Michael Scott Column - Aug 10

Entirely unafraid to approach sensitive issues with the sledgehammer force of salient historical reference and ineluctable logic, Michael Scott tackles the safety issue – head-on

Posted: 1 August 2010
by Michael Scott

Moto2 has arrived. Not with a bang, but with several. Plus ghastly scraping sounds, thudding impacts, and dull cries of pain.The first race at Qatar wasn’t too bad. Round two at Jerez was a krash-krazy red flag job; seven more guys slithering off on oil spilled when one of the leaders went down. Le Mans was similar. In the first ten laps, a quarter of the 41-strong field had crashed. Often into one another.

Most spectacular was Alex de Angelis – who seldom needs any help to crash – getting T-boned by another crasher’s riderless bike; while the image from Jerez was Toni Elias slipping down on the oil, getting clobbered by a bike, then getting to his feet to run away only to trip and fall over amidst the continuing mayhem. Very Keystone Kops. Hilarious. Until you remember that the gritty little Spaniard was already nursing a freshly broken ankle and a grisly hand injury.

Suddenly it’s a bit scary. It’s one thing for a few heavy 600s to all tangle up at the Jerez hairpin; quite another when it’s somewhere fast, like Mugello or Phillip Island’s Turn One.
Happily a few things have changed since the fateful Monza 250 race in 1973, when rising superstar Jarno Saarinen and Italian Renzo Pasolini both died in a multiple pile-up at Monza. Nowadays there are no fast corners lined with barriers (well, not many, except at Laguna); no straw bales to bounce back into the track; plus air-fences, body air-bags, better crash helmets, body armour, medical facilities... all the same, Moto2 is a barely veiled blood sport.

As such, it is of course a real crowd pleaser. Especially in MotoGP’s heartland of Spain – where they still watch bull-fighting on national TV. And they kill the bull.
The really exciting/frightening prospect is still to come. Clearly unafraid of being cast as the Butcher of Madrid, Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta is steering the big class to a sort of grown-up version of Moto2.

His 1000cc vision doesn’t quite come down to a single supplied engine, but it does open the door to the mass of chassis constructors who have turned out for Moto2, and offer a massive hike in grid numbers.Stand well back from the barriers, everyone. And Dr Costa better get himself a bigger meat-wagon.

The dynamic developing in the Fiat Yamaha team grows livelier by the weekend. Valentino beat Jorge in the first race, Jorge beat Valentino in the next two. But it’s not the atmosphere between the two riders that’s most interesting. Nor yet that between their respective crew chiefs: Rossi’s famed Jerry Burgess and Lorenzo’s less well-know spannerman Ramon Forcada.

It’s the one between Rossi and Burgess, and was highlighted after round three in France. In short, the rider blamed the bike for his defeat. And Burgess blamed the rider.

Sounds like early symptoms of melt-down, but there is an explanation. Of sorts.

Seems Rossi’s shoulder injury (a motocross crash back in April) is worse than he’s letting on, according to Burgess. Lack of strength spoils not only his braking, but his ability to change direction. His two consecutive below-par races (he doesn’t usually just give up when Jorge comes by) are simply the result of this.

But Rossi tells a different story, acknowledging only minor problems from his shoulder, and blaming poor settings and a lack of grip out of the corners. Is Rossi’s injury really lingering on? He is over 30, and you don’t get better so quickly then. Are these the symptoms of a deeper malaise, as a great champion approaches the end of his dominant reign?

Or will the Rossi/Burgess combination once again prove itself impervious.

Getting hurt on motocross bikes is something of a theme of the season. Lorenzo did so pre-season and now Alvaro Bautista has broken his collarbone the same way. The grinning ex-250 ace turned up in France anyway to race the Rizla Suzuki, only to have another huge crash, landing right on his freshly-plated fracture. Ouch.

Nobody is immune to the risk of off-track injuries; there’s hardly a rider who hasn’t suffered.

Which I guess proves that there’s not much point worrying about Moto2 getting a bit too dangerous. If these guys weren’t at a GP, they’d be doing something else just as dangerous anyway.

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