Tiregate? The devil’s in the detail


Following Spygate (2007) and Crashgate (2008), Tiregate is set to become the talking point of the 2013 season, and we’re not even a third of the way through this year’s championship. With Mercedes and Ferrari both facing inquiries from the FIA, it appears that two of the title contenders could be under pressure, yet there are many finer points which make their cases very different.

The details of Mercedes’ test came out on the Sunday of the Monaco Grand Prix, immediately triggering protests from Red Bull and (ironically) Ferrari. After the Spanish Grand Prix, the team had completed 1000km of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya using their 2013 car( the W04), 2013 tires and their 2013 drivers (Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton). This is a clear example of an in-season test, the like of which is banned, and Mercedes have made no secret of their actions. Instead, they are fighting their case on the grounds that Pirelli’s contract with the sport allows for such a test to be undertaken.

Ferrari’s test has two great differences. Firstly, it was not completed using the 2013 car. Instead, the team used the F150 Italia, which they ran in 2011. Under the regulations, teams are forbidden from completing any running with a car used in the last two years (i.e. 2012 or 2013). Subsequently, Ferrari are clear on this point. Additionally, the rumor mill has suggested that Pedro de la Rosa completed the running, not Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa.

How much of a benefit would the test have given Ferrari though? Although the car is two years old, and there have been changes made to the regulations since then, there may have been some benefit considering this was the first year in which Pirelli tires were used. Ferrari have been pushing for in-season testing ever since it was banned, with their use of Fiorano proving highly fruitful during their golden years in the early 2000s.

Ferrari are certainly not ‘as guilty’ as Mercedes, meaning that the decision ultimately rests with the FIA. Should they choose to take a particularly strict stance, both teams could face some sort of fine or penalty, but it would be Mercedes who are worse off as they did use their 2013 car. Ferrari have a tradition of being ‘cute’ with the regulations – i.e. keeping in the rules, but pushing them to the limit – and this is a classic example. The car used does not break the rules (unlike Mercedes), putting them in the clear for now. It does set a precedent for the future though, and Red Bull may be blowing the dust off the RB7 should the FIA deem Ferrari to have done no wrong.

It’s the idea of Mercedes being ‘more guilty’ than Ferrari which means that the two teams cannot be treated as equals. It is ultimately up to the FIA to decide what course of action to take, but Tiregate is set to rumble on well into the summer.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”