Moto2: Dark clouds loom over the Austrian Alps

And so Moto2 returns after the five week summer break with Round 10, the Styrian Grand Prix, high in the Austrian Alps, and Sunday’s race certainly brought plenty of ups and downs.

Moto2
Pic courtesy of marcvds Racing Team

All eyes were on the weather over the weekend, with dark clouds looming over practice and qualifying. The rain stayed away and the race was declared dry, but away from the racing line the track remained damp and greasy.

Before Sunday’s race Australia’s Remy Gardner led the championship on 184 points, his Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Raul Fernandez 2nd with 153, Bezzecchi 3rd on 128, Britain’s Sam Lowes 4th on 99, and Fabio Di Giannantonio 5th with 73.

During free practice news broke that Raul Fernandez will be moving up to MotoGP next season, to join his current teammate Remy Gardner at KTM, but did the unfortunate timing of the announcement impact on Fernandez’s performance?

For only the second time this season, neither of Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates made an appearance on the podium. Remy Gardner started from pole, and his teammate Raul Fernandez on the 2nd row in 4th after a frustrating qualifying.

It looked as though Sunday would be Japanese rookie Ai Ogura’s time to shine, as he briefly held pole position during qualifying. He was pipped at the post by Gardner, but claimed his first front row start of the season in second, with Italy’s Marco Bezzecchi making up the front row in 3rd. Alongside Raul Fernandez on the second row were Aron Canet in 5th and Augusto Fernandez 6th. On the third row, Britain’s Sam Lowes started 7th, Lorenzo dalla Porta 8th, and Somkiat Chandra 9th.

Gardner briefly led the opening lap before being passed by Bezzecchi, and his attempt to reclaim the lead was foiled by running wide, also allowing teammate Raul Fernandez through. Ogura dropped back to 5th, and the next few laps saw Gardner retaking the lead, Aron Canet up into second, the pair of them pulling ahead of Bezzecchi and Raul Fernandez who were battling for 3rd. On lap 6 Fernandez ran very wide into turn 9, dropping down to 7th place, Ai Ogura moving back up into 4th, and Gardner and Canet stretching out to almost a second ahead of 3rd place Bezzecchi.

On lap 11 Ogura posted the fastest lap of the race and looked set for the first podium finish of his rookie Moto2 season, but after incurring a late penalty for exceeding track limits ended up by crossing the line in 5th. After completing the race it was announced that Ogura had been penalised a further 3 seconds for exceeding track limits during the long lap penalty. Despite this he finished far enough ahead of 6th place Celestino Vietti to hold on to the position.

Lap 20 saw an uncharacteristic error from Gardner, late on the brakes into turn 1 and running into the gravel to avoid the back wheel of Bezzecchi. He managed to keep the bike upright and rejoined in 5th.

Marco Bezzecchi of SKY Racing Team VR46 held onto the lead to claim his first win of the season, despite pressure from Spain’s Aron Canet who finished second, and the 3rd podium spot was claimed by Augusto Fernandez, celebrating his second podium in as many races. Remy Gardner crossed the line in 4th, and Raul Fernandez finished 7th, the worst finish of his rookie Moto2 season. Despite moving up to 5th on lap 4, Britain’s Sam Lowes had a difficult race, but still managed to finish within the points in 14th.

Moto2
Pic courtesy of marcvds Racing Team

The top five positions in the championship remain the same – Gardner increases his lead from 31 to 35 points ahead of second place Raul Fernandez. Bezzecchi, in third, closes the gap on Fernandez from 25 to 9 points, with fourth place Lowes trailing by 52 points, and Italy’s Fabio Di Giannantonio in 5th, 25 points behind Lowes.

Sunday 15th August sees the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. Can Ai Ogura make up for his disappointment and claim a podium spot? Will the Ajo Red Bull team return to form? And can Bezzecchi leapfrog Raul Fernandez on the championship table?

First fifteen riders:

1              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 25 points

2              Aron Canet SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 16

4              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 13

5              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 11

6              Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 10

7              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 9 points

8              Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 8

9              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 7

10           Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 6

11           Jake Dixon GBR – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 5

12           Lorenzo Dalla Porta ITA – Italtrans Racing Team – 4

13           Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 3

14           Sam Lowes GBR                – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 2

15           Albert Arenas SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 1

 

Round 6 WorldSBK Most Autodrom, Czech Republic, Race 2

Race 2 of the WorldSBK action took place on Sunday 8th August at Most Autodrom, Czech Republic – the earlier Superpole race saw Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) claim the his 2nd win of the weekend, while Redding (Aruba.it Ducati), and Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) were 2nd and 3rd.

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Redding & Rea, Race 2 @ Most Autodrom 08.08.2021
Pic courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

The Turk was on pole position for race 2, and was looking to make it a clean sweep of wins across the weekend, could he do it? The whole grid, except Rea, and Uribe had gone with the super soft SCX rear tyre, the former two deciding on the harder SC0 compound rear.

Lights out and both the Pata Yamaha riders made excellent starts, Razgatlioglu and Locatelli leading the pack into turn 1 in 1st and 2nd. Further behind was a massive crash involving 4 riders: Bassani (Ducati), Delbianco (Honda), Hanika (Yamaha) and Bautista (HRC Honda). Both Bassani and Delbianco retiring from the race.

A leading group of 5 riders had formed and was already beginning to pull away from the others. In 1st was Razgatlioglu, 2nd Locatelli, 3rd Redding, 4th Rea and 5th Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team).

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Michael Rinaldi, Race 2 @ Most Autodrom 08.08.2021
Pic courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Meanwhile further down the field other notable names included the BMW teammates of 6th Sykes (BMW Motorrad) and 12th Vd Mark. Eighth place is Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) and in 9th Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team).

With 20 laps to go Razgatlioglu was trying to distance the group putting in a fastest lap of 1:32.827. Redding sensing the Turkish rider is pulling away, passes Locatelli into 2nd place, in the same corner Toprak passed him in race 1. The group of 5, now slowing becoming a group of 3 as the Kawasaki team mates of Rea and Lowes, were struggling with the pace being set at the front.

Next lap and now Redding puts in a new fastest lap of 1:32.674. The lead group of 3 riders now steadily pulling away from the Kawasaki team mates.

With 18 laps to go, Redding outbrakes Razgatlioglu down the straight, into turn 1 to take over the lead. Redding putting in a new fastest lap of 1:32.439. He was looking like he had a point to prove after getting pipped to the line in race 1.

Meanwhile further back, Vd Mark had moved up to 10th, 7 places better than his grid position. Gerloff was in 9th, while Rinaldi was in 8th.

Redding was increasing his gap to Raztaglioglu, it was now 0.5. The Kawasaki of Rea was again looking twitchy and unstable with changes of direction and through corners, his previous crash in race 1 still looming large in his mind no doubt.

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Pecco Bagnaia, Race 2 @ Most Autodrom 08.08.2021
Pic courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

With 13 laps to go Rea gets through around the outside of Locatelli trying to close the gap to 2nd. Redding was pushing the gap to nearly 1.0 to Razgatlioglu in 2nd, the gap now at 0.8.

Meanwhile further back Sykes in 6th had now been caught by a group including: 7th Haslam ( HRC Honda ), 8th Rinaldi, 9th Vd Mark and 10th Gerloff.

With 8 laps to go Haslam loses 3 places to go back to 10th, possibly having tyre issues. The Honda Team mates now sitting in disappointing 10th, and 11th places.

Six laps remaining and Redding had increased his lead to 2nd to 1.5, while the gap from 2nd to Rea in 3rd was now 6.6. Meanwhile further down the field the battle for 6th was still ongoing, with Vd Mark in 7th doing a great job from a grid position of 17th, getting past Gerloff again.

With 4 laps remaining it was all Redding’s to lose, the gap to 2nd now at 2.6, Razgatlioglu looking to have resigned himself to a 2nd place. Lowes ( Kawasaki Racing Team ) in 5th had now been caught by the group of 6th Rinaldi, 7th Vd Mark and 8th Gerloff.

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Arubia.it Ducati, Race 2 @ Most Autodrom 08.08.2021
Pic courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Final lap now, and Redding doesn’t let up his pace, crossing the finish line to take his first win in Most. Razgatlioglu crosses in 2nd with Rea in 3rd, Locatelli in 4th, 5th Rinaldi who gets past Lowes.

Top 5:

  1. Scott Redding ( Aruba.it Ducati )
  2. Toprak Razgatlioglu ( Pata Yamaha )
  3. Jonathan Rea ( Kawasaki Racing Team )
  4. Andrea Locatelli ( Pata Yamaha )
  5. Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Aruba.it Ducati )

Top 3 championship:

  1. Rea ( Kawasaki Racing Team ) 266 pts
  2. Razgatlioglu ( Pata Yamaha ) 263
  3. Redding ( Aruba.it Ducati ) 216

Battle rages at the Cathedral of Speed

Going into the weekend Remy Gardner leads the Moto2 championship by 36 points from his teammate Raul Fernandez, but the rookie earns his fourth pole of the season, as an eventful race sees him dropping back to ninth then clawing his way back to emerge victorious in the 9th round of Moto2 2021.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Fernandez’s teammate Remy Gardner starts from 2nd place and Sam Lowes completes the front row, ahead of Aron Canet in 4th, Ai Ogura 5th and Jorge Navarro starting 6th.

Off the line it is Canet who gets the best start, forcing Raul out wide into the first bend, causing him to drop back to 4th. Della Porta who started 8th gets caught in the middle of the group into turn 2 – catches the rear wheel of Navarro and is spat off, fortunately avoiding the other machines as his bike is launched into the air from the centre of the pack.

Canet leads, Gardner in second is closely followed by Lowes in third. Tony Arbolino crashes out uninjured shortly after at turn 7, his bike flipping across the gravel.

Lowes moves up past Gardner, then takes Canet to lead at the end of the first lap – Lowes leads briefly before Canet reclaims the lead.

Ai Ogura and Augusto Fernandez pass Raul Fernandez. Raul runs wide through turns 6 & 7 and drops back to ninth as Schrotter passes him.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner passes Lowes out of the chicane, and Lowes gets back past Canet to move back into 2nd

Joe Roberts crashes out at turn 9, meaning that both Italtrans bikes are out of the race.

Augusto Fernandez moves up into 3rd, as Raul battles for 7th, then gradually works himself back up to 6th.

With 20 laps to go Lowes starts to close the gap on Gardner. Approaching the start/finish line Lowes slots past, the two almost swapping paint, but Augusto Fernandez spots his opportunity and passes both of them, taking the lead, making it a 1-2 for Elf Marc VDS Racing Team, Gardner in 3rd and Aron Canet in 4th. Meanwhile Raul Fernandez is back up to 5th, and DiGiannantonio moves up past Ai Ogura into 6th.

On lap 7 Raul passes Canet to move up to 4th, as Lowes, who is all over the back of Augusto, passes him to take the lead. A gap of just over a second separates Gardner in 3rd and Raul in 4th, giving Raul a clear space to push on.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner slots past Augusto into 2nd, and 3 laps later Raul catches Augusto, but Augusto takes Gardner to move back into 2nd.

On lap 14 Augusto Fernandez increases the pressure on Sam Lowes, passing him to take the lead, as Raul gets past his teammate Gardner to move up into 3rd.

Gardner starts to drop back slightly from the top 3, and shortly after Raul takes Lowes to move up into 2nd place. The leading 4 start to spread out as Lowes struggles to match Raul Fernandez’s pace, as DiGiannantonio crashes out at turn 9 from 6th.

Raul pursues Augusto, edging ever closer until he makes the move along the start/finish straight at the end of lap 17, with Augusto unable to come back at him.

Augusto runs wide, giving Lowes the opportunity to move up into 2nd. Raul is starting to stretch out his lead with a 0.8 second lead over Lowes.

Lap 20 sees Aron Canet crashes out of 7th place, sliding into the gravel at turn 3.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Raul leads by over a second, breaking away from Lowes, Augusto and Gardner. Into lap 22 at the end of the start/finish straight Augusto gets the drive past Lowes to move up into second. Lowes checks over his left shoulder into turn 1, as Gardner slips past on his right, dropping Lowes down into 4th.

At the end of lap 23 Gardner passes Augusto, who pushes hard but is unable to come back at Gardner.

Raul Fernandez takes his third win of the season, ahead of his teammate Remy Gardner, with Augusto Fernandez claiming the 3rd podium spot.

Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship narrows slightly to 31 points ahead of Raul Fernandez going into the summer break, Fernandez extends his lead over 3rd place Bezzecchi from 11 points to 25, and Lowes holds onto 4th place overall.  With ten rounds still to go can Gardner hold onto the lead or will rookie Raul Fernandez spring yet more surprises?

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

 

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA –  – 16

4              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 11

6              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 7

10           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 6

11           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 5

12           Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 4

13           Stefano Manzi ITA – Flexbox HP40 – 3

14           Thomas Luthi SWI – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

A Farewell to the Scoreboard

In November 2020, we said goodbye to one of the most iconic sights at the TT Grandstand on Isle of Man as the Scoreboard in its current form was dismantled and removed. It has stood in the same spot for over 100

years (although it’s only since the 1980’s that it has remained there on a year-round basis – it used to be put up and removed before and after racing). It’s believed some of the parts that were removed were original, and actually dated back to the 1920’s, and it’s true that the structure has remained pretty much unchanged over the years. The main changes have been prompted by increased health and safety; for example the wire fence that protected the Scoreboard Team, the painters and the Scouts has only been there since 2015.

A lot has been written about the involvement that the local Scouts have had with the boards, but there’s not so much written about some of the other people who were involved in the smooth running of the traditional system. The painters were key – they painted the numbers on the slates (more about them later) as well as updated the Leader boards. The painters were all skilled workmen provided by a local painting decorating company – the job was put out to tender to ensure top quality work was undertaken. As well as the Scout Association and the painters, there were also a team of Race Officials who oversaw the boards – the Scoreboard Controller and his deputy dealt with the processing of the numbers, then the remaining officials would spread along the front of the two boards ensuring there were no errors, no gaps, and that everything was safe & secure. They had radio contact on each side with the Tower, so if any boards or times were wrong, they would get a call to let them know what needed to be fixed. However, in my experience of 5 years on the boards, I only ever got one call – it was a pretty slick operation!

The Scoreboard consisted of two identical scoreboards – the north board and south board. They carried the exact same information but meant it could be viewed from the whole length of pit lane and the grandstand. There are no electronics allowed in pit lane, so being able to see the boards is the only way the teams know their rider is circulating and approaching for pit stops. Each board had a Leader board that would be updated with the bike number, lap time and average lap speed for the top 6 riders. The updates were made by one of the painter team as soon as the times were available. Most people know that the Scouts update the boards by posting the slates to the corresponding rider, but how did it all really work? Where did the numbers come from?

Before the start of every race, the painters would mount the tear offs (lap number packs) on each number. As each bike left the grandstand the top page was torn off to expose the number of the lap they were. As the riders circulated the course the scouts positioned at the top of the board would get a radio message whenever they went through Glen Helen, Ramsey, Bungalow and Grandstand and would turn the crank handle so viewers knew which of the points they had most recently passed. Just below the clock, a light would show when a bike reached Cronk Ny Mona. For the pit crews this was vital information – they would know to be prepared for the arrival of their rider in pit lane. Usually, they’d know which laps they would be expecting to refuel on but would always be on standby in case the rider came in with a mechanical concern – time was of the essence in the pits, races could be won or lost here! That light was switched on by a scout in the lightbox at the north end of the board.

Once a lap was completed, the timings would filter through from the Timekeepers to the Scoreboard Controller, who would print and check them. The A4 page was split into 2 – one for North, one for South, handed to a waiting messenger, who would take it to the painters. The painters would be gathered around trestle tables stacked high with slates (the slates were actually black boards with a hole at the top). They would receive the paper and paint the time on the front of a slate. On the back, the rider number and lap number would help to identify where the slate would go next. The slate and paper would then be handed to another scout (runner) who would go to the relevant section of the board. There were gaps every 10 spaces (1 to 14, 15 to 25 and so on) so the runner would go to the slot for the rider number, knock on the board and post the slate through.

The next stage is the part watched by thousands of spectators over the years – the scouts out front would pick up the slate and paper, check all the details, scrunch the paper up and post it back to the rubbish bag, and then go and hang the slate. In the event of a retirement, the Scoreboard Controller received a call stating the rider number and the lap they retired on, and he would then complete a card for the scouts to take to the painters to swap for a Retirement board (white letter R) and pegs for blocking out the remaining laps. And that’s it! The process, as complicated as it looked to the untrained eye, was so simple and effective. It is hard to imagine life without the Scoreboard, but we can only wait now and see what replaces it.

Speaking to the team to understand a bit more about what attracted them to the role, they all talk about the sense of camaraderie. Race Official Joy Ellis says this was one of the things she enjoyed the most, alongside actually feeling like she was helping the iconic event run year after year. Another one of the team, Chris Ward speaks fondly of his memories of starting out as a cub scout, progression to being a race Official, and most recently over the last couple of years of racing Chris was Deputy Scoreboard Controller. He recalls ‘I worked the scoreboard as a cub and scout for many years. I started as a Messenger running the handwritten timing cards between the Timekeepers hut and the scoreboard controller (a role that no longer exists) and got to sneak a view of the bikes now and then through gaps in the scoreboard. From there I became a Runner delivering the painted timing boards through the slots in the back of the board.

I then moved on to Clocks and eventually Tear Offs on the front of the board, the most coveted role in those days in our bright white overalls (didn’t show the paint that we inevitable got covered in!).

Days of collecting every lap-time card that came from the Timekeepers hut through the system and delivered with the time slates to the front of the board. Pockets full of the things, collecting every lap time of all the big names, getting them signed after the races, loads of freebies from all the big teams. My bedroom was covered in new posters/postcards/stickers by the end of the racing.

That came to an end during my GCSEs thanks to exams during TT fortnight.

After I came back from university, I was actually working underneath my car one day when the scoreboard controller at the time who had lived 2 doors down the road from my parents for years, came knocking and asked if I’d like to get back involved as an official. I said yes in a flash, didn’t need to think about it … just yes! I think that was 2005 and I’ve been there every year since…’

I asked the Scoreboard Controller, Brendan Byrne, what it was he enjoyed most about his time on the boards. His reply summed it up perfectly… ‘The people on my team. Watching a group of strangers volunteering and forming into a functioning unit linked by their affection of the TT/MGP’

I’m sure I speak for most if not all of the team when I say we all felt the same – as with most people talking about the TT, the Scoreboard tells a story of history, excitement, sadness but most of all great friendships formed over a love of racing.

The Role of an IOM TT Scrutineer

Jo Marsh is a scrutineer at the IOM TT and very kindly answered some questions put to her from our Crew as part of our IOM TT feature in lieu of racing this year.

The view from a side street in Ramsey

How did you get into scrutineering at the TT and what skills do you need?

Scrutineering at the TT is something you’re invited to do. The team consists of people from the Isle of Man and the UK and, on occasion, as far as Australia.

To be able to scrutineer you are required to hold a licence from your governing body, in my case, the ACU. To obtain a licence you need to attend a seminar and be assessed on your work, both practical and written. You are then required to sit a seminar at least every three years.

Is scrutineering at the TT any different to normal bike racing scrutineering?

Scrutineering for the TT is different from other race meetings but only in that the regulations are different.

Is it one scrutineer per bike or do a team do the same bits for each bike?

We do one scrutineer per bike, or two per sidecar. However, if the same bike is presented to you at the next session then we will swap with another scrutineer so you don’t do the same machine on back to back sessions.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

What are you looking for – faults/meeting criteria for the race/checking things are tight?

Generally, we’re looking for criteria for the race meeting. Each meeting has its own nuances and rules so things do vary.

Does scrutineering of the rider eg crash helmet, leathers etc take place too?

We do also check the riders’ gear out before the start of practice week. We check helmet condition, age and fit, leathers, gloves, boots and dog tag, which is an identity disc with the riders’ name and date of birth engraved on it. If a rider falls off at any point then all this is re-scrutineered before the next race/practice.

What happens if someone misses their scrutineering time?

If someone misses their scrutineering time in practice week then we queue jump them so they don’t miss their session on the course. It’s different for races. If a rider has a problem and can’t make his or her time then as long as we are aware of that fact we can grant an extension on scrutineering.

Have you ever failed a bike / refused to let it race?

I have failed many bikes! I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many. It’s a tough one. During practice week there’s usually enough time to get the problem sorted and get out to practice anyway but before a race is heart breaking. I’ve even stopped a bike on the start line, 20 seconds before he was due to start, as I saw something break.

I also stopped a sidecar one race day. He was late for scrutineering which meant when I spotted the crack in the frame he had very little time to repair it before the race started. He was, shall we say, less than happy with me! He got the repair done in time, raced and finished in the top 6. After the race he pulled the sidecar up right alongside me and jumped off, still with helmet on. I was inwardly groaning thinking he was still mad with me but instead he hugged me and said “You saved my life, I’m sorry I was mad at you before”.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Do you fit the transponders?

Transponders, like bike condition, are the responsibility of the rider. We check that the transponder is fitted and located as per the acu handbook and also that it is the correct transponder for that bike. We also check that it is charged.

Do parade bikes get scrutineered and do you have to check the travelling marshals bikes?

Yes, parade bikes are also scrutineered.

We used to check travelling marshals bikes also but in latter years travelling marshals have all sat the scrutineer seminars also. This means that if a rider stops or is black flagged with a reported fault there is a trained scrutineer in spot to check the bike over and allow them to continue or not.

What happens between scrutineering and the start line – are the bikes scrutineered the night before the race?

Between scrutineering and the start line the bikes are held in a holding area. On race days the bikes are scrutineered up to 45 minutes before the start of the race, meaning we sometimes have early starts to get every machine checked in time!

What have been the weirdest faults/mods/innovations they you seen?

It’s not common to see innovations or ingenious modifications any more as most bike regulations are quite tight and, in some classes, the machines are almost standard, how they left the showroom. The sidecar class has much more room for individual preference on things, such as different chassis manufacturers, sizes of wheels, etc.

Are you also involved in the post race strip down of the bike?

After a race, the top 3 machines are verified. This is done behind closed doors, with only a few scrutineers present. To do this you must also hold an acu licence to be an engine measurer.

Do the riders have any height or weight limit? I’d guess a small rider on a small lighter bike could go faster so is that evened out?

There used to be weight limits for riders, many years ago. There are no limits on riders any more.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

The best parts of the job are knowing you’re helping people do what they love. It’s a long fortnight, it’s physically tiring and there’s a lot of pressure.  The scrutineering team are amazing. There’s lots of jokes and fun to lighten the darker times. The camaraderie is something else. The worst parts are the heartbreak of losing a rider or riders.

Thank you for your time Jo and for answering our questions, it is much appreciated 🙂

CrewOnTwo

Alpine Academy launches their 2021 line-up

Alpine Academy rebrand (Courtesy of AlpineCars)

Alpine has relaunched their young driver academy with the aim of nurturing emerging talent towards Formula 1.

Alpine – until recently known as the Renault F1 Team – has a rich history of developing young talent, including Robert Kubica, Pastor Maldonado, Heikki Kovalainen, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon.

Since 2002, the programme has gone through multiple iterations including the RF1 Driver Programme, Renault Driver Development Programme, LRGP Academy, Lotus F1 Team iRace Professional Programme, Lotus F1 Junior Team and until recently the Renault Sport Academy.

Their FIA Formula 2 roster will include Guanyu Zhou, who will race alongside Felipe Drugovich at UNI-Virtuosi. Zhou will be returning for his third season having claimed his maiden victory in the series last at Sochi.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Christian Lungaard will be alongside Theo Pourchaire at ART after a rookie season in which he scored two sprint race victories, six podiums and a maiden pole position at Mugello.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

FIA Formula F3 champion Oscar Piastri will also debut alongside Ferrari protégé Robert Schwartzman at Prema.

With six combined wins across two championships last year, Alpine are confident their drivers will have no trouble competing at the very top in 2021. In particular, Alpine Academy Director,Mia Sharizman has high hopes that the likes of Zhou and Lungaard will challenge for the title:

“For Zhou and Lungaard it is to challenge for the title, and they know that themselves.” Mia said during the official Alpine Academy launch.

“That is always the aim and especially when you are a returning driver with knowledge and experience. That is something for us to look at moving forward with a view to Formula 1. “

Likewise, for debutant Oscar Piastri there are high hopes the Australian who impressed against Logan Sargeant for the Formula  3 title. It will be a tough learning year for Oscar, Mia suggested:

“For Oscar, the approach is similar to when he started in Formula 3. You take it step by step. You get your first pole, your first podium, your first win and suddenly it just rolls on.”

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Alpine have been reluctant to promote their junior drivers to Formula 1 for a number of years with Fernando Alonso getting the nod for 2021 over its academy prospects. However, they wlll certainly have their targets set for 2022-2023.

“At the end of the day for all of them there has to be a good pressure, a good target because whatever they do this year it will impact the plans for them next year.”

Meanwhile, Victor Martins and Ciao Collet will race as teammates at MP Motorsports in FIA Formula 3. Mia was keen to underplay the pressure on both drivers, citing experience and learning as key targets.

“If you look at the level below the FIA Formula 3, Ciao and Victor were the top two drivers in that level of category. […] we believe they will be able to work together, raise the bar and we’re quietly confident of them making their mark. Again, step by step with the team the right package and the engineers.”

Caio Collet, R-Ace (François Flamand, DPPI / Alpine Racing Media)

Laurent Rossi, Chief Executive Officer at Alpine presented a clear case for the academy, placing it central to Alpine’s future plans:

We are proud to announce the Academy’s sixth ever driver line-up and its first as part of the Alpine Racing universe. Having a young driver programme is part of our DNA as a race team and as in previous years, the Academy will draw benefits from the development of the Formula 1 team.

Rossi also made it clear of Alpine’s intentions to see an academy prospect in Formula 1 in the near future:

“The Academy’s goal has been to develop and push our young drivers into Formula 1 to become a champion with the F1 team, and we remain committed as ever to seeing this goal achieved. This year we are eager to watch our Academy prospects in both Formula 2 and Formula 3 continue to go from strength to strength as they represent the Alpine name.”