Motorsport Thoughts

Friday, September 15, 2006

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)


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