegi DNF for Melandri did close the door on his ‘05 title aspirations. That means the issue deserves a deeper look to make sure it is addressed fairly.

Then there is the fact that Melandri was injured when the footpeg of his bike dug into his right foot. Any time a rider is seriously injured in an accident, especially when that accident was caused by another rider, the issue should be examined. Rossi wasn’t injured and will be racing this coming weekend in Malaysia but Melandri’s taking part is still up in the air.

Third, there is the issue of the opening race of the season at Jerez when Rossi hit Sete Gibernau in the last corner and punted the Spaniard into the gravel trap. Rossi went on to win the race and to celebrate wildly while Gibernau fought to get his bike back on track and to finish second. That crash was determined a “race incident” by the governing body. As the saying goes “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” One racing incident is an accident but making a habit of it means dangerous riding. Time to look closer yet at what happened at Motegi.

Rossi-Melandri crash at Motegi

So the FIM, the mostly Italian ruling body of MotoGP has their Race Direction committee take a look at the footage and then puts out a press release saying that a protest of the incident by Honda charging Rossi with dangerous riding was unfounded. Okay, incident reviewed and ruled on. End of story, right?

Well, I don’t think so. There aren’t any provisions in the FIM’s rule book for protesting the FIM itself but I think it is about time it happens. Want some data to back up that accusation? Look at this timeline of a select few events from the last decade:

On Oct 25th, 1998 - Italian Loris Capirossi on the Italian Aprilia 250GP bike crashes into his teammate Japanese rider Tetsuya Harada on the last turn of the last lap at the last race of the year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The accident puts both riders into the gravel but Capirossi is able to get back on the asphalt and finish in second place. Harada can’t get back underway and ends the race in the gravel trap. Coming into the race, Capirossi held a three point advantage over Harada but a win from the Japanese rider would have earned him the 1998 250GP championship. After the accident, Capirossi was initially disqualified but then his second place finish was re-instated after review by the FIM. In the end, Capirossi won the 250 title that year and was not penalized for causing the accident.

Now jump forward five years to Oct 5th of 2003 at Motegi, Japan. American John Hopkins gets into the first corner on the first lap way to hot and rams his Suzuki into the Japanese made Yamaha of Carlos Checa and the Italian made Ducati of Troy Bayliss. All three riders go down. Race Direction determines that Hopkins was riding in an irresponsible manner and he is given a one race suspension.

That same day at the same track, Japanese rider Makoto Tamada on a Honda is racing for a podium finish in front of his home crowd. In the closing laps, he makes a close pass on fellow Honda mounted Spaniard Sete Gibernau to take third place. Gibernau is bumped off track, doesn’t fall down and returns to finish forth. Race Direction looks at the evidence available and decrees that Tamada’s pass was an example of irresponsible riding. He is disqualified from the race and his third place finish nullified.

Then jump forward to the same track one year later. On Oct 19th, 2004 Italian Loris Capirossi charges up the inside of the first corner and then can’t get his Ducati slowed down. He slams into John Hopkins (Suzuki) which starts a crash that eventually collects Americans Kenny Roberts (Suzuki), Colin Edwards (Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Honda). Honda’s Max Biaggi, also on a Honda, also goes down. Biaggi is in the points battle for the championship and the crash effectively ends his chance of going for the title in ‘04. Both Hopkins and Roberts are injured in the crash. Race Direction reviews the film and announces it is just a racing incident and no penalty is warranted.

Earlier this year, at the first race of the season on April 10th there was the now famous incident at Jerez. Valentino Rossi in his second year on the Yamaha is racing with his old nemesis Honda mounted Sete Gibernau for the race win. In the last corner of the last lap Rossi goes up the inside hard on the brakes and runs into Gibernau which pushes the Spaniard off track and into the gravel. Rossi goes on to win and proceeds to celebrate quite wildly. Gibernau gets back on track and finishes an angry second. The FIM overrules a protest from the Movistar Honda team and assesses no penalty against the Italian.

Now this past weekend, Sept 18th there were two incidents. First, in the 250GP race, Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo on a Honda is trying to come back from forth place to get on the podium. On the last lap he tries to pass both Honda mounted Dani Pedrosa and Aprilia mounted Alex de Angelis for second. While hard on the brakes, Lorenzo gets past Pedrosa but then runs into the back of de Angelis, taking them both out. Both riders are okay and de Angelis remounts to earn a seventh place finish. Race Direction determines this was a case of “irresponsible riding” and issues a one race ban to Lorenzo.

Finally, there is the incident that inspired this blog entry where during the MotoGP race at Motegi Valentino Rossi crashes his Yamaha into the back of championship contender Marco Melandri ’s Honda on lap thirteen. Both riders are out of the race but Melandri also suffers a foot injury. Movistar Honda again issues a protest to the FIM and again Race Direction deems the protest without merit.

Alright, I think the message is clear: Don’t mess with the Italians! Capirossi has gotten away with torpedoing riders twice including doing so once to help win a championship. Now Rossi has done the same. If a Japanese or American rider is involved in a less severe accident, a one race suspension or a disqualification is handed out faster than you can say “unfair application of the rules”. Do I think Rossi deserves a penalty for Sunday’s crash? No. It was clearly a racing accident. However, if the FIM is going to penalize Jorge Lorenzo for a similar accident at the same track on the same day then I think they have to be fair in their rulings and penalize Rossi as well. Otherwise, they need to apologize to Lorenzo for chastising his accident while letting Rossi get away with the same thing. Either that or Lorenzo needs to quickly apply for Italian citizenship.

[image from the Yahoo Italy Sports web site.]

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