MotoGP on its knees
Casey Stoner’s retirement was a little like a death.
We sensed it might happen, but it is always a shock when the actual news comes through.
The 26-year-old has been disillusioned with MotoGP for a while now, but retiring at the top is a massive call.
You are a long time gone, but clearly the goal posts have shifted.
What Stoner does next with his career will be fascinating, but the big question remains how big an impact his exit will have on a sport that is clearly struggling.
Constant rules changes have disillusioned riders, but it’s the fans that are turning away.
MotoGP used to be must-see racing, but it is lacking any real heroes or excitement at the moment.
There are hardly any genuine superstars in the field, and the ones who do exist like Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden are rarely sighted.
Rivalries are almost nonexistent. Apart from Stoner v Lorenzo, there’s hardly anything that gets us excited.
Races have been dull for a while now, and it doesn’t look to be getting much better.
And now the best rider in MotoGP is about to walk away.
It doesn’t bode well for the sport.
Points in the bank
I’d be surprised if Tim Edwards has any fingernails left.
As a motorsport fan you can only applaud some of wheel-to-wheel stuff put on by Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom at Phillip Island.
But it is hardly the stuff the Ford Performance Racing team principal would like to see from his title contenders, with so much at stake.
Davison’s collision with Tim Slade will be written-off as one of those things, but it probably should have been handled a little better.
Davison was clearly faster than Slade, and no doubt would have passed him within a lap anyway.
But a 50/50 pass ended terribly, and that could be the difference come the Sydney 500.
Davison looks to be taking plenty of risks to get to the front, and so far it’s worked a treat.
But I’d hate to see it end in tears, because of a couple of stacks along the way.
Russell Ingall proved it, and so did Rick Kelly.
Play for another day and bank the points.
Grand decision for the Grand Final
Just recently in ‘Torque Back’ I wrote that Eastern Creek will struggle to win back the Sydney audience, as it looks to gain a permanent spot on the calendar for 2013.
Its rubbish location, a history of poor crowds and the roaring success of the Olympic Park season finale, all massive cons hurting Eastern Creek’s chances.
But then the disappointing news comes that the Sydney Olympic Park race is set for the scrap heap at the end of the season.
The Liberal NSW Government won’t foot the bill any longer, and the nails have all-but been hammered into the coffin.
The demise of the Sydney 500 looks to have handed Eastern Creek a reprieve, but this will be a mega loss for V8 Supercars and a fragile Sydney market.
V8 Supercars boss Tony Cochrane ought to be congratulated for putting on such an outstanding event.
Built-up as the ‘Grand Final’, the Olympic Park event has sure been just that.
Despite such a simple layout, the track has always produced an exceptional race.
Facilities were tailor made for the punters with an outstanding public transport system, and a fan-friendly pit area both huge positives for the event.
And praise must also be given to the Rock ‘n’ Race concept. There are no doubts the big musical acts helped pull numbers through the gate.
Staging the V8 Grand Final in Sydney delivered on all levels, and it’s a real shame the event is a goner.
So the massive dilemma now becomes what event takes its place as the season finale?
Eastern Creek looks like it will now get a permanent spot, but it shouldn’t come in as a straight swap for title decider.
Surfers Paradise has been tossed as a possible candidate to take on the Grand Final, while the idea of an international venue hosting the final round never goes away.
For the record, that last idea should be scratched. Just like you shouldn’t start the season overseas, you can’t finish it there either.
The Gold Coast has become one of the events of the season but in its current form, you can’t have international co-drivers playing such a big role in the round that decides the champion.
Even if it means a December date would allow NASCAR and Formula 1 stars to compete, it’s still way too big a risk.
That doesn’t leave many options in Australia.
Adelaide is too good an event to move from the season opener.
Phillip Island is a ripper circuit but doesn’t pull a massive crowd.
Barbagllo has received a much needed upgrade, but the place doesn’t have a Grand Final feel.
Symmons Plains, No.
Darwin, Ipswich. No, and no!
And then there’s Townsville.
A nice track, the Rock ‘n’ Race format is already in place, and the tropical setting sure appeals.
I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m worried the Grand Final is heading overseas.
The champion will be crowned while we are all asleep, and in front of a handful of fans.
Abu Dhabi has all the bells and whistles as a circuit, but the soul would be ripped out of the Grand Final if it were to be held in the Middle East.
The inaugural Texas round will have plenty interest around it too, but it shouldn’t be the final round.
If V8 Supercars are fair dinkum about putting on a legitimate Grand Final event, it just has to be home grown.
Clutching at straws, I’ll pick Townsville.
An All Star dream
This is just an idea I’ve been tinkering with, and perhaps that is as far as it goes!
I watched with greatest interest this year’s running of the NASCAR All Star race and thought the concept could be a real winner in V8 Supercars.
It’s a terrific spectacle.
No points to worry about, a massive pay day on offer, and a one-off chance for the guns of the sport to put on a real show for the fans.
Clearly the same NASCAR model wouldn’t work in Australia, but the concept could be a success with a few tweaks.
With a $2 million Grand Slam already on offer to a driver who can win Adelaide, Bathurst, Gold Coast and the Sydney 500 all in the same year, an All Star race could add even more drama and intrigue to the series.
Unlike NASCAR’s near-weekly calendar, a V8 Supercar All Star race could only work at a pre-existing event so I’m going to throw up Surfers Paradise as an ideal location to stage it.
Beaches, babes, music, and international drivers already make this one of the events of the year, and the addition of an All Star race would only make it a must-see event.
Here’s how it would work:
• A substantial pay-day for grabs for the race winner, ideally between $500,000 - $1 million.
• 200km race (68 laps) to be held on Friday.
• Starting order determined by random draw.
• Sprint tyres only.
• Three segment race:
- Segment 1 (22 laps. Full-field pit stop for tyres after lap 22. Field bunched up and the race re-started after one lap behind the safety car).
- Segment 2 (Laps 23-44. Full-field pit stop for tyres after lap 44. Field bunched up and the race re-started after one lap behind the safety car).
- Segment 3 (Lap 45-68. Race stopped at the completion of lap 44 with cars to pit for new tyres. Cars to re-grid in order they crossed the line at the end of segment 2 for a race re-start using the start lights).
• Current and former series champions are all automatic entrants.
• Top-10 drivers from the previous season have an automatic entry.
• Race winners from the previous and current season have an automatic entry.
• A one-lap shootout will be held on Friday morning for the remaining cars who haven’t qualified for an automatic pick. The three fastest drivers will qualify for the race.
• Teams competing in the shootout have the option of either entering their regular driver, or choosing a substitute ‘guest’ driver (Eg: Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport can run Mark Skaife in its car instead of Taz Douglas, or Stone Brothers Racing may chose to replace Tim Slade with Marcos Ambrose.)
In a nutshell, the All Star race concept would expand the Surfers Paradise event to a four day carnival.
Thursday would be dedicated to practice and qualifying for opening race of the Gold Coast 600, leaving Friday free for the All Star festivities.
The qualifying shootout for the All Star race would take place on Friday morning, with the race proper to get underway in late afternoon for a twilight start live on TV.
And should there be any carnage in the All Star race, teams would at least have nearly a full day to make car repairs ahead of the opening race of the 600 late on Saturday.
An idea out of left field, I know! But the more I think of it, the more I reckon it has the chance to really take off.
The racing is guaranteed to spectacular, and the drivers will leave nothing in the shed.
A real show for the fans, and isn’t that what the sport is all about?
But it’s the prospect of teams gambling on a wildcard that has me licking my lips!
Mark Skaife banging doors with Jamie Whincup to give Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport its first win would be a moment to remember.
And what about Marcos Ambrose, re-uniting with his old mob for a one-off cameo.
Wouldn’t that make every Ford fan smile!