MotoGP: 2012 Sachsenring
Reaping What You Have Sown The phrase "reap what you sow" is often used as an admonishment, a cautionary utterance warning the young and foolish to pay heed to actions that will (or are) haunt them long after the actual deed has been done. However, as with so much in life, even this simple phrase has another side that can be as bright and enriching as its counterpart is darkly foreboding. As the 2012 season continues to progress, a bizarre crop has begun to reach maturity that mixes unparalleled highs with the potential for unprecedented lows. Amidst a maelstrom of rumors regarding his placement in 2013, including reports that he had already signed a factory contract with HRC before the to-order abolishment of the infamous "Rookie Rule", Marc Marquez enters the Moto2 round winning big and smiling bigger. Marquez currently leads the championship standings and extended his lead by a further 16 points without so much as turning a wheel over the weekend. This is not to say that the points weren't earned the hard way, however at issue was whether the actual nature of the effort was in fact too hard. Marquez has made a career of hard moves and polarizing shows of part bravery part stupidity. In short, he is all piss and vinegar on track. However in Barcelona those moves landed him under the harsh scrutiny of Race Direction after some hard moves on Aleix Espargaro saw the other rider come out worse for wear. An appeal to Direction saw the penalty imposed in Spain lifted, leaving Espargaro the only rider involved in the polarizing incident to come out without points. It is whispered in some circles that Marquez's cultivated relationship with MotoGP powerhouse Honda is reaping side benefits other than a lucrative contract on the main stage. Not so fortunate is fellow Honda rider, albeit in a different class, Bautista. After a string of promising qualifying and finishing results, with a best of a first pole position in the premiere class, Bautista entered the last round on a high that was equaled only by the result low from an unprecedented fall. After missing his braking marker for the very first corner of the race the Gresini Honda rider unceremoniously crashed out of the race before his challenge had even fully begun. Worse yet, he collided with championship leader Lorenzo and effectively erased a very hard fought 25 point lead in the championship standings. The result for that rookie mistake was a penalty that sees Bautista starting from the back of the GP grid in Germany regardless of his form during the weekend's practice and qualifying. The penalty is harsh, to be sure, especially considering that it is the first such incident for Bautista who is often a very gentlemanly racer - or at least as gentlemanly as someone who cut their teeth racing prototype 250s can be at nearly 200 mph. The severity is also questionable considering other rulings by Race Direction in the not-so-distant past. Should the team appeal the decision the outcome may set the tone for quite a bit of discussion going into 2013. Lorenzo will start the weekend on equal points footing to Casey thanks to that crash but retains his championship lead by virtue of having more wins for the season. Having never won in Germany, the mental boost that having the lead on the tables provided may prove to be a necessary edge that Lorenzo will have to draw on if he hopes to challenge Casey's push to retain his title. Yet though the instant loss of 25 points is worrisome to the Yamaha team, the potential loss of an entire engine can mean near disaster for the season. Reports have been sparse, but the scuttlebutt on the internet is that the team lodged a petition with Race Direction to allow Lorenzo an additional engine allocation. Following the collision with Bautista, plumes of white smoke billowed out of the factory M1 as the engine did irrepairable damage to itself lying on its side. With only 6 engines available to Lorenzo for the entire race season, the allocation and use of any individual engine is a carefully orchestrated event timed not only with maintenance schedules but also planned releases for any upgraded engines during the season to provide some advantage that may prove crucial in the title chase. The engine rule has come under criticism in the past, and Lorenzo stands to become its first victim in 2012, which may work against Dorna's effort to raise the profile of the series. Cal Crutchlow has done himself no end of favors with a truly impressive performance this season. While the podium remains elusive the British rider has consistently been at or close to the front running group despite injury and setback. He has also made it very clear that he would like a factory ride and is hoping to displace Ben Spies on the factory Yamaha in 2013. Yet, despite a horrendous start to the season, Spies remains the only rider to have beaten the short list of aliens on a dry track. More troubling for Cal's bid is a seeming resurgence from the American rider as the season approaches the halfway point. Should Spies turn his season around as he seems focused on doing he can remain entrenched at the factory squad leaving Crutchlow resigned to the customer squad. Yet all is not lost, as Cal confirmed that the factory Ducati team has extended an offer that he is having trouble refusing. His final answer hinges on the contract offered by Japan, however he rightly points out that a factory ride remains his only options of ever having a chance at a title challenge regardless of promising results on the Tech 3 machine. It has, after all, been many moons since a customer or independent team has graced the top step in the premier class. Yet while Cal believes that he may be competitive on the Ducati due to a similar riding style to the marque's most successful rider, currently Ducati star Nicky Hayden is not so sure. Having partnered with Casey for most of his Ducati career Nicky would be in a position to know, yet Cal may have some surprises up his sleeve that are masked by the silky smooth handling of the M1, even in customer spec. Not so silky smooth has been the performance of the spec Bridgestone tire. Though the season started in a very positive manner, gripes about the tires started early on as Honda riders found that a newly released compound was adversely affecting their bike. So dire were the results of initial testing that Honda bowed out of a scheduled GP test entirely, feeling that the resources would be wasted. Then in Assen it was absolute disaster. There are many possibilities of what actually went wrong - be it a failed attempt at giving the riders a requested tire that heated quickly to avoid 2011's early race crashes or an incorrectly manufactured batch - yet the result was the same. Several high profile racers suffered severe degredation of performance through the race, with notables Rossi and Spies having catastrophic failure. Spies was able to push on to the end, salvaging a 4th place finish after losing the final podium spot to Dovizioso - the other rider gunning for his place on the team. While Dovi celebrated crossing the line, Spies was seen dejectedly glancing back at the rear tire that suddenly disintegrated while he was closing down on leaders Pedrosa and Stoner at the rate of a second per lap. Rossi was not so fortunate, as his tires failed earlier in the race. He returned to the pits to switch to a soft rear before returning to the race a lap down. Bridgestone issued a formal apology to the riders affected and are investigating the issue, however the clear winners were Stoner and Pedrosa who, having battled with tire issues over the course of the season, had both opted for the more stable soft tire option. This move paid dividends at Assen, however their luck may not hold going into Germany should supplier issues be sorted in time.
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