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Interview with Casey Stoner

This Noyes interview with Casey Stoner reveals a bit of Stoner's perspective on the current MotoGP season:

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SPEEDtv.com Interview: Casey Stoner


Written by: Dennis Noyes Miraflores de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain – 7/5/2007 Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner (Photo: Ducati Corse)



Talking to 21-year-old Casey Stoner reminds me in a lot of ways of talking to the young Mick Doohan back in 1989 and 1990 when he was breaking in... and breaking bones. Mick came up to the premier class in the days when the 500s were at their nastiest. The high-sider was common and Honda HRC engineers were so worried about the rate of crashes that they even proposed to the FIM eliminating the 500s and introducing a 375cc class with a limit of three cylinders.

Doohan had to make his way to the top riding against the likes of Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz, but seemed to be on the way to his first title in his third year, 1992, before suffering a serious injury at Assen.

Stoner is now leading the points table in only his second season in the premier class and certainly does not have it any easier than Doohan did; he has to battle for the title against Valentino Rossi but does not seem to be under pressure and, so far, has avoided errors and crashes.

Stoner comes from that same Australian dirt track background that produced Wayne Gardner and the generation that followed. On Friday afternoon in Assen I had a long talk with the MotoGP points leader.

They say in the MotoGP paddock that Casey Stoner was Ducati’s third choice at the end of 2006, behind Rossi, Hayden, and Melandri, and that he is currently one of most underpaid stars on the MotoGP grid. If these things are true, Ducati’s Livio Suppo, who heard complaints from Loris Capirossi when he signed the up-and-coming Australian, has reason to be pleased with the Ducati-Stoner contract.

Stoner may turn out to be the biggest bargain Ducati and Marlboro have ever had.

SpeedTV: Talk about your dirt track background in Australia:

C.S. “Broc Parkes was one of my idols when I was really little. He was a great dirt track rider and he and Westy (Anthony West) had some great battles and I have ridden against Westy a couple of times as we were coming up. I was watching an old dirt track video from ‘96 the other night with Broc and Westy and Chris Vermuelen…it’s quite funny now to see that when all of us are in the world championships. We all knew each other or about each other. Chad Reed didn’t do much dirt track and went straight into motocross. I didn’t see much of Josh Brookes but he did some dirt track as did Marc Atchenson (FIM Superstock 1000 Cup contender). It was a tough environment to come out of; we had different kinds of tracks, some 1000-meter ovals on trotting tracks that on an 80cc was just flat out and chuck it back one gear in the corners. On an 80cc I was able to go faster than the guys on the 500cc motocross bikes.

SpeedTV: All your background in dirt builds throttle control, and in 125 and 250 too…now you are riding in MotoGP with the 800cc where traction control is all-important. Many riders, among them Rossi, are saying that TC is spoiling racing and taking control away from the rider.

C.S.: I hear Randy Mamola on the TV commentary and I hear all these things about how traction control does everything, everybody complaining about it. I don’t know because the systems I have tried are nothing but a control system to stop you from crashing and if you have completely destroyed a tire then it will help you to find that little bit of extra traction. These bikes these days really are tearing up tires more than the old 500s ever did, so you really sort of need that system there to help us that little bit. But it is still all about throttle control. Don’t get me wrong. TC is there when you make a mistake, if you have a bit of a wobble and get on the gas too hard, it can help you a little bit, but it’s still all about throttle control. Traction control is pretty much a helping hand. In rain situations now you can feel the traction control helping. There would have been a lot of riders high-siding in Donington. Sometimes maybe traction control can be a little bit too much in the wet… I can definitely feel it working and keeping the rear wheel from stepping too far out of line -- helping you out of sticky situations, but in the dry I really don’t feel it as much.

SpeedTV: Valentino has said that he doesn’t think these 800cc bikes as they are now could be ridden without TC, but he regrets that electronics has become so important.

C.S:
I agree with that. I rode the new Ducati at the end of last year with a new TC system that wasn’t sorted yet and Loris and I had a pretty hard time getting thrown all over the bike, it was pretty much impossible to ride, but once you get them tamed down a bit -- but it is not so much traction control -- it is more engine management, mapping, all that does a lot more than the actual traction control system does. Since Mick started riding the Big Bang they have been looking for a way to keep the power controllable. Everybody keeps saying how much easier these bikes are to ride and yadada, but you can only ride a bike to its limit and we are riding these bikes as close to the limit as we can.

SpeedTV: But many, fans and riders, miss the sliding, the smoking rear tire with the bike crossed up…are we ever going to see that again?

C.S:
I think it is not just the bikes and the electronics; it is the tires as well. But really you have got to stay in that traction area and if you start to slide you are losing time. With the old bikes you used to be able to slide them and smoke them up and you wouldn’t lose time because that first part of traction really wasn’t there so you had to slide a bit; you either stepped it out one foot or two foot, but nowadays you have got to stay in that traction area because it works really well and you get a lot more drive. But if you spin it, that’s it, they’re gone and you spinning. In that way it’s like 125… if you lose anything in the corner you don’t make it back on the corner exit. You have to be close to perfect all the time. Of course we can still slide these bikes around a little bit to help us turn, but you have to stay in the traction area and avoid breaking it loose.

SpeedTV: But with traction control you can bring it home on a badly worn tire and keep a good pace.

C.S:
Yeah, now, the way it is, you can still ride hard on a badly worn tire because you know it is not going to suddenly break away and highside you. It steps out more slowly. Now, I think, riders are focused on their fitness and that is part of why lap records are broken at the end of races even though the tires are worn…and we are always learning, all the way through the race how to go faster and faster and faster and on the last few laps you put all the learning during the race into practice.

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SpeedTV: How did you get from Australia to the Spanish Nationals?

C.S: We went to the UK racing the Aprilia Challenge series and at the end of that we were with Mario Rubatto and he contacted Alberto Puig for a ride in the last two rounds of the Spanish championship. So we did that. We ended up fifth in the first one. We unfortunately did a completely wrong tire choice. I’d never ridden on “B” tires and when we tested somehow I went out with 60 pounds pressure in the tires so they weren’t working. We ran “C” tires in the race and when the race was stopped halfway through we had to go out with old tires because we didn’t have a new set, so we really struggled, but we ended up fifth. The next race we were doing quite well till the engine over-detonated and we came 16th. From that Dad talked to Alberto Puig about doing the Spanish series for 2001 and Alberto was helping quite a lot of riders that year. Dani Pedrosa was already in GPs by then. I only raced Dani at the end of 2001…that race I finished fifth in…Toni Elias won that and I was in the lead group with Toni, Dani, de Angelis and Olive in Albacete. We all ended up coming through into GP and now Dani and Toni and I are in MotoGP. There was a high level in the CEV. 2001 was the important year for me. We were camped a couple of years in Puig´s family’s backyard. We had power and water -- we were like the gardeners living out back I suppose. We owe a lot to Alberto for the help he gave us.

SpeedTV: Which is a better way to prepare for roadracing, the Australian way via dirt track or the European way on asphalt minibikes and supermotard bikes?

C.S: Dirt track teaches us a lot about sliding and that helps a lot in the rain too, but when you come out of dirt track you don’t learn to feel the front or to push the front. That’s why I wish I had done some minimoto and some supermotard on the way up. The minimoto and supermotard stuff that the European riders do teach them to carry corner speed and push the front and it helps them know where the front is and that is where dirt track loses out a little bit. In 2003, my second year of Grand Prix, I really started to understand what I wanted with the bike…that was with Aprilia 125 and Luccio. It was only my fourth year of road racing and I started understanding how to relay information to the team. Then in 2004 I was with KTM and Warren Willing -- there I really started to understand how the motorcycle works together as a whole. That was a great experience, no regrets. We struggled a little bit at the end of the season, losing a little bit of speed, but the learning experience I had there pushed me forward a lot in my racing. At first Warren was a little too technical for me and I was kinda going ‘uhhh yeah’, just smiling and nodding, but by the end of the year I started understanding what he was on about. I learned a heck of a lot off him and Harold Bartol.

SpeedTV: When you took the pole in Qatar in only your second MotoGP race and were leading Rossi over the first part of the race, were you surprised to be going that well so soon?

C.S: Yeah, well Dani did it in the first race in Jerez and Dani and I had battled all through the 2005 250 season. It was a little bit frustrating because coming into that season of MotoGP everybody just looked at Dani. Sure, he has a lot better resumé than me going up into MotoGP -- he’d won championships -- but I had pushed him. But everybody seemed to completely forget about me and they were all saying that Dani was going to be the fast one out of us. But as I got on a bigger bike and in a real factory team for the first time and I now know what Valentino and Dani have had their whole careers from the beginning and with factory technical people around them… I have sort of been on my own the last three years and I have had to go through hard times that have made me a stronger person.

SpeedTV: You came up to MotoGP without having won a title along the way. Does it matter?

C.S: In the 125 and 250 championships everybody was telling me to stay there and win a title. If I really just wanted to win a championship I would have stayed back in 250. For me this has always been my dream to be in this class. I have built my style up to be appropriate for this class. I have never been the corner speed rider that everyone thinks I am. Because I come from 250 they say, ‘yeah, he’s a corner speed rider.’ Dani Pedrosa is not a corner speed guy either. He and I were the guys in 250 who picked the bike up early to get out of the corners. The other riders had more corner speed than us but we were faster and we knew how to save our tires so we were there at the end of the race.

SpeedTV: What is the most annoying question you keep getting asked?

C.S: Why did you crash so much last year? I know the reason and I think for a lot of people it should be obvious what the reason is. The way we have been able to step it up this year without the crashes. There were too many times that the bike would change from one session to the next or from qualifying to the race and it was nothing that the team was doing. Other people were playing games. I am not going to say who but it has been obvious over the years how certain companies have played with their riders. ‘We want you to win, yep, but we don´t want you to win,’ and it is obvious that that has happened. It wasn’t obvious to me last year. Every time I crashed I was in the gravel trap scratching my head and saying ‘what the heck is happening here, I’m losing the front for no reason’. I get off the brakes, just touch the gas, I was already picking the bike up. It all started with the crash in Barcelona, I went in there the same as I had in practice and it was gone. Mugello, that was a bit more my fault, but the other crashes, starting with Barcelona -- I did not know what to do, I did not know why I was crashing and why it was my fault.

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SpeedTV: Now that you have switched from Honda to Ducati, is Ducati really so much more flexible?

C.S: Not really. It’s more of a perception from the outside. The Ducati has a bit more flex but people think that because of the way Loris rides it. If you look at Sete last year, his bike didn’t move nearly as much. The bike doesn’t have to be ridden the way Loris rides it. It’s how Loris rides every bike. When he was riding 500 the bike was moving all over the show. Now Bayliss, his style is strange to understand, he moves his body everywhere before he make his next move with the bike. His body moves before the bike does and he sort of pulls the thing down with him…it’s a different style and difficult to understand but it is Troy who is moving around, not the bike.

SpeedTV: How was the change from 990 to 800?

C.S: I hope we go back up to a thousand cc again and we can all be happy again. I hear talk about the MSMA wanting to go even smaller some day. Why? We are already running higher corner speeds everwhere and almost the same top speed. Why would you decrease it? They have restricted us enough and the manufacturers are just blowing everybody away with how much speed we can pull out of these things. I say let it be free again. Actually the 800 was very comfortable and fast when I first rode it in Valencia but we were up against the fuel consumption limits and that is when they needed to change the whole electronic program and that is when it all got peaky and we had to struggle with the set up of the bike.

SpeedTV: Compare Honda electronics with Magneti Marelli.

C.S: I don’t know what the real HRC stuff is like. They were always telling me last year that I was on the same stuff as Dani and Nicky but now I see that was a whole load of crap. There is no way that they give the same stuff to the satellite teams that the factory team has and it is the same thing with the other companies providing products. They tell you, ‘you are on the same this and that,’ but it is just not true and now I can see that from the outside because, like I said, my bike changed from session to session and it wasn’t anything to do with anything the team was doing. The team was doing a great job, but it was the companies playing around.

SpeedTV: Kenny Junior told me in France that he and Valentino were going to go to the Safety Committee and ask that the tire rules be changed back to what they were. That didn’t happened, but a lot of riders, Michelin riders, are asking to change things back for next year.

C.S: Why? It was completely unfair what was happening last year. At the beginning of the season you watch any interview with Valentino, Colin Edwards, the other Michelin riders and they were ‘yeah, yeah, no problem with the tires. I’m stoked with it, we haven’t got any problems’. And then they are not winning and straight away the tire rule is crap…’it is destroying our season’. They even admit that they had tires flown in or driven in overnight, special tires for the occasion, and Bridgestone didn’t have that option. And where is the fairness in that? These new rules are making the class a lot closer and fairer. Everybody was talking about my Ducati being too fast at the beginning of the season, but that’s because Ducati did their work. But what about these special tires being brought in…how fair is that compared to just having a fast bike under the same rules as everybody else?

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So he's basicly saying, HRC tweaked his bike so he would crash? Why would they do that?

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wow, great info. I am surprised his PR let him say all that.

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So he's basicly saying, HRC tweaked his bike so he would crash? Why would they do that?
HRC would not want a satelite rider to out perform thier poster child.
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this happens all over, check Mat and ben spies bikes LOL

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this happens all over, check Mat and ben spies bikes LOL
You mean like: Mat going in the sand and laying there long enough (apparently hurt) to bring out the red flag. Then running (amazingly cured) back to the pits so he can restart the race.

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HRC would not want a satelite rider to out perform thier poster child.
That's a crock of ****. First of all Stoner was blaming his team for the crashes in the second half of the season. Oh but now he's blaming HRC? Second of all Marco Melandri and Toni Elias had no problem winning races last year, and neither did Sete, Barros, Tamada, and Biaggi in the past, all of whom were Honda satellite riders.

Honda doesn't spend millions of dollars in Moto GP so they can sabotage their satellite riders. If anything they'd like their riders to sweep the top 6 positions in the race.

Now maybe Casey didn't get along well with the HRC electronics. Troy Bayliss certainly had that problem. But to say HRC came along and messed up his bike is just pure bullshit. Think about it, if HRC actually sabotage Casey do you think LCR would have bothered to re-up with them for this year and run Hondas in 250GP as well?
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You mean like: Mat going in the sand and laying there long enough (apparently hurt) to bring out the red flag. Then running (amazingly cured) back to the pits so he can restart the race.
yeah, just like that.

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You mean like: Mat going in the sand and laying there long enough (apparently hurt) to bring out the red flag. Then running (amazingly cured) back to the pits so he can restart the race.

LOL, that was one of the biggest BS i've seen. Also, have you read the interview with Michael Jordan wanting to Buy Mat's 2006 SBK and Sus. said that HE CAN"T afford it. LOL that so freaking funny. So, yes factory teams DO NOT let sattelite teams have the same components.

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That's a crock of ****. First of all Stoner was blaming his team for the crashes in the second half of the season. Oh but now he's blaming HRC? Second of all Marco Melandri and Toni Elias had no problem winning races last year, and neither did Sete, Barros, Tamada, and Biaggi in the past, all of whom were Honda satellite riders.

Honda doesn't spend millions of dollars in Moto GP so they can sabotage their satellite riders. If anything they'd like their riders to sweep the top 6 positions in the race.

Now maybe Casey didn't get along well with the HRC electronics. Troy Bayliss certainly had that problem. But to say HRC came along and messed up his bike is just pure bullshit. Think about it, if HRC actually sabotage Casey do you think LCR would have bothered to re-up with them for this year and run Hondas in 250GP as well?
I am with you as in I don't think LCR mess his bike but i do believe that they don't have the same components at all. That has been known. Casey's riding style was not a good package.

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You mean like: Mat going in the sand and laying there long enough (apparently hurt) to bring out the red flag. Then running (amazingly cured) back to the pits so he can restart the race.

haha nice. i thought the same thing. i was pretty pissed he got to restart the race. i was like wtf?
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LOL, that was one of the biggest BS i've seen. Also, have you read the interview with Michael Jordan wanting to Buy Mat's 2006 SBK and Sus. said that HE CAN"T afford it. LOL that so freaking funny. So, yes factory teams DO NOT let sattelite teams have the same components.
That depends on the factory and depends on the circumstances. Honda for instance supports their satellite teams quite well. Honda satellite riders have won at least 10 times as many races as any other factory's satellite riders in Moto GP.

Now of course if you go back to the 500cc era HRC did not give any of the V4 NSR500's to satellite teams.

In superbike racing some factories have been good about giving their non-factory riders the goods, some haven't. Honda and Ducati have typically been good, the others have been off and on.

Now that I think about it maybe the reason Suzuki didn't want to sell Jordan and Barber their old bikes is because they were cheating and they didn't want other people to see that. Then again, Honda won't sell you a leased HRC Fireblade nor an old RCV. Maybe its a cultural thing.

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I am with you as in I don't think LCR mess his bike but i do believe that they don't have the same components at all. That has been known. Casey's riding style was not a good package.
I'm sure the Repsol Hondas had upgrades that the LCR didn't have (Nicky's bike in particular). Whether those upgrades included the electronics is anyone's guess. If I'm lucky enough to get an interview with Nicky's crew chief at Laguna I'll be sure to slip in a question about that.

I also think a big part of Stoner's success at Ducati (and relative lack of it at Honda) was that Bridgestone had a better front tire that gave him more feel. Most of Stoner's crashes were him losing the front.

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You must not understand politics very well. There were two Factory riders in the hunt for a championship last year. They did not want any satelite team to interfere with that. HRC is still happy with high placements so they can get the constructor title (as any team that feilds 7 bikes should). Pedro is the poster child for HRC and little people. We all know the rest.

Sete received full support from HRC in his title chase with Rossi. He got it because Hayden And Biaggi were not getting it done. The other riders you mentioned have never had a shot at a title.

The satelites do not get the same **** as the factory riders. Repsol pays out the ass to have the best riders on thier bike. Sete stayed loyal to Telefonica, but was otherwise offered the Repsol bike.

If a title chase came down between Dani and Marco, with a margin less than Hayden/Rossi '06, who do you think is walking away with the title?




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That's a crock of ****. First of all Stoner was blaming his team for the crashes in the second half of the season. Oh but now he's blaming HRC? Second of all Marco Melandri and Toni Elias had no problem winning races last year, and neither did Sete, Barros, Tamada, and Biaggi in the past, all of whom were Honda satellite riders.

Honda doesn't spend millions of dollars in Moto GP so they can sabotage their satellite riders. If anything they'd like their riders to sweep the top 6 positions in the race.

Now maybe Casey didn't get along well with the HRC electronics. Troy Bayliss certainly had that problem. But to say HRC came along and messed up his bike is just pure bullshit. Think about it, if HRC actually sabotage Casey do you think LCR would have bothered to re-up with them for this year and run Hondas in 250GP as well?
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You must not understand politics very well. There were two Factory riders in the hunt for a championship last year. They did not want any satelite team to interfere with that. HRC is still happy with high placements so they can get the constructor title (as any team that feilds 7 bikes should). Pedro is the poster child for HRC and little people. We all know the rest.
I understand politics perfectly well but you are clearly making things up.

Number 1 HRC does not have team orders, especially not for satellite riders. Obviously satellite riders would be wise not to crash into the factory boys (a point lost on Elias perhaps) but they are not compelled to finish behind them.

If this were the case do you think Honda would have been giving Melandri the goods to win races last year? After all, he beat Pedrosa on 5 occasions (ahead of Nicky on 7), took more wins, and finished ahead of him in the championship. Surely if they were so worried about the threat of someone beating Pedrosa they would have sabotaged Marco too.

Stoner on the other hand finished ahead of Pedrosa only twice yet HRC deemed him such a great threat that they sabotaged his bike? Get real. If HRC was actually sabotaging privateer bikes do you think that all of these privateer teams would be beating down HRC's door to get leased bikes? Do you think Lucio Cechinello is so weak and subservient that he would come back the next year to get another helping o' sabotage (and on top of that run a Honda in 250GP)?

Quote:
Sete received full support from HRC in his title chase with Rossi. He got it because Hayden And Biaggi were not getting it done. The other riders you mentioned have never had a shot at a title.
Both Sete and Biaggi had legit shots at winning the title in 03 and took 6 race wins away from Rossi in the process. You didn't see HRC sabotaging their bikes then.

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The satelites do not get the same **** as the factory riders. Repsol pays out the ass to have the best riders on thier bike.
Partially wrong. The satellite teams get the parts that the factory team gets, its just that they get them later. How much later depends on their results. It is however in Repsol's contract that their riders will get things first.

Quote:
Sete stayed loyal to Telefonica, but was otherwise offered the Repsol bike.
Totally wrong. Sete did not stay loyal to Telefonica, it was that Sete's contract was with Telefonica and not HRC. Thus when HRC wanted to put Sete on the Repsol team they were unable to do so. HRC made sure they didn't make the same mistake twice and that's why Dani was signed directly to HRC and not to Repsol.

Quote:
If a title chase came down between Dani and Marco, with a margin less than Hayden/Rossi '06, who do you think is walking away with the title?
Whoever rides the best. HRC did not issue team orders last year, nor have they done so in the past, even in spite of boneheaded friendly fire incidents like Pedrosa's or Criville's (of course Criville's mistake wasn't as dire as Dani's).

After reading the article again a more plausible explanation is that Stoner was talking about Michelin. It's possible that he just got inconsistent tires since he was not at the top of Michelin's list in terms of preferential treatment. I also suspect that some of Rossi's tire problems last year were the result of Michelin pushing the envelope too far in trying to give Rossi a better tire. Rossi even brought it up after his fall in Valencia but didn't make too much noise about it.
G.Irish is offline  
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