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Baker's Dozen: Assen, Sachsenring and Mugello

24 July 2012

Phil Baker worked with MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden (2004-10) and race winner Chris Vermeulen (2007-10) before setting up his own company, SA 1 Management.

The US-based Brit then managed Factory Yamaha MotoGP star Ben Spies and now works with reigning Moto2 world champion Stefan Bradl, who stepped up to MotoGP this season with LCR Honda.

Got a question for Phil? Post your questions for the next installment of Baker's Dozen within the comments section below...

1. Q:
The last three rounds have seen plenty of movement at the top of the standings - Stoner equaling Lorenzo after Assen, then dropping to third behind Pedrosa in the rounds since - what have you made of it?

Phil Baker:
It has been a very busy time with four races in five weekends and it's fair to say that everyone left the test in Mugello breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to a few days to catch our breath.

Jorge came back from his unfortunate off in style and fully deserves his lead in the championship. Pedrosa has quietly crept up and is very much in the hunt. Consistency wins championships and he has quietly chipped away taking points on a regular basis.

Casey really surprised me at Mugello as I thought he would be putting up a strong fight with Jorge. That said, we are only half way through the season and there's a long way to go and any one of these three could take the title.

2. Q:
Was Bautista's post-Assen penalty justified in your opinion?

Phil Baker:
Yes. I believe that race control got it right, although I'm not sure if it is really such a disadvantage to start right at the back of the grid, given the grid is made up of two different classes.

Cal had to at Silverstone and finished 6th and of course Alvaro came through at Sachsenring and finished in the top ten, so I would've thought that to start from pit lane with a ten second penalty would be more justified.

3. Q:
The Assen accident also cost Lorenzo an engine, which could return to haunt him later in the year. Do you think the engine rules need to be tweaked - perhaps allowing a replacement engine in such circumstances, but for free practice use only - or is 'no exceptions' the best policy?

Phil Baker:
It's a good question, especially when it is not your fault, but rules are rules and are there to be tweaked and improved from one year to the next. I don't think it is fair to change the rules in the middle of a season, (such as the Rookie rule), but it is something to be considered for next year.

4. Q:
Repsol Honda has now re-signed Pedrosa and will place Marc Marquez on the seat vacated by Casey Stoner. Your thoughts?

Phil Baker:
A Spanish rider on a Spanish sponsored bike was always looking the likely option. It is a risk from the Repsol Honda team as Marquez, although hugely talented, has no history on the bigger bike.

Personally, I liked the rookie rule of going to a satellite team first, and feel that it would have been better to remain in place. But that said, he is sponsored by Repsol and it would have meant he would have had to either lose that partner or for the satellite Honda team to give up their oil sponsor, either Elf or Castrol.

As far as the pressure goes, that is now down to Pedrosa. Severn years on the factory Honda and no Championship title. It has to be make or break for him now.

5. Q:
It was rumoured that Cal Crutchlow might sign a Ducati contract at Mugello, but nothing materialised. The assumption so far has been of a possible Rossi-Crutchlow line-up, but could the delay suggest Ducati might see Crutchlow as a back-up option to take Rossi's place, alongside Hayden, if Rossi decides to leave?

Phil Baker:
Cal has justified his position and should get a factory ride. I've heard people complaining that he hasn't got a podium in GP yet, but then the two riders on the Ducati team right now only share four or five between them in a total of six years' worth of Ducati riding, so I think change is a good thing and Cal has the right style and attitude to get the bike to the front.

6. Q:
What do you think the chances are of Valentino Rossi remaining at Ducati?

Phil Baker:
Ducati is now owned by Audi and they will want the best. I expect to see announcements in the coming weeks - maybe by Indy, and would not be surprised to see him remain where he is. Having the chance to drive for Audi in DTM or 24 Hrs Le Mans in the future must be appealing to him as well?!

7. Q:
Have you heard anything about the Rossi/Yamaha/Marlboro rumours?

Phil Baker:
Lots and lots, but like you say, it's all rumors and until we get confirmation from the horses mouth, then it remains as that....rumours!

8. Q:
All things considered, who would you put on the second Yamaha seat, alongside Lorenzo?

Phil Baker:
Every team needs a consistent second rider. Someone who can regularly score the points to support the manufacturer's bid for the title.

I think both Dovi and Cal have shown their potential and I'm sure that Lin [Jarvis] and the senior management at Yamaha have a bit of head scratching to do.

If the decision were mine, for commercial/sponsorship potential, it would have to be Valentino.

9. Q:
The last few races have seen Stefan's best qualifying so far of fourth (Assen), a position he then matched in the race at Mugello - finishing just a fraction from Dovizioso and the podium. What has been the key to his form?

Phil Baker:
Stefan has excelled in his progress this year. I think one of the key things is having a calm environment around him. His crew chief has been a huge influence on him, as well as Lucio and working within a family team like LCR is the perfect platform for him to learn and move forward.

He is full of confidence but at the same time realises that it is a learning process and that right now he needs to try to maintain his current form, rather than aiming for outright wins. That will come in the future!

10. Q:
Lucio (Cecchinello, LCR boss) must be a happy man, especially having had little to smile about last season...

Phil Baker:
Being around Lucio this season has been great. Seeing him constantly smiling brings out the best within the whole team and I can think of few people that deserve this success more. Lucio puts his heart and soul into his team and deserves the success from his efforts.

11. Q:
Honda brought a completely new bike for Stoner and Pedrosa to test after Mugello. Is Stefan expected to receive any technical developments from Honda in the near future?

Phil Baker:
This is very much up to the powers that be at Honda, and we can just hope that such developments will be passed to us soon. The more he can impress on the track, the more Honda will be willing to supply such parts.

12. Q:
Have you heard anything regarding possible 2013 MotoGP rides for Marquez's Moto2 rivals Pol Espargaro, Scott Redding and Andrea Ianonne?

Phil Baker:
I have heard a few things but I cannot really comment as a lot of the possibilities are just rumours and nothing more than that. I would say that all three have impressed sufficiently to warrant a ride in the top class and it would be great to see them up there alongside Marquez.

13. Q:
Next up is Laguna Seca this weekend - something of a 'unique' circuit. What do you expect?

Phil Baker:
Laguna is one track that the whole paddock enjoys going to. It holds everything from a great atmosphere to great track, especially for viewing up in the Corkscrew. I expect to see the two Hondas and Yamaha's fighting near the front.

Although both Spies and Hayden have the advantage of knowing this track better than any of the other riders, the GP program has been coming here for the last 7 years now and therefore the more experienced riders know the track just as well, so home advantage is maybe not so great.

The only rider with no race experience of Laguna is Stefan, so again, we are not expecting podiums, but hope we can get a top 6. My prediction is for Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa, but not necessarily in that order!


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