Thoughts on MotoGP: Qatar

I watched last week’s Qatar Grand Prix live and meant to write a blog post about it during the week, but got distracted with other things.

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Races at Losail are usually very boring, I’ve seen MotoGP, GP2 Asia and the old Grand Prix Masters (the refitted Reynards driven by Mansell, Patrese, et al) race there and they were almost all processional affairs, not helped by a strange track surface which seems to cause tyres to completely ignore everything we know about them and to behave completely irrationally.

This race was fun. It started with Stoner taking his customary position up front, as he always does at this track. That’s fine, several series have tracks that are more suited to a particular rider or driver, can’t be helped. We all expected Casey to romp away with the race win and the focus was further down the order, on how well Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa would perform. But… he didn’t. He crashed after only a few short laps! This threw the race wide open.

It was a great fight with lots of passing, yet the most interesting part of it was that compared to last year, the characteristics of each bike relative to the others had radically changed. Where last year the Ducati easily had a power advantage down the straights, at Qatar it was the Honda just as it was a few years ago. Where last year the Honda and Yamaha were more agile but suffered on the straights and the Ducati couldn’t turn to save it’s life but had a warp drive, so this year it seemed the Ducati was the thing to have in the corners.

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This could change the way this season is fought compared to the last few years. It meant Nicky Hayden could actually ride his bike properly and it was brilliant to see him in the top four on merit. Lorenzo fell back several places with his injury yet valiantly fought his way back up to 3rd. And this Spies chap is pretty handy isn’t he? Makes Toseland look a bit like an amateur, which is not easy, and while it would be great to see British involvement in the series you can’t really argue if they replace JT with the quality of Spies.

Whether the back end of the field has such a quality is another matter, I’d wager James is better than quite a few of them so on that basis it is a shame he didn’t change teams. But we’ve only had one race, so let’s give them the same chance he had before we completely write them off, and some had a good race.

In summary, I enjoyed the battle and the change in performance of the bikes, if it had been the same as last year I’d have enjoyed it but perhaps not as much. We now have the added twist of seeing whether those changes carry through at other tracks, I suspect they will, and how will the riders adapt? I really do think this is a more open year than we’ve seen for a while, unless Vale has something to say about it, and he has a points advantage now…

The next race was supposed to be the Japanese GP this coming weekend but the European travel chaos caused by the volcano ash has caused that race to be postponed to October 3rd. This is partly because their gear is still in Europe, and partly because there’s only a one week gap between this weekend and the Jerez GP on May 2nd which is the most-attended race of the season – they don’t want to jeapordise that race. Jerez should be a good one, I’m looking forward to it.

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