Motorsport Thoughts

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Motor Racing, fatalism, and fans

Let's be honest, motor racing is a tough thing to love, as it is surely the cruelest of mainstream sports.

The simple reason for this is that people die doing it.

You don't get that with football, rugby, cricket, etc. Only stuff like skiing and powerboating - both comparatively obscure - have fatalities and in skiing (which I'm pretty familiar with) they're very few and far between. In motor racing they are mercifully quite rare nowadays, but accidents still happen and always will do. People can lose their lives very easily when you're talking about things going wrong with high-speed vehicles.

I've touched on death before, as Ayrton Senna's death was the thing that first provoked me to have a look at racing, and of course since then I've come to love it. There does exist a parodox in my mind with racing of hating people getting killed or injured (which is understandable), but also knowing that the risk factor is what makes motor racing good in part. Watching padded bumper cars race at 40mph on a padded track isn't as exciting as watching thirty lunatics on 200mph Superbikes hurtle round the world's best tracks, because it's not as much of a feat required to do it. But going fast isn't the point - rollercoasters are fast, but they're not exciting to watch as there's no element of control. You sit there and the ride does the rest. The skill involved to race demanding machines at very high speeds is what the appeal of racing is, for me.

Accidents and deaths in racing are hard, especially as you get more involved and the victim of the accident is someone you're familiar with or even have met. Learning that someone you know about has lost their life - or worse, seeing it for yourself live - is a horrible feeling. As a fan of many series, I've known of quite a few deaths during my time watching racing and it certainly doesn't get any easier. The toughest I've known of are Gonzalo Rodriguez and Greg Moore, Champ Car drivers who both perished in 1999; and Daijiro Kato, the MotoGP rider who lost his life after an accident in the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix. Equally as bad was the death of Steve Hislop (British Superbike Champion of the previous year) in a helicopter accident in 2003, who I had met briefly a few years earlier at an autograph session. When you've been there and seen people in the flesh, it really hits it home. Mercifully - as yet - I have not witnessed anyone's death live as I watch, and sincerely hope I never do.

Let's come at this from another angle now though.

Whenever someone dies racing, there's always a massive outpouring of grief, shock, and often outrage about how something like this could come to happen (I call it 'Princess Diana Syndrome'). I completely understand the mourning, shock and grief.

But the outrage about things being too dangerous, 'something must be done' etc, gets to me slightly. If we're talking forums, it often comes from people who never express any thoughts on anything else - until someone loses their life - then it's OK to get up and complain, is it? I'm sure the world's riders and teams are ecstatic that people sit in mute indifference to a race, even a really great one, and then come out slagging off the sport/circuit involved when someone has an accident... I hate to refer to specifics, but recently a young British Supersport rider, Ashley Martin, perished following an accident at Cadwell Park, the UK's most exciting track. I wasn't particularly familiar with Ashley, but feel deeply sorry for everyone connected with him about his passing. What I do object to is people coming out who've never passed comment on British Superbike racing or even bike racing at all coming along and saying that something needs to be done about Cadwell as a track, just because there's been an unfortunate fatality. As it says at every track in the world: 'Motor Racing is Dangerous'. Their knee-jerk reactions would be the kind of thing to get Health and Safety reps into action, ready to water things down. Cadwell is a brilliant track, the kind of track that shows off all the best bits of bike racing and one that should never be removed from the calendar.

Now here's the point I'm trying to make. I've been to racetracks many times now. But most of the time there's not much positive reaction to the racing half the time. Think about football matches. Every gets up when their team has a corner, sings songs throughout the match, cheers wildly, and if you're English then you beat the shit out of the town where you're playing if you're abroad, as some people would have you believe. At race meetings, there's less positive stuff. People seem to just sit quietly and appreciate the action much of the time, although you do get some Rossi-mania and Brit-cheering (Stalker and JT, mainly). Too much sitting down in your little tent eating your sandwiches instead of cheering on the 125s.

When the risks are so great, shouldn't we be getting a bit more worked up about the good stuff? Can we not cheer when a great battle goes past, whoever may be in it? How about you show your appreciation more for guys who are risking their lives throughout the race for us? Isn't the good stuff the reason you're watching? (surely you're not just waiting for crashes; if so you're in the wrong sport, go to a demolition derby) Premiership footballers don't risk their lives, and they earn in a month what you might earn in your whole lifetime. They don't deserve your praise as much as guys who are often riding for their livelihoods and always riding for their lives.

Get excited. Don't be embarrassed - it's what you're supposed to be doing.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Foggy team's time in WSB and 2007

Well, we're coming to the end of the FP1 WSB project after four years in WSB and one test year in 2002.

A couple of podiums, a lot of lower finishes, crashes, and mechanicals. Lots of noise from Foggy (amusingly, Neil Hodgson was asked again at the weekend whether he'd ride for Foggy in 2007, and he said he'd "rather eat my own faeces". This was over the tannoy at AMA).

So on the surface of it it's been a futile exercise. Troy Corser, Chris Walker, Garry McCoy, Steve Martin, James Haydon and Craig Jones have ridden the thing and we know there's racewinning talent in there. A lot of money has been spent with a couple of third places, when the field was rather thinner than now.

But... consider this alternate point of view:Foggy comes in for a lot of criticism both for opening his mouth and his team's dismal showings. The former of those is valid.But... The bike was and always has been a dud, way before it got to a racetrack and Foggy's guys got their hands on it. Petronas came in with a lot of money and thought they'd pull one over on Ducati and Honda and the rest by building a triple instead of a twin or a four and get an advantage, and of course like anyone taking on the big boys they fail completely. The big boys are smarter than that these days (Ducati didn't used to be a big boy, but they got big early on in WSB, that's another story).

Not the team itself's fault but the manufacturer behind it.Foggy's team (as opposed to manufacturer) - well maybe they could be an asset with a decent bike. They're cleary able to promote themselves, raise money, etc, why not carry on with an established bike? Davide Tardozzi's a former rider, so's Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha Italia), Klaus Klaffenboch and many more. Riders running teams is a great thing to do. How about Marco Borciani's good little Sterilgarda Berik squad this year with Ruben Xaus doing the riding? (incidentally, the second seat there for next year is an interesting opportunity for someone)

I'd like to see a Foggy team next year. Get some Ducatis, keep Steve Martin, someone else and add something to the championship instead of being an expensive makeweight.

Shuhei Aoyama and being a circuit rookie

I was browsing a while ago and started to have a think about how much stick Shuhei Aoyama's got in the Westy thread for being on a factory bike. At various points he and Martin Cardenas have been given a fair old slagging by irate Aussies (and they both did pretty well this weekend, imho)

To which my line-of-thought of response is "well, that's not very fair, Aoyama jnr's a rookie on the tracks, you have to expect he'll make the odd mistake on some and not be up to speed on others."

But I started to have a wonder at how much weight that actually carries, since the oft-told phrase is that riders/drivers 'learn the circuit within five laps/half an hour'/some other short length of time.So I had a look into how riders completely new to the season's tracks do early on and how we see them improve.

I should point out though, this is circuit rookies altogether - so Pedrosa and Stoner in MotoGP this year don't count cos they've ridden all the tracks in 125s and 250s. Likewise guys who've moved up to 250s this year from 125s don't count either, or those who've moved back down to 125s. A couple of the guys have probably ridden a few of the tracks before - like the Spanish guys in domestic champs - but for the purposes of my point we'll overlook that. We're looking at how guys do in their first few seasons on the GP circuit altogether.

(For the record, Shuhei Aoyama scored a few points in 2002 on a 125, but that was through wildcarding at both his home GPs and did only one other race.)

It's tricky to find guys completely new to GPs in 250s, cos most of them come from 125s so aren't new to the tracks, but here's a couple [all numbers from]:
Yuki Takahashi - 2005 (y1) 11th overall, 77 points2006 so far inc 1 missed round (y2) 3rd overall, 133 points, with the same team
Hiroshi Aoyama - 2004 (y1) 6th, 128 points2005 (y2) 4th, 180 points (same team)
Martin Cardenas - 2005 (y1) 25th, 9 points (private bike)2006 so far inc 1 missed round (y2) 14th, 37 points inc 1 missed round (semi-works, then works)
Shuhei Aoyama - 2006 (y1) =10th, 58 points

You can see a decent improvement from Takahashi and Cardenas between debut and second year, and also Hiro although he had a great debut year.

So you can expect on that evidence that Shuhei will get rather better with time. He's doing about as well as Takahashi did last year currently, and look at Yuki this year with added circuit experience.

So a bit early to to be calling for the guy's head, yes?(incidentally, I was once in a completely different discussion and had just won, and my friend said "well, you can prove anything with facts, can't you?"]

And for interest I had a look into some 125 guys to see what we can maybe expect from this year's crop a couple of years down the line...

Dani Pedrosa - 2001 (y1) 8th, 100 points2002 (y2) 3rd, 243 points2003 (y3) 1st, 223 points (same team each time)
Andrea Dovizioso - 2002 (y1) 16th, 42 points2003 (y2) 5th, 157 points2004 (y3) 1st, 293 points (same team each time)
Hector Barbera - 2002 (y1) 14th, 50 points2003 (y2) 3rd, 164 points (same team 2002-3)2004 (y3) 2nd, 202 points
Jorge Lorenzo - 2002 (y1) 21st, 21 points2003 (y2) 12th, 79 points2004 (y3) 4th, 179 points (same team each time)
Mattia Pasini - 2004 (y1) 15th, 54 points2005 (y2) 4th, 183 points inc wins
Alvaro Bautista - 2003 (y1) =20th, 31 points2004 (y2) 7th, 129 points (same team)

Whereas some take a little longer to flourish:
Marco Simoncelli - 2002 (y1) 33rd, 3 points (yes, he was a regular rider)2003 (y2) =20th, 31 points2004 (y3) 11th, 79 points inc win2005 (y4) 5th, 177 points inc win
Mike di Meglio - 2003 (y1) 28th, 5 points2004 (y2) 18th, 41 points2005 (y3) 11th, 104 points inc win

So things don't look too bad for the future for Bradley Smith, Stefan Bradl, and the rest of the rookies in 125s this year who are currently struggling for points. Even have a look at Nico Terol, who was a rookie last year and only got one point, but is now really coming into form. Your future champs are probably sitting mid-grid at the minute.

There are of course plenty of folk who don't progress or indeed go backwards, but my point is: give people time, then we'll see.

And yes, if there are any statisticians jobs going in MotoGP, I'd be interested in them! (I have no problems making this post, as by me running the League you all already know I'm a nerd)

Bike Racing and the mainstream/spreading the word

We've probably touched on this before, but thought it worth another mention/rant!

Today's race times at the Sachsenring were changed to mean they wouldn't clash with the F1 procession at Magny-Cours (for TV schedules it would seem). The same happened at Donington, and it's happened before too.

Now imho that's pretty lame, for a number of reasons:

In this day and age with internet broadcasts, digital TVs with all their recording technology, DVD recorders and everything, you'd think anyone who wanted to see both could easily find a way to do so without them having to be on at separate times.

But more so it seems to put forward the idea that bike racing is secondary in importance to Formula 1 and that everything else should be planned accordingly. Now for the life of me I can't figure out why at this stage someone would decide that. From my perspective, it always seemed as though bike racing was on the fringe of popular culture, without ever quite breaking into it. Formula One gets the new headlines in the papers, while biking mostly gets a small side column, sometimes interspersed with an article about Valentino or Dani or someone. And aside from Foggy's era, that's the way it always has been as far as I can see, in this country at least.

But things are changing. Bike racing is enjoying a golden age. The GPs are massively popular - ask the 95,000 at the Sachsenring, or the 70,000 at Donington two weeks ago (and that crowd was down slightly on 2005!). WSB is at an all-time high with similar big numbers watching. In Britain the domestic series is getting large crowds every time (about 25-30,000 each meeting). You get to a racetrack and realise that it's not a minority sport; there are loads of people who are in on it. My point being that bike racing - particularly MotoGP obviously - is getting there. It bet there were more people at the Sachsenring watching those brilliant races - which were everything that motor racing should be - than watching the snore-fest in France where some cars changed positions when they went into the pits.

We shouldn't be in the position where we're bowing to F1 any more - as far as I'm concerned we're nearly on equal footing. F1 may pull in bigger TV audiences, but how is anything else supposed to compete if it's being moved around? Part of the ease for casual fans - as it were - to watch F1 is that it's accesible; always on at the same time and on mainstream TV, which MotoGP is also over here nowadays.

It just seems decidedly wimpy to move things around. Maybe it was done with good intentions - to try and get in a few more half-interested viewers who are just sitting around watching TV all day. But imagine telling the riders that they're going out at 11 instead of one, because of Formula 1 TV schedules? How pathetic!

Another thing - tomorrow I'll walk into work and we'll talk about the weekend, and quite a few people will have watched the F1, and I bet hardly anyone or no-one will have seen the MotoGP. And I bet they all thought the F1 was tedious (I saw a few minutes of it in between other things today). We've all had those conversations, right?

At that point, you just want to grab them and say that they're missing out so badly, that everything that's wrong with F1 is right in MotoGP, that they can see overtaking, drama, excitement, riders showing their skill instead of testing how good their machine is and nothing else, and that basically what they want from a motor race but never get with F1 is right under their nose on another channel. But instead you just say 'oh, you didn't see it, that's a shame. Rossi won.' because the other stuff would be a bit melodramatic

So here's the challenge for everyone - try and get as many F1-watchers turned on to bike racing instead (don't bully them, just gentle cajoling!). Wouldn't it be great to get a few more people to see how fantastic bike racing is, and make Monday morning chat a bit better?


I could really do with this thread being shown as a spider-web diagram rather than blocks of text, as there's so many different angles to come at it from.The one I want to talk about now is the TV coverage issue. Absolutely, totally, TV coverage is very important and will continue to be for ever really.

But - think about how technology is changing things around. When I was born, in this country we had three terrestrial TV channels and nothing else. A fourth was added soon afterwards, and a fifth ten (?) years ago. But for most of my lifetime, the majority of TV viewers in Britain have watched four channels only. This gives what we now think of as maybe a fairly limited choice, and people got into the habit of maybe sticking to one channel and just watching it all the time they had the TV on. The viewing figures used to be huge for big programmes. Famously, the 1985 World Snooker final (snooker is quite big in Britain, for some reason) went on until after midnight and as watched by about 25 million people - about half the country. The big soap operas were watched by similar numbers every day. However, over the past 5,6,7 years, digital TV has come in and now half the country has it. Half the households in Britain have access to at least 50 and in most cases several hundred channels.

Viewing figures aren't, and never will be, what they used to be. Twenty million Britons won't watch the same thing, because they have two hundred channels to choose from instead of four. Viewing habits are changing too - people are getting less likely to sit around watching the same channel all day to see what's on it (not that it won't happen, but a lesser proportion will do so) - with so many channels you have to be choosy and know what you're looking for if you're to get anything worthwhile out of your TV. Agreed?

Maybe it's not quite the same in other countries, but I'd imagine it's going that way.

Think also about hardware. You can get TV channels on your computer now. Have you been to buy a VCR lately? Most of them are hard disks instead of a removable cassette. Isn't digital TV starting to look a bit more like things you get over the internet? You can possibly see where this is going - a few years down the line (not many, probably) it seems likely that what is now your TV, Satellite box, DVD player and VCR will become a bit of your computer - in the same way that mp3s and iTunes have made computers swallow up people's CD players.

I'm going somewhat out on a limb with this one [someone feel free to stop me], but it's looking more like the way we watch TV is going to change quite a bit over the next few years. Instead of a limited schedule across only a few channels, there'll be so much choice (there already is) that we'll need to better plan our viewing habits or miss out on things. Or record them of course.

The point I'm getting at - after all that - is that all this 'scheduling it around F1/avoiding F1' or whatever is possibly going to be irrelevent in a few years. The concept of the 'major channels' (like over here, BBC1 and ITV) that get most of the viewers, is going to become less and less relevent as Digital TV replaces current systems. So channels won't be able to rely on as many 'casual' viewers sitting round watching anything (there'll be some, but definitely less). F1, MotoGP, documentaries, the news, Neighbours, etc are all in the process of finding out who's really that bothered about watching them instead of being able to rely on slightly lazy viewers with little choice.

Things broadcast as TV don't have to justify themselves to the TV stations so much any more - because there are/will be so many out there - but have to justify themselves completely to the viewers on their own merits because in a world of such choice you need to pick out the good and sift out the crap. And sooner or later all bulls**ters get found out.

So why should MotoGP (or WSB for that matter) look to be F1's b**ch at a time like this?

125cc Season review 2005 (incomplete)


125cc MotoGP review 2005

The 2005 125cc season was the most keenly contested of the championships this year, with the title fight going all the way to the last lap at the Valencia finale. It was a fitting conclusion to an excellent season showing what the class exists for – for young talent to break through and show it’s future potential, and to simply produce some tremendously exciting racing.
In the off-season we had said farewell to a number of class veterans, who had been forced to move up by the introduction of an age-limit restriction. This writer had roundly condemned this move in the corresponding 2004 round-up, fearing a reduction in the field size and greater uncertainty however added "…all these concerns will be academic if the class lines up with 34 riders again in 2005". As it was, 36 regulars turned out for the season, including a wealth of new talent, so it was a good move after all on Dorna’s part.

With many riders moving up to 250cc, including defending champion Andrea Dovizioso and indeed most of the leading riders from 2004, virtually every team changed its lineup completely from the previous season. Those to remain with the same squad were Mika Kallio with KTM, Marco Simoncelli with the Aprilia team (changing sponsor from Exalt Cycle), Thomas Luthi with Elit Honda and Sergio Gadea on the Master Aspar Aprilia. Everyone else had something of a clean slate going into the new year. With Roberto Locatelli forced to move up, the only champion in the field was 2001 title-winner Manuel Poggiali who was forced back to the class to ride a Gilera after a disastrous 250 title defence attempt in 2004.

The opener at Jerez gave an early indication of who to watch during the year, as all the major protagonists got used to their new machinery and new opposition. The two outstandings riders on the day were Luthi and Simoncelli; however the Swiss suffered a breakdown (his only non-score of the year in fact) and Simoncelli cruised to his second win at the track and his second overall. Mika Kallio was second ahead of Fabrizio Lai on the Kopron Honda, continuing his good form from last year, and 2004 Rookie of the Year Mattia Pasini who looked like a major threat on the NGS Totti Top Sport Aprilia which was backed by the Roma football superstar.

Estoril hastily took on round two after the proposed race at Rio was scrapped following political bickering. Mika Kallio took his KTM to victory ahead of Hector Faubel’s Aprilia, who had stepped down from the 250 class to ride for Jorge Martinez Aspar’s team. Behind them were Luthi, Lai, Poggiali and Tomoyoshi Koyama’s Ajo Motorsports Honda. In the case of Poggiali it turned out to be the best result of the season – he was consistent and outperformed his team-mates Pablo Nieto, Lukas Pesek and debutant Nico Terol, but the Derbi/Gilera always seemed a little off the pace of the front bikes which was disappointing considering the excellent rider lineup.

Shanghai in China hosted a new round on its spectacular Formula 1 track for the next event. While very impressively constructed and with excellent facilities, the track didn’t provide great action until the rain came along. The race turned into a spectacular duel between Fabrizio Lai – going for his first win – and Mattia Pasini who was going for his first ever podium. It looked for all the world as though Lai would get it, but ran ride at the very last corner and Pasini snatched the victory. Gabor Talmacsi took his first podium in third for KTM, ahead of Luthi and the again very impressive rookie Koyama. Fellow new-boy Aleix Espagaro took what turned out to be a season’s best 7th, just ahead of Derbi returnee Pablo Nieto who was having a terrible time of things. Meanwhile, lower down the order, Mika Kallio slumped home in 11th, just ahead of Poggiali, Michele Pirro who took Malaguti’s only points on the season, Joan Olive and Hector Faubel, who really struggled in the wet.



125cc GP Rider-by-Rider 2005

Had this in the archives so thought I'd post it for anyone interested:

2005 125cc MotoGP Review

Team- by team (by total team points, irrespective of number of riders)

1. Red Bull KTM (558 points)

Mika Kallio: 237 points, 4 victories, Championship runner-up
On his day the fastest rider/bike combination thanks to his prior experience with KTM, with 8 poles and 10 podiums in total. However a couple of falls and the odd slip-up meant he lost out for the title in the end.

Gabor Talmacsi: 198 points, 3 victories, 3rd overall
Always in the front bunch of riders as part of the (nearly) all-conquering KTM team, Talmacsi enjoyed by far his best season in the World Championship and looked set to move up with the factory to 250s for 2006. His photo-finish victory over Kallio at Qatar undid all that good work and he was unceremoniously sacked for disobeying team orders. Will land on his feet and be back strong next year.

Julian Simon: 123 points, 1 victory, 7th overall
One of 2004’s most improved riders, a move to KTM for 2005 promised much for the young Spaniard. Overall, despite being consistent, he was too often in the second bunch rather than up with the leaders in races with too many 8th and 9th place finishes. Took an excellent debut victory in the wet at Donington but did no better than 5th elsewhere.

2. Kopron Racing World Honda (245 points)

Fabrizio Lai: 141 points, best result 2nd, 6th overall
Good year for the ever-smiling Italian, although he will be slightly disappointed to not take a win. Not always right at the front in races, but there or thereabouts, building strongly on his end to 2004 with Gilera.

Mike di Meglio: 104 points, 1 victory, 11th overall
Possibly one of the most infuriating riders in the class, thanks to swinging from super-fast to crashing, or simply being down the order for some unknown reason. Took his debut victory in Istanbul after narrowly missing out at Donington, but needs to settle down more to be in contention for the big prize.

3. Elit Grand Prix Honda (242 points)

Thomas Luthi: 242 points, 4 victories, World Champion.
Well-deserved title for the Swiss rider and Czech team after an excellent turnaround from a 2004 season ruined by injuries. Very fast, dominating a couple of races, and only one DNF - through mechanical failure at the opening round – and took on the KTM hordes and won. Well done to everyone involved!

4. Aprilia (237 points)

Marco Simoncelli: 177 points, 1 victory, 5th overall
Another step forwards for the lanky Italian, although again only one victory at Jerez again. Has vastly improved his consistency as well as speed with six podiums, but was never quite a title contender. Is expected to move to the factory Aprilia 250 squad for next year, where his tall frame should suit the larger bike and he could be a front-runner straight away.

Joan Olive: 60 points, best finish 3rd, 14th overall
A step down from 250s to 125s this year for the former Alberto Puig protégé, who has faired less well than his compatriots Dani Pedrosa and Toni Elias. Gained a slightly fortuitous podium at Mugello after the last-corner crash of Kallio and Faubel, but too often was a midfield runner and had some horrendous qualifying positions. Overall, solid.

5. NGS Totti Top Sport Aprilia (195 points)

Mattia Pasini: 183 points, 2 victories, 4th overall
In his second year, the Italian made a big impression on the series after a quietly impressive 2004. He moved to the former Seedorf Aprilia squad and showed off his aggressive style with early season victories to be a genuine title contender for a while. Three crashes in a row ended that hope but is definitely a contender for whatever he competes in for 2006.

Manuel Hernandez: 12 points, best finish 10th, 24th overall
Tough debut year for the Spaniard, who scored in four of the first five events, but none after that. Is difficult to judge potential of a rookie season in such a competitive field, but certainly needs to improve next year if he remains. Moved to Angaia Honda late on in the season.

(R) Daniel Saez 0 points, unranked
Late season replacement for Hernandez for two races.

6. Master-Aspar Aprilia (181 points)

Hector Faubel: 113 points, best result 2nd, 9th overall
Another to step down from 250s to 125s, Faubel had a season of highs and lows. He was always amongst the quickest Aprilia runners, with three podiums and seven top-6s in all, but also seven no-scores and a 15th. Some of these can be put down to bad luck – for instance being brought down by Kallio at Mugello, costing him the win, and a couple of mechanical troubles – so he will be a front-runner again next year.

Sergio Gadea: 68 points, best result 2nd, 12th overall
The Master-Aspar team’s second rider was much improved from 2004, but was probably expecting a better season than turned out. He took a career-best podium at Le Mans after charging through the pack, but like Faubel suffered a number of crashes, including falling with his team-mate in Turkey, and binning it from the lead in Valencia. On the whole, fast and promising but he will be disappointed.

7. Ajo Motorsports Honda (147 points)

Tomoyoshi Koyama: 119 points, best result 2nd, 8th overall
Superb debut year for the likeable Japanese rider aboard the Finnish-run Honda. Two podiums and eight top-sixes in all on unknown tracks mark him out as a possible title contender for 2006. Rookie of the year by a mile, and would have done even better were it not for some mid-season crashes.

Alexis Masbou: 28 points, best result 5th, 18th overall
Decidedly mixed rookie season for the Frenchman, especially when compared to his teammate. Was right at the front contending the win at Assen in a superb race, but couldn’t match that elsewhere. Should move up the order with more experience.

8. Metis Racing Team (Gilera/Derbi) (132 points)

Manuel Poggiali: 107 points, best result 5th, 10th overall
Impossible to know what to make of the double World Champion’s season. He was consistently ahead of other renowned riders on the same bike, but given his past record and experience the year has to be something of a letdown. The performances were quick enough, but he was virtually invisible and didn’t feature amongst the leading pack in most races. Looks to be moving back up to 250s with KTM for 2006.

Lukas Pesek: 25 points, best result 6th, 19th overall
A rider who all agree is fast – but all agree crashes far too much. Pesek completed by far the fewest racing miles this season – around four complete races’ worth less than others on average. His sixth place at Sachsenring shows he has talent that should be nurtured, but too often was unable to keep the bike rubber-side down.

9. Seedorf RC3 Honda (83 points)

Alvaro Bautista: 47 points, best result 4th, 15th overall
Desperately disappointing season for this writer’s pre-season tip for the title, who had an excellent 2004 on an Aprilia. Fourth place at Assen and leading at Donington before crashing twice were the highpoints; there was little else as the team personnel and bikes underwent a change from 2004.

Aleix Espargaro: 36 points, best result 7th, 16th overall
Moderate debut season for the Spanish 125 champion of the previous year. Probably suffered at least as much as his team-mate from the team restructuring and can be expected to improve next season with more experience.

10. Caja Madrid Derbi (67 points)

Pablo Nieto: 64 points, best result 5th, 13th overall
Many people’s pre-season title tip suffered a dismal season back aboard the Derbi he used to ride alongside Youichi Ui. Aside from briefly leading the season opener and taking fifth at Donington – both in the wet – there were few bright spots and a lot of qualifying positions in the twenties.

Nicolas Terol: 1 point, best result 15th, 36th overall
A solitary point at the season opener was all Terol had to show for his debut season. Missed a couple of races through injury.

(R) Enrique Jerez: 2 points, best result 15th, 34th overall
Replaced Terol for a couple of rounds after he was injured, taking a couple of points. Hard to judge his potential.

11. Skilled I.S.P.A Racing Team Aprilia (30 points)

Lorenzo Zanetti: 30 points, best result 5th, 17th overall
Missed the start of his sophomore year through injury, before hitting his stride mid-season and taking an excellent 5th at Brno. Sadly that was the best it got, with no further points from the last six races to end the year on a low note.

12. Team Toth Aprilia (23 points)

Imre Toth: 7 points, best result 9th, 28th overall
A season to forget for the Hungarian, with just 9th at Le Mans to show for it. However, he should be applauded for getting a pair of nationally-backed bikes on the grid.

Vincent Braillard: 0 points, unranked
Rookie who was to be found at the rear of the pack. Injured for two races and replaced by Rodriguez.

(R) Angel Rodriguez: 16 points, best result 8th, 22nd overall
Replaced Braillard for Australia and Turkey and rediscovered his best form, that had been missing for so long. Was in contention for a rostrum at Philip Island but got shuffled back in a blanket finish, and took another impressive result in Istanbul. Please get back on an Aprilia in 2006!

13. Abruzzo Racing Team Aprilia (20 points)

Andrea Iannone: 20 points, best result 10th, 20th overall
Former front-running team Abruzzo scaled back to a one-bike operation and slid way down the grid, although rookie Andrea Iannone did his best and picked up a few moderate points finishes.

14. Angaia Racing Honda (17 points)

Toshihisa Kuzahara: 17 points, best result 9th, 21st overall
Four points finishes for the series debutant with 9th at Mugello being the best, although he was put in the shade by compatriot Koyama aboard a similar bike. Replaced by Manuel Hernandez for the final two races.

Federico Sandi: 0 points, unranked
Completed plenty of racing miles in his debut season, but no points finishes.

Manuel Hernandez: 0 points for this team, 12 for NGS Totti Top Sport
Replaced Kuzahara with no further success late on in the season.

15. Matteoni Racing Aprilia (13 points)

Raffaele de Rosa: 13 points, best result 11th, 23rd overall
Another big team to suffer in 2005, Matteoni also employed a young rookie on a singleton bike. De Rosa, for his part, showed form on occasion, with an 8th place starting slot at Jerez, but more often than not was lost in the pack.

16. Kiefer-Bos Castrol Honda (8 points)

Sandro Cortese: 8 points, best result 14th, 26th overall
Another 2005 debutant, the German rider scored points on five occasions but was not a feature at the front of races. Could be useful with more time on the bike.

17. MVA Aspar Aprilia (6 points)

Jordi Carchano: 6 points, best result 13th, 29th overall
Another underwhelming season by Carchano, who was drafted into the second string Aspar team as it stepped down from 250. He scored two 13th - at Jerez and in the wet at Donington.

Julian Miralles: 0 points, unranked
An unfortunate debut season for the rider who finished runner up to Aleix Espargaro in the Spanish 125 season in 2004 so clearly has talent. Suffered a horrible leg injury partway through the season, and although he made a comeback, was again replaced before the end by Tunez. Needs to recover fully and be given a second chance.

(R) Mateo Tunez: 0 points, unranked
Replaced Miralles for most of the season but didn’t get any points. Did, however, take fastest lap at Motegi by half a second from any other rider, showing that there is talent there.

18. Semprucci AB Cardion Blauer USA Aprilia (4 points)

Dario Giuseppetti: 4 points, best result 13th, 32nd overall
Moderately dreadful season from the former team-mate of Thomas Luthi from last year. The team seemed a little at sea for much of the season with both bikes languishing near the rear of the field. Towards the end things got a little better but unfortunately not to get the riders into the points. Hopefully this upward trend will continue for next year and get the excellently-painted bikes in camera more often.

Karel Abraham: 0 points, unranked
Gained useful experience in his debut year, but no points. Covered more practice miles than any other rider.

19. Malaguti Reparto Corse (3 points)

Michele Pirro: 3 points, best result 13th, 33rd overall
The smallest manufacturer on the grid, Malaguti, fielded a pair of rookies who found it difficult to be competitive. Pirro was the more impressive, consistently being well ahead of his team-mate and taking 13th in the wet in China.

Sascha Hommel: 0 points, unranked
The young German found it very tough going in his debut year, with injury problems not helping. Was replaced by Pellino, and later found himself replacing Schouten.

(R) Giole Pellino: 0 points, unranked
The former Fontana and Abruzzo rider replaced Hommel after injuries, but was unable to get the bike into the points.

(R) Jules Cluzel: 0 points, unranked
The French rider who is part of the Dorna Academy system took part at Valencia as a replacement rider. He looked very impressive, setting 14th fastest lap and with any luck will be part of the series next year.

20. Arie Molenaar Monda (0 points)

Raymond Schouten: 0 points, unranked
A second fruitless year from the Dutch rider, who was replaced before the end of the season.

(R) Sascha Hommel: 0 points, unranked
Replaced Schouten with no more success.

(R) Takumi Takahashi: 0 points, unranked
Brother of 250 star Yuki. Replaced Schouten in Japan.

21. LG Mobile Galicia Team Honda (0 points)

Angel Rodriguez: 0 points scored for this team, 16 for Team Toth
Wretched season for Angel, until he moved to Team Toth and hit form.

(R) David Bonache: 0 points, unranked
Replaced Rodriguez, without success.

Wildcard points scorers

Michael Ranseder, Red Bull KTM Junior Team : 12 points (12th at Catalunya, Assen & Sachsenring)
Dan Linfoot, KRP/ Honda : 7 points (9th at Donington)
Michele Conti, Kuja Racing Honda : 5 points (11th at Mugello)
Christian Elkin, E3 Motorsport Honda : 4 points (12th at Donington)
Stefan Bradl, Red Bull KTM Junior Team: 1 point (15th at Brno)