CN III IN THE PADDOCK
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
PHILLIP ISLAND SHOWS THE WAY
he Australian Grand Prix
gave plenty of food for
thought. The circumstances were extreme; the remedial
measures likewise. But there are
lessons that could be carried forward to races where Bridgestone
and Dunlop manage to bring tires
that are actually able to run a full
race (to be fair, that's every other
race but this one).
Brief recap: lovely new surface
at lovely Phillip Island in unexpectedly lovely weather. Both companies brought special hard tires
in anticipation of higher speeds
and stresses, and both fell so far
short of the goal that they might
as well have used marshmallow.
At least the heat blisters would
have made a tasty confection.
Acting on the hoof, making it
up as they went along, race management went into overdrive. First
an international teleconference at
supremo level authorized those
on the spot to – basically change
the rules as often and as much as
they liked, whenever they liked.
Under these new powers,
Race Direction did just that.
Moto2's heat-fatigued Dunlops
were given half the day off, the
race cut from 27 to 13 laps, still
on full points. MotoGP's battlefazed Bridgestones likewise, but
in a quite different way. Since all
riders have two bikes, they could
do half a race on each of them.
Bike-swapping flag-to-flag rules
were in place for weather chang-
es. But why wait for the weather
to change when you can change
the rules instead?
Generally it was considered a
fair Band-Aid for a messy wound,
give or take some concerns for
safety in the old track's narrow pit
lane. Race distance was cut from
27 laps to 26, with a compulsory
bike change halfway. Along with
other strictures: hard tires only,
and no fiddling with the pressure
given in the manufacturer's handbook.
On-the-hoof means what it
says, and quick reactions were
required the next day when further tire failures in morning warmup earned a more shamefaced
confession from Bridgestone:
they'd said their tires could do
14 laps safely. So sorry. Mistake.
Actually they can only do 10.
The race distance was cut
again, to 19 laps (by now the
Moto3 race was in progress) and a
fresh instruction sheet handed out,
revising the time of the pit stop until
the end of laps nine or ten.
As we know, Marc Marquez
and/or his team made a Horlicks
of it and the title leader was disqualified. Officially they blamed
misinterpreting the instructions;
unofficially video footage shows
Marquez's team apparently flummoxed as he flashes past at the
end of lap 10.
Whatever the real reason for
this clumsy error, the outcome
had the immediate effect of lighting a blue touch-paper under a
championship that less than an
hour earlier had seemed almost
done. Race-winner Jorge Lorenzo came with no chance, and left
with a real one.
The bike-changing, mean-