A Promising Season of MotoGP

Today’s MotoGP race at Jerez was the best I’d seen ages. After a year of so-so races which promised much but often failed to deliver, including the wet ones, this race was a return to old form – and dare I say even more dramatic than some Rossi-inspired classics we’ve seen in the past.

The race had everything. A damp slippery track; a legend starting in the middle of the field who immediately set about picking off 3 or 4 rivals per lap; a pair of World Champions riding off into the sunset in the early running, before being pulled in by the rookie on the privateer bike.. who subsequently fell off; the legend coming together with one of the past champs and only one surviving to continue, seemingly at the whim of the local marshals; nobody being able to hold on to 2nd or 3rd without finding some form of drama.

Amazing. You should watch this race. Make it a priority. Even if you aren’t usually a MotoGP fan: Watch This Race.

It is easy to claim the season will be a great one after a race like this when in fact it is an oddity, a one-off, but this time I think it is true. Obviously they won’t all be as dramatic as this one. They won’t be as boring as the races last year, either. We saw the potential in Qatar. Honda are the team to beat but they are beatable, Rossi and Ducati are coming together nicely, the Yamahas have a decent enough pace, and Simoncelli looks likely to mix it with the factory boys often.

We could see plenty of really good battles this season. Could MotoGP regain a lost crown and once more claim to have the best wheel-to-wheel action in the world? I think it can and will.

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I’m Watching.. MotoGP Estoril

MotoGP 2010 – Portuguese GP

Estoril, Portugal – Round 17 of 18

31st October 2010
BBC coverage

Front row: Jorge Lorenzo is on pole, with Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi alongside him.
Dani Pedrosa has returned after his Japanese GP injury but starts well down the order, it’ll be interesting to see if he can work his way through.
Ben Spies crashed on the way to the grid and injured himself, he won’t be starting.

With all the rain over the weekend so far there has been no dry practice, this is going to be a dry race yet the track seems damp and greasy.

Race Start

Fast start from Lorenzo, behind him its 5 wide into turn 1. Dovizioso has jumped up to 2nd but is passed by Hayden who now leads this 5 bike group. Espagaro is off and limping.
Midway through lap two, passing all over the place, Hayden leads! Stoner passes Dovi and Rossi until the Italian re-takes him and positions changing all the time, I can’t keep up! Into lap 3 and the order is Lorenzo, Hayden, Rossi, Dovi, Stoner.

Lap 4 – Fantastic stuff but now it is a duel, Lorenzo vs Rossi with the Ducatis of Hayden and Stoner heading the chasing group.

Rossi leads! Passes Lorenzo into the uphill chicane at turn 9.

Stoner is off! It drops out from under him and he’s into the gravel at the Parabolica. Real shame as he was up to 3rd. Pedrosa is now 7th. Huge wobble from Simoncelli on to the main straight.

News from race control – “Spies diagnosed with left ankle dislocation” – ouch.

Lap 8 and things have calmed considerably as the gaps open up. Rossi leads Lorenzo by a second and a half, with Hayden a similar gap behind, then Simoncelli leading the works Hondas of Dovizioso and Pedrosa and de Puniet is on the back of them. Edwards isn’t far behind.

Dovizioso spins up his rear wheel and is nearly thrown off his bike, he drops behind Pedrosa and de Puniet and continues.

Replay: Carlos Checa loses a place and brings the bike in to the pits to retire, Steve Parrish on commentary suggests it is ‘arm pump’, i.e. he’s not physically used to the force of squeezing the brakes on the big MotoGP bikes.

Lap 15, the Yamahas have opened a gap the length of the pit straight over Hayden. Lorenzo is very gradually catching Rossi and on the next time through the main straight he’s on him, slipstreams past into turn 1, Lorenzo leads!

Simoncelli has taken 3rd from Hayden, and now Dovizioso retakes 5th from Pedrosa. This group of four are still circulating together.

9 to go. Edwards passes de Puniet and these two have recaught the group of four ahead, big group of six now.

8 to go and Dovizioso jumps Simoncelli for 3rd, this group has been epic all race and Simoncelli takes it back again! Dovizioso finally seals the deal into turn one. While this was going on Pedrosa got shuffled to the back of the group falls away, Parrish suggests this is probably because he’s not ‘race fit’ yet. Edwards was dropped off a little too.

5 to go, Dovizioso missed the apex and Simoncelli pounced immediately, he’s back to third. Hayden is lurking but doesn’t look likely to make a pass just yet.

Lorenzo is now 5 seconds ahead of Rossi and riding away. This is a bit like the last race, front two places sealed but an epic battle for 3rd.

2 to go, Dovizioso is back into 3rd, he’s clearly the faster of the two but keeps making errors allowing Simoncelli back through – can he hold on this time?

They are fighting like dogs on the last lap.. who’s got it?

Podium:
1. Lorenzo,
2. Rossi,
3….. Dovizioso in a near photo finish at the line!

Simoncelli 4th, Hayden, de Puniet, Edwards, Pedrosa, Melandri, Barbera for the top ten.

Verdict:

A really good race, even though the front two cleared off into the distance there was still action up and down the field. The head-to-head between Rossi and Lorenzo was excellent, and the group fighting over third was absolutely superb. A lot of MotoGP races this year have been really disappointing – now it has its mojo back!

Apologies for the lack of photo in this post, Picapp pulled their WordPress.com support and I haven’t registered for media access with anyone as yet.

Points:
Lorenzo 358; Pedrosa 236; Rossi 217; Stoner 205; Dovizioso 195; Spies & Hayden 163;

The next round is the finale at Valencia, it has already taken place (as you know) and I’ll have a little review up in a few days.

I’m Watching.. MotoGP

MotoGP 2010 – Australian GP

Phillip Island, Australia – Round 17 of 18

17th October 2010
BBC coverage

Front row: Casey Stoner is on pole at his home circuit, new champion Jorge Lorenzo 2nd, Ben Spies an impressive 3rd.
Dani Pedrosa is still out through injury after crashing in free practice at Motegi.

This will be Mika Kallio’s last race of the year which is a shame, he’d been tipped as a new talent but after a few poor races he’s shuffled out. He’ll be replaced by Carlos Checa, who spent 12 years in the top class before moving to World Superbikes.

Conditions are very windy and it has been raining for three days straight – but today it is dry.

Race Start

Stoner and Lorenzo make a good initial start before Spies tries to run around the outside, but he gets mugged by Simoncelli and Hayden. By the end of lap one Stoner already had a 1.5 second lead over Lorenzo! Simoncelli’s Honda passes Hayden’s Ducati on the front straight. Check up with the Doctor, Rossi is down in 9th.

A bit of a battle between Dovi and Spies ends up with Spies ahead and Dovi dropping back, slowing which allows Rossi (now 6th) to catch up to Spies. Replay: Dovizioso’s bike is going slowly and multiple riders pass him, he pits shortly afterwards.

Lap 5 and the battle for 3rd is suddenly Spies vs Hayden vs Simoncelli vs Rossi in that order, I don’t remember seeing Spies move up through the group, but here goes Rossi, up another position.
Lap 6, Stoner has a 2.6sec lead over Lorenzo who’s 4 seconds ahead of this mad battle for 3rd.

BBC commentary reminds us that the new engine rule is in effect, most guys are on their 6th engine of the year but because Rossi missed races he’s able to keep using new engines when others are saving theirs. Rossi and Simoncelli make their way past Hayden who’s back up to speed on their tail – and just a few corners later Rossi is past Spies for 3rd, having made two places in a lap. Spies then gets shuffled back to 6th by the other two who continue scrapping as Rossi darts away from them.

A couple of laps later and I didn’t expect this, Hayden is catching Rossi! The 2011 teammates are running together with a gap to the pair of Simoncelli and Spies. Things calmed down for a while thereafter, small groups of bikes circulated and while they weren’t trying any less the amount of passing seemed to drop for a bit. It was a bit like the Aragon race with pairs or threes racing and the gaps enlarging between the groups.

Further back, de Puniet, Bautista and Kallio make it three abreast in the fast southern loop! Dangerous stuff, it is barely wide enough for three bikes at these speeds. Spies gets ahead of Simoncelli once more.

Wow, suddenly Hayden makes a move and is past Rossi into second! 3 laps remaining, can he hold on to it? Rossi attacks Hayden just as hard as Nicky had been doing for so long, but with only three-quarters of a lap to go this could go either way.
Vale dive-bombs him, they are side-by-side as they hang on around the low grip right-hander, does it he make it.. yes! Amazing. All credit to the pair of them for a cracking race in which they were the undoubted highlight, and well done to Casey Stoner on his dominant, flawless win.

Podium: 1. Stoner, 2. Lorenzo, 3. Rossi.
Hayden 4th, Spies, Simoncelli, Edwards, Espargaro, Melandri etc.

The race for the first two positions was over at the first corner of the first lap, the race for 3rd wasn’t settled until the last corner of the last lap! Excellent race.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Phillip+Island&iid=9993557″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9993557/motogp-australia-race/motogp-australia-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=9993557″ width=”380″ height=”265″ /]

Points:

Lorenzo 333 (C), Pedrosa 228, Stoner 205, Rossi 197, Dovizioso 179, Spies 163

The next round is the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril this weekend.

Photo credit: Rossi stalks Hayden in the closing stages at Phillip Island – Lucas Dawson / Getty Images via PicApp.com

I’m Watching.. MotoGP

MotoGP 2010 – Malaysian GP

Sepang, Malaysia – Rnd 15 of 18

3 October 2010
BBC coverage

I have a massive backlog of articles but as I’m in the middle of sorting a move to another flat things are a bit delayed.

Front row: Jorge Lorenzo starts on pole, Nicky Hayden 2nd, Andrea ‘Dovi’ Dovizioso 3rd.
Dani Pedrosa is still out with an injury sustained in free practice in Japan.

At the start Lorenzo gets away with a small gap, yet by the end of lap one Dovi had got side by side with him at the last corner – Lorenzo fended him off and the battle continued. Just as they were dropping the Ducatis one of them, Stoner, found himself in the gravel thus enlargening the gap between the leaders and the other Ducati of Hayden, who had about 6 bikes on his tail.

Valentino Rossi had dropped from 6th to 11th at the start and immediately set about re-passing people. After just a couple of laps he was in 6th again, two laps more and he was up to 3rd! Incredible even for him, if you consider he’s still carrying an injury from earlier in the season. We’re told his leg has fully healed, his shoulder has not.

Capirossi parked up and limped away, he’s still carrying an injury from a few races before. A pit report from Matt Roberts later in the race confirms he retired due to an electrical fault on his Suzuki, it wasn’t down to his injury.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Sepang&iid=10016264″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/10016264/motogp-malaysia-race/motogp-malaysia-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=10016264″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

Dovi hassled Lorenzo for lap after lap as Rossi slowly, slowly closed in on them, before Dovizioso was able to make the move on lap 8 with a great pass! Edwards retired from 8th somewhere here.

Rossi passes Lorenzo for 2nd, I don’t think Lorenzo worked TOO hard for it because he wants to secure the title in this race. In the same place one lap later Rossi takes the lead! He dove into the tight left-hander and darted away into the lead, immediately opening a little gap. Simply brilliant.

Hayden slipped to the back of the fairly big pack running in the upper midfield as Spies and Simoncelli fought to head this group. Suddenly on lap 15 Dovizioso seems to come from nowhere to retake the race lead from Rossi! Half a lap later Vale retakes the place in his favourite overtaking spot. This is really fantastic stuff!

Wow, great scrap between Simoncelli, Bautista, Hayden and Ayama. Bautista passed two guys in one move! It continued and Simoncelli and Aoyama bumped and bruised until they run wide (Simoncelli’s fault) allowing Hayden to pass both.
Up front, Rossi and Dovi dropped Lorenzo by a big margin, the trio miles ahead of the rest. That’s how it finished.

Podium: 1. Rossi, 2. Dovizioso, 3. Lorenzo. Jorge Lorenzo confirmed as 2010 MotoGP World Champion!
Some guys dressed as Mario and Luigi meet him on the cooldown lap and he holds up a Game Over sign to the bike’s onboard camera! Massive cheers from the crowd, and it is a big crowd.
Spies finished 4th, Bautista, Hayden, Aoyama, etc.

What a stunning race. After several really boring GPs the series has regained its old form in style, well done to all concerned.

Well done to both race winner Rossi and champion Lorenzo, who’s run of race wins and other podium positions were going to be incredibly hard to beat even if the opposition hadn’t struggled with injury, there’s no false title here as Lorenzo worked for every result.

Points:

Lorenzo 313 (C), Pedrosa 228, Rossi 181, Stoner 180, Dovizioso 179, Spies 152

The next round is Phillip Island, Australia, for which there will be a post up in a few days.

Photo credit:  Andrea Dovizioso leads after passing Jorge Lorenzo, while Valentino Rossi is closing, closing, closing. (c) Getty Images via Picapp.