Repsol Honda team boss Livio Suppo fell on his sword after the Australian Grand Prix, taking full responsibility for making the mistake that caused MotoGP points leader Marc Marquez to be disqualified Sunday at Phillip Island.
Marquez stayed on track one lap longer than allowed by rules hastily created by Dorna and IRTA to combat a serious Bridgestone tire degradation problem on the newly paved Phillip Island Circuit. Riders were forced to switch bikes in a pit stop during the race, with no rider allowed more than 10 laps on any set of tires. Marquez pitted after 11 laps and was disqualified, seeing his championship lead sliced from 43 to 18 points over race winner Jorge Lorenzo with two races remaining.
But an even bigger finger needs to be pointed elsewhere than the digit aimed at Suppo, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto and the rest of the strategists at HRC or Repsol Honda.
Why was Bridgestone allowed to bring a tire to Phillip Island that never had turned a lap on the new asphalt before Free Practice 1 on Friday? Why was there no pre-race tire test to examine suitable compounds?
MotoGP racing is among the most dangerous forms of motorsport on Earth. Dorna, FIM and IRTA officials examine every square inch of circuits to ensure all safety measures are met. It's not uncommon for requests to be made to shave the height of a curb by one-half inch, move a curb a few inches or add air fence seemingly miles from the edge of the track.
So how could Dorna overlook one of the most crucial elements of the safety of any rider, tires?
No question Australia is in a corner of the world that doesn't host MotoGP races throughout the year. No question it would have been expensive for teams to test there. But surely one bike from each of the three factory teams and a leading CRT machine could have been flown to Phillip Island before the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this month for testing or even after preseason testing at Sepang, as the Phillip Island repaving was completed last December.
Major North American series NASCAR and IndyCar conduct tire tests every time a circuit is repaved, allowing Goodyear and Firestone, respectively, reformulate compounds if needed. An identical number of drivers from each engine manufacturer participate, and teams are rotated to prevent any unfair advantage.
Teams gain performance data, tire manufacturers are able to build safe tires, and tracks get a valuable PR opportunity. Everyone is happy.
There's absolutely no reason why tire tests should not be mandatory for any circuit that is repaved.
The infield section at Indianapolis, for example, is being repaved right now. The circuit already has suffered through two very damaging tire debacles with Formula One and NASCAR, neither of which were the circuit's fault. Yet fans turned away from both of those events in droves after the Michelin-marred F1 race in 2005 and the Goodyear follies in the Sprint Cup race in 2008.
So if Dorna is serious about making MotoGP a success at Indy, then it must schedule a tire test at the Brickyard for next spring or summer. A tire problem at Indy next August could be fatal to that event due to the legacy of miscalculations by tire companies in the last 10 years at the facility.
The shortening of the race distance and mandatory pit stop also created a farce of a competitive spectacle Sunday at Phillip Island. Sure, the pit stops were compelling TV, with Lorenzo nearly endo-ing himself while swapping bikes.
But the doomsday scenario--which was easily predictable--nearly happened when Lorenzo and Marquez bumped while Lorenzo was speeding through the frighteningly fast Turn 1 and Marquez was exiting the pits.
This was not MotoGP. This was not the balls' out carnival we expect on Sundays. This is not NASCAR. It's not F1. It's not IndyCar. MotoGP doesn't need pit stops or artificial means to create tighter competition.
MotoGP should be better than this.