Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2005 09 14

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 102 of 103

IN THE PADDOCK By MICHAEL Scorr No Comment Or contractual reasons, I am not at liberty to reveal details of the topic of the forthcoming column. I will, however, expect you to know exactly what I am writing about, all the same. That's the way it works in racing. The jargon of a modern MotoGP paddock has little now to do with old favorites like "to finish first, first you must finish," or "when the flag drops, the bullshit stops." Nor even more recent paddock patter - such as "I crashed because the data management said I was 0.3 km/h faster than on every other lap." Anybody who is not currently "unable to reveal" something is simply not up to raci ng speed. Thus, when I opened a little interview between Yamaha racing boss lin Jarvis with the words, ''I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to reveal the contents of my first question, " he knew exactly what to say in reply. "I'm afraid I'm contractually obliged not to tell you anything about that." Well, more or less. Certainly, JarviS is at the sharp end of the new style of silly season. This has come into being with the growing maturity of the MotoGP class, fostered by increasing expense on one side and a dWindling supply of free money on the other. In the good old days, everyone used to wonder which rider would go where. In 2005, it's which sponsor will go where. The riders are secondary. Correction. All the riders are secondary, but for one. The Jarvis Conundrum is complex, and very important. Perhaps it would be better called the Gauloises Choker. It came about like this. At the end of 2004, JarviS was closing a one-year deal with Valentino Rossi. At the same time, he was also signing up renewed backing for two more years for the factory team with Altadis, brand owners of Gauloises. At that time, of course, he was unable to confirm Rossi for Gauloises for 2006, because he only had a one-year contract with the rider. It was far from certain he would stay. Rossi turned out happy at Yamaha and signed up fairly early, before the summer break, to stay for 2006 - just a one-year deal, with it looking increasingly likely he will hop off to car racing in 2007. (He ran yet another secret test with Ferrari at Fiorano after Brno.) More than any rider in history, Rossi is in a position to state his F own terms. They are simple enough: to race with the same pit crew but with his own sponsorship package. Thus, he can dump cigarettes, as he has wanted to ever since the Gauloises connection came about. Nothing is confirmed, but a 12-million Euro offer from McDonald's has recently been added to speculation that Alice and Nastro Azurro are both keen to get on board with the Gypsy Philosopher King. Who wouldn't be? You're pretty much sure of winning the World Championship and absolutely guaranteed to hog all the limelight, even if by some strange act of God you get beaten. Gauloises, of course, is as keen as any- tasty. They had a bit of a success recently, winning $2.9 million, plus costs and interest, against Alex Barros for breaking his contract to switch to Honda last year. You might imagine that Jarvis's calm "can't possibly comment" responses, and insistence that so far an increasingly frequent and intense series of meetings with the various parties had been "entirely cordial," were those of a worried man. This is a major fight in the making. The bottom line might even be that Gauloises pull its Yamaha sponsorship and perhaps leave motorcycling altogether. This would have the benefit of giving Yamaha the chance to run in factory colors, as they were thought to want to do THEONE MAN 8AND... body to get Valentino next year, if not keener, since they currently already have the hottest property in racing on their books. They might further reasonably have assumed that Yamaha's top rider, the double World Champion, would be a prime candidate for the Yamaha factory team. Their team. Anything else would surely be a travesty. But if nothing's written down, then what's to stop Yamaha nominating their factory riders as Colin Edwards and somebody else, and contracting with Rossi for a so-called satellite team? Quite some satellite, since it would have extraordinarily close links to the heart of the factory racing department, but a satellite team all the same - because that's what it would say in the contract. Nothing to stop them - except the Altadis lawyers, who might prove pretty in their 50th anniversary year. Just one year too late. This, as everyone in Spain has known for some time, would be just one more money hemorrhage. Telefonica MoviStar, bereft of its boy wonder Dani Pedrosa, was known to be pulling out well in advance of any official statement. This followed some swashbuckling but unsuccessful moves by Telefonica to gazump Repsol's ownership of HRC's factory team, Dani's expected destination. Even without the Gauloises Choker, this had triggered the game of sponsorship musical sponsors. You know the one. Everyone dances round, then the music stops and you have to grab a chair. But every time, one of the chairs gets taken away. At the end of the current round, it seems likely that Fortuna will have spun off to take over Fausto Gresini's MoviStar team - either that, or he will be with Sito Pons, while Gresini snitches the Camel backing. Gibernau is set to be a loser, since his contract is with Telefonica rather than Gresini, and Fortuna does not favor his "loser image." Fortuna pet Toni Elias might take his place; the current FortunaTech 3 Yamaha team will likely die, taking Ruben Xaus' GP career with it. Somebody probably knows the truth already but is (for contractual reasons) unable to reveal it. One group within racing will flourish, of course. The lawyers. It is always thus when there's argument about serious money. And the longer the battling goes on, the less of the money's leftover after the legal vultures have picked at the bones. The other pending legal action is at the other end of the grid where those who have already lost the game of musical chairs cluster in growing desperation, caught between their contracts with Dorna, the ever-rising standards and costs of the four-stroke prototypes, and the ever-dwindling pool of sponsorship money. There, along with Suzuki and WCM-Blata, you used to be able to find the remnants of Team Roberts. Once the biggest and most powerful team in racing, it has shrunk over the past two decades so that now, as they square up to KTM after the latter unexpectedly pulled the plug on their engine supply, it is a lightweight battle. Team Roberts' Chuck Aksland argues a good case for having been badly let down, including financially. KTM boss Stefan Pierer flew in to Brno to put up a robust defense. If Kenny's mob wants to go to court, he's ready to meet them there. And another set of lawyers rub their hands in glee. This is a situation that bodes ill for the establishment of racing. Perhaps other teams will soon be reduced to the costparing approach of Suzuki, who recently upset mechanics by saying they wouldn't pay for their laundry on the forthcoming long-haul tlyaways. (The team later compromised, agreeing to pay up for teamwear but not for underwear or socks.) I'd like to give you my own opinion on all this. But, as I'm sure you will understand, I'm not at liberty to disclose this information, pending agreement between all parties. Tell you what. Contact my lawyers instead. eN CYCLE NEWS • SEPTEMBER 14,2005 103

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