Friday, March 21, 2014

Qatar hero: Aleix Espargaro?

OK, after the first session in Qatar, I thought, maybe the softer-option tire available to the 'Open' teams was working better on a dirty surface, but the grid will look a lot more like it did last year after the riders have brushed off the racing line.

Then, I thought, so there are a bunch of Open-class riders in front of the Factory boys in the second practice session, but when they switch to tires that might last a race distance, things will revert to normal.

And yet, after three practice sessions, Aleix Espargaro is on top of the sheet, on rubber that might go the distance. It seems it's the Open-class fuel allowance that has suddenly put the Factory bikes and their millionaire riders on the back foot. Is it just me, or did no one really see that coming?

So, given the off season we've just endured--in which Dorna's tweaked and re-tweaked the rules, right up until the last minute--will the complaints of the factory riders result in further "leveling" of the playing field?

I hope not. Here's why...

1.) Fairness
The factory teams all knew the rules (such as they were) months ago. If they wanted to be able to burn more fuel, they could have opted for the spec ECU/software package. Ditto, if they wanted that super-soft tire.

2.) The Show
So what if a bunch of Open-class machinery that isn't really faster than the Factory stuff manages to use softer tires to get on the grid ahead of the factory bikes? That will mean that for the first time in years, top riders will have to deal with lapped traffic, as the Open-class soft tires go off in mid-race. At least we won't get the processional races we've seen in the last few years. The top guys always bitch about lapped traffic, but it makes things interesting for fans.

And, those color-coded tires suddenly got interesting, too...

In the off-season, when Bridgestone announced they'd be color coding the tires in MotoGP, it was basically derided. But suddenly, the question of who's on the softest, Open-class-only option is very interesting.

If you ran a team, and really thought that you could not win on harder tires, but might lead a few laps on the softest option, wouldn't you take that option? And give your sponsors great exposure at the beginning of the race?

For the fans it like, oh, he's on the softest tire... When will it go off? Can he possibly build up enough of a lead early on to finish well on trashed rubber? And if the tires get bad enough, will it get visually spectacular, traction control be damned?

Who knew that MotoGP would suddenly become interesting again?

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