Monday, September 29, 2014

TV or not TV? That is the question

I've been trying to stay on top of news about KRAVE's new MotoAmerica series. But, understandably, after a flurry of releases in the first few days, the flow of real news seems to have slowed; they're presumably busy with the actual nuts and bolts of  assembling a series.

I'm guessing that my fellow Canadians are wondering, too, whether the FIM "North American" status means that we can expect a race in Canada. I'm not sure whether there are any Canadian tracks that meet FIM standards. (Are there? There are some beautiful and historic tracks there, for sure. Mosport held a round of the World Championship in 1967. But up to modern standards?)

One thing that I did notice right away, though, was a resurgence of the obsession with television. Even though I'm an "advertising guy" -- or, perhaps, because I'm an ad guy -- I'm not on this we-must-be-on-TV bandwagon. In fact, months ago, when (make sign of cross now) DMG unveiled Fan's Choice coverage of AMA Pro events, I was one of the first to say, Maybe this is better than television.

There are two big forces at work out in the world of specialty media and niche sports:
The new old guard, at KRAVE--and the heads of U.S. distribution for the Japanese Big Four--all date from a generation when "being on TV" equalled "having a nice big audience". That hasn't been true for decades. In the n-channel universe, there's an excellent chance no one's watching, and it's almost a certainty that no one's just stumbling onto your programming and about to fall in love with it.
TV's audience is shrinking and aging anyway. The younger audiences that motorcycle manufacturers and sponsors like Red Bull and Monster crave are online.

By putting so much emphasis on TV, KRAVE's preparing for the last war, not the next one. Just because you're "on TV" doesn't mean anyone's watching, any more. Tell the truth, have you ever seen an episode of that reality TV show built around Larry Pegram? I haven't. I don't even know what network it's on, what cable package I'd need to get that channel, if it's even available at all by the cable provider that serves my building. And all that presupposes that I want cable, but I don't; I've already completely untethered myself from cable. Like the land line phone, it's ancient history to me.

AMA Pro was bitterly criticized for not getting U.S. road racing (or flat track) on TV. In the end, with Fan's Choice, they put a program together that offered decent coverage and was available for free, both live and on demand to anyone anywhere in the world, as long as they had web access.

I'm not saying the series shouldn't be televised. It should be televised, if they can arrange for that. But not at the expense of a great free webcast. That's the future, and it's where young fans already live.

The obsession with a TV package is wrong-headed. If it's being driven by KRAVE, that's depressing to me. Because we don't need more old thinking; we need all-new thinking.

If it's being driven by manufacturers and potential sponsors, I guess that means they're the out-of-touch old men. But no matter how much power they used to wield in AMA Pro's heyday, they shouldn't be allowed to call the tune all by themselves now.

In summary: I understand the desire for a TV package built around the MotoAmerica series. But if the amount of talk about TV indicates that KRAVE and potential sponsors are obsessed with TV, we're not entering a brave new era; we're clinging to past, under a new name.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Note to KRAVE: Fuck Daytona

Observers from the sublime (David Emmett) to myself have already started to parse the potential futures of American motorcycle road racing in the post-DMG era. One interesting topic is, what the class structure of the new series should be. And one comment that frequently comes up is something along these lines: "Since the first race of 2015, at Daytona, is only a few months away, the rules will probably remain unchanged for an interim year."

But I've got some more advice for KRAVE: Fuck Daytona.

There is no good reason to start the season in March, during Daytona's Bike Week, and there are several good reasons not to start it there.


In 1974, Yamaha brought Giacomo Agostini and the then-700cc TZ700 to Daytona, and won the 200. It meant something. But as the opening round of the U.S. championship, it's now a depressing anachronism. MotoAmerica would be better off without it, and it's possible that Daytona would be better off too—promoting a single event, or a true endurance race.

For starters, the track’s too much of a special case; it requires special tires and special rules. 2015 was, we’re told, going to see a return of Superbikes in the feature 200. But who knows if the tires’d hold up? Even when the tires do last on the banking, the refueling and pit stops merely serve to exaggerate the gap between have and have-not teams.

The track insists on that early March date that, again, especially punishes privateers. They're the ones who need another month to prepare machines and look for a budget. And that location right down in the lower right-hand corner of the map pretty much ensures high travel costs for everyone, anyway.

Daytona used to have special relevance, and link the AMA championship to the World Championship. In 1964 and ’65 they opened the World Championship at Daytona. (Hailwood won both 500GP races, on an MV Agusta.) Through the ‘70s, it was still the whole world’s unofficial first race meeting. Riders from the World Championship came to Florida on a sort of busman’s holiday, knocking the rust off at the Speedway. But that was at a time when there weren’t tracks (and early season races) in places like Qatar; there weren’t several great tracks in Spain; Phillip Island wasn’t ready for prime time.

Nowadays, the vast, empty grandstands are a silent but evocative testimony only to how far the once-great event has fallen. I can't imagine a bigger turn-off for sponsors. It’s not as if Daytona Beach could give a shit, either. The vast majority of people who attend Bike Week couldn’t tell you who Josh Hayes is. And any momentum that is developed at Bike Week is lost in the months-long wait for the second race of the season.

It would be far better to start the U.S. season with a proper race, at a proper modern track, some time in April. Austin leaps to mind. But perhaps the most important reason to fuck Daytona is, it would send a clear message: MotoAmerica isn't just AMA Pro Racing, repackaged.

Lest DMG take umbrage at my suggestion. I’ll add that, freed of it's role as America’s season opener, maybe it can find real international relevance again, either as cool 200-mile one-off run to the old Formula-USA rules, or run at an even longer distance, as a round of the World Endurance Championship.

Daytona (and Daytona Motorsports Group) is dead! Long live Daytona! Just not as the MotoAmerica opener. Fuck that.

For the record: There's an excellent chance that DMG made keeping a race at Daytona a condition of the transaction when the rights were "reacquired". So here's a note to the AMA, while I'm at this: How about launching a new era of transparency, and you tell us just what that transaction entailed, huh?



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Motorcycle safety notes: "I hate it when that happens"

From England, comes this video which shows a fatal motorcycle crash, from the rider's perspective. Normally, I wouldn't touch this kind of video with a ten-foot pole, but I think it's worth a second, close watch because it highlights a number of dangerous assumptions made by motorcyclists.

I note that the driver of the car involved was charged in the accident, in spite of the fact that the rider was traveling nearly 100 miles per hour moments before the crash. This was a classic, "I didn't see you, mate" accident. This happens, all over the world, many times a day. What can we learn from it?..


Off he goes. The motorcycle is a Yamaha. I'm not sure which model. Perhaps a reader can identify it. It looks like a big adventure bike to me. [FJR1300, per comment below--MG] In the next few seconds, he's going to catch and pass several cars and at least one other bike. I can't read the speedo, but the official investigation found that he traveled up to 97mph. His mum said, "He loved speed." We all do, and we've all exceeded 97 miles an hour at some point.

The good: alcohol was not a factor. The roads are dry, visibility is good. Traffic is light. The passes he makes are all safe, although he's traveling at a rate of speed that is bound to earn him a big speeding ticket if he's caught.



The bad: Already at this point, 97's too fast. The big green sign on the rider's left tells him, there's an intersection ahead. The heavy foliage could conceal a car about to pull out. Meanwhile, the white car just ahead has seen him coming and pulled over.




Taking the invitation, the bike passes the car. His lane position is not too bad; he's to the right in his lane, maximizing his sight lines into the intersection, maximizing his own visibility. He could've just let his momentum carry him past the car and rolled off the throttle, but he's still on the gas.



He should be in Condition Orange by now. There's an intersection up ahead, with a view of potential cross traffic obscured by trees. And now, he can see an oncoming car positioning itself to turn across his lane.

A good rider using proper situational awareness would already have rolled off and taken other steps to reduce his risk by now. But anyone can be caught off guard, so this would be the time to roll off, flash high beams or sound your horn to let the driver in the turn lane know you're there and just maybe going a bit quick [See comment below--MG]. And, check the rear view mirror and flash brake lights to tell the guy in that white car, "I know I just passed you, but I might be about to hit the brakes and you should think about it, too."



But no, dude's still on the gas, accelerating. At the very least, the road on left would be a perfect place for a cop to be parked, pointing a radar gun our way. At this moment though, a cop would be the least of his problems; the rider should have a laser focus on that car's left front tire--that car's still rolling, and the driver has steered into the motorcyclist's lane.





Finally, he's rolled off. I can't know what was inside his head at this point, but I'm guessing that he's jumped straight from Condition White (daydreaming) to Condition Orange (potential threat identified) or Red (immediate action required). 

But what's he going to do? He's 100 feet or so--less than a second--from the point of impact. His speed hasn't yet decreased at all. He's now in the middle of his lane. I can't blame him for moving towards the verge from the earlier position. At this point, his brain hasn't caught up to his situation. He's probably still thinking, "This car signaling a turn will poke into my lane, the bastard." But, as understandable as that drift to the left was, it's put him in a shitty position for an emergency evasive maneuver. He's now on the dirtiest part of the asphalt, at a moment when he needs maximum braking grip.



Now he's in Condition Red. He's realized that the car's not stopping. Look at his right hand. He's reaching for the brake. C'mon you guys! Always cover the front brake! The time it took him to reach for it has already made some kind of crash almost inevitable. Note that at this point, although the horizon is tilted, it's not any more tilted than it was on the straightaway; he hasn't taken evasive action, he's just drifted towards the left. He hasn't looked for an escape route; he's looking at a gap, but that gap's closing--he's looking right the point of impact.

Although it's easy to second-guess this poor bastard, it's now a certainty that the car's momentum is going to carry it into his lane. It would have been better if he was at either the extreme right, where he could've used the center lane as an escape road, or on the far left, where he could've stayed on the brakes as long as possible, and at least attempted the left turn.  



He's finally on the brakes, but still hasn't scrubbed much speed. And, our worst fears are confirmed, the car's fully entered his lane. A crash of some kind's impending, but remember Gardiner's Rule #7: A low-side is always better than riding into an impact.

A maximum braking effort followed by a banzai left turn will probably result in a survivable (but still extremely fast and dangerous) low-side into the hedge. Again, although it would take impressive presence of mind to realize it, and racer-level machine control to negotiate it, there's a viable route behind the car. But even if the rider had the skills, he'd have to have been planning it a second or two earlier.



His little scream, as he realizes what's about to happen, is heart-rending. In the video, his mum says, "He had no time to take evasive action." He certainly has no time now. Although he's on the brakes, his speed's still barely changed. Considering the vectors involved, serious injury or death are now inevitable.

It's worth noting that the car driver admitted that he hadn't seen the motorcyclist. That was obviously the immediate cause of the accident. But even if he had seen him, the guy'd been driving down a road, meeting oncoming traffic traveling 60-70mph. When he saw a motorcycle up ahead, he couldn't have expected it to close at a 50% greater speed. The car driver might have turned even if he had seen the motorcycle.

I'm not blaming the motorcyclist (although his illegal speed was also a contributing factor.) But what the fuck?..  This accident was completely avoidable. As a motorcyclist, you should never assume you've been seen unless/until you've made eye contact with drivers, and you should never, ever assume they realize you're going 100 miles an hour.

Monday, September 1, 2014

If Marquez can make it here...

Update: It's not THAT John Burns. Who knew there were two guys with that name writing about motorcycles in the U.S.? I guess MO's guy is John P. Burns, while the Times' guy is John F. Burns. Most of what I wrote still stands, the only thing different is, I realize that I've been jealous of the wrong guy, for cracking one of the country's most elite writing markets...



John Burns, an ex-editor at Motorcyclist who recently landed at Motorcycle.com whoever he is, has carved out a nice niche as "the motorcycle guy" for the New York Times.

For the last year or two, I've been noticing occasional motorcycle reviews in the Times' automotive section. I'm sure that those freelance wins have firmly ensconced the guy with the big manufacturers, when it comes to assigning coveted seats at product launches.

This morning, I saw something new in my daily scan of NYTimes.com: a  feature on Marc Marquez.

Burns has obviously convinced the paper of record that Marquez is, or at least should be, a mainstream news story. They ran 1000+ words on him, which is a coup for  motorcycle racing in the U.S.

Although the feature was written from secondary sources, the author still did a good  job explaining just what a phenomenon Marquez is, without oversimplifying for the Times' general audience.

I wonder if, now that Marquez is on the Times' radar, they'll continue to pay attention? He'd be a great subject for the paper's weekend magazine.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marquez finally able to relax, go fast

Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Valentino Rossi may think that they can finally relax a little, having finished ahead of Marc Marquez for once this season. But can they?

Stories coming out of the wunderkind's garage have now confirmed that "the streak" was a much bigger distraction than anyone had admitted, prior to Marquez' first "loss" of the season. In fact, there was evidence that the kid was riding better than ever just one day after that defeat, when he pulled off a shoulder-dragging save that proves he's not just an alien, he's from another dimension altogether.

"We didn't want to admit it," crew chief Santi Hernandez told Backmarker, "but we could see how tense he was on our data; it was building and building every race."

Marquez' mom told us, "He wasn't eating, he wasn't sleeping."

It turns out the kid's been freaked out since Argentina. "It was cool when I won in Qatar, and I didn't think much of it after winning at Austin," Marc admitted to me over a Skype call, "but then in South America, one of my mechanics said, Keep the streak going' and it just got into my head. I felt right away tentative and not relaxed on the bike."

His girlfriend, Estrella Galicia, might have been the first to notice the change in him, after finishing off the podium in Germany. "I keep a diary, and he hadn't had sex since April," she said coyly. "But Sunday night in Germany, he was like, how do you say, the big thumper he rides in dirt track. I'm still sore, and he wants it every night, sometimes twice. Frankly, I hope he gets another win streak going soon."

Hmm... seems as if he's eager to get back in the saddle in every sense.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Final thoughts (for now) on getting more U.S. riders into MotoGP

Last week I put up two posts that… 
My proposed class structure was:
  • Novices' Cup (production/stock 250/300 class, to be determined)*
  • North American Moto3 Championship
  • North American Moto2 Championship (possibly with rules revised to allow other manufacturers’ motors)
  • Manufacturer’s Cup (stock literbikes, etc. aka ‘Superbike’)
Today, before putting this line of thought to bed for a while, I want to clarify an ideal set of rules for the Novices' Cup class. Although the discussion that prompted this series of posts was a discussion about getting American riders into MotoGP -- IE, it was about the very top of the pyramid -- the way to get a nice high top of the pyramid is by focusing on building a nice broad, stable base. That's why the single most important part of a successful plan is the Novices' Cup.

Here are the traits we want in this class:
  • It's gotta' be about the rider, not the machine
  • Affordable
  • Level playing field
That's why it really doesn't matter what machine is used in this road racing class, as long as the rules stipulate that there is essentially no tuning needed or available. This should be for bone stock motorcycles, on the tires they come with from the dealership. Ideally, tires should last several race weekends.




It can be a spec class for one particular bike. (Honda CBR250, Kawasaki Ninja 300, Honda CBR500 even.) You could make it a Production 250/300 class, and just let competitors figure out which bike is best suited to the class, which would quickly turn it into a spec class. I'd weigh and dyno every bike on the podium, every time; set up and actually encourage a set of claiming rules; maybe even have the series put up the bikes, and let riders arrive with their own bodywork (if they have sponsors they want to promote.) What I'm saying is, there are ways to make a class like this really be a level playing field.

Here's my wrinkle for the Novices' Cup though…

If you've read this whole series of posts, you know that America's original rise in the 500GP class was the result of American dirt track racers transitioning into Grands Prix at a time when their sliding skills were at a premium. 

While that's less true today, you could argue that Marc Marquez' style has again put a premium on sliding skills. Although he's a Spaniard, he's obsessed with flat track, and trains on his own short track all the time. And, there are lots of influential people (Valentino Rossi, for example) who are pushing the MotoGP rules-makers to reduce the effectiveness of the electronic traction control in the top class. If those rules come into effect, we'll see another opening for great dirt track racers to move from the U.S. to the World Championships.


So… while I'd welcome riders in the asphalt-only Novices' Cup, I'd award the #1 plate for combined points, earned  at a roughly equal number of short track races. Ideally, I'd like the short track races to run in conjunction with AMA Nationals. That way, up-and-coming Pro Singles riders would be encouraged to enter the Novices' Cup class, and we'd tap that impressive talent pool, some of whom would buy a CBR250 (or whatever) and road race it.

Novices' Cup short track races would also be for another bone-stock spec machine; something like a CRF150, fitted with an alternative to its stock knobby on the rear (which, otherwise, might damage racing surfaces.)

Winning the Novices' Cup should result in a 'scholarship/sponsorship' that covers a full ride in Moto3 the next year. The second and third overall should get sponsored in Moto3, too, and those top guys should be forced to move on to Moto3.

As I noted yesterday, for my system to work as well as possible, I need functionally identical rules at several big club racing championships around the country. IE, we'd want a local Novices' Cup class in the AFM in Northern California, and a Novices' Cup in the Loudon series. Novices' Cup racers need several more chances, every season, to get out and race. 

The goal here is to create a class that a promising kid can enter, race locally and attend 5-6 nationals a year, for a couple of years, at a total cost of under 20 grand. Developing talent at the grassroots level should not cost more than having a kid play baseball in 'travel league'; that's already expensive enough.

I'm focusing on this because I am pretty sure that whatever Dorna and Wayne Rainey end up doing, I think it will be an effort to move young American racers who are already pretty fast up to the top of the racing pyramid. That's great, but the long term success or failure of the get-some-Americans-into-MotoGP program hinges on having a broad, strong base. We need an affordable way to develop talent, and an effective way of identifying the racers who deserve help in order to further their careers.

Take care of the base of the pyramid, and the top will take care of itself.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Part 2: A strategy for North American MotoGP relevance

Yesterday, I explained why Americans have a false send of manifest destiny where MotoGP is concerned. The period of American dominance, from the late 1970s through the early 90s, was characterized by uniquely intractable 500GP bikes which only American riders—schooled in dirt track—could handle.

Americans stopped being dominant in Grands Prix for two primary reasons: First, European riders—ironically, at the urging of Kenny Roberts—adopted training methods that gave them the sort of advantages that were previously unique to Americans. And second, technological changes associated with the MotoGP era (traction control) reduced the need for those skills anyway. 

America’s dominance was further eroded when sponsorship by American brands, such as Marlboro, was replaced with sponsorship from companies like Repsol and Movistar.

Nicky Hayden was the last American to come out of the dirt track tradition and find a spot in MotoGP. He won the championship in 2006, of course, although it was hardly with a dominating performance. Since then, his great work ethic has kept him employed (and, really, he was as fast as Rossi at Ducati) but his results have underwhelmed. 

Josh Herrin is having such a dismal season in Moto2 that he’s probably hurt the chances of anyone coming out of the AMA Pro Racing series.
The Americans who followed Nicky into the premier class (I’m thinking of Edwards and John Hopkins at the moment) came from road racing backgrounds; they had flashes of brilliance but never threatened to be real winners at the top level. The bloom is truly off the American rose. 

At the risk of becoming even more unpopular than I already am, I can honestly say that I can’t think of a single U.S. rider who is really conspicuous by his absence in the MotoGP class. Not at the top level, right now. I don’t think there’s even any U.S. rider with more potential than the current cream of the Moto2 crop. There are some young Americans who could move into Moto2 and continue developing; Beaubier, Gagne,.. Johnny Rock Page, of course. But no one's a shoe-in for a factory ride in MotoGP.

So, barring another set of special circumstances*, it seems the U.S. “needs” an actual strategy to develop riders worthy of World Championship rides.

Right now, the obvious model’s probably the Spanish national series, the CEV, which has become the defacto feeder series in the World Championship. One of the things that’s unique to the CEV, right now, is that it runs the same Moto3 and Moto2 classes as the World Championship. That’s relevant because the days of recruiting riders from major national, or World Superbike series seem to be over. MotoGP team managers now seem to feel that they should recruit exclusively from the ranks of the Moto2 championship. I suppose that’s reasonable; after all, it was designed expressly to serve as a feeder series.

So, whether we’re imagining a major revision to the structure of AMA Pro Racing’s road racing classes, or a new FIM North American Championship, if the goal’s to send (North) American talent to the World Championship, the core classes should be Moto3 and Moto2.


A few years ago, at least, the U.S. could claim the fastest girl. But now Maria Herrera has claimed even that for Spain. Here she is winning a CEV Moto3 race, last year.
It’s worth noting that the CEV runs a ‘Superbike’ class—the bikes are actually closer to ‘Superstock’ according to the rules, but who cares?—anyway, it’s not the prestige class in the CEV. Moto2 isn’t even the prestige class; the top class in terms of rider talent and fan interest is Moto3, because riders who stand out in the CEV’s Moto3 class get rides in the World Championship’s Moto3 class.

In Spain, if you’re a rider, Moto3 is the ‘springboard’ class into the World Championship. Moto2 is the springboard class for teams seeking to move up to the World Championship.

That’s an important distinction; we want to see more American riders in the World Championship, and we can aspire to export U.S. riders to European teams. But an even better way to achieve the goal of more U.S. riders is to create some American teams

Homegrown teams will help to bring in U.S. sponsors, who will also—if they get their druthers—want American riders. You see where I’m going with this, right?

Yes, I realize that I’m laying out a difficult path here; look how hard it’s been for Erik Buell—who has more resources than any private American Moto2 team would have—to score a single fucking point in SBK... which is probably an easier assignment than entering the vicious dogfight that is the Moto2 World Championship right now.

But, that is the way. A Moto3 class that serves as a steppingstone for U.S. riders, and a Moto2 class that serves to develop American teams and technicians. The majority of Moto2 World Championship riders are stuck buying their rides; bringing mid-six-figure sponsorships to their teams. That’s another reason why the program needs to bring American teams and sponsors into the World Championship too; it’s awfully hard for an American rider to find that kind of support, when he’s taking it to a European team.

A North American Moto2 championship will face hurdles. For starters, all Moto2 engines are currently supplied by Honda. I think you could write a set of rules that allowed other manufacturers who had a 600-four or a 675 triple to supply motors that—as is currently the case—are sealed and produce a clearly defined power curve. Revised rules could encourage manufacturers to step in as sponsors of the regional championship.

I imagine that my hypothetical championship would, like the CEV, include a nominal Superbike class, which in my world would be a class for stock literbikes and stock unlimited displacement twins. That’s a sop to manufacturers, with a set of rules that minimize the cost to participants.

Although lots of you know that I’ve got issues with the Red Bull Rookies Cup, I want to point out that I don’t think the RBRC is the right feeder into Moto3, mainly because it’s a narrow funnel; rider candidates are limited to kids whose parents have already spent well into six figures just to get them there.

The long term health of U.S. motorcycle road racing depends on building a talent pyramid with a really broad base. That means that the feeder class into Moto3 needs to affordable and showcase rider talent. In the FIM’s Asian Championship, there are classes for stock Honda CBR250s, and 130cc ‘Underbone’ bikes, which are basically tuned scooters.


So, my championship class structure:
  • Novice’s Cup (production/stock 250/300 class, to be determined)*
  • North American Moto3 Championship
  • North American Moto2 Championship (possibly with rules revised to allow other manufacturers’ motors)
  • Manufacturer’s Cup (stock literbikes, etc. aka ‘Superbike’)

I’d like it if, within a few years, the top five Moto3 and Moto2 teams automatically got wild-card rides at U.S. GP rounds. 

Having remade the national (or continental) championship, I’m not done. For this to really work, we need the major club racing organizations to match the rules as much as possible. We need to create a situation where the natural way to try road racing; the natural way to try to build a race team, provides a natural step to the regional championship, and on the World Championship. The single most important piece of advice I have for Wayne Rainey is this: To succeed, your program has to integrate with the major club series.

The better it integrates with the clubs' programs, the fewer races you need to hold a meaningful regional championship. There are only six races in the Asian series, and that's enough for North America, too, as long as teams and riders can develop close to their home bases, in an affordable way.

Having set Wayne off on the right track, I’m still not done. Here’s a blast from the past: when Kenny Roberts arrived in Europe to race full time, a typical 500GP grid was 36 bikes. One reason that MotoGP team managers don’t look much further than Moto2 for their next riders is that today, there’s only a handful of MotoGP rides available; team managers don’t have to look further afield for talent. 

What that means is, being fast is not enough. American riders don't need to arrive in the World Championship with knowledge of the tracks that MotoGP visits. But, if they want to ride for European teams with European sponsors—which for the moment is all there is—it would help if they didn't arrive as semiliterate bumpkins. What a pleasure it would be to hear an American rider answer a reporter in Catalan, or German, Italian. 

Ayrton Senna learned quite a bit of Japanese, when Honda supplied motors for the McLaren F1 team; how much do you suppose that cemented his relationship with Honda, and how much extra leverage did he gain, when negotiating with Ron Dennis?
*OK, this post has gotten long enough. Check back tomorrow for a final installment—a unique rule I'd incorporate into the Novice's Cup class. I guarantee you're gonna' be all "Fuck yeah!" when you read it.