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Letter of the issue – Vol 68 No 09 | Columns | Gassit Garage

Flag-to-flag junkie

Three-deep into Doohan Corner during the 2006 Australian Grand Prix, I rubbed my eyes because Makoto Tamada on the Kawasaki was leading the race by fifteen lengths from Alex Hoffman and James Ellison.

Naturally, this was lap eight and my first close-up look at flag-to-flag racing, these three were the last riders to join the conga line into the pits to change over to their backup bikes with wet weather settings. After another 19 laps of furious position changes, Marco Melandri power slid onto Gardner Straight to secure a dramatic victory, with Chris Vermeulen on the Suzuki in second and Vale in third. Ever since that race I have been a fan of flag-to-flag races and marvelled at Marquez’ clairvoyant knack for pit tactics.

Except for 2013, the Honda camp appointed Indigo Montoya’s six-fingered man to flag Marc Marquez into the pits after lap 11 instead of 10 and he was subsequently black-flagged. But before he was disqualified, he fired out of the pit lane and into the leading pack in a genuine squeaky-bum merge with Jorge and Dovi. What if this kind of drama could be a regular aspect of dry weather GP racing?

So here’s the pitch: What about two-part races? Conducted – in the case of PI – over 35 laps in 70 minutes with a mandatory pit window for a bike change between lap 16 and 21. The other advantage is that if a rider crashes prior to the pit window, they can return to the pits, on the bike if possible, then re-join the race on the back-up bike. Of course, there would need to be clauses. And rider fatigue is an obvious issue; modern riders are jockey-thin and conditioned for the 44-minute sprint of the GP race and would need to prepare.

The longer format would be better suited to the longer circuits and, as such, it shouldn’t be a permanent change for all events. But isn’t it worth consideration?

Bruce Potter

Wentworth Point, NSW

Bruce, you have put a lot of thought into this, I’m impressed. Some forms of motor racing have gone down a similar path, artificially manipulating races with compulsory pit stops. To me, this made it feel cheap and contrived. I like flag-to-flag races also, but I also like black jelly beans, but I never buy a packet of just black jelly beans because I quickly get sick of them. I like to be surprised by one every so often. Now, your idea for Pedrosa racing in the Cox Plate, bring it on I say! Chris

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