An interesting wave rolled over the Laguna Seca paddock last weekend. It was a wave of desperation, or of clarity or maybe it was simply reality. For many people at Laguna Seca they were told or it was suggested to them that their lives may soon change.
Ducati's long time sponsor Marlboro told Ducati before Laguna Seca that the current contract between the two will not be negotiated until Marlboro sees better results on the racetrack. Much better results. Marlboro doesn't seem keen to simply subsidize more safaris into the lost jungle with no treasure coming back. Insiders suggest that the current contract ends in 2013 but has an option for 2014. Marlboro doesn't want to discuss the option or a new contract until things improve.
Stefan Bradl is in his second season of not really setting the woods ablaze on his near factory spec RC213V Honda MotoGP bike. Bradl did not bring home the bacon at his home race at Sachsenring and his decidedly average results have begun to hang in the air like a bad sauerbraten. The news this season went from Bradl having a rock solid two year deal through 2014 to having a instant roll-over clause in his contract for 2014 to having an option on his current contract for 2014. Then came the news that perhaps Cal Crutchlow or WSBK's Jon Rea could ride that bike next season.
Bradl spilled the truth in a Laguna Seca press conference, saying, "At the moment I have no contract for next year. I have no option for next year. So I just need to push my maximum, and we will see what's going on in the near future."
In the mean time, he suddenly found that mysterious half second that has been eluding him all season. He now rode like a man who has been doing this as long as he's actually been doing this. He stayed on point and on line and didn't fade. He finished a very respectable second.
Then Alvaro Bautista, who it is said has the most solid of contracts for 2014 found himself embroiled in silly season for 2014 anyway. Maybe someone else made more sense in that Gresini spot, maybe someone at HRC felt this way and could change things. Maybe, with Dorna controlling both MotoGP and WSBK, it makes sense for a Spanish rider to join WSBK.
Suddenly Bautista is very very fast as well at Laguna Seca. He's also not displaying the bull in the china shop mentality he is infamous for, at times, and he, too, qualified well, started well, stayed upright and on-line and finished well.
I leaned over Dovi's Marlboro Ducati for a half an hour on Saturday night as his crew furiously worked on his second bike and analyzed all data streams that came their way. They are focused, and searching so hard for answers that you can't do anything but admire them.
Few life episodes are more frustrating and regrettable than watching the best thing that ever happened to you walk out that door for the final time. The trio of Bradl, Bautista and Marlboro Ducati are fortunate, because their wake up call came with time still to fix things. And they were able to recognize it.