With temperatures reaching the high 30s centigrade across Europe this week, the weather for the Dutch TT at Assen, Netherlands, was… 13 degrees, cold and damp. At least the inside news from the MotoGP paddock was as hot as ever.
Drowning out the competition
At the last DTM round at the Lausitzring, through their connection with Mercedes and AMG, Ducati brought along a 2006 MotoGP bike for some demonstration laps. Originally intended to be ridden by Moto2 championship leader Stefan Bradl, it was Moto2 rider Max Neukirchner who climbed aboard. The biggest draw though: the 990cc four-cylinder Desmosedici was louder than the 4-litre V8 DTM engines. Result!
The dangers of housework
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama, who was drafted into the Repsol Honda stable to replace the injured Dani Pedrosa for the Dutch TT (pictured, top), is a tough cookie. Last year at Silverstone he fractured the number five vertebrae in his back, sidelining him for much of the season and requiring intensive rehabilitation and physio. Now, one year on, he can still feel the effects of his injury, but in unlikely ways: “On the bike, my back is fine and gives me no problems now, but the worst thing for it is hoovering my home. That gives me the biggest problems, but it’s quite a good excuse!”
The root of addiction
For most people in the media centre, going to Assen means just one thing: another fix of the ludicrously addictive and sugar-filled Chocomel. Made just down the road from the Assen circuit, the chocolate milk drink can be found on just about every desk in the media centre from Tuesday morning to Saturday night – unless of course the fridge is allowed to run empty, as it did on Friday. Knowing the uproar this could cause, a special delivery was arranged directly from the factory to the Assen media centre. Now that’s service.
Reserve rider’s crash course
Day two at Assen caused all sorts of problems for Repsol Honda with all three bikes going down within seconds in completely unrelated incidents. The third one to fall was Aoyama, who maybe got a bit mixed up while digesting the sight of his team-mates in the gravel traps. "I saw Casey [Stoner] and Andrea [Dovizioso] falling in a left-hand corner and I immediately thought I had to be careful because here it's very difficult to get grip in left corners. But a few corners later I crashed and it was totally unexpected. It was a big one, around 190kph, and I hit my back. It was very painful." But maybe not as bad as vacuum cleaning…
Keeping wrapped up
In the cutting-edge world of MotoGP, team budgets are significant, the cost of machines and parts are expensive, and even the equipment used by the media isn’t cheap. When a single camera lens can cost thousands, it’s an investment worth protecting from the elements. However, simpler is sometimes better – the favoured method of keeping camera and the Dutch rain separate? Metres and metres of kitchen cling film. The height of technology!
Form not too patchy
Electronics undoubtedly have a significant role in modern-day MotoGP machines, helping to translate 200bhp-plus to the road through a tyre contact patch the size of a credit card. Whilst many people are calling for the role of electronics to be reduced, you only need to listen to the bikes through a series of fast corners to hear how happy some riders are to use these aids. Not Mr Stoner, though, who is constantly calling for HRC to turn his traction control down to the minimum. The only problem is, no one can understand how he can be so fast without it, so they keep wanting to turn it back up again!
Travelling in style
In Japan you have the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train. In France, it’s the Train à Grande Vitesse. In England, the railways were built upon such evocative names as the Flying Scotsman. The Netherlands’ answer to cross-country train travel? The Spurt…
A chill in the bones
We’ve seen in the last few races how quickly modern science and healthcare can fix broken bones. Just type ‘Titanium collarbone plate’ into Google and 80 per cent of the results are for MotoGP riders. But even though you can be riding fit within a week, as Colin Edwards proved, it doesn’t make you Superman. “I put an ice pack on my shoulder after Silverstone and it went straight into my bones,” said latest victim of a broken collarbone, Cal Crutchlow. “You really feel the cold. Barry Sheene had to go back to Australia because he had so many plates and pins in him – Europe was just too cold. Not a bad trip on health grounds!”
Tricky kerbs become tricolori kerbs
This weekend's Italian MotoGP race at Mugello is going to be one of the most watched races in recent history, if not ever, with Valentino Rossi, the darling of the Italian crowd, gunning for victory aboard the Bologna-built Ducati. Marco Simoncelli has turned into a real crowd favourite of late with his two pole positions but wayward riding style, but the circuit has binned its traditional red and yellow paint scheme for the kerbing, instead going to a green, white and red paint job as part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Italy.