Friday, July 16, 2004
Just what you wanted to read: Another article on the Bostrom/Ducati situation
It's predicaments like the one Eric Bostrom is currently in that clearly illustrate how life as a superbike racer can sometimes be a righteous bitch.
As we enter the back stretch of the 2004 AMA season, Eric and his Ducati Austin team have certainly experienced a few moments that were the best of the best (victory at Pikes Peak and a lap record at Daytona), but the rest of the time they've been dealing with the worst of the worst (uncharacteristic crashes, poor qualifying times, and a bike that seemingly can't be sorted-out mechanically) in a topsy-turvy year of racing that has apparently shattered Eric's confidence. I could cite a dozen or more other articles to bolster this observation, but this article by Dean Adams and this one by Chris Martin provide the gist of things well enough. In summary, Eboz is visibly shaken and his team is quietly unhappy.
The last time I saw Eric face-to-face was at Pikes Peak in 2003, a racing season that saw him take multiple victories in Superbike and stay within a stone's throw of the points lead on an arguably inferior bike to the exotic 999 he's been struggling with in 2004, the Kawasaki ZX-7RR. At that time, he was his normal, relaxed, confident self. And as is his usual M.O. at PPIR, he kicked major ass with an awe-inspiring, walk-away win. Were it not for a bonehead move by Aaron Yates that took Eric out for the remainder of the season at Laguna, I still maintain that Bostrom could've pulled off a championship that year. He had momentum, he had his mind right, and the Little Green Bike That Could seemed to be set up perfectly almost every time he got on it.
So what happened? Well, any current set-up problems aside, I have my own theory as to why Eric is struggling this year. Not a single other moto writer I know of has postulated on this idea, so I'm probably totally wrong, but indulge me for a minute. Here's what I think: Eric's trouble is 90 percent mental, and it all started when he was taken out at Laguna last year.
There, I said it.
Maybe it's a stretch, but let's take a quick inventory of what Eric has had to endure since that moment in time:
1. Get out of my way, dammit! I'm Aaron Yates! Eric was immediately extracted from the 2003 points race (a championship he could've conceivably won) by the aforementioned Yates incident, which signified the third consecutive season in which Bostrom had gotten aggravatingly close to becoming champion, but couldn't quite pull it off. If you've ever been with one of those girls who is kind of wild, but will only go so far, you can probably empathize with the frustration such a situation creates. Eric scored a home run with the Supersport harlot in 2001 and then promptly kicked her out of bed to exclusively pursue the homecoming queen that is Superbike. But his subsequent courting has gotten him little more than a wink and a grin from her. Instead, she seems to have the insatiable hots for a certain guy named Mladin.
2. So long, and thanks for all the fish. As Eric was still healing from his Laguna injuries, Kawasaki Factory Racing announced during the off-season that it was pulling out of Superbike for the 2004 season. Team Kawasaki would concentrate on Superstock and Eric was subsequently released from his contract as a result.
3. The mad dash for a factory ride. In an instant, one of the best motorcycle racers in North America was without a mount. And while we'll probably never know the full details of Eric's fielding of offers and shopping for a contract, it had to be an extremely stressful experience, especially considering how much he had admired and respected his now-lost Kawasaki team.
4. The sad wings of destiny. Before the ink on the Bostrom/Ducati contract was even dry, tragedy and loss struck Eric's new team. Just a week prior to Daytona, Ducati Austin crewchief Vic Fasola was forced to resign his position. Fasola's wife Teresa, whom had been battling a long illness, was worsening. Sadly, she passed away in March.
5. New tires, new bike, new team, new sponsors, new pressures. Fresh off a WSB championship with the new 999 and ready to shake its so-called "curse" in American racing, Ducati set an ambitious schedule of goals for Eric to assist them in accomplishing during 2004. Now, whether a racer or not, virtually any motorcyclist worth his salt can appreciate the sometimes drastic paradigm shift that comes with getting used to a new bike. The same goes for tires. Combine all of those factors in a superbike setting with new team personalities, sponsor demands, and entirely different corporate motivations, and it seems silly to expect anything other than the current situation. There are only so many adjustments a racer can make at a time and still stay focused and productive.
My prediction is that when Eric gets things put together mentally once again -- and he will -- he'll instantly start to feel the bike more and will become comforable on it quickly thereafter. Once that happens, it's just a matter of dialing in the right settings.
Eric, assuming I'll ever be lucky enough for you to read one of my articles, I want to wish you all the best. You have at least one fan who understands that it takes more than a single season to sort out so many drastically different factors.
Hang in there, buddy.
As for everyone else, I'm out of here until Monday. See you next week.