Monday, July 22, 2013

Tracing the origins of "The Pass" to the source: Alex Zanardi

So, I note that you can watch the replay of Marquez using the, uh, "extreme inside line" at The Corkscrew, in order to pass Rossi. five years ago, Rossi pulled the same move on Casey Stoner. Marquez obviously knew about Rossi's pass, but probably doesn't know that Rossi had been inspired by a guy who won a gold medal in the London Paralympics.

Ex-F1 and IndyCar driver Alex Zanardi lost his legs in one of the most horrific motorsports incidents ever, but he continues to inspire with his personal strength and courage. As an ex- (and admittedly crap) TT racer, I've dissed plenty of car racers in my time, but not this guy. Legs gone, 'nads apparently fully intact.

Most Backmarker readers remember Rossi's epic pass on Stoner, through the gravel in the Corkscrew in 2008. Photographer Andrew Wheeler certainly does. The expat Englishman lives just up the coast from Monterey and calls Laguna Seca his home track. So, he was perfectly positioned to shoot Rossi's move, and the resulting photos cemented his reputation as one of the top photographers in MotoGP.

Rossi-Stoner Laguna Seca 2008 Battle - Images by Andrew Wheeler

Stoner thought Rossi should've been penalized for cutting the course, but Rossi was well aware that Alex Zanardi had gotten away with the same stunt on the last lap of a CART race about 10 years before that.

Check it out here...


UPDATE... Monday morning crew chief, Tuesday edition: But wasn't it against the rules? 

All three moves beg the question that Stoner asked in 2008: Wasn't the move illegal? Every racing organization has a rule to the effect that a racer should not gain an advantage by leaving the course. All three of them were all already ahead of their victims when they entered the second part of the Corkscrew (it's usually listed as turn 8A on track maps.) So in one sense, no one “gained an advantage” by leaving the track, they already had the advantage and just maintained it.
That said, look closely at the Corkscrew. It’s a left-right flick over the crest. I haven't raced there since 2001, and haven't tested there since about 2008, but I think I remember it pretty clearly; and if my memory serves, the slowest point through the complex is the left, not the right. You can carry a ton more speed through the first part of the Corkscrew and make your pass there, if you’re prepared to straight-line it across the gravel, inside the apex of the second half of the complex. 
Marquez took Rossi on the outside of the left, and was ahead but not fully past him when Rossi used all the track on the exit line of the first part of the Corkscrew. Unlike Rossi vs. Stoner, Marquez could have argued (if needed) that he’d been pushed wide but that wasn’t really the case, his momentum was simply too great at that point.
Rossi (and Zanardi before him) took the inside line in the left turn. They were fully past their rivals and weren’t forced wide, they were just going too fast to complete the direction change and keep it on the asphalt. Inside or outside, it makes no matter; in all three cases, blowing the right turn was a consequence of intentionally carrying too much speed a second or two earlier. All three racers gained an advantage by leaving the track. If there’d been a wall there, or even deep gravel, they would either not have tried the move, or not have succeeded.
Still, none of them were penalized. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?


  1. Great find Mark.

    Very enjoyable as ever.

  2. Agreed, although I'm not sure why in all three cases the move was deemed OK and the unfair advantage was rewarded with a win.