Kropotkin Speaks - Pedrosa vs Hayden

Discussion in 'Racing' started by Kropotkin, Oct 20, 2006.

  1. Kropotkin

    Kropotkin Big Girl's Blouse

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Oddometer:
    15,262
    Location:
    Dieren, The Low Low Lands of Holland
    Everyone seems to have an opinion on the Pedrosa and Hayden incident. So I thought I'd better have one too. So here it is...

    Pedrosa, Hayden and Repsol Honda - An Accident Waiting To Happen

    The Pedrosa - Hayden Incident

    In Turn 6, on the 5th lap of the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril, the race, Nicky Hayden's title hopes, and a large part of the world's motorcycling fans exploded. Seconds after Dani Pedrosa's impetuous passing attempt on Hayden, taking both riders out, even the official MotoGP website's live video feed went into meltdown, depriving thousands of shocked US fans of the aftermath of the resultant crash, and the thrilling end to a literally unbelievable race. A wave of shock went through all who watched, and once incredulous brains had finally come to terms with what had happened, the same question filled millions of heads: How could this have been allowed to happen?

    Despite the almost murderous intent assigned to the crash, mostly by American fans, it was not a particularly unusual incident. In fact, it was fairly reminiscent of a crash earlier in the year at the Sachsenring, when Kenny Roberts Jr got into a turn too hot and took Makoto Tamada out, on Tamada's best race of the year so far. The real difference was, of course, that Kenny Jr and Tamada were riders on different teams, fighting for a top 5 showing around mid-season. Pedrosa took out Hayden, ostensibly the number 1 rider on his own Repsol Honda team, in the penultimate race of the year, as Hayden was edging ever closer to his first world championship, and the first title for Honda since Valentino Rossi left three years earlier.

    If it had happened in race two, there would have been an enormous hullabaloo: If the first rule of racing is that your team mate is the first person you have to beat, the second rule of racing is that you should under no circumstances take him out directly. But to do it with just two races to go, thereby converting your team mate's 12 point lead over the greatest motorcycle racer of all time into an 8 point deficit, is beyond explanation, and seems almost beyond belief. So, how was it allowed to happen?

    The most obvious answer is a pass made by Pedrosa on Hayden a lap earlier, in the same place. Nicky Hayden, in his effort to stay as close to Valentino Rossi as possible, put a pretty robust move on Pedrosa going into Turn 6, getting up the inside and forcing Pedrosa to stand the bike up and run wide. This seems to have riled the young Spaniard to such a degree that he tried a reckless move, trying to stuff his bike ahead of Hayden's when there was no room, something you might expect from a hot-headed rookie in the 125 class, but not from a three-time world champion, and a rider usually considered mature beyond his tender age.

    But that only answers a part of the question. The real question is, what made Pedrosa even consider trying to race against his team mate, endangering both himself and his team mate, as well as his team, his sponsors, and the manufacturer's hope of revenge against Rossi? That is a much longer and more complex story.

    Alberto Puig, Pedrosa's Svengali-like mentor and friend, let slip a glimpse of the underlying problems in comments he made after the race, blaming Hayden for causing the crash by braking too hard, and asserting Pedrosa had every right to challenge Hayden for a position as he still had 'a mathematical chance of the title'. Puig is a very powerful figure in the paddock, running teams in the lower classes, as well as the MotoGP Academy, widely acknowledged as the best route into premier class racing for young riders. His influence is hard to exaggerate, and when you add in his forceful personality, known for attempting to silence those who criticize his riders, this makes him a potentially disruptive figure in any team. He is, like so many people involved at the very highest levels of professional sport, utterly driven, and people who are so driven often find it difficult to keep a sense of perspective. Alberto Puig is concerned with only one thing: that the riders he coaches should win. Nothing else matters.

    In a sense, this is totally understandable: He is paid to nurture young talent to produce winning riders, and he is remarkably good at his job. But his focus and his drive rubs off on his protégés, and can turn them into single-minded, dour automatons, concerned only with their own performance, and little else.

    The problem is, of course, that winning championships in MotoGP needs a team. A single rider simply cannot handle the amount of testing it takes to develop a modern racing prototype into a winning motorcycle, and the sponsors, who pour millions of dollars into funding this development, need two bikes running to ensure that their logo is kept permanently in the public gaze. For the sponsor, running two bikes is a way of hedging their bets, so that if one rider should fall, or fail, then there is still a good chance of the other being in the public eye.

    So, the racing paradox is that to reach the very top level of racing, you have to be utterly dedicated to your own success. But to remain at the very top level of racing, you need to be aware that you are a part of a team. Being part of a team means that occasionally, you have to make your own interests subservient to those of your team mate. For anyone dedicated to winning, this is hard, but in doing so, you hope to buy yourself enough credit to get your own shot in the future.

    This is a lesson that has been totally lost on HRC since the beginning of the season. When Dani Pedrosa moved up to MotoGP from the 250 class, he was welcomed into HRC's factory Repsol Honda team as the champion elect, the rider who would finally bring to and end Honda's humiliation at the hands of the prodigal Valentino Rossi. He wasn't expected to do this in his first year; 2006 was meant as a learning year, so he could get used to the ferocious power of a big four-stroke, and learn to set these bikes up properly, to be ready for his first serious title attempt in 2007. His team mate, Nicky Hayden, was set to work developing the RC211V, riding what is to all intents and purposes a 990cc version of the 2007 bike with which Pedrosa is meant to win the title.

    Unfortunately, reality interfered, and half way through the season, Nicky Hayden found himself with a commanding championship lead, and every chance of taking the title for Honda a year ahead of plan. What's more, Pedrosa, in his apprentice year, had proven to be much faster than anyone had expected, and was sitting comfortably in 2nd place, ready to pick up the ball should Hayden drop it. As Valentino Rossi started to close the gap to Hayden, race by race, questions about team orders were waved away as being entirely theoretical, and not something that needed to be addressed at that point of the season. But Rossi continued to close the gap, averaging well over the 9 points he needed to outscore Hayden by each race.

    To most observers, the question of team orders had moved from the theoretical into the realm of necessity by Motegi. And with Pedrosa's poor showing in the rain at Phillip Island putting him out of contention for the title in all but the most mathematical sense, it seemed like a no-brainer that Pedrosa would do what he needed to to assist Hayden's title challenge. Team Manager Chris Herring's denial that no team orders were in place was greeted with much nudging and winking. As the race turned out, Pedrosa was never really in a position to do anything to help Hayden, running wide on the first lap, and having to fight his way through the field. The matter was left unanswered. For the moment.

    So, as the teams headed to Estoril, team orders were once again the talk of the paddock. Rossi had closed to within 12 points of Hayden, and Pedrosa's mediocre showing at Motegi had all but ruled him out of contention for the title. So when HRC officials once again insisted that no team orders would be issued, their denials were met with incredulity, if not outright hilarity. HRC would not encourage Dani Pedrosa to help his team mate win Honda its first title for 3 years? Impossible! Ridiculous!! We had had our doubts about HRC for giving Hayden parts to test at crucial times in the year, when a good result seemed to us mere observers more important than a revised swing arm, and these doubts had only been reinforced by Hayden's serial clutch woes, but surely the most successful motorcycle racing organization in the world, the company which had won over 200 premier class races, and 16 world titles, would not pass up a golden opportunity like this?

    That Pedrosa then took out his team mate in an act of vindictive self-assertion was proof, if any were needed, that HRC had lost its way. The universal shock at what had happened was not just because someone had taken out the rider leading the title race; It was much more the shock of realizing just how horribly wrong things had gone for HRC and the Repsol Honda team. The once-mighty team, the dominant force in the MotoGP paddock, had somehow metamorphosed into a bunch of argumentative, bumbling amateurs, riven by internal strife.

    Pedrosa's pass was attempted with impunity, because no one inside the team had told him he shouldn't do that. His mentor Alberto Puig had positively encouraged Pedrosa to fight for every inch against everyone, whether they be the current or the prospective world champion. Since joining Repsol Honda, he had been treated as a future world champion, been given everything he asked for, and seen the team bow under the weight of the pressure Puig applied on Pedrosa's behalf. At no point did he consider it his duty to help out his team mate, as Pedrosa considered himself to be Honda's number 1 rider, lured into this notion by the lack of resistance HRC had shown to Puig's belligerence. Pedrosa's body language after the crash, getting up and walking away, without so much as a glance at his team mate, spoke volumes about how he viewed his team mate.

    In the post-race interview Nicky Hayden gave, he came as close as he has ever come to openly criticizing HRC. As he spoke, he gave away perhaps more than he meant to, letting slip the fact that, in contrast to what he had said at the time, it hadn't always been his choice to run the development equipment for the 2007 bike, and that at a certain point in the season, he felt he should have been given the tools he needed to defend his title lead properly, rather than having to fight his way up from 17th position after cooking his clutch, through no fault of his own. The cracks were finally starting to show, and the picture you could glimpse through them was an ugly one: tales of a constant struggle to be taken seriously as a title contender, and to be treated as the top rider at Repsol, not just some test rider for the boy wonder to come.

    The point at which the Repsol Honda situation moved from the sublime to the ridiculous for me was after Hayden renewed his contract with HRC for another two years. It turned out that the main sticking point had been Hayden's demands that he be given at least equal treatment with Dani Pedrosa. It seemed to me that if you have a rider who is going to finally get revenge on Valentino Rossi for you, and win the MotoGP title after too many years in the wilderness, you treat him like a warrior king, and give him whatever he wants. You don't beat him down and make him feel like Mr Second Place by holding out for so long on a little appreciation. That Hayden remained as focused and confident as he did is a testimony to his psychological strength, and is in spite of Honda, not because of them.

    But what now? Hayden has a brand new, shiny two-year contract to ride with Repsol Honda. Dani Pedrosa has another year to go of his two-year contract. Alberto Puig goes where Pedrosa goes, and has too many fingers in HRC pies to be extracted cleanly. But the situation at Repsol Honda is clearly untenable. It's almost inconceivable that Pedrosa and Hayden will be able to share a pit box next year, yet that is what they are condemned to. It is hard to believe that the combination of Pedrosa and Hayden will prove fruitful in developing a bike and fighting for a title, with so much distrust and bad blood between them. So, unless big changes are made, Repsol Honda is not going to be able to function as a team next year.

    There has already been some talk of punishment, the most likely scapegoat being Tsutomu Ishii, HRC's General Manager. But while Alberto Puig stays in pit crew, there will never be enough room for two riders capable of winning a title. For Puig, it's Pedrosa or nothing. If HRC were sensible, it would be nothing. I fear it will be Pedrosa.
    #1
  2. mike54

    mike54 You don't get me

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2004
    Oddometer:
    14,812
    Nice write up as usual Kropotkin.

    Would any body be suprised to Hayden racing for a manufactuer other than Honda next year?
    #2
  3. nomiles

    nomiles Sledge-o-matic

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2002
    Oddometer:
    4,382
    Location:
    Bay Area ~ NorCal
    Another nice report! thanks, Kropotkin. :thumb :thumb
    #3
  4. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Scottsdale Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    12,260
    Location:
    Scottsdale Arizona
    Thanks for that perspective Kropotkin. The one thing in all of this I am grateful for is that most yanks on this board are finally behind Nick Hayden. I mean before the stupid Pedrosa thing, it seemed like many thought Hayden wasn't deserving of the championship. Now we have lots of folks thinking he will win Valencia! I think he might win, but its not likely, given the rest of the season's results.

    Regarding Pedrosa, I just don't think its that complicated. Road racers don't do that Pedrosa stuff when big things are on the line. Honda obviously didn't think they needed to inject anything into his paddock, and why would they? No...That little guy is every bit the shit he has been portrayed before MotoGP.

    People admire many achieving qualities in competition, but I don't think Pedrosa is well admired right now even in Spain. He can redeem himself if he has the stuff, but most doubt he does. If he wasn't such a tiny fellow, I'd compare him to Mike Tyson. But whatever, he's diminished himself seriously to anybody that values sporting competition. -P
    #4
  5. kdxkawboy

    kdxkawboy Mr. NVKLRGirl

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    2,631
    Location:
    Gardnerville, Nv
    Al lot of that is nothing more that what happens when the talking heads search for something to sell ads. Oh, the points leader isn't running away with the championship there for he must be an undeserving over rated wimp.

    I like Kropotkin's view, very objective and to the point, and pretty much spot on as to the real problem is how Team Honda has a bent of commiting teamicide - in F1 there were two Honda teams with similar bickering and and Carmicheal, McGrath, Rossi are in a long line of great racers that left Honda because of BS like this.

    Something worth throwing into this mix. Pedrosa got the more competitive bike. Hayden was forced to ride the development frame/chassis for next year's bike. Rossi and Hayden had both struggled with bike problems at different periods and that's what had most us serious fans looking to an end of the session showdown between these two as they both appeared to have those gremlins worked out. And about the rough pass Hayden made on Pedrosa. I'm starting to see commentary, that after going back and reviewing the tape, what you had was Rossi and Colin were starting to pull away from Pedrosa, Hayden passed Pedrosa, out braking him into the corner, to keep up with the leaders. In response Pedrosa tried to wick it up and pass Hayden on the outside befroe reaching the exit and then Hayden being Hayden, did not give ground and Pedrosa had to stand the bike up or crash. The question is, giving the context of the situation why was Pedrosa even contesting that pass?

    At that point in the race why didn't Pedrosa tuck in behind Hayden and follow him to the front? That would havce been the smart move. He would have supported Hayden while still maintaining a chance to make a clean pass on Hayden if he wanted to play that game. That's a question I'd like to hear Pedrosa answer.
    #5
  6. RDJEff

    RDJEff Lost in Alaska

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,009
    Location:
    Los Anchorage, Alaska
    There is an old saying that goes something like this: "What doesn't kill me only makes me stronger". I think Nicky will just add this whole incident to his life experience and come out even stronger. The boy has what it takes, he just has to work a little harder than Rossi to develop it.
    #6
  7. Ray of Sunshine

    Ray of Sunshine Happy Grrrl

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2004
    Oddometer:
    17,110
    Location:
    42deg 40' 3"N 73deg 46' 54"W
    Kropotkin, you are a beacon. :bow
    #7
  8. Closed Casket

    Closed Casket Jaded and Faded

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2004
    Oddometer:
    870
    Location:
    SW Florida
    Excellent and well written perspective, K. If I were a moto rag I'd be figuring out a way to plagiarize it!

    It seems that contracts don't mean much lately, and that racers/managers can figure out a way to extract themselves from them. If I were Nicky, I'd hire a superb contracts lawyer, get the hell out of HRC and never look back. Except that the other good seats have been taken, so it's probably too late! :(:
    #8
  9. steve69

    steve69 n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3
    you are right on the money with albert puig. i live here in spain and i've seen lots of races with this jerk. in 250 if anybody knocked down pedrosa he would go over to their box and bitch out the team that was responsible. and you can see in the interviews here how pedrosa acts like him. everybody here in spain bitches about how fischiella doesn't help fernando alonso and doesn't know how to work as a team but they don't say anything about what an ass pedrosa is. you shouldn't have too tell pedrosa and puig how to work as a team. champions should already know. all you here about is how great pedrosa is but i don't think he's better than rossi but his head gotten too big. but thats puig's fault.
    #9
  10. ikonoklass

    ikonoklass Kountersteering Krew

    Joined:
    May 5, 2002
    Oddometer:
    2,630
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    :bow :bow :bow
    #10
  11. CGH

    CGH Polluting the ether

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2004
    Oddometer:
    25,211
    Location:
    Calgary
    +1 :thumb
    #11
  12. SFSlim

    SFSlim Surpassing cancer

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,200
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    +1

    This should /absolutely/ be published in a major moto magazine. Hell I'll subscribe to whatever publication decides to give Kropotkin a monthly column.
    #12
  13. TTTom

    TTTom some guy on a bike

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2006
    Oddometer:
    938
    Location:
    NorCal
    You would have to think that the atmosphere within the Repsol garage will be toxic this weekend and next year the chase for the world championship may end up being a sidelight compared to the battle between Pedrosa and Hayden!
    #13
  14. azkiwi

    azkiwi message in a bottle

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2004
    Oddometer:
    10,630
    Location:
    Upstate AZ
    Ironic isn't it? This is the reason Rossi went to Yamaha and now its the reason they can't beat him.

    To the extent that it comes from Honda's philosophy of a machine NOT built around one rider, should Nicky pull off the win, all the managers will be vindicated and there will no repercussions at all...
    #14
  15. kbasa

    kbasa It's good to think. Super Moderator

    Joined:
    May 28, 2002
    Oddometer:
    84,736
    Location:
    Marin County, California
    Beautiful big picture analysis, Kropotkin. Thanks! :thumb
    #15
  16. Kropotkin

    Kropotkin Big Girl's Blouse

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Oddometer:
    15,262
    Location:
    Dieren, The Low Low Lands of Holland
    Thanks very much, all!

    A Spanish paper is reporting that Pedrosa has promised to do "all he can" to help Hayden. More details on my blog.
    #16
  17. yooperbikemike

    yooperbikemike high, wide and handsome

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2003
    Oddometer:
    14,234
    Location:
    The blue groove
    Crash.net has what I guess is a translation of the interview. Dani says that Puig and him had planned to get 50 pts in the last two races. :rolleyes
    #17
  18. demonite

    demonite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    234
    Location:
    England
    I liked the part where he planned to "control Valentino".
    Kid, you're a very talented racer, that is clear, but being able to control Rossi, is not exactly possible, especially when you can't even control your front wheel
    #18
  19. Kropotkin

    Kropotkin Big Girl's Blouse

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Oddometer:
    15,262
    Location:
    Dieren, The Low Low Lands of Holland
    The interview was with Motociclismo (Dennis Noyes' magazine), and is on their website in Spanish.
    #19
  20. yooperbikemike

    yooperbikemike high, wide and handsome

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2003
    Oddometer:
    14,234
    Location:
    The blue groove
    Unfortunately, I only speak enough Spanich to get fed, order a beer and get my face slapped, not necessarily in that order. :evil

    Fortunately, the complete text of the interview in English is on MotoGP.com and Crash.net. :D
    #20