2015 Indianapolis Race Round Up, Part 2: Moto2 Madness, And Moto3 Development Programs Rewarded

This is part two of our Indy round up, covering the excellent Moto2 race, and the intriguing Moto3 race. If you want to read about MotoGP, see part one.

The Moto2 race turned out to be a barnstormer, a welcome return for the class. Once, Moto2 was the best race of the weekend, but in the past couple of years, it has become processional, and turned into dead air between the visceral thrills of Moto3 and the tripwire tension of MotoGP. At Indy, Johann Zarco, Alex Rins, Franco Morbidelli, Dominique Aegerter and Tito Rabat battled all race long for supremacy. They were joined at the start of the race by a brace of Malaysians, Hafizh Syahrin running at the front while Azlan Shah fought a close battle behind. Sam Lowes held on in the first half of the race, but as he started to catch the leaders in the last few laps, he ended up crashing out.

In the end, it was Alex Rins who took victory, just rewards for the man who had been the best of the field all weekend. It was Rins' first victory in Moto2, and confirmation of his status as an exceptional young talent. MotoGP factories are showing a lot of interest in Rins, but having learned his lesson with Maverick Viñales, who left after just one year, Sito Pons has Rins tied down to a two-year deal. Will Rins be a comparable talent to Viñales? Many believe he will.

Rins wasn't the only young rider to make an impression. After crashing out trying to get on the podium at the Sachsenring, Franco Morbidelli finally succeeded at Indianapolis. The 21-year-old Italian made the transition from Superstock successfully, and is part of a growing revival of Italian motorcycle racing. He will hope that his first podium marks the step to being a permanent fixture at the front.

Rins may have beaten Johann Zarco, but the Frenchman still managed to extend his lead at the front. Like Rossi in MotoGP, Zarco understands the value of a podium. Finishing second to Rins was a fantastic success for what had been a very difficult weekend. The Frenchman had barged his way forward extremely aggressively to get involved in the battle for victory, but in the end, he had to concede the win to Rins. His aggressiveness was still rewarded: he may have lost 5 points to Rins, but with Tito Rabat only finishing in fifth, Zarco extended his championship lead to 71 points. He has the Moto2 title ever more securely in his grasp.

If the MotoGP and Moto2 podiums were a safe but low-paying bet, anyone who got the Moto3 podium right will by now be on their way to purchase their own small country. Rainfall after the end of warm up had left the track wet, but it was quickly drying on the sighting lap for Moto3. Those whose potential had been wrecked by poor qualifying gambled on starting the race with slicks, despite the track still being very wet in patches. John McPhee in eighteenth, Livio Loi in twenty-sixth, and Philipp Oettl in thirty-fourth and dead last all took that bet, and it paid off big. McPhee, unsure of the rules, feared he had been disqualified when the IRTA officials pointed him to pit lane after he had changed tires on the grid. It was not a disqualification, he merely had to start from there.

Livio Loi had made that call earlier, and started from the grid on slicks. His team manager, former racer Jarno Janssen, had told him that using slicks would be difficult in the first few laps, but gave him a real shot at victory. Janssen's word proved to be good as gold, Loi pushing hard and inheriting the lead once the rest of the grid all pitted for new tires. With just one bike, the Moto3 machines must manually swap tires, a time-consuming business. That gave Loi a very generous cushion which he only had to manage for the race to take his very first, and a very well deserved victory.

Loi may have taken advantage of the competition removing themselves from the equation, but that does not mean that his win was taken by default. Take away the minute and a half gained by not having to pit for fresh rubber, and Loi is still right in with the podium battle. Loi was unlucky to lose out on a podium last year, and was dominant in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. The young Belgian has bags of talent, but has been his own worst enemy. A win may finally prove to him that hard work and aggression is worth the effort, and can bring him success.

To an extent, Loi's story is mirrored by the other two men on the podium. All three are huge talents hampered more by circumstance. Loi and Philipp Oettl have been their own obstacles to success, while John McPhee has had his team situation holding him back. After taking second at Indy, and his first podium, McPhee rued the lack of testing he has had. "I've been pushing really hard, obviously it's going to be so beneficial for us. At the end of the day, everybody wants results, and if you need to go and spend a bit of money, do a day's test or whatever, then to me it's a no-brainer."

The team management seems to believe otherwise, and the only test McPhee will get is after Misano, when there is an official IRTA test. But McPhee saw this podium as confirmation that testing would be a valuable investment. "We came really close to some podiums last year, we just missed out two or three races in a row, we had a few front row starts, so we do know we can run up there. I wouldn't be feeling so confident if I didn't know that, but I know I can be on podiums, I know I can win races in good conditions and proper races. We just need to get that package together and I'm sure we can be here more often."

The Moto3 podium was a joyous sight to behold. Every one of them, Loi, McPhee and Oettl, were delighted to be there. There were no irritations at missing out, at losing points in the championship, or at falling short of a better result. It was pure unadulterated bliss. And speaking of things unadulterated, it was also a relief to see a rider drinking water out of a plain bottle, one of the bottles of water provided by the circuit, rather than through a branded water bottle with the logo of an energy drink plastered all over it. It is an open secret that what the riders drink in Parc Ferme and on the grid is water, rather than the overpriced caffeinated sugar water sold under the banner of energy drinks. To see the reality of the situation shown plainly was a rather delicious irony. Motorcycle racers, like so many young people their age, do actually drink the energy drinks they promote. It's just that they drink them as a leisure activity, not part of their sport. Sporting performance is far too important to jeopardize by the consumption of energy drinks.

The Moto3 podium was also a testament to talent programs around Europe. Loi and Oettl are both products of the Red Bull Rookies, and Loi is one of the first major talents to have been produced by the program put in place by the Dutch motorcycle federation KNMV. Loi raced in the NSF100 Cup promoted by former race team manager Arie Molenaar, and then the Moriwaki Cup, a series which is now known as the Junior 250 Cup, and which takes talent from around Northern Europe and provides an affordable series for them to showcase their talent on Grand Prix circuits. John McPhee is a product of the Racing Steps Foundation, a program which funds talented young British riders through the Spanish championship and into Moto3. The Racing Steps Foundation has been instrumental in promoting British talent, and been exceptional at identifying and nurturing riders who will go on to perform. Behind all of these programs are a lot of talented and hardworking people, dedicated to ensure that motorcycle racing has a future. They, as much as the riders who were on the podium on Sunday, deserve the praise and plaudits heaped upon the riders they have produced.

The other irony of the Moto3 podium is that the result of the race did not have that much of an effect on the championship. Despite the fact that Danny Kent failed to score, he only lost 10 points to his main rival Enea Bastianini, and 13 points to Romano Fenati. Kent still leads by 56 points, though the Englishman was furious after the race. Rightly so, as he had lost all his time in pit lane. "I came in with Brad Binder, with Karel Hanika, they were in the group for up to fourth place, I came in with them, and our team just took too long to change wheels. They left the pits about thirty, forty seconds before us, and that was it from there, our race was over. In all honesty, it's more of the team's fault, we were just too long in pit lane."

The timesheets bear Kent's story out. Taking the in and out laps of Kent, Bastianini and Fenati, it is clear just how much time Kent lost in the pits. Fenati did his in lap in 1'59.824, and his out lap in 3'17.457, spending something like a minute or so changing tires. Bastianini took a little longer, his in lap coming in 2'06.244, his out lap 3'32.741. In contrast, Kent's in lap was comparable, a 2'01.552. His out lap, on the other hand, was 4'20.287, over a minute slower than Fenati's, and 48 seconds slower than Bastianini's. Take away that difference from the total race time (compensating for the fact that Kent is down a lap by adding a typical lap), and Kent's race time could have been around the 41'55 mark. That would have put him in fourth, ahead of Romano Fenati, ahead of Enea Bastianini.

As furious as Kent was, he still leads the championship, and he still looked strongest all weekend. He did not have the massive advantage he had at other circuits, but he was still clearly the class of the field. Once he has thrashed out what happened in pit lane, why it took so long to change the tires, he should be ready for Brno, confidence in his team restored. Despite the bizarre and difficult race, the championship is still Kent's to lose.

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...info of how much effort is put in order to have this level of competition in Moto3 not to mention higher classes. Also this situation with changing tires in Moto3 is a stupid way of interfering in the final result. Dorna should act if they want to have a credible racing class.

I don't think it's Dorna's task to do something about the tyre change. Motorsports are a team effort and this time Kent lost because his team lost. Whether it's the DSQ of Marquez in Australia two years ago, or the right strategy on the grid for Loi this time around, or the slightly less "in your face" work everyone does in the box all weekend long, in the end it's not just one guy winning or losing.

If Kent would have actually called out his team members responsible for the pit stop by their names, he could have successfully tossed them a bit further under the bus and really driven his point home!!

In the race, interesting that a couple guys like Oliveira knew before getting to the starting grid that he wanted the slicks, yet he still lined up and gesticulated frantically to his crew from his grid slot. He would have been in with a shot at a podium finish if he had pitted and changed tires from the beginning. I guess that's one of those scenarios that they never prepare for in Moto3, although in MotoGP last year at Germany, they all knew what to do.

I must admit I don't feel entirely comfortable with this changing wheels under intense time pressure strategy. I can see a huge potential for error costing someone a bright future. It's a blowtorch test of teamwork but the cost of failure to execute could be way more than just a few seconds.

In the interests of preventing a talented young rider experiencing an Eddie Lawson moment I'd prefer they just have a 2 part race. No need for the huge delays we've seen in the past, call a stop with the restart scheduled for 10 - 15 minutes later.

... at how totally unprepared the teams were for the bikes to be pitting for tyres. From the expert viewpoint of my couch it was blindingly obvious that slick tyres were going to be required asap. Most didn't even appear to have wheels, stands, tools etc at the ready.

I thought it was also a bit of a fail on the part of the TV director since the action in the pits during that period was far more important / interesting / relevant than what was going on out on track. It seemed like they were as lost as the rest of us when their formulaic pit lane coverage consisting of canned crosses to worried looking girlfriends / team managers went out the window.

The rules are flag to flag - so nothing to say there, but, the technology exists to make wheel changing MUCH quicker, so if you fail then its your (the teams) fault, I saw the gesticulating going on, so the teams knew to be ready to change wheels (although the size of the pit lane apparently meant that some of the teams hadn't actually got back to their box before the riders were arriving for a wheel change!), if they didn't have a signal set up then its their fault.

But how many race's are actually run in these conditions per year? that's the cost reward calculation team owners would make.

Lastly If you incorporated some of the endurance boy's technology so that you can change wheels quickly, you may gain during Fp, warmup and qualy.

I think the idea of flag to flag racing is good, since the order of racers may change when they come in to the pits for a tyre change. In fact, I think they should restrict MotoGP also to one motorcycle and pitting for a change of tyres in case of weather conditions changing. I know many will say, how difficult it is to set up a bike both for dry and wet conditions, but I think that is what will add to the excitement. Those who have better and faster adaptability will do a lot better than others. I personally think that racing should be more to test the abilities of a rider in adverse conditions rather than in perfect and predictable ones. I remember, Daijiro Kato could hardly ride at any decent speed in the wet but was a speed demon in normal conditions. I don't know about others but breaking a race into two sections and finding the winner on the basis of an aggregated time feels silly to me with the man in the 7th or 8th position in the second part of the race depending on aggregated time. I believe the person who crosses the line first should be the winner. It looks incredibly stupid when a person crosses the line first but the audience is told "oh me may have crossed the finish line first but he actually finished in the 5th position".

Mathematically challenged and logically handicapped minds like mine will find it almost impossible to process this kind of information. I will be breaking my head thinking how come the guy who went first was fifth and the other chap, well I did not even see him finish in the gaggle of riders, how did he end up on the top step of the podium. Those who follow cricket know about the Duck-Worth rule where some complex complications are done and then we are told that a team that has lost 4 wickets at the scored of 90 in 14 overs is the winner while the team that batted first and scored a total of 300 runs and lost 8 wickets has lost the match because at the 14th over point that team scored 89 runs and lost 5 wickets or something like that. Neanderthal people like me like it simple.

for so eloquently reminding me why I don't follow cricket! :)

I'm surprised that the riders even drink plain water. As an athlete I would have assumed they would be drinking something enhanced with electrolytes, i.e. Smartwater or even Gatorade.

I believe that riders often have water on the grid, but fill their suit humps with sports drink. On the grid, they are just staving off nerves and keeping their mouths moist. Afterwards, they are just really thirsty, and want a drink. The riders usually have some form of hydration schedule before a race, to ensure they have taken on enough liquids ready for the race. And once they get back to the garage and race trucks, they will drink sports drinks again. But water is ubiquitous and refreshing, and can be squirted all over a sweaty head and neck without unpleasant consequences.

Is what I'd recommend. Sodium bicarbonate provides sodium ions (as regular salt does) to keep neuro-muscular signalling working and stave off cramp; and bicarbonate which is basic and so can help buffer acidic byproducts of exercise like lactate, and can help with endurance. "Reduced s sodium" salt (e.g. "LoSalt" is one brand) usually contain 33% to 50% potassium, also needed for neuro-muscular signalling.

You can buy these from pretty much any super-market for a *lot* less than the vastly over-priced "sports electrolyte" powders.

I usually go with 1 tea-spoon of sodium bicarbonate and 1 small pinch of "LoSalt" in 1 800 ml drinks bottle. I do sweat a lot though, and lose a lot of salts that way. I'd recommend first trying half those amounts, and seeing what works for you. Note: Too much sodium bicarbonate can be bad for your heart.

You can also add citric acid powder (3/4 the amount of the sodium bicarbonate is good), or add fruit concentrate, to flavour (many sports drinks have "sodium citrate" as an ingredient, which is the product of sodium bicarbonate + citric acid).

You could also add honey or syrup, if you want it sweet. I prefer not to put these in my drinks bottle for cycling, so the water isn't sticky and I can still use it to splash myself with or wash my hands - and get my carbs via solids instead, but on a motorbike I guess you have no choice.

Good piece as ever David, just one observation: The comments about energy drinks and the Moto3 podium seemed a little out of character and given that the race was sponsored by R** B*** somewhat churlish.

Having spent my working life in advertising and marketing and helped clients sponsor sporting events, comments like these make getting budgets approved by owners and boards even more difficult.

Reminds me of the Eurosport coverage of the podium at the Suzuka 8hrs and the "I wonder how much damage a bottle of Coke that size would do to you" comment by Jack Burnicle(?) in reference to the title sponsors inflatables handed out to the top 3 teams.

At sometime in the future energy drinks will not be allowed to advertise or be associated with sport, similar to alcohol and tobacco now. Where will the money come from then? In years to come will we go all dreamy eyed when the "energy drink era" is mentioned like us oldies do now when reference is made to the marlboro/luckies/rothmans era? Lets not hasten its arrival by slapping the hand that feeds us eh?

Keep up the great work.

Then as a marketer you should know that employing the strategy of having the riders drink out of energy drink branded water bottles, is completely misleading to the public. You know that right? Public knowledge of the energy drinks' negative health effects isn't as widespread as it was for cigarettes. Hence why we didn't see riders smoking after a win in the 90's.

What energy drinks really should be doing is finding healthy alternatives that still support an active lifestyle, but we already have that (Gatorade, Powerade, Vitaminwater, etc). It's unfortunate that they aren't sponsoring the sport though.

What MotoGP really needs is to entice the firms out of Silicon Valley to support the sport and push out the energy drinks (I can't take that Monster logo anymore), or just bring in the eCigarettes to sponsor it just for ol' times sake.

I remember Bruno Casanova in the 125 class smoking in the press conference after the race, he had a pack of Marlboro's in front of him, those good ol'days ......... smoking cigarettes and smokey two strokes ;)

@Heisman I am sorry my post illustrated an ignorance of marketing. I was taught that a branding strategy was multi-faceted. So, one that depends upon participants in a niche sport drinking out of branded bottles would, as you rightly point out, be extremely weak. Thanks.

As for the "open secret" David's words not mine, that the branded bottles in question are not full of the demon energy drink but water suggests that the public is not being misled at all.

What is misleading is to compare the long-term and wide-ranging health effects of alcohol and tobacco to those of energy drinks, but I guess that's an un-winnable argument.

Totally agree with the Silicon Valley sentiment - I wonder why they don't?

No reason to be sorry. The beautiful aspect of marketing is there's hardly ever any straight answers. Tell you the truth, this is the aspect of the sport I would love to be involved with, in addition to User (fan) Experience.

I have written extensively before on the fact that energy drink sponsorship is going to go away. Not next year, not the year after, but soon enough. Currently, the paddock is behaving exactly as they were in the heyday of tobacco sponsorship: burying their heads in the sand, and pretending it is not going to happen. They do not have a long-term plan to replace energy drinks, nor are they actively pursuing other industries which could provide a more sustainable revenue stream. We are heading for another disaster like the one when tobacco sponsorship disappeared, and nobody is doing anything to prepare for the inevitable.

I shall keep up with the churlish comments about energy drinks, because it is a reminder to those in the paddock that they need to be prepared. I don't want to be writing the exact same articles about energy drinks which I wrote about tobacco sponsorship a couple of years ago.

I believe that teams should do more due diligence on their potential sponsors. Motorcycle racing should not just accept money from anyone, and not expect the image of the sport to be tarnished. The lesson of CWM, and of Grupo Francisco Hernandez, is that the potential reputational damage from a sponsor can be greater than teams think. 

I'm not the first person to mention it, but where did this Leopard energy drink sponsorship come from? Has anyone ever seen a product that they produce? They seem to have no presence outside their sponsorship of sports teams.

Apparently Leopard is owned by Flavio Becca. He's a resident of Luxemburg who's been the subject of many investigations over the last five years.

That's fine but they should at least institute an IOM style "stop-box", where riders are obliged to come to a stop before exiting pitlane. The last thing I want to see is a 16 year kid old kid killed after firing into turn 1 and finding they have no brakes.

Living in australia the american time zone is the hardest to catch seeing as i have work 30 mins after the main event so i slept through moto2. Finally got a chance to watch it.