Monday, March 26, 2007

MotoGP: Rossi Unbeatable at Jerez

It wasn't a classic race, but it showed us another side to Valentino Rossi.
Usually, The Doctor likes to play with his victims before finally disappearing with a blistering last lap. After having some of his own medicine forced down his throat by Stoner at Qatar, Rossi decided to change his tactics.
Starting from 2nd position on a ludicrously tight grid (1 second covering the top 15, with OJ trundling along in 16th place 0.003 seconds outside that), Rossi was beaten to the first corner by Dani Pedrosa. The teeny Spaniard, still stinging from being called "El NiƱo" by Rossi in an interview, Pedrosa was determined to turn his pole position into a victory.
Half way round the first lap, Rossi moved past his miniature rival. The Italian started putting in qualifying laps, gradually pulling out a tenth here and a few hundredths there. Pedrosa fought back gamely, but slowly slipped backwards, the gap growing greater as the tyres wore down.
By the last lap, Rossi was 3 seconds in front, dropping to 1 second as he wheelied over the line. To celebrate his first win for many months, The Doctor bowled over some of his fans, who were dressed as ninepins. Luckily for them, he used an imaginary bowling ball instead of chucking his crash helmet.
Behind the two stars, Edwards put in an impressive performance in 3rd place. If the only people in front of you are called Rossi and Pedrosa, you're not doing too badly. It was a lonely race for the Texan, but his first podium in the best part of a year. The 2007 Yamaha suits him a lot better than the chattering 2006 machine.
Spanish Psycho Toni Elias was an amazing 4th. Taking up his usual mid-pack position off the start, Toni suddenly lit the blue touchpaper halfway through the race, overtaking 2 people in about 30 seconds. They say these 800cc bikes need a 250 riding style. Nobody ever rode a 250 the way Toni was riding that Gresini Honda and lived to tell the tale. Sideways into all the heavy braking zones, Toni was the most entertaining thing in the race.
Stoner was 5th for Ducati, producing excellent times as the race went on. Incredibly, in a post-race interview with the BBC, the young Aussie berated the other riders for making dangerous overtaking moves early on! Casey destroyed his team-mate Capirossi, who has looked awful so far this year. We know that Capirex craziness is in there somewhere, but he had better produce it quickly if he wants to stay in MotoGP. Another good race from Stoner though, who showed that he can stay calm and fight for maximum points rather than chucking it down the road in a shower of sparks. We'll see another couple of wins from him this year.
John Hopkins will be furious with himself after hopping off in 4th place, with a chance of a podium. It robbed Suzuki of the decent result they deserved, but they will surely find the podium later in the year.
Overall, it was a decent race rather than a classic. It was impressive to see Rossi putting in about 25 qualifying laps one after the other to break Pedrosa, and showed that The Doctor has rediscovered his addiction to winning. It also showed that Dani isn't quite ready to fight wheel-to-wheel with his main rival, but he's getting closer. This season is fascinating as it unfolds. With some long straights in the next couple of races, will the newly-mature Stoner take more wins, or can Vale and Dani beat him on the twisty bits? I can't wait to find out.

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