Friday, June 28, 2013

Yamaha strategy, post-Lorenzo crash

Lorenzo's crash and broken collarbone, early in the Assen weekend (which begins extra-early at Assen, so that the racing can be over before Sunday's mass at a nearby cathedral) threatens to derail #99's effort to repeat as champion this season.

His injury -- broken collarbone -- is relatively minor. It's something almost every motorcycle racer deals with, often more than once, in a career. And he's only 7 points behind Pedrosa. And there are still a dozen races to go. So, mathematically, Yamaha's a long way from admitting defeat.


There've been questions about Yamaha engine longevity, haven't there? And while Lorenzo may only miss one race -- that oddball Assen schedule actually buys him one more precious day of recovery time between races -- there's a real chance that he'll be sore and weak for the next couple of races. By the time Lorenzo is back up to full fitness and speed, Pedrosa could have 25 points in hand, and Yamaha will have lost the title.

That would suck for me because I like Lorenzo and dislike Pedrosa. Now is when Yamaha would love to have a #2 rider capable of winning, in order to deny Pedrosa full points. I mean, if it had been Pedrosa who'd crashed, Honda could quite realistically have hoped Marquez would step up and defend P1 from Lorenzo.

Unfortunately for Yamaha, they've got Valentino Rossi on the distaff side of the garage. I suppose they can pray for rain; Rossi's always been fast in the wet, and he's been ahead of Pedrosa in wet sessions at Assen this weekend. But if it's dry, Cal Crutchlow's faster than Rossi.

Which begs the question, how much of an advantage could Yamaha give Cal, with full factory support, for the next few races? There's lots of reasons those tuning forkers might not want to support Cal. First of all, he's been a vocal critic of the bike he has been riding, even though it is probably the fifth-best bike on the grid. He's bitterly complained that Yamaha aren't showing him the respect he deserves. If Yamaha does throw some extra support his way -- by, for example, allowing Tech 3 to slot a motor from Cal's allotment into a full-factory rolling chassis -- they might in fact give Cal the tools he needs to win, effectively handing valuable points to Lorenzo in the larger title chase. But if Cal could win on a 'factory' bike, it would make all of his whingeing seem justified, and it would make Yamaha seem like pikers.

I still think they should do it.

There's also stuff they could do to Rossi's engine management system, to give him a tiny edge in the next race or three; things that would expose Rossi to risk, vis-a-vis engine longevity, later in the season. What it they upped his rev limit a little (I'm perhaps oversimplifying, but you get the idea)?

With a tiny edge, Rossi  might be capable of winning, which would do him a world of good. He's second right now, behind Marquez, in a dry session, so he's close; Assen, seems to agree with the aging ex-champion.

Rossi's not a championship contender, so who cares if, later in the season, he needs a seventh engine and has to start from pit lane?

The wild card in this mix is Marquez. While I wrote, above, that if it had been Pedrosa who'd broken his collarbone, Honda could reasonably hope Marky Marq would win, the truth is that Marquez may win anyway. He won't listen to team orders. And judging from the way Pedrosa and Marquez seem to relate to each other on track, there's a real possibility they'll both end any race in a gravel trap, beating on each other.

Still, if I ran Yamaha's race effort, I'd bring in the crew chiefs. They should do anything they can to make Crutchlow and Rossi faster this Sunday, and at the next couple of races. Even if it means losing face by proving Crutchlow right, or using up Rossi's motor allotment later in the season. Because if Pedrosa can win at Assen, where Jorge will score no points (then pad his lead over the next couple of races while Jorge recovers) all bets are off.


  1. Hard to stay ahead of this news curve! Front row: Crutchlow, Marquez, Bradl; Rossi, indeed, ahead of Pedrosa... Have Jorge, and Yamaha, dodged the bullet?

  2. "Next few races?" Lorenzo won't be out that long. Let's see if he attempts to racee--it is possible if he can pass medical.

    1. I agree he'll miss one race at most, but I doubt he'll be fully competitive for a few weeks. It's certainly possible he could even race at Assen on Saturday; he shows 12th on the grid, based on his FP2 time. Whether he does so or not depends, in part, on how invasive the repair was. Is it worth the risk? How safely could he circulate at his 95% pace to collect a few points that could prove invaluable at the end of the season? Management of the limited engine supply is also a factor that must be weighed.