MotoGP: Brno 2011 (SPOILER)
Bleeding on the Edge
In 2005, the world of motorcycle journalism was on fire with a single name: Czysz. The MotoCzysz C1 prototype promised nothing short of greatness - it would take on the established manufacturers in MotoGP on their prototype playing field and best them through a single means: innovation. To fulfill that promise the C1 was littered with future-speak tech, the kind unseen not only in the production world but even in the GP class itself. It had a new concept for the USD fork, a dual shock rear suspension, carbon fibre chassis and - the element that most captured the public's imagination - an entirely new engine configuration. All of it was wrapped in the kind of curvy bodywork that seemed more at home in a Shakira video than on a race track. Sadly, the C1's hips did lie and the bike never turned a wheel in competitive anger. Plagued by problems with suppliers during building of the engine and a series of crashes and failures during (often semi-public) testing, what had promised to be America's coup de force in racing slipped away quietly into motorcycling obscurity. The fact that almost a decade later the C1 still looks every bit a modern, potent weapon and yet was still-born as a motorcycling project highlights a fundamental fact that nature has taught us and is being born out on the same GP circuits that the C1 was purportedly destined to compete in: evolution is easier than revolution. The announcement that the 1000cc bikes of Yamaha and Honda are to be showcased after this weekend's race, while still somewhat exciting, has an anti-climatic tone to it. The two leading manufacturers were scheduled to showcase their prototypes in a public test once before and withdrew at the last minute under... suspicious circumstances. The rumor mill floated ideas ranging from corporate espionage to concerns over Ducati's handling of the testing rules and restrictions. Whatever the reason or the change in season, the factories feel that the time is right to bring their big guns to bear. As can be expected the riders themselves are eager to try the new machines. Lorenzo, for example, is excited to "discover" the new iteration of the M1. Yet as one browses through the list of press releases and corporate speak, some very interesting ommissions stand out. First, Repsol Honda factory rider Andrea Dovizioso will not be testing the new RC. The privilige is reserved for Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. Dovi was already passed up for the previous test, despite Pedrosa's injury forcing the factory to have an open seat. Second, while Ducati will join the test in a factory capacity they will not in fact by testing their 1000cc bike. Instead the team will continue to work on the GP11.1p with both Rossi and Hayden at the controls. Ducati's current state of woe is highly reminiscent of the trouble's faced by the C1 team as they struggled to develop the bike into an effort worthy of GP championship contention. While the current GP11.1 is a slight evolution of the previous bikes, the concept itself was a revolution to the company. As such, and as dictated by nature, its development has been expensive is almost every way. The number of times that their most successful rider has tasted pavement is staggering, and the pace (or lack thereof) of the current two premiere world champions paints a bleak picture. The "midnight oil" has become a conflagration as Ducati works ceaselessly to resolve the problem. The latest rumor, that they may test an aluminum chassis similar to the one in use by their Xtreme raodgoing bike remains unconfirmed, yet barring drastic changes in material and configuration the question on whether the work done by Ducati can fix the problems remains to be seen. They may have achieved a temporary respite for the test, using the 800cc bike removing some of the expectations of competitiveness against the others' 1000cc bikes, but the ploy is transparent at worst and an obvious attempt to continue working to fix fundamental problems at best. Away from the corporate offices and manufacturing clean room, the riders enjoy their own set of problems. Lorenzo, who had worked so hard to start bridging the gap back to Casey Stoner was once again set back on his charge to the front. Having suffered a small injury in a crash during practice, Lorenzo then became an unwilling participant to one of the most brilliant passing maneuvers of the season. The move could almost be considered cruel, were it not for Casey's masterful execution. Having disposed of his teammate Dani Pedrosa and wittled away at Lorenzo's considerable lead, Casey hounded Lorenzo's Yamaha until the moment when the reigning champion seemed at his absolute weakest. Perhaps a slight wobble was the give-away, or a braking point just a few feet too early. Whatever the case Stoner's attack immediate, abrupt and extremely decisive. It overwhelmed Lorenzo's position, gave him no chance to react, and visibly forced him to accept the loss and his relegation to second. Lorenzo has moved one step closer to the losing the title to Casey, yet he is still the one on the very edge of doing something that only Rossi has done in a very long time - successfully defend a championship title. He chances are slowly draining away, yet a determined Lorenzo with the might of Yamaha may still be able to turn the tides.