"Tanking" is a common phrase in American sports applied to teams that don't field their best players or compete with maximum effort late in a season, losing games to earn a better position in the upcoming off-season player draft.
It happens in racing, too of course. For example, two hot-footed riders, faced with racing a works endurance bike that the factory had built with all of the engine heat venting right on their feet, decided to "kill it" early in the Suzuka 8 hours so many years ago.
Aleix Espargaro faces a similar dilemma in MotoGP: To tank or not to tank?
Espargaro is the best rider among Claiming Rules Teams outfits this season in the premier class, 10th in points. His nearest CRT challengers are Colin Edwards II and Hector Barbera, 41 points behind.
So it's a pretty safe bet thatbarring injuryEspargaro will finish the season as the No. 1 CRT rider. That's a blessingand a problem.
Espargaro's strong performances on the Aspar Aprilia have attracted interest from satellite and customer teams for 2014, with Forward Racing pushing hard to get his signature on a contract for next season on a Yamaha customer bike.
But Espargaro admitted last week after riding to fifth overall in Friday practice at Misanobehind only the factory riders from Repsol Honda and Yamahathat he has a clause in contract with Aspar that will require him to return to the team in 2014 if he is the top CRT rider this season.
"We are going through difficult times," Espargaro said. "As you all know, I would like to have a better bike for next year, but it is not easy. There is a clause in my contract which obliges me to stay if I end this year as the leading CRT. Obviously, I am a professional rider and I will continue in my attempt to finish first of the CRTs in every race, but it is not easy. It is a delicate situation."
No one is telling Espargaro to tank. A rumored buyout of 600,000 euros probably would cajole Aspar Martinez to pull out an eraser on that clause in Espargaro's contract. But Forward is rumored to be balking at paying that clause. So if that money can't be raised, and Espargaro sees his chance to ride a customer Yamaha slip away ...