Things didn’t go well for Mike Alessi all weekend at the British GP and he was fortunate thanks to some riders crashing out to even get some points!
Before we get into what happened at team Alessi, lets look at the results from all the sessions over the weekend; 21st in free practice, 28th (18th before a ten place penalty) in timed practice, 24th in the qualifying race, 20th in warm-up, 22nd in race one and 17th in race two.
It was clear from the beginning that Mike was never on the pace, and things never really got any better. But what was the reason? Well, that depended on who you asked within the team.
After the first moto team Alessi had a meeting to try and dissect just what happened. On Saturday the suspension settings especially the shock had been debated but on Sunday, Tony Alessi was blaming one thing and one thing only – the rear shock.
Tony said that if Mike isn’t comfortable he can’t push and that the rear shock was costing Mike three seconds a lap, yes, three seconds a lap!
Unfortunately for Mike if you took three seconds off his best time in race one, he would have only been fighting for 16th with an injured Glenn Coldenhoff. So clearly it was more than just the shock because 16th wasn’t exactly setting the world alight either for Alessi, who had wanted to win the GP!
The rest of the team especially the suspension technician recognised it wasn’t just down to the shock and were getting increasingly frustrated with Tony. The suspension tech said Mike was happy enough with the bike yesterday and in testing so why all of a sudden was it just the shock’s fault now? He said Mike needed to be more adaptable to different tracks and that was backed up by another member of the team who explained that Cairoli and co. were going six seconds a lap faster at the front and riding a different track and jumping over bumps.
Tony responded by saying that they could do that because their bike was set up right and that Mike would be going 3-6 seconds a lap faster if his bike was set up right. (Yes, Tony just added another three seconds a lap to Mike’s possible speed once he heard the leader’s lap times!)
This prompted team owner Mike Genova to try to explain to Tony that it wasn’t just the shock, it was the fact that the GP guys were doing things on the track that Mike wasn’t and that Tony needed to get Mike out doing some enduro riding to expand his skill-set for GP tracks. Tony didn’t like the sound of this and continued to solely blame the shock.
But the reality was that the entire team saw that while the shock was maybe not perfect, Mike just struggled to adapt to the track, with it’s slick, loose and stony surface and the square-edged, choppy bumps. It was clearly something that the American was just not used too and could never get to grips with.
The other factor is that the depth in MXGP is incredible and the guys right down to the bottom of top 20 are going very fast and all have GP podium credentials. In race one at Matterley only 4.5 seconds separated the best lap of the race (Nagl) from 20th place best lap (Yamamoto).
In America the depth that low in the top 20 just isn’t as good, at Hangtown in moto one the difference between the best lap of first (Tomac) and twentieth was 14 seconds and even if you discount Tomac and Dungey, third place was still eight seconds ahead of 20th, the Alessi’s hadn’t grasped the depth of MXGP and that was with some injured riders not racing!
When you add in that Villlopoto, Searle and Strijbos weren’t there and neither was Watson, Nicholls and Bengtsson, plus Guaneri and Goncalves crashed out and Charlier didn’t start race two you see just how tough MXGP really is just to get points. It is the toughest series in the world and when you add in the versatility you need for all the different tracks it is no wonder it was so tough for Alessi, who hadn’t raced an outdoor race since 2014.
In fairness, it was a big jump to go straight into MXGP racing for Alessi at round seven with no competitive racing under his belt since he got injured in supercross. It goes to show that you need to be fully prepared to be able to compete for points never mind the top ten or top five in the world championship.
Mike Alessi got a shock at the British GP but the main shock was the level of competition and the diverse tracks, not the rear shock! Now he knows the reality and has a race under his belt, let’s see if he can improve in France, it’s a new track for all and maybe it will suit the American’s aggressive style more.
Article: Jonathan McCready
Pic: Nigel McKinstry