Tuesday, October 16, 2007

MotoGP Phillip Island: Stoner Semi-Snoozefest

This race review is late because I fell asleep half way through the MotoGP race at Phillip Island and only just woke up.

It started well, but yet again, the tyre-driven snoozefest virus infected the race. Dani Pedrosa had taken pole position with a searing lap of the freezing track. That little guy might not be the heart and soul of the party, but he's staggeringly quick. He has only won a single race this year, but I'm becoming more and more of a fan because he has done so well on a bike that Honda probably found in a landfill site outside Tokyo.

The race started with Ducati's trick electronics launching Stoner into the lead. In comparison, Pedrosa was racing his spare bike because when he did a practise start on his number one bike, it flipped right over and launched Dani into the air. He was unhurt, although apparently the nearby John Hopkins nearly choked to death laughing.

Stoner then held the lead for the rest of the race, blah blah amazing result, blah blah it's him not the tyres and so forth.

However, the first half of the race was actually interesting! Excellent, in fact! Nicky Hayden was on outstanding form. He always goes fast in Oz, because the track goes the wrong way and it's fast and scary. Like his old dirt-tracking days back in Kentucky. Nicky was brilliant, really hanging on to the baby-faced assassin on the Ducati in front of him. When Stoner pulled out a bit of a gap, Nicky closed it back up by the end of the lap. It looked like Stoner might be seriously pushed for a victory for the first time since Catalunya.

It was not to be. The Honda engine started to tighten up and slow down. After a couple of laps, it blew up altogether. Nicky was livid, and rightly so. He battered the tank with his fist and stomped off, ranting as if Pedrosa was responsible. It was heartbreaking to see him lose a possible win through mechanical failure.

Rossi, Melandri and Pedrosa then proceeded to beat each other up with some interesting racing. Until their tyres went off, that is. Melandri was worst off, with the left side of his tyre in shreds. Rossi kept it together better than Pedrosa. Both were conquered by the resurgent Loris Capirossi. He's usually quick at Phillip Island, but that's talking about how fast he bounces through the gravel trap and into hospital. The only riders not to run into tyre problems were Capirex and Stoner. By sheer coincidence, they both ride for Ducati, and Bridgestone tyres are developed by a test team running on a Ducati. Amazing.

Alex Barros did pretty well on his Bridgestone-shod Ducati as well, for some reason.

I'm not going to have an enormous rant about tyres, because the rules have been changed for next season. There won't be a one-tyre rule, according to those in the know, but there will be major changes. There will be more tyres available for each rider each weekend, and they won't have to be chosen until after the first practise session. That way, teams should have a clue about the ballpark they should be in as regards compounds and construction. Also, it seems that the tyre companies have been forced to supply anybody who can pony up the cash. In other words, Rossi will be on Bridgestones. Frankly, the Japanese company would be insane not to associate themselves with the lanky Italian genius, and I fully expect that they will make every effort to help him win races.

This should satisfy both the pragmatists like me who want to see some bloody racing some time this decade, and the purists who are as enthusiastic about tyre wars as the Yanks are about real wars. (Tyre warmongers?) It may even satisfy those who go completely insane when somebody mentions one-tyre rules, such as Eurosport commentator Toby Moody. When somebody says "one tyre" to him, he starts shrieking like a Victorian schoolmistress who has just copped an eyeful of Mr Darcy with his shirt off. Settle down, for God's sake.

Anyway. Phillip Island. Half a good race, half a bad one. Gutted for Nicky.

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