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Baker's Dozen: US MotoGP

9 August 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 main news at Laguna Seca was Ben Spies announcing he will leave Yamaha and Valentino Rossi possibly returning to take his place. How do you read the situation?

Phil Baker:
The news of Spies leaving so close to the USGP came as a complete surprise to nearly everyone. Ben clearly felt it was the right time to make this decision and I wish him well in whatever he decides to do. Seeing Vale back on the Yamaha is what nearly all his fans want to see, so bring it on!

2. Q:
What can Ducati do to convince Rossi to stay?

Phil Baker:
Right now, I think that Valentino's goal is to beat Agostini's [all time race wins] record and he will go wherever he feels he has the best chance of doing that. To see him fighting at the front with Jorge next year will be a big coup commercially for the championship and no doubt comes with the full backing of Dorna and everyone involved in the championship.

3. Q:
How big a risk would it be for Yamaha to have Rossi back?

Phil Baker:
They have little to lose. Yamaha are in the championship to win it and you need consistent riders to do that. They have not had a title sponsor since Valentino left, and I am sure that his inclusion will increase their chances of filling this void. Having one rider at the front and the other way down the order won't win you the manufacturers' championship, so I personally believe that this is a good move for the brand.

4. Q:
If Rossi does leave, who do you think should take his place at Ducati?

Phil Baker:
I would love to see Cal [Crutchlow] on the red team. I believe his riding style would suit the bike and that he would fit in well to the Ducati way of thinking. Of course there is the fact that Andrea [Dovizioso] has the right coloured passport and there are few nations more patriotic than Italy. Time will tell, but I expect that by Brno [August 17-19], we will have a clear picture of where everyone will be placed.

5. Q:
One factory Ducati ride has already been decided, with Nicky Hayden signing a further contract extension. Good Move?

Phil Baker:
Totally. You need to keep a level of familiarity within a team and Nicky's efforts for the team over the last four years have deservedly given him another year on a factory bike. The rider who partners Nicky next year will have the chance to learn a lot from him.

6. Q:
The Laguna Seca race saw Casey Stoner get back to winning ways, but Jorge Lorenzo still holds a healthy points lead over Pedrosa and Stoner. What will it take to stop Lorenzo?

Phil Baker:
Back in 2006, Nicky carried a 52 point lead into the second half of the season after Laguna Seca and by the last round, he was trailing by 12 to Valentino, so it is still anyone's championship.

Look at the positions before Sachsenring and most people said Casey was favourite to win, so there's still a long way to go and things can turn very quickly. Also, keep an eye on Pedrosa who is racking up points week in and week out, but keeping his profile quiet while he chips away.

7. Q:
The US GP saw Tech 3 riders Dovizioso and Crutchlow lead the satellite challenge. With new bikes for 2012, due to the change in engine capacity, the difference in bike spec between factory and satellite seems to be small. But is there a danger that the gap will grow again during year two as factory development continues?

Phil Baker:
Historically, gaps do increase as the bikes are developed, and I don't expect this to be any different next year. I hope I am wrong as we need close racing throughout all of the factory bikes.

I'd like to think we can go back to the 2006 era of the 990s when the bikes were separated by tenths and satellite bikes were winning races too, but the electronics nowadays make this seem an optimistic outlook.

8. Q:
Stefan had never raced at Laguna Seca before, but he did do a track day to try and prepare. How much help was that and what were the biggest differences between riding on a road bike and MotoGP bike at Laguna Seca?

Phil Baker:
At first, we were not sure exactly how significant the track day would be, but after the first morning practice of the race weekend, it was clear that his day's experience was invaluable, albeit on a completely different bike. The biggest differences were really the acceleration out of the corner and also the braking points which differed hugely from the standard road bike.

9. Q:
Should the Moto2 and Moto3 classes support MotoGP at Laguna Seca, instead of the AMA?

Phil Baker:
I don't think they should, as this is one of the flag ship events for the AMA and they need all the recognition they can get at this stage. Also, the paddock is very tight and would not necessarily accommodate all classes of bikes. This is the one chance for the American racers to show themselves off to the factory teams from GP, which is where nearly all riders aspire to end up.

10. Q:
Colin Edwards gave an 'entertaining' description of his 2012 troubles during the pre-US GP press conference. Should more MotoGP riders speak their mind in that way? How important is it for riders to try and capture the attention of casual fans, but where should the line be drawn?

Phil Baker:
It is a fine line and someone like Colin, who is in the twilight of his career, can probably afford to do so. Whenever the press room hears that Colin is in the press conference it is always a full house and he rarely disappoints! Not a smart move for up and coming riders, as you should never bite the hand that feeds you. There are other ways to express your character, which has certainly done Valentino no harm over the years.

11. Q:
Scott Redding and Andrea Iannone have been testing for Ducati. Would a satellite Ducati ride in 2013 be the right move for them?

Phil Baker:
Yes. Both riders have proved their worth and qualify in my book for the top class. Scott might not have won a race in Moto 2, but he has constantly beaten his team-mate [Mike Kallio] who was once given the chance in GP, so I would love to see him step up.

12. Q:
Indianapolis next and a very different circuit to Laguna Seca. Which do you feel is MotoGP's 'natural' US home?

Phil Baker:
Both hold their own special place in the GP calendar. Laguna has probably the most iconic section of track - the Corkscrew - in the whole championship, and seeing the bikes at full speed down to turn one at Indianapolis is also pretty amazing.

Personally, my favorite is Indianapolis because they run the whole event so professionally and smoothly. They have an amazing group of people managing the track and these are the people who hold a race for 450,000 spectators in the Indy 500.

In addition, they have the Indianapolis museum which is worth the visit for that alone. The downtown activities make it a fully packed three days and a well worthwhile long weekend. If you can get down there, then I fully recommend it.

Back to your question, I hope that both stay firmly on the calendar for years to come and that both hold the right to being the natural US home to GP. There's constant talk about Texas, but before any decision is made there, I would suggest that we see how F1 fares in November before considering changing a good thing.

13. Q:
Viewer question:
What possibility is there of Aprilia and Kawasaki coming back to the championship? And what news of Suzuki is there in the paddock?

Phil Baker:
There was a mass of rumours floating around Laguna Seca after Spies announced he was leaving. BMW in WSBK, or Suzuki coming back with Schwantz at the helm. The latter is certainly mouthwatering, but I believe it is a little premature.

My hope is that 2014 sees Suzuki come back, and hopefully, this will prompt Kawasaki, Aprilia and maybe persuade BMW to step up. It doesn't work in other forms of motorsport with a lack of manufacturers - look at WRC where, at this moment, there are eight Fords following two Citroens.

Hopefully, the costs will become more affordable and we will see the sport grow from where we currently are, as we need to see the manufacturers' title being as important as the riders' title in the eyes of the fans.


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