MotoGP Riders Meet on Motegi

Henny Ray Abrams | August 27, 2011

SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 27 – The majority of the MotoGP riders held a crisis meeting at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix on the situation in Motegi early Saturday evening, though they disbanded without any concrete resolution as the race continues to draw near.The Japanese Grand Prix was originally scheduled for April 24, but was postponed until Oct. 2 by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and caused damage throughout the island nation. The greatest damage was to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which leaked radiation and was unstable in the days immediately following the accident. Recent radiation readings around Motegi are often similar to those in Tokyo, and well below acceptable levels, though that’s of little comfort to many of the riders, who don’t trust the government’s information. Nor do they trust the study commissioned by Dorna by ARPA, an Italian company, on their behalf. The study revealed that radiation wasn’t an issue, but many of the riders continue to have doubts. Some, including Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi, are worried about the stability of the core of the nuclear reactor.All of the MotoGP riders, with a few exceptions, met in Rossi’s Prevost motorhome just inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway paddock. Among those not attending were Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama. Pramac Racing Ducati’s Randy de Puniet left the meeting early. Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden arrived late, but stayed to the end. The MotoGP riders were joined by 125cc rider Hector Faubel and Moto2 rider, and Czech GP winner, Andrea Iannone.The meeting began around 6:10 p.m. and broke up around 7:20 p.m. when the riders scattered, mostly without comment. Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner stayed on for a few minutes after Rossi sped away on his scooter to his garage.The riders discussed, among other things, the possible penalties for not attending the Japanese GP, which is now a month away. They discovered that the consequences were different for every rider and every team. At the end of the night nothing was resolved, according to one of the riders, with no further discussions planned. Some of the riders had earlier discussed the situation in Motegi during Friday’s safety commission meeting, but that meeting didn’t result in a resolution. “The situation remains like this and we discussed just a bit, but we didn’t speak directly to Carmelo (Ezpeleta), but I think the situation is what you already know,” Rossi said following his 14th place qualifying effort. Stoner, when asked about it following the front row press conference said, “Still up in the air, so that’s it.”Most of the riders had been quizzed on their views on Thursday, with near unanimity that racing at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit was unwise.”We can’t know the true story and so we are scared,” Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso said, adding that he had “question marks” about the validity of the research which was done on behalf of the riders by a company hired by Dorna.”I think it’s a question of trust,” Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo said, adding that he’s heard both sides of the argument, that Motegi is safe and that it’s unsafe. He repeated, “It’s a question of trust.”Rossi had good reason to rush off to his garage. He’d qualified a dispiriting 14th after crashing his number one bike early in the qualifying session.”Very difficult, we are very sad because we hoped we could perform the performance of the last two races in Brno and Laguna,” he said. “This morning it was not so bad, but unfortunately this afternoon I had a crash at the beginning and I damaged the good bike and especially two new tires, so I had to go without he other bike and it was a little bit difficult. Also, I had to use the harder tire and I lost the feeling with the bike and at the end I am very much behind.”The higher afternoon temperatures had an adverse affect on the steering of the Ducati GP11.1. Rossi said that up until the track temperature is 30C he “can ride the bike and I have a good feeling with the front, but when the temperature is going up, going to 50C, I start to always push too much, especially the left side, and I cannot ride well, because every time I have the feeling if can push more I lose the front, so it was a very bad practice, unfortunately. Especially because the last two races was less bad and this morning we find a good setting and I was not so far this morning from the other guys, so I expect I can be in the second or third row but like this, always more difficult.”



Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.