by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 34
>>Moto GPValencia Digital caption here The last of the loco laps Michael Scott MotoGP editor THE last MotoGP of 2008 marked the end of several eras: Hayden’s nine years with Honda; KTM’s last 250 race; the last Eurosport TV broadcast. And Michelin’s last Grand Prix – supplanted at short notice by next year’s single tyre rule. There was another sentimental moment too, during Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session: the last time qualifying tyres will ever be used in anger. Indeed, at all. The spectacle is over, and it is a loss of something quite unique. Even for the uninitiated, the concept of qualifying tyres needs little explanation. They are ultra-soft tyres, designed to last just one fast lap, and offering quite extraordinary amounts of grip. So much that riders had serious trouble ever finding the end of it. And with only a limited number of qualifiers to find out – nobody ever used more than four – they were usually still going faster on the fourth, with potentially more to come. And returning to the pits with eyes like the proverbial soup plates. There were soft tyres available back when all four practice hours counted towards grid positions and supply of tyres was unlimited. Engineers would complain that they were a waste of time, because they diverted attention from the more important task of finding bike settings on race tyres. But it’s a matter of degree: by the time the single qualifying hour was introduced two years ago, and then the restrictions in tyre numbers in 2007, the performance level and quality of the tyres had increased exponentially. And with grids shrunk to just three abreast and overtaking increasingly difficult, they had become much more important in themselves. Fans will miss the intensity they brought to the last 15 minutes of qualifying: the names at the top of the time sheets changing minute by minute, as one or another rider fitted another qualifier and tried even harder than before. The riders will miss them too. A straw pole of the front-row qualifiers at Valencia found a common opinion among all three. Casey Stoner allowed “I’ve enjoyed them a lot. At first I found them difficult, but once you understand them a bit better they really get your heart pumping, instead of just going round and round looking for tenths.” Dani Pedrosa, speaking with more than his usual enthusiasm, concurred. “It was difficult at first to have that much grip. But then it was magic. You just focused on opening the bike up as hard as you could.” And Nicky Hayden likewise. “I’d come in after a good lap on qualifiers shaking, it’s that intense. Michelin has front qualifiers as well as a rear, and you can trail-brake in so deep, and you don’t need much traction control. “With the engine set to maximum fuel consumption and power and you’re trying to move up from 12th on the grid … man, it’s a big thrill. “I think it’s actually safer on qualifiers. Next year, if you’re trying to move up and you’re really hanging it out on a used race tyre …” If the riders will miss them, so too will the rest of us. The end, indeed, of a special era in racing, comparable to the boost-up mega- power qualifying engines of F1 racing of the turbo era. Race management will almost certainly have to resort to F1- style elimination rules in MotoGP qualifying of the future, to re-inject some excitement. Let’s hope they do it sooner rather than later. 35 opinion