34x34: Shutting The Door Vs. Blasting It Off The Hinges
by kevin schwantz
Wednesday, May 08, 2013

First, congratulations to Dani Pedrosa for winning the Grand Prix in Spain.

Last lap, last corner with a foot open on the inside? I've been there.
image by lefty hempstead
But of course what's on everyone's mind is the last-lap collision between Lorenzo and Marquez. I go back to Rossi and Gibernau in '05, and my take is still the same. If you're going to slam the door, you've got to be ready to suffer the repercussions, but you've got to be smart sometimes, too. You don't want to shut the door if it's just going to get blasted off the hinges. And that's what happened. Back then Sete knew going from the two corners before that, because Rossi passed him, he passed Rossi, and he was now leading.

A rider's plan then is pretty simple: Either you get inside and you get defensive and you worry about the run off the corner and hope the guy doesn't beat you to the finish line; or you stay outside, you sucker the guy in, and as you go to commit to close the door, you stand the thing up, come to a stop, and you square it off and you drive right by him on the exit.

I watched Marquez versus Lorenzo again on replay over lunch. It looks to me that Marquez was in, and doing a pretty good job of keeping the thing in control ... he was going to drift up a little bit. He wasn't going to completely blow the corner. Then Lorenzo kind of hesitates and thinks about it. In the pictures I saw, it looks like it's as much Marquez running into Lorenzo as it is Lorenzo turning down into Marquez.

But as they came together, it looked a little bit like Marquez just about had the thing stopped, and it was more the two of them connected, but not just because of Marquez being in and being a little bit out of control.

Whereas I think the Rossi-Gibernau collision, I don't think Valentino could've got the thing stopped before the gravel. They've added some extra space out there in that corner since 2005. There's some paved runoff, maybe an extra 10 or 20 feet, in that corner, and that's what Lorenzo ended up using.

I've been in that situation myself. Back up to 1991 and we can go Hockenheim when Rainey and I were going at it. Fortunately, I came out on the good end of that one. Wayne, I think, saw that I was having some issues getting the bike slowed down, and I think at one point he said to me, "I was intrigued enough with watching you try to control what it was that was happening underneath you, that maybe I got just a bit enamored by it, and didn't stay as aggressive as I should have." He said, "But I also thought you maybe weren't going to make the corner, and I didn't want to be on the outside of you if you came scuttling in and took me out."

There's a point where you've got to ... as a racer, you've been racing the guy the whole race, you've got an idea of what's happening. Maybe you haven't seen much of him. You've only seen his front wheel a couple of times. But you've got to have a feel, and I think the best thing to do there is not give him the opportunity, and just go get defensive, and remember that when you get into the center of the corner, you've got to turn that thing and try and get back on the gas, because he's probably squared up pretty well, and he's going to be driving out of the corner a little better than you.

Maybe Lorenzo was in that deep, and as he grabbed the front brake and went to tip it in, his focus has now gone to Marquez. It looked like Jorge was having some issues with the front end; maybe not all race, but there were definitely some points where he was really wide in corners, and looked like he was maybe having a problem steering the bike. So maybe Lorenzo made a little mistake getting in there, trying to get in too deep, to try and keep Marquez at bay. That made him run wide, he had to slow him down a little bit more, and then at the last minute, tried to turn it back, yet Marquez is still there.

So there's lots to stand around and talk about, what happened, why did it happen. "I can't believe you did that." But as a racer, you're doing everything you can with that bike to get it and put it where you can to make it as wide as you can, to be defensive. I just think Lorenzo may have slipped up a little bit trying to get in, because on the brakes, most places, it looked like when he and Marquez were running nose to tail, it looked pretty close.

Marquez got close to him a couple times, but it looked like Marquez had to be on the verge of out of control, off the back straightaway a couple of times. He'd get right in close behind him and then the bike would wiggle a little bit and he'd run wide.

Lorenzo must've been frustrated. The race wasn't going the way he'd envisioned, and he's back there trying to salvage something. Watching practice, and listening, and reading notes, Lorenzo was the most consistent, he was fastest, he was the fastest man of the weekend, pre-race. He was the benchmark all weekend. The problem is, everybody gets to work on them ?til race day. You make some changes in morning warm-up, and then, maybe the weather's slightly different, the temperature's hotter. But as a racer, you started on pole, you've watched a guy pass you and go to the front, and you haven't been able to do anything with him. Now you've got this young kid that is just hounding you, and the last thing that you can stand to do, especially at your home Grand Prix in Spain, is let this kid beat you. There's a lot that you're trying to process. There's, especially at Jerez, there's a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. It's not a real simple track. It's really technical.

That's one of the things that makes good riders great riders, is a really strong mental demeanor. You've got to be able to win from the front and win from the back. The problem is, winning from the back, I always thought, was a little bit easier, because I could follow. There comes a point when you've got to decide, "I've tried to shake this guy for ten laps and I haven't shook him yet, so I'm going to let him lead me around a little bit." But you've also got to be ready when he comes by, that he might just check out on you, too, and now what are you going to do? So you've got to be able to be strong mentally, and to know, "Man, this guy's come from nowhere, and he's continuing to pressure me.

An example for me would've been Jerez in '93. Rainey and I both get good starts. We're out front racing each other, thinking nobody's coming to get us. And Alex Barros runs us down in about five laps from I think my boards said four seconds back. I guess Wayne and I are both in a pretty similar position, in that we know this guy's not a championship contender, at least not right now. It's still pretty early in the season. It's race four. But when he gets to me, I actually move out of the way and I wave him by. I'm like, "Man, I want to see what's going on, because how is he finding that much time on us?" I felt like we were kind of pushing the envelope. And when he came by me, I jumped right on his rear end, and he actually drug me away from Wayne. And then he made a mistake and fell off.

It didn't quite work out for him. It could have, had his pit board been coming from somewhere really close, because I made a big mistake in the last, fast right-hander before the hairpin, which is where you come onto the front straightaway and get your pit board. I had gone in, pushed the front, ran off the track. I was in the grass. Got back on just in front of Wayne, but still far enough in front of him that he wasn't really a threat to beat me. It was that lap that Alex crashed, because his pit board said +0, whereas in reality, when he fell off, he was probably four seconds in front.

It's all part of racing. It's part of trying to win championships, is you've got to make sure that you make the most of every opportunity you have to score points. If it's second instead of third, you've got to make sure you get that. But I think the championship is still way up for grabs.

I think Marquez has shown a lot of composure. He's won, he's been beat, he's been outrun. It looked like in this race that maybe he wasn't even going to be a contender amongst the front couple, but as the race came to a close, he was right there to try and pick up second place points, because he had ridden a really good race. He'd had a bit of a battle with Rossi, finally got away from Rossi, and got to Lorenzo with about six or eight to go. Made a few mistakes, got back to him right at the last lap. Congratulations to all three of those guys for finishing that race, because there was definitely an opportunity for a couple of bikes to be down in that last turn.

I think any rider that you ask will say the same, that final corner incident is just part of racing. You leave a third or two thirds of that inside open going into the last corner, I'm going to do whatever I can to get there. And you would probably fire the kid - you may not fire Marquez, but if you were a team owner, you'd fire a rider if he didn't try. Especially as close as he was.

I think Cal Crutchlow would be somewhat disappointed with his fifth place result but it was a good result with everything that had happened. Racing while beat up like that is never easy. I think he proved in the first two rounds that he's got the opportunity, got the ability to run with Rossi. In Texas, he made a mistake, Valentino got to him, and then he rode back away from him again. I think Cal's riding well. I think he struggled a little bit at Jerez, but that doesn't mean that that's going to be what's happening the rest of the season. Cal is really strong on the brakes--he was at Qatar. Maybe the French GP a place where he gets back in and can make up a bunch of time on the brakes and be able to stay with the Hondas, and maybe even race the 46 again?

I think Valentino realized they were racing in Spain and it was best to get a safe finish. I might remind you that we were in Spain last weekend. The Spanish riders are almost like the Japanese riders were at one time, in that anywhere else in the world, they're 10th place, maybe 5th to 10th; at their home Grand Prix, whether it be Japan or Spain, there's extra motivation, there's extra incentive. And you'd see guys who you would never expect to see at the front at other races, whether it's Suzuka, whether it's Motegi, whether it's Jerez, whether it's Jarama, wherever it might be. Of course Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez are fast everywhere but for their home round they bring their A game.

I think Valentino needs to maybe not dwell on that too much, because in a couple weeks, a couple, three or four weeks, he'll be back at his home Grand Prix in Mugello, and maybe we'll get to see the 46 with a little home field advantage then.

I think Nick Hayden rode a great race, especially given the condition of his wrist. We didn't see much of him on the TV, so we didn't really see how it went, but we just kept scrolling down the results. He had the best of Dovi by a decent margin. They finished nose to tail in Qatar, and then I think Dovi had a bit of an advantage on him in Texas. But it was good to see the result reversed again. I think Nicky's still showing that he's got the want, he's got the desire, and being the best Ducati out there may not be exactly what Nicky wants, but it's good job security right now, that's for sure.

It's unfortunate, and disappointing for me, to see that Ben Spies is going to miss Le Mans as well. But like I've said in the past, we know he's good. We know he's fast. He's just got to be fit to be fast.

I'll be talking more about my Suzuka 8 Hours plans in my next column.


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