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GP Week : Issue 164
19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The silly season, they call it. As if motorcycle racing is not already a slightly silly occupation (surely one of its greatest pleasures and most powerful drawcards). But this silly season is sillier than most, as well as earlier. It just got that bit more so, when Ben Spies (left) joined Casey Stoner on the “had enough” list. Stoner was voluble on his reasons for quitting, and by and large pitilessly logical, if very one-sided. He was understandable in every respect but one – how can he bear to stop riding such a magnificent motorcycle when he’s so damned good at it? Spies was the opposite, saying only that he had “a litany” of reasons, but that now was not the time to disclose them. Also unlike Stoner, he said nothing about quitting racing altogether. It may be inferred from his comments in tweet-land (about waking up in hotels and checking the room key to remember where he was) that he’s tired of the constant travel. This would argue against the rumours linking him to BMW back in World Superbikes, and more likely steer him to AMA racing back home in the US. We shall see. Main thing is one-time race winner Ben’s dropping out of grand prix racing, and thus (as far as the paddock is concerned) disappearing from sight. He might not find it easy to come back, should he ever be of a mind to do so. But his surprise announcement, pre-empting Yamaha’s own plans on how to break the news, throws a rock into the pool, setting up new patterns of counter-ripples to an already ruffled surface. There are still too many good riders for too few good seats next year, and this departure eases the pressure only slightly. At the same time, it opens the door to the possibility of Rossi returning to Yamaha. I’m beginning to think he probably will: the lure of adding to his total of 105 wins to reach and beat Agostini’s 122 will prove stronger than any romantic conviction that he can make Ducati win again. This further complicates matters. Aside from saving Nicky Hayden’s Ducati future, it opens a full factory seat, albeit on a troubled motorcycle. Main candidates are Crutchlow and Dovizioso, though the latter has another intriguing option, according to the rumour mill: a factory Honda in a satellite team, either Gresini or possibly a doubled-up LCR, alongside Stefan Bradl. The consolation prize awaits at Tech 3 Yamaha, where (unlike this year of all-new 1000s) the satellite bikes will be of a lower order than the factory bikes. Riders buzzing round the second-rate blossoms include both of the above, plus Bautista, de Puniet and Barbera. There’s also the possibility of a satellite Ducati change, linked with Scott Redding. Racing goes into a two-week summer break now, then returns to another far-flung venue in the USA: Indianapolis. It’s more likely that the important questions will be answered a week later, back in Europe at Brno. It’s almost as exciting as the racing. And, in its own way, even sillier. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor SILLIER THAN THOU OPINION