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GP Week : Issue 171
FUEL RULE: WHAT’S THE POINT? Other than spoiling Crutchlow’s race ... STONER COME-BACK: TOO LITTLE, TOO SOON? 39 GPWEEK.com // 39 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Cal Crutchlow had one foot on his second grand prix rostrum at Motegi when he had the most prosaic of problems. He ran out of gas. What an unfair way to lose a fight. And a feeble way to rob the fans of a good battle. Perhaps the most surprising is that it hasn’t happened to anyone else this season, or at least not in anything like such a severe way ... though both Cal and team-mate Dovizioso have both run out on slow-down laps, as has Rossi. The shift to 1000cc this year did not bring with it a concomitant increase in the already meagre 21-litre fuel allowance. The bikes make more torque and horsepower, without somehow burning more gas. Gas tank size has progressively shrunk in the years of the four-strokes, from 26 litres for the original 990s of 2002 to the current 21. There were several cases of riders either running out or running short of fuel, but electronics came to the rescue, not only cutting back on fuel supply in all areas, but also measuring fuel use and adjusting the throttle response to conserve it as necessary. By the end of the 800 era the problems seemed over. The faster and inevitably thirstier 1000s have drawn a new line in the sand, and in the early stages not everybody can stop themselves from crossing it. Crutchlow’s explanation revealed the fine edge. “We knew it would be critical. I was very fast and for almost the whole race I was on my own with no slipstream, so I used more fuel.” There is, for once, some justification for a rule that other wise simultaneously slows racing down while driving up electronic costs. At least there is some serious relevance to street bikes. Fuel economy strategies refined on the race- track serve the same purpose on the road. Don’t try telling that to Cal, though. Surgery to Casey Stoner’s smashed right ankle was complex: bone and cartilage remodelled, drilled and repaired; pinning rejected in favour of more natural healing. The normal recovery time would be measured in months, and more than six. Stoner was back on a racing bike after six weeks, in spite of warnings that he risked permanent damage. “Honestly I probably shouldn’t be back here, but I wasn’t going to miss Phillip Island my last season,” he said. “For me to get at least back up to speed before I get there is better.” Being Stoner, he made a brave job of his race. Being Stoner, there were still those who expected him to be able to win. In fact, unable to engage in normal training during his down-time, simple lack of fitness would be enough of a drawback. The residual stiffness and weakness in the ankle was another, exacerbated by accelerating out of the track’s several slow corners. “You have to keep your body over the front of the bike because it wants to wheely so much, and I don’t have the bend in my ankle to use my foot to push my weight for ward.” Instead he was forced to use his arms to pull his weight for ward, and especially in his weakened condition it was taking its toll. So it was in the race. He’d qualified seventh, and finished the first lap fifth. He finished in the same position, but only because Spies had crashed and Crutchlow retired ahead of him. He didn’t have the fight when first Bautista and then Dovizioso came past. “As the race progressed my body started to suffer and ache in ways I didn’t expect. We had the pace to run a lot higher, but unfortunately I could manage it physically today.” His fans, like the rider, will be hoping he’ll be race- hardened enough to win his home race in two weeks time. MOTOGP >>> MOTEGI