Yeah, how 'bout Hopper! You have to give the guy credit for his first year GP results- he's consistently finishing in points, and except for the rain race earlier in the season he's NOT crashing! Consistency is the key- better results will come after he learns new tracks and adjusts. Great job so far!
Very impressed w/the guy... rides hard, doesn't turf it, finishes well! What amazes me is that the announcer guy, a.k.a. "The Screaming Fool", goes nuts when that Aussie kid Stoener gets through 5 laps w/out trashing it in the 250's, yet Hopper has had one bad race, in the rain, that he -still- finished!, and barely gets the occasional "Oh yes, there's that new American... he's doing o.k." nod. Here he is, finishing well again, and if it wasn't for Dennis Noyes (spelling??) interviewing Hopper in the pits, you'd probably never know he was even racing.
No doubt, Stoener is also a whiz kid, and I'm not taking anything away from him, per se, but to hear that announcer guy, you'd think Stoener was undefeated this season. I'd be willing to bet if you asked him, he would want The Screaming Fool to shut up too! (hereafter known simply as 'TSF').
Hey... what happened to Roberts' bike improvements? After the last race, he tested new parts and found about 1 to 1.5 sec per lap, running times that would have put him near the leaders. And yet, here he is, lagging Rossi by 33+ seconds (in 19 laps or ~ 1.7 seconds per lap).
I didn't get a chance to see the race (yet). Anybody have any insights into what happened?
I, like everyone I suppose, would like to see more than just one bike model running competitively. Roberts has the talent, and we were all encouraged by the good news from the testing. But this doesn't look good for Suzuki...
I've said it before, and I'll say it again... this kid amazing. If he can keep this up, and finish in the top 10 for the season championship, he should be a lock for Rookie of the Year (sorry Kato, I know you're ahead of Hopkins in points, but expectations were much higher for you, and others on your bike model are doing much better).
I only hope Hopkins is on a competitive bike next year (if there are any besides the one Rossi is on...) and really shine, having learned the tracks and bike better.
Suzuki, and Roberts, have shown themselves capable of setting good qualifying times and of leading the race early, so it is puzzling what happens a few laps into the race. Seems like once Roberts lost the lead, next think I heard, he was back in 5th or 6th. Doesn't seem as if the tires could have gone off that early in the race, so the reason is not clear. My suspicion is that it is mental -- seems to me that Roberts tends to do this.
This race, and the previous couple as well, have shown that there are several other bikes and riders which, on any given day, can give Rossi and the 4-stroke Honda a good run for it. Barros sure was impressive, for being on last years 2-stroke. The gains that both Yamaha and Suzuki have made over the past few events are very encouraging.
My personal opinion is that Suzuki would be better off at this point with a different #1 rider -- my impression (based on absolutely zero first-hand knowledge) is that Roberts is not best at developing a bike -- seems that when things are not perfect, rather than either working to help determine what needs to change, or just riding around the bike/tires/?? limitations, he tends to whine and bad-mouth his equipment. I think Biaggi is somewhat the same.
I'm from Northern MN myself and although I'm not surprised at the (MUCH) lower attendance numbers, I think 5,000 is a little low - I would think around 18,000 - 20,000 for the 3-day total would be more accurate but I haven't seen any stats. Where did you get the numbers? Just curious so I can investigate for myself and maybe show the owners the number if I can...
A big reason for the large drop in attendance at BIR is due to new ownership (Colonel's) and the fact that they charge $$$ up the whazoo isn't pleasing fans. Road America in Wisc. and Laguna are much nicer race tracks but cost quite less so the blame is placed entirely on the new ownership (in my opinion anyway).
BIR used to see numbers above 40,000 before the new ownership, but those numbers are still a far cry from others.
Needless to say, it is very disappointing to see such low numbers at BIR or any other AMA tracks (compared to MotoGP and SBK). Seems to me that AMA needs to step up their marketing and promotional efforts...
Looking at the lap times (if you go to the MotoGP site and bring up the results window, along the top there are several drop-down lists, the right-most one is "Results" and you can choose different items there to see lots of stats)...
It seems that Roberts didn't slow down as much as everyone else sped up. For the first 15 laps or so, Roberts was in the 2'03 - 2'04 range (lap six, a 2'02, not withstanding). Everyone else started out running 2'03's also. But then, around laps 3 & 4, everyone else ahead of Roberts (particularly Barros and Rossi here) started going faster... a lot faster... like 1 or 2 seconds per lap faster than Roberts. So, Roberts didn't actually slow down, it's just that when viewed next to Barros and Rossi, it looks like he dropped anchor.
Of course, the lap times don't tell you whether it's the bike or the brain that's the limiting factor. Sete Gibernau (Robert's teammate and thus closest bike equivalent) dropped out after lap 6, so it's tough to compare there.
Roberts certainly has a history of being vocal when the equipment isn't up to snuff. But I got the impression before that it was more of ploy on Roberts' part to embarrass Suzuki into spending more on developing the bike than mere "boo-hoo, poor me" whining.
As for people challenging Rossi... I'm not so sure that it's as close as it appears. Every week somebody is apparently running with Rossi... until Rossi decides to go, and then he just leaves 'em for dead.
People complained that Doohan didn't do this (give the apperance of competition) because he just rode hard from the start and often had 10+ second leads by half race distance.
I really get the feeling that Rossi is capable of running much faster at any time. But there's no point in hanging it out there, riding on the absolute edge, every lap if you don't have to. You get the same number of points for winning by 2 seconds or by 20 seconds. And it seems that Rossi tries to lay down 2 or 3 really fast laps every race to set the fastest lap/lap record, but otherwise has no competition.
Note that even in the race he didn't win, he made a mistake on the last lap, and then, in less than half a lap, came right back up on Ukawa; it took a second mistake to cost him the victory. He's that much faster. Also note that he's turned on the jets at least a couple laps earlier in races since then; he's no dummy.
Rossi seems completely happy following the leader as long as the leader is pushing. He just sits in the wake, conserves his tires and studies the other guy. I think he learned from Barros; he was experimenting with different lines and setting up passing strategies until he drove past him and disappeared.
He beat his own qualifying record by a second on the last two laps of the race! No sliding to speak of either.
KR claimed to be comfortable riding fast at tire testing after the last race. He sure didn't look it at Assen; his bike went all squirrely on entry braking. May be the wet/dry limited practice and qualifying left him with a poor setup. Sete Giberneaux looked really scary before he left the track.
One more race like this and I'll start to agree with the rest of the posts on this thread; Kenny has lost the fire.
Excellent point about the others speeding up rather than Roberts slowing. I think Rossi referred to the fact that Barros picked up the pace significantly and that he (Rossi) had to step it up to keep him in sight -- that probably was the same time that Kenny seemingly slowed. Still, with his very competitive qualifying times, I would have expected that he should have had an answer to them.
No question in my mind that Rossi is the best rider in racing now, and possibly the best ever (really hard to compare riders who did not race against each other on competitive equipment while both in their respective primes) -- I have followed him closely through 125, 250 and 500s. Probably the Honda is also the best bike, and almost certainly, they have the best support team. With such strength on all fronts, Yamaha and Suzuki (not to mention Aprilia, Ducati, Petronas et al) have one hell of a handicap.
Clearly Rossi is not going 100% from the start, but I don't think he has exactly been toying with the other riders either. When he got past Barros, he did pick up the pace, but Barros was able to respond a lot better than I thought he would -- his best laps of the race came at the end also. While I like and respect Barros, I have not considered him to be in the very top group for the past several years, so the fact that he was able to hang in there was pretty impressive.
Whether Roberts complaining was tactical or being a crybaby is an open question. I don't know him, have never met him, so my impression is from TV interviews and print/internet media interviews and commentary. My impression may be totally unfair. If so, however, I suggest that he needs a new PR advisor.
Yep he is great kid. The U.S. is blessed with some great riders Haydens, Bostroms, Edwards, Roberts', Bates, the list goes on and on. What is really nice about these guys is they are class acts. In these days of professional athletes getting into trouble with law etc, it is refreshing to see riders like these compete hard and with great sportsmanship.
Yep I have friend from Northern MN and he agrees. You are on to something with your thought about the AMA needs to promote better. These riders are class acts, true athletes and true sportsman. The AMA needs to promote these guys and the exciting sport of motorcycle racing. Good post.
A big part of this is the fact that ASSEN is in Western Europe not the US. Like it or not, the fact is that in the US, motorsports (with the possible exception of NASCAR) are somewhat of a niche sport -- with motorcycling especially so. Very few fans who are not motorcyclists. Sports media here do not consider motorsports to be real sports, and only cover NASCAR, Indy and the occassional spectacular crash. If it is not played with a ball (or puck), it ain't a real sport! In Europe, names like Schumacher, Rossi, Bostrom, Bayliss etc are comparably known to Michael Jordan and Shac here. Bicycle and ski racing are the same -- the press wouldn't report anything on the Tour de France if it were not for Armstrong, being an American with only one testicle being such a good human interest story.
I agree that the AMA could probably make racing more successful of a business, but probably at the detriment to its support of club racing. I am not a big fan of a lot of their recent decisions, but to a large extent, they can't win. Do they run the organization for their general membersip, the club racers who fill out most of the race field, the few (and shrinking) factory teams or for the fans? Whatever they do, they will get slammed.
Just as an aside, does anyone have last years attendence numbers for WSB at Laguna Seca? I am curious how they compare to the European events.
It's not so much that I think Rossi is toying with the other riders (every post-race interview, he starts by saying how tough the race was). It's just that whenever one of the other riders takes off and starts laying down fast laps, Rossi can always turn it up a notch and run with them. And then, when he's ready, he then turns it up yet another notch and leaves 'em for dead. Barros in Assen. Biaggi at Mugello. Checa at Catlunya. Ukawa in Japan (although Ukawa got the better of him due to Rossi's mistakes on the last lap, Rossi was clearly quicker).
It's not so much that he's purposely holding back to give a false sense of competition, per se, but so far he's always been able to turn it up beyond what anyone else can match.
I don't know Roberts either, I just got a different impression from the interviews and news stories that I've read over the years about his equipment complaints. For all I know, you may be right and I may be wrong; guilty of viewing it all through roberts-colored glasses.
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