If you’ve been getting the sneaking feeling that MotoGP racing ain’t what it used to be, you’re dead right. With just one race left to run in the 2008 season, the premier class has not had a SINGLE race decided by less than a second. Contrast this to 1999, when 9 races out of 16 delivered nail-biter finishes. When the 2-strokes were phased out by the 990cc MotoGP bikes, racing stayed fairly exciting - but close finishes took a very sharp dive when the 800cc computer-guided missiles first hit the track in 2007.
For another look, check out the change in the average winning margin for each of the last ten seasons:
This one’s particularly telling; between 1998 and 2006, average winning margins (in blue) hovered around 2-2.5 seconds, but since the advent of the 800cc era, winning margins have doubled to an average of between 5 and 6 seconds. The main event is routinely upstaged by the 250cc class in terms of sheer, competitive racing - and Dorna’s response has been to kill off the 250GP class.
Rider safety might be somewhat improved (are there any stats on that we can analyse?) but participation costs in GP are skyrocketing, the premier class grid is shrinking, and the racing has been little short of soporific. Television ratings might be buoyed by the sheer star power of Valentino Rossi, but as twilight falls on his career this won’t be a factor forever.
You’ve got to wonder how much longer Kawasaki will spend their 30-odd million a year to advertise to the world how far off the pace they are - and the dollars the top teams are throwing at new technology each year will make sure Team Green gets a good kicking while it’s down. With the human factor diminishing in importance at the pointy end of the field, big budgets will continue deciding championships and superhuman performances will continue to make less and less of a difference.
World Superbike, once the laughing stock of the racing world, is looking healthy and exciting, with an influx of new and returning manufacturers for 2009 and good proper fairing-bashing racing entertainment for viewers.
Will the one-tyre rule help address the issue and inject some excitement back into MotoGP in 2009? Possibly, but the other thing statistics can’t show us is how much more involving it was to watch a viciously kicking 500cc 2-stroker or a powersliding 990cc rocket than the smooth and composed 800cc slot-bikes of 2007 onwards. We’ll never have the 500s back, no matter how much Rossi and the viewing public may want them, and the 800s will be here until at least 2011, so let’s hope this trend of boring, pole-to-post procession racing can turn around in the next couple of years. Yeah, I’m not liking our chances much either. But Formula One got rid of traction control…leave a response, or trackback from your own site.