In Defense of Toni Elias

Now that the 2009 season has come to a close, and Toni Elias has signed with his current team boss to move down a class for 2010, there will be a temporary ebb in the debates about who this man is and where he belongs in the sport. There is a long-developing opinion espoused, subscribed to, or at least tacitly accepted by a growing number, that Toni Elias takes the first half of a season to lazily absorb his life in the top tier of motorcycle racing before beginning a mid-season panic where he must suddenly show results good enough to secure a job for the subsequent season. I don't know when this line of reasoning began, but since it seems to pass for critical thinking these days, I, for one, have had enough.

I'll save you some time and give you the punchline up front: Toni Elias has never been on the same bike two years in a row since entering the MotoGP class. How good would your first half of the season be?

Toni Elias, Donington Park

Name the current riders who have had great success (say, a win, or frequently on the podium) in their first year on a bike... let's keep it to the MotoGP era: Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa. There's a familiar list, right? Loris Capirossi with a couple of wins for Ducati. After that, it's a long way to Colin Edwards who featured on the podium a couple times in his first year with Honda and then again with Yamaha, followed by Nicky Hayden in his rookie year, and then Andrea Dovizioso with one podium appearance in his rookie year. Name the rider(s) who scored wins in his first year with more than one team: Rossi.

Now, name the rider(s) who have been on a different bike every year in 5 years of MotoGP experience: Toni Elias. Marco Melandri is the next closest rider in this view of things, beginning with his 4th new bike in as many years (for 2010), but after starting his career with two pairs of years of relative stability. And, for those not firmly in touch with recent history, since Garry McCoy did not race the Ilmor X3 in 2007, every rider was on a radically new bike that year, even if they stayed on the same team.

A brief look at Toni Elias' MotoGP career offers a practical study in, what should be, anonymity: 12th, 9th, 12th, 12th, and 7th place finishes in the season points championships, with each year offering a rather different path to what appears to have been a predictable outcome (see graph below). But with at least one podium appearance every year (after his rookie year), and his solitary victory being one of the most spectacular in the history of the sport, he is not merely a mid-pack also-ran.

His first 3 years were injury-plagued, and since most injuries are self-inflicted in one way or another, there is little excuse. But do not overlook the obvious: when getting hurt enough to miss races during the season, a rider is likely to improve in the standings as the late-season progresses. Is that what is meant by "waiting for contract talks", or is it typical healing from injury?

In 2007, the switch to the 800cc formula clearly did not benefit his riding style, nor that of his team mate, nor that of anyone riding a Honda and not named Pedrosa. It can be argued that having Bridgestone tires that year propped him "up" to that 12th place tally at the end of the season, after recovering from a severe leg fracture. But, aside from 2 podium appearances, it was clear he did not get on with that bike. Was he waiting for contract talks when he scored a 4th at Jerez and a 2nd at Istanbul (at the beginning of the year, before getting hurt)? After the 2007 season, both he and his team mate made the leap to Ducati; something everyone assumed was a positive career move (not one of desperation) for both riders.

In leaving a good team with inferior equipment to ride the bike that had just dominated the World Championship, we see an interesting lab experiment in 2008. Though much more was made of the struggles that befell Marco Melandri and his failed attempt to ride the Beast from Bologna, it cannot be ignored that Toni Elias was experiencing nearly the exact same thing. It was the inexplicable difficulties experienced by both of these men that raised the specter of problems for Ducati. In Melandri's case, he was aboard a factory bike with factory support, while Elias was aboard a satellite bike whose team owner was engaged in some "problematic" financing that cost the team access to support from the factory. When Luis D'Antin was shown the door and new management was installed - and at around the same time debate began about the likelihood that Melandri would even finish the season - Toni Elias received some upgrades for his satellite machine (most signficantly, an updated swingarm linkage; not exactly what one thinks of as the missing link for instant improvement). He found a way to improve his lot, made two podium appearances, and beat his erstwhile team mate. Waiting for contract talks, or overcoming adversity?

For 2009, both riders could not wait to, once again, have to begin the season anew on unaccustomed equipment. In Elias' case, he returned to the welcome confines of old friends, and the promise of a greatly improved, and "factory-supported", ride compared to the valve-spring Honda he left behind at the end of '07. For Melandri, no reminders about the year of Hayate are necessary. For Toni Elias, the change to standard-spec tires meant that his specially designed custom-made options were completely eliminated, and as a result, his unique riding style severely hindered... again. While attempting to come to grips with a new kind of tires that he had no feel for, he had begun to question the "support" his bike was receiving from HRC. After placing 6th at Laguna Seca - and after team owner Fausto Gresini infused some cash to purchase more "factory support" and garnered an updated (2008) chassis at Sachsenring - as if following a script, Elias went on to a Top 10 finish in every race the rest of the season, save for a wet-track crash at Donington while in the lead group. This was also waiting for contract talks before being "properly motivated"?

Toni Elias crash, Donington Park

Even a fairly brief examination into his situation each year will explode the theory that he waits until late in the season to show true form. In 2006 and 2007, he was performing well (even though new to the bikes), until getting injured. A little deeper research reveals that he has responded immediately to mid-season bike updates directed at accomodating his unique style, which could have only served to encourage his state of mind at the time. It is little more than coincidence that these events occurred during the Silly Seasons.

What Toni Elias' five years (thus far) in MotoGP demonstrate is the high price of discontinuity and the even higher price of the current rules package; meaning that the decrease in practice limits a riders' chances to get familiar with new equipment. What he has done every year is improve with time on the team and mid-season developments for the bike. This is conveniently dismissed as a mechanism to stay employed, but he has never been afforded the chance to carry that momentum to a subsequent year. He is not like Valentino Rossi, who engineered bringing much of his team and Jeremy Burgess with him for his (one) team switch. He was not courted by manufacturers with the promise of tailoring a bike to suit him. He has had to re-establish his place in the sport with each new year spent in it, and 2010 will continue the trend.

Does he deserve another chance in MotoGP? Does the MotoGP grid deserve to have more than 18 bikes and riders? Should he get that chance, and should he also get the chance to stay with a team and bike package for longer than one year, I dare say there is likely to be a competitive Toni Elias not seen before.

Graph and statistics courtesy of Jerry Osborne,

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out there looking to make his way in this sport. His sporadic results often leading to a vagabond like move from team to team each new year. The guy can ride with the best of them, and He has never had factory level equipment to do so. Who could forget him holding off Rossi for the win in Estoril. Unfortunately this sport requires you to be not just fast but also likable and marketable. I think Toni's shortcomings in the latter two areas have been a major factor in his current demotion. I would imagine he will be back in MotoGP one day but it will take the right team and equipment for Toni to compete at that level again.

Toni Elias is balls to the wall fast, but I think a year in Moto-2 will benefit him if his ride (chassis) and team are competitive.

I think he'll be given another opportunity when the liter bikes return. Perhaps the only person who will benefit more with the return of the big bikes is the man he (Toni) helped win a championship, Nicky Hayden.

I thought it was Pedrosa who knocked Hayden out?
Or did Rossi slide out of the last race, I'm not sure...

Elias beat Rossi that day with one of the most balls-out passes in history, had Rossi won, he would've rapped up the championship. So Elias kept Hayden's championship alive for one more race... that's how he helped him win.

But Rossi didn't win. And all Rossi had to do was to stay on board at Valencia and finish in the points, but he made an uncharacteristic and incredibly stupid mistake, crashing out of the race. Rossi threw the championship away himself at Valencia. He needed no help from Elias.

Well yeah, but Elias forced him to have to finish in the points once more, and he didn't. So he (Toni) helped Hayden win, whether Rossi threw it away or not.

Why is that pointless conjecture? It's a simple fact, an often forgotten fact...

Lets say Rossi had a mechanical failure that day instead of a brain fart, would you then still say Toni had nothing to do with Hayden's championship?

It's all pointless conjecture, because what happened, happened. If Rossi's engine hadn't blown up at Laguna, if Pedrosa hadn't taken Hayden out at Estoril, if Rossi's crew had noticed that it was the front that was chunking at Shanghai, not the rear, if Rossi had spent the winter thinking about MotoGP and not F1, if Honda had not given Hayden so much mule work to do as a tester, if Dajiro Katoh hadn't been killed, and the rules hadn't been changed to switch to 800s in 2007, then both the Yamaha and Honda would have been completely different; the combinations and possibilities are endless, and for each conjecture you offer, there are a hundred counter-conjectures.

History happens as it happens. There's no point going back over it to wonder what if (other than as an entertaining intellectual exercise), you look back to see what there is to learn, then look forward and attempt to at least not make the identical same mistake again. Until we invent a working time machine, we just have to accept that history played out the way it did, and get on with our lives as they are now, not as they could have been.

It's only CONJECTURE if you're talking about the would've, could've, should've stuff...

My original statement was that Elias helped Hayden win, and he did. It was one of the critical moments (there were certainly others as well) that defined the 2006 championship.

And the would've, could've, should've conjecture is not "pointless." If there is no point discussing the possibilities of the sport we all love here, why does this site even exist? This notion is especially odd coming from you David.

No revising history, no wishing it had turned out different. I don't understand where you're coming from in terms of responding to what I wrote.

My points were not meant as criticism, merely pointing out that dead horses are dead horses, no matter how much you flog them. And I am certainly all in favor of debate, and am always glad when intelligent coherent posters such as yourself make good points.

Perhaps where I disagree with you here is on the role of Elias' victory at Estoril in Rossi's championship. It was one of very many events that year that created one of the most interesting and exciting championships in years, and in my view, one of the least significant. In that very race, Pedrosa's failed attempt at passing Hayden was at least as important, as was Kenny Roberts Jr's mistake in thinking he'd won on the penultimate lap.

To me, the single most significant factor in Rossi's loss of the title that year was his lack of concentration in the off season, as he toyed with the option of going to Formula 1. This lack of focus is something he has since remedied, and he is now far more focused on his preparation than he was previously.  Part of Rossi's genius is that he learns very thoroughly from his mistakes, and this was a big one.

With all the lack of focus in the off season by Rossi and the mistakes he made during the season, he was .001 seconds from winning the championship in 2006.

The man who snatched that .001 of a second from him was Elias. If that is not a critical moment in the championship, there are no critical moments, ever...

I'm sure Hayden appreciated Elias breathing one last breath of life into his championship. Hayden took full advantage of the opportunity, meanwhile Rossi didn't complete the task at hand.

You make a perfectly valid point, which it's pretty hard to argue with, but I'd like to step back a little. One of the interesting things to me about human nature is the meaning we impart to numbers. Now, for sure, 0.002 seconds is a tiny gap, but in terms of points, it might as well be a minute. Motorcycle racing, in that respect, is like pregnancy, nobody is a little bit pregnant, and nobody is sort of second or sort of first. It's a pretty black and white, binary condition. However, it is our nature to look at the gap, rather than the result, and wonder "what if".

One of the things I try to ask riders about whenever I get the chance is to ask them how they see these questions, the "what ifs". So far, everyone involved has talked about immediately putting those things behind them, and focusing on what is ahead, not what has just passed. That focus is what makes the difference between winning and losing, as you're not spending any of your attention on what has already happened, rather than right here, right now on the race track. That's not to say that they never think about it, as far as I can tell, it's just that on track, it gets compartmentalized and shut away. That process is what fascinates me, for if it was me, I'd spend days and weeks chewing over what I could have done differently.

But then, I suppose that's why I'm writing about this, rather than actually doing it! ;-)

Well said, but I'll step back a little further still...

At this moment in time, I remember (in positive way) what Elias did at Estoril more than any SINGLE thing Lorenzo, Pedrosa or Stoner have done in their careers thus far... to me at least, it was THAT spectacular!

It's a signature moment 3 of the 4 aliens cannot match as of today. Maybe Elias was more lucky than good to seemingly defy the laws of physics. One could certainly argue that his results simply do not merit him getting or keeping a ride in MotoGP (that was the original antithesis of the article after all), fair play, I won't even argue. But no one will ever convince me that the skill, the potential, isn't there... even if it is never fulfilled (which is far more likely than not).

Over three years later, I'm still amazed! Plus talking about it is more entertaining than the work I have to go back to doing now!

Oh, and I still think he helped Hayden, I'm sure Nicky bought him a beer...

You're spot on as usual, David.

The endless droning on about what would'a, could'a, should'a happened is typically an exercise to demote or belittle a particular champion, in an effort to explain away why that particular person won a championship; such arguments often seek to remove the skill element and rely on finding endless computations based upon some form of "luck". And all the while advocating why yet another rider did not win the championship notwithstanding his superior skill, but was merely dealt ill-luck, yada, yada, yada. Essentially, the exact counter-argument why a particular champion succeeded in a given year. And when that is the exercise (as it so often is) it is, to say the least, mind numbingly dull.

I wasn't trying to demote or belittle Hayden's championship victory, nor deny any element of skill by the riders involved. In fact I was only trying espouse Elias' skill in one of the most impossibly insane passes I have even seen.

In fact I find David's statement that Rossi threw the championship away belittling to Hayden's accomplishment. It suggests Hayden didn't win, Rossi merely lost.

I certainly don't mean to belittle Hayden's championship. There were two key factors in the 2006 championship, one of which was Rossi's distraction, the other of which was Hayden's consistency. Hayden deserved that title for all of his achievements that year, and Rossi's congratulations and later statements conceding defeat merely underline that.

I know you're not the type to belittle any rider, I've been reading your articles for years now. I was simply using your statement to respond to the other post above...

I have to disagree with you David. Rossi wasn't distracted at all.
What cost him the championship was engine and tyre failures, crashes and injuries.
Elias did have a big effect on Rossi's points, but not at Estoril. It was Toni that punted Vale of track at the first corner of the year.
Chatter or not, Rossi would have bagged at least 5 points or more at jerez if not for this.
As far as Elias' form & failure to secure a seat, Rustys article changed my view only slightly. He has always been eratic in my view. Talented and fast yes, but not consistent enough. Great riders always adapt and ride around setup problems.
I also find it deeply ironic that a spainard whinges about losing his ride based on nationality.

A very good case can be made for the root of the tire problems and engine malfunctions lying in Rossi's preseason distraction. The tire problems were down to the extreme chatter the 2006 M1 had, and that can be blamed to a large extent on Rossi not focusing on the 2006 season during the preceding winter. If he was focused then, he would have been pushing harder and encountered the chatter earlier. The fact that it only emerged as a problem at the very first race of 2006 strongly supports this contention.

The fact is that Yamaha started the 2006 championship with a bike that wasn't sorted. The fault for that has to be laid firmly at the door of the man who has led their development since joining the factory.

I would have to agree that Elias punting Rossi off the track at Jerez was almost certainly as important to the championship as his win at Estoril, that is a very good point. However, as Motovegas and others have pointed out so very well, it is largely irrelevant. Each season consists of thousands of individual choices and possibilities which could have changed their course and given an entirely different outcome.

Personally, I think that losing the 2006 championship was one of the best things that ever happened to both Rossi and MotoGP. It has made Rossi work that much harder at the sport, and produced a Rossi far greater than the young man who thought he was invincible prior to 2006. That loss merely increased his determination, and therefore his legend.

...laziness. An extremely harsh thing to say about people operating at this level. Still I think after winning 5 and 2 MotoGP/500cc championships respectively, Rossi as well as Yamaha just lost their focus a little bit entering the 2006 season. And I couldn't agree more: for Rossi this was a reality check that made him step up his game even more.

... that is what these discussions are about, I'm sure you've read plenty of arguments that flow along this very line of reasoning. But, I fully accept that you aren't trying to do so.

In any event, the problem with picking a moment in time to reduce an entire MotoGP season into, is, at best, somewhat of an over-simplification. As a fan of GP you know that a season of MotoGP involves a near infinite confluence of variables to determine who (and how) a MotoGP champion is crowned in a given season. Pointing to Elias as being responsible for Hayden's '06 championship is true if only viewed in a vacuum while looking only at Elias taking 5 points from Rossi. But seasons don't unfold in vacuums. Are some events and happenings more important than others? Of course. But by the logic used earlier by you somewhat relating Hayden's victory to Elias's triumph over Rossi at Estoril is true of any rider that "took" 5 points out of Rossi, yes? (e.g. Dani at Donnington over Rossi; Capirossi in Brno and Motegi over Rossi). Why then are they not equally responsible for Hayden's victory as Elias is by using your metric? Again, in a vacuum, I guess they are.

But as David mentioned, Hayden's consistency over an entire season earned him the title, and not because Toni Elias gifted it to him but save by lucky chance.

Anyone who finished in front of Rossi by five or more points that year helped in the same way. That would be Capirossi, Melandri, Pedrosa and others (considering Qatar and Assen that makes it just about everyone). Single events like Elias' victory seem like decisive moments but in a year long championship their drama makes them seem more significant than they are.

I agree, but the difference between those other five point loses and the five point loss to Elias, was that on that particular day Rossi could have won the championship and been done with it. That's not true of the prior moments/results you speak of...

Also, how many of the other riders who took points from Rossi did so by beating him in a straight out fight on the track? I think Krka's got a good point when he says Elias made a difference in the '06 title fight.

Those are the winners when Rossi took 2nd in three races in 2006. They were 3 to 4 second margins. Again, just because it's dramatic doesn't make it worth more points.

Are some fights more dramatic for us fans to watch? Absolutely! Was Elias's win over Rossi a thrill to watch as a fan? You bet! Is it more important in the scheme of things to Hayden's '06 victory than any other of the three races Rossi placed second? Nope. Points are obtained by finishing the race in a given position, not the relative time you obtain that position, as you know.

But also, kind of think about what you're saying. If a rider beats another rider by say 4 seconds like Dani did over Rossi at Donnington in '06, isn't that MORE of "straight up" win (in the vacuum of absolutism which seems what this argument boils down to) than Elias's thousandth of a second win over Rossi at Estoril? So didn't Dani win MORE of a straight up fight with Rossi by punishing him by four seconds rather than just simply thousandths on the home stretch? Or for that matter, the 5 seconds that Capirossi "punished" Rossi with not once, but twice in '06? Of course, as a fan was it more fun to watch a race come down to the finish line... but that isn't the issue when we are talking about deconstructing championships. Elias's five point victory over Rossi had the exact same championship point impact on the title as did Dani and Loris's wins over Rossi. The essense of looking at seasons like this, ultimately crowns a champion because of the action of everyone else on the field... because without everyone else, there would be no race! Esoteric mumbo jumbo if you ask me; which you didn't =)

See, by my estimation this is the problem with breaking entire seasons down into snap shot moments... seconds... thousandths of seconds, and then with that deconstructed moment in time, lending it undue attention, if not weight, as to its overall impact on a championship. Does such exercise sell magazines and get fans riled up? Yeah of course it does. But in reality, championships titles aren't made like that. They are put together over months and months of racing acheived with determination, preparation, skill and of course, lady luck; all mixing together in one big'ole pot.

Briefly, your first paragraph sums it up. No need for all the excuses afterwards.
Elias is the biggest waste of machinery in the paddock.
You must be related!! :(

where do this ppl come from, he read the entire piece, then took even more time to make this comment?

He only came good on the Honda this year after the bike he rides was up graded to close to factory after the half way point of the season. Mr Honda ( or mr Suzuki realized this and made mention that next year the satilite bikes will be up graded faster)
With Ducati i think it took until the USA round at Luguna before the factory team started to help him and show him Caseys set up for the track.
I think he would have done a better job than Andrea D on the factory Honda this year if he had the chance.

My understanding was that Pedrosa and Dovisioso rejected the 2009 chassis in the preseason, and ran the 2008 chassis until midseason. And Elias, with the 'factory' ride, had to do mule duty on the 2009 chassis until it was overhauled at midpoint. Would like to hear if that is not correct..

Kevin Schwantz, interview in 2008, after the german moto gp round "I was watching Elias lap times and when Rossi came to lap him, his pace turned nearly a second faster. So I ask: why didn´t he ALLWAYS rode at that pace? He need Rossi near him to ride fast?"

If you look cold-heartedly to Elias performances, yes they´ve been good enough to keep him in the paddock. The problem is that he allways bites on the hand that feeds him. There´s allways something wrong with his bikes, the team, the tyres etc...

In 2008 he claimed that after getting the 2 podiums Ducati cut off his legs by providing them with second rated material. He claimed to be "Suspension Oil" This year he said he didn´t stayed with the team because "he wasn´t italian". That´s a very sad thing to say to a team boss.

And he´ve also, of course, complained of the bike. He has allways been a hugely Overrated, like most of spanish riders. He had the biggest salary in 250 cc in 2004 and not even won the title. He has to think that albeit winning the most he is far from the best.

And someone has to explain me why the hell he allways asks tremendous wages when he has crap seasons, you have to be realistic and think of what you´ve done to earn it. And I don´t mention all the tows he had to take from Rossi this year, that tells a lot about his ability.

(...edited to remove offensive and pointless comments...)

He may not have been able to recap his career excuse list so well. Results matter. He didn't get them. I don't think there's a rider on next year's grid less deserving of their ride to suggest Elias should have continued to be given a chance to compete in the league. If he has a resurgence of competitive results then I think that's great and contenders are always welcome. If not, he can join the long line of world class riders that never received their chance at glory due to conditions beyond their control. how you define "glory".  I have not made an argument here that he hasn't had his chance.  I am also not making excuses for him.  I just invite you, and everyone else so willing to throw stones, to go ahead and achieve better, given his situation every year.

Yes of course. He is a proven podium performer. Unfortunately Toni is is a victim of tight times. Are there others on the grid less deserving of their 2010 seats? I don't think so. You could make a case against Bautista & Barbera perhaps as 250 graduates without a title (O.K Bautista has a 125 title), but these are the exact same circumstances that Toni graduated to the premier class in. I too am sick and tired of hearing that tired old line 'They only perform at contract time' or 'are just there to collect the cheque' There are no bigger lines of b/s in this sport than those. These guys are all winners, that is the psyche that drivers them to compete. They hate losing, every place gained restores a little pride and self esteem. Hell I race and push to my limits every time, which are good enough to win on occasion, and I only have a poofteenth of the ability and aggression of these boys.
MadXico - you quote a weather affected race - specious argument at best.

Motorcycles fall over if you don't go fast

But I don't think that makes them not true. People are motivated by loss. Rossi has been motivated by loss of his title and others are motivated by being in danger of losing their job. I don't think it's a character flaw, just human nature. And these guys are professionals. Hopkins got a lot of flack for joining Kawasaki for a big paycheck. But these guys have often sacrificed a lot in terms of making a living in other ways to get a chance to be a champion. If they want to race year after year for a paycheck and can get it, more power to them. It means that someone wanted them to race more than another rider who would work for less (or free).

I also believe the graphic in the article doesn't show the whole story. It just reflected race results. There are 3 or 4 other sessions in a weekend that are often the times when these mortals may be motivated by loss and pop up in the upper third of the time sheets and people take note. Hard charging efforts in a race can also lead to DNFs that will not contribute to a late season climb in points. A solid race finish is nice, but starting from further back, avoiding taking out contenders and the knowledge that they'll not likely see the podium must seriously detract from the drive to risk life and limb. Maybe Rusty will re-plot the finishing position of practice and qualifying sessions!

To clarify, the chart shows Elias' standings in the championship following each round and not his race results.

My understanding of Hopkins' then circumstance was a threefold position. Disillusionment with Suzuki's progress, what appeared to be a very capable Kawasaki screaming out for a top flight pilot, and yes the pay cheque. I see it in that order. We'll see just how motivated Hopkins is to race 2010 with his stocks at rock bottom. If he's a racer with true desire he'll be out there on anything with a chance at a title.

Given your last paragraph can you please explain to me Hiro's ride at Valencia when all he needed was a few meagre points. To his eternal credit he simply stated he wanted to win the race. That's the quintessential racer mentality in my books.

I thought it was valid to take a risk given ALL three reasons. But I doubt he'd have made that move without the last one.

But I don't get the connection with Aoyama? I'm not talking about racing for points not being important, but a completely different subject entirely.

Great analysis Rusty! More please! : )

I must admit that although I've never disliked Elias (like some here seem to), he's never been a rider who I've given serious consideration to as a potential contender. I see things a bit differently now.

I was in the 'Elias starts riding well when silly season arrives' suite. This article provides great insights and even if you're not a Toni fan, you have to admit the world is not just black and white once more.

That was the same thing I got from this. I made the assumptions about Elias and certainly am not a fan. However, after pulling the numbers and then reading Rusty's piece, my opinion changed. What many people seem to miss is Elias' early season results, choosing instead to just look at his mid-season adn silly season results.

Elias has a unique style of riding. Unfortunately, it is one that requires a particular bike set up that no one else uses. Elias' problem has been that he has always been on a bike that has been sort of an afterthought - essentially receiving hand me downs from other riders. This is made that much worse by the fact that Elias has never had the time with any one teams to get to a point where they "get" what it is he needs. It looks more to me like Elias and his team have finally sorted out their issues by the late season rather than him being motivated by contract talks. This conclusion is supported by the rare occasions when the factory made some sort of consession and gave Elias what he needed.

A prime example was the swingarm linkage that Ducati gave to Elias and Melandri. While it didn't solve all of the problems with the bike and certainly didn't help Melandri, Elias was suddenly on the podium. All for a simple swingarm linkage. Remember also that this was prior to any discussion of contracts.

I appreciate MM's sticking its cyber-nose into a controversial matter. More of this, please! And the graph was nice, too.

As much as I appreciate Toni Elias' presence in MotoGP, I am not fond of his reckless behavior. Is he balls-out? Sure. Does he add to the mix? Sure. So did Hector Barbera in 250cc, but I think the same example is a bad example. I like to see good racing, not stupid behavior. Someone who earns a significant salary to race should be a professional and thus act professionally, but that's just me.

Great commentary, though. I think this one piece has generated more comments than any other MM article in recent memory. Good stuff!

One of the underlying points of his not missing a race in the last two years is that he is no more a crasher than the rest of the field, now.  Very briefly, off the top of my head (major disclaimer), I don't think he has torpedoed anyone since Rossi in early '06, or certainly not in a long time, so the Barbera comparison doesn't really hold up.

No question Elias has shown flashes, meaning he can be competitive -- e.g. going with the current scene and lingo, be among the top riders just behind the 'four aliens'. The problem is, he has not performed at that level consistently enough, for whatever reason.

So bottom line, it's natural that after a while of that kind of mediocrity teams may decide to try their luck with another rider whom they think has potential, often a top rider in another class. (Of course today financial considerations may also be in play.)

This is why I said, and tried to show, that Hayden was, relatively speaking, overrated (e.g. compared to Vermeulen), and that he was lucky to get a contract with Ducati for 2010 -- meaning after his abysmal first half of the season, not many would have really blamed Ducati for looking elsewhere. In this sense, if his improved results do not continue in 2010, he may find himself worrying about, and eventually out of, a ride in 2011.

I think Ducati offered Hayden the ride because he has shown he has the sheer determination to get to grips with a bike (next to the fact that both parties thought his dirt track riding style would suit the Duc). This is what they need(ed) for the Desmosedici and I think he has already shown more dedication than, with all due respect, Melandri. But 2011 will definately be the year of truth for Hayden, and if he can not improve I figure they will look elsewhere - and rightfully so. That's just how it works on this level, there is no doing favors. Hayden would agree.

Was the Hiro point I was trying to make. Hard for a racer to repress the racer within. How often do you hear of these guys riding around mid-pack but still saying I lost the front a few times before backing off. That's 100% commitment to me.
Yes Elias is light and his extreme hang off style means there's not much weight on the rear tyre, so it's highly unlikely the settings of other riders would work for Toni. But are these machines not infinitely adjustable to account for the variations in riding style? I think part of Toni's problem might just be he's not so great at communicating his problems or knowing how to resolve them.

I agree that all these riders are world class, life risking heroes. But I just didn't get what that was in response to. I'd never say that Elias is bad or doesn't have the talent to be in the league, just that there are reasons why he's not and all the armchair crew-chief excuses in the world can't resolve them.

Nostradamus, your inferences into Elias are nearly identical to much of what was said about Garry McCoy.  I intentionally avoided the comparison for this article, but the similarities are unavoidable (maybe in a future article... ;-) ).

It has been said that McCoy was not very good at communicating what he needed, but he just rode the bike to the limit anyway.  Because his style and physique are so different, he really needed something different than what the mechanics were used to providing.

The other glaring parallel is tires.  The end of McCoy's success coincides with Michelin's decision to stop making a tire suited especially for him.  It can be argued that Elias is performing better in a similar scenario, but the difficulty cannot be overlooked.

One of the interesting things about Toni Elias is that, despite his petite physique, his style seems to be better suited to the larger, more torquey bikes.  However, this may have been down to Bridgestone making the right trade-off for his size.  Next year should reveal a lot in that regard.

Well done Rusty, this article is factual and to the point.

My question now is why Dorna do not step in and create a ride
for him.
They did this for Melandri, why not with Elias, afterall
there is a Honda floating around without a rider.

 I wouldn't begin to know how to speak for Dorna, but I'm pretty sure it's because Melandri has more wins and a runner-up finish in the Championship.  Beyond that, it's fairly simple marketing; Melandri has a larger fan following.  That grace will not last indefinitely, so he will have to have an outstanding year in 2010...  and I believe he will.

I, too, would like for Elias to get a ride in MotoGP next year, but I don't think he is helped by riding a bike that is barely in the field, and with another crew that he doesn't know and who don't have the resources to improve the bike.

Given the situation, I think he may be better served as a front-runner in Moto2 for 2010, and then the impacts of the new rules for 2012 will probably improve his stock for 2011.

Dorna did not save Melandri, they saved Kawasaki - or rather, they forced Kawasaki to provide a bike to the Hayate team, and presumably some funds to go with it. In return, Kawasaki was allowed to pull out of MotoGP early, instead of waiting until 2012, when the current contracts expire.

Melandri was kept on at Hayate because the team had to choose between the two riders. Melandri clearly had better marketing power than John Hopkins (the other man contracted to ride the Kawasaki in 2009), but Melandri was also willing to ride for free, something which Hopper presumably was less happy to do.