By Peter McLaren

Motocourse editor Michael Scott has covered Motorcycle Grand Prix racing since 1984 - and written best selling books on the likes of Wayne Rainey and Barry Sheene - making him perfectly placed to assess the sport on the eve of the opening round of the 2005 season.

Crash.net caught up with Michael at the recent UK MotoGP launch, where he spoke about the significance of the 2004 championship, his impressions of 2005 testing, the difference between Formula One and MotoGP, his view of the new flag-to-flag and one qualifying session rule changes and much more...

Q:
Michael, what did you make of last year - it was a big year for Valentino Rossi and for MotoGP - but what was your opinion?

Michael Scott:
Last year was absolutely sensational and it was the proof of how humanity remains the most important factor in motorcycle sport. Valentino Rossi proved it. He transcended machine weaknesses and did all those things that make us love motorbike racing.

Q:
All the pre-season testing has now finished, what have you made of it?

Michael Scott:
Well I always make the point that testing is only testing and nothing more than a rough guide - and I would extend this still further and say that I don't think Valentino Rossi has shown all his cards yet. I'd suspected that he wouldn't before the tests and I still think he hasn't

One thing that struck me was in Catalunya, when he didn't win the (BMW) hatchback, he gave a very theatrical punching of the air. No-one had ever seen him do that before - I certainly hadn't - and I don't believe it. He's such a showman and he was putting on a show.

Q:
Do you think that's to wrong foot Honda - to make them feel more confident than they should?

Michael Scott:
Every little psychological advantage (Rossi) can get he'll take and that's just another one. He's already so predominate in that regard. They are obviously the world's best riders - for example Max Biaggi is an absolutely divine rider, he's superb - and I think (Biaggi) turns up on the grid, he's got the factory Honda, everything's great and he looks over his shoulder and... oh my god there's Rossi. He's half beaten already.

Q:
On the subject of Biaggi, by the looks of it he had a tough test at Jerez - he's been making some statements saying that the good bike he had has vanished - do you think that's genuine?

Michael Scott:
I don't think he's bluffing no. I think (Biaggi) is an erratic rider, he's an erratic person, he needs for everything to be absolutely right. When it goes a little bit out of kilter he's in serious trouble.

Personally I'd love to see him win the championship this year. This is possibly some natural championing of the underdog - and (Biaggi) has been underdog for so long. As I said earlier, he's such a superb rider and another very human person and I hate to see him getting the worse of Rossi every time. It would nice to see it go the other way.

Q:
What do you think we'll see this year regarding the machines and tyres?

Michael Scott:
Already in the tests we've seen it's a continual ramping up of the technology; it's becoming more and more sophisticated it's becoming and more and more expensive as well. It's really already out of control and will go more out of control.

Tyre wise of course Bridgestone have now upped the stakes hugely by mounting a couple of test teams, and if further technological advancements don't result from all this spending then they are wasting their money.

But even if they do it's a very expensive way of doing it and I wouldn't be surprised if we don't hear more talk this year of trying to limit costs Formula One style.

Q:
In Formula One they allow teams in the second half of the manufacturers' championship the previous year to run an extra driver on the first day of each grand prix, would that sort of thing be useful in MotoGP?

Michael Scott:
Um... No I don't actually, I don't see that's relevant and I think this is the interesting difference between bikes and cars. Cars are very much more technology led and they need to test the technology by getting miles under the wheels - and you need more drivers to do that - whereas bikes are much more personal and you need to have the right man on the bike.

We've seen over and over again, when you get Japanese companies and they hire their Japanese test riders - who are clearly very good riders - they develop the bike and push it out at someone and say its ready to race. But you're grand prix bloke will jump on it and say 'no way, nobody has yet ridden this fast enough to know if it's ready to race'.

Q:
We've got some interesting new rules this year - the flag-to-flag racing rule and, less controversially, the one qualifying session - what's your view on those rule changes?

Michael Scott:
This sport is run by morons. Now that's not my quote - although I may or may not agree with it - that came from Jerry Burgess, Rossi's crew chief. I can't understand why they've been doing this 'rain dance' since, I think, '91. They can't settle on a regulation, they keep changing their minds.

Now they've created this situation where they go flag-to-flag and so people are going to be racing in pit lane - and the mechanics are going to be racing each other in pit lane. Obviously this is a perilous business; it can lead to mechanics' mistakes, it could lead to collisions in pit lane, so they had to introduce a 60km/h speed limit. The more daft rules you make, the more daft rules you have to make to make those rules workable.

Now they've got a situation where the speed limit in pit lane is 60km/h, and nobody is allowed to overtake. So, one example could be that team-mates could play tactics here; one of them could go out at 60km/h and his mate could go down the pit lane at 20km/h and keep everyone behind

I mean, what's racing about? For god's sake, they had a perfectly workable system before, where they stopped the race - and now they're allowed to change bikes - so they could (instead) just stop the race, change bikes, get back on the grid and do another race. Give half points for each race - why not do that? That would seem to me sensible.

Q:
And the one qualifying session?

Michael Scott:
It's a TV and marketing friendly thing... you know, why not? It's the same for everyone - as long as qualifying is the same for everyone it doesn't matter if you do it all week or in 20-minutes really.

Q:
We've got a few new races on the calendar this year. There seems to be two different types of new venue; those that are in a new geographic location, such as Qatar - which had hardly any fans at the race track - and those that are where the demand from fans is greatest. Where do you think MotoGP should be; where the most fans are or in all corners of the world?

Michael Scott:
That's a tricky one. Surely the fans are at the other end of the TV screen, so you could argue that. Qatar I personally didn't object to last year, although it was quite an extraordinary sterile event - there was nobody there and the grandstands were empty - certainly no traffic jams, which was a big help.

Was there something missing? Yes, you could argue that... As long as they keep a bit of a mix of them - when you go to somewhere like Assen or one of the Spanish events and you feel the crowd, that's certainly a different dimension. I think variety is the spice of life.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment