Monday, May 05, 2008

MotoGP Shanghai: Just What The Doctor Ordered

Was it daft for Valentino Rossi to switch to Bridgestone tyres? No dafter than it was switching to Yamaha. The Italian won his first race for months, ending a barren period of rubbish Michelin tyres, explosive Yamaha engines and unfamiliar Bridgestone rubber. The Ronnie O'Sullivan of MotoGP has still got what it takes. Rossi was elated at his comeback victory, so back to his old mugging for the camera and kissing the bike. I'm surprised he didn't kiss the tyres too. Valentino also displayed his typical Italian cool by arriving fashionably late in Parc Ferme, having taken about a week to cruise round his slowdown lap and pose for every camera he could find. Now the championship is really starting to get interesting.

Dani Pedrosa is a tiny, sour-faced superstar. Everybody had completely written off the Repsol Honda bikes, and were all made to look very silly when Dani finished 2nd. Seriously, running steel valve springs? That's like, so 2004! You might be able to make peak power, but you'll run out of fuel before the air-sprung engines. Yeah, right. HRC know a thing or two about bikes, and their 19th Century valve technology still kicks some serious rear. It turned out that the miniature championship leader's team had been caught out by the huge tailwind on the idiotically long runway that passes for a straight at Shanghai. Dani was hammering off the rev limiter, the bike geared fractionally too low. Oh, you can't do that with steel springs, etc, etc. Yeah, right.

Casey Stoner is a tiny, sour-faced superstar. OK, not as much as Pedrosa. His Bologna Bullet was screaming down the straight at an outrageous 211mph. If he'd stuck his arms out, he would have taken off without even needing to flap. Still, he was in a huff about his tyre, which had been changed from the one he really wanted to use, relegating him to 3rd. I'm in awe of the reigning champ, but he sure does have a lot of excuses. Especially when he's well adrift of Bridgestone rookie Valentino Rossi.

Jorge Lorenzo finished 4th, the same place as he started. It was by far his most impressive showing of this year. Yep, those 3 pole positions, and 3 podiums including a win were all rubbish compared to this. Having been out in Friday practise for about 5 minutes, he performed the most jaw-dropping highside that's been seen in this sport since Garry McCoy was on the 500cc Yamaha. Miles up in the air. No, the stratosphere. Slams down into the tarmac and cracks both ankles. Misses virtually the whole of Friday practise. Qualifies 4th, battles through to an incredible 4th place. This guy's as quick as Rossi and as hard as Melandri. He's almost as much of a phenomenon as he thinks he is, and that's seriously saying something. When he got back to his garage, The Doctor was there to congratulate him warmly. No, not that doctor, I mean Doctor Costa, who had patched up the arrogant hero in his own inimitable style.

Speaking of Melandri, he managed to pull out an impressive 5th place that's just going to make him look a whole lot worse when he goes back to finishing 10th. Shanghai's a funny track, so I'm not holding my breath about Marco suddenly having a major comeback and winning races. It's far too early to start blowing the trumpets for Macho, but we all live in hope.

Who else? Ah yes, Colin Edwards. Hugely funny and likeable, the Texan has suddenly discovered how to qualify a MotoGP bike. He took pole position with an utterly stunning lap that would have been worthy of The Doctor himself. Of course, Colin still can't race to save himself. Anyone who saw Colin win the WSBK title in an epic battle with Bayliss at Imola will know that it was one of the most incredible last laps in history. Unfortunately, it was Colin's last gasp. For a wide and varied series of excuses, I mean valid reasons, Edwards has never reproduced that form, and still doesn't look like doing so. If only he could string a few qualifying laps together and call them a race, because he sure as hell has the ultimate pace.

Teeny Spaniard number 2, Toni Elias, the interesting teeny Spaniard, managed a hugely creditable 8th on the D'Antin Ducati. This goes to prove that the D'Antin boys are contractually obliged to finish behind Melandri so he doesn't look rubbish.

Terrible races all round for everybody else. John Hopkins had the pace but not the braking point at the end of the straight, doing the proverbial exit the track, go round the roundabout outside and pay to get back in on a couple of occasions. Ah well.

Anyway, the championship has now caught fire. 4 winners in 4 races. All of them champions at some level of GP racing. Enjoy it, because this is a Golden Era.


Rob J Jones said...

I lost a bit of respect for Stoner this weekend. Jumping off the bike in 3rd place and moaning about being advised incorrectly about the tyre choice, and then saying it would not have improved his finishing position...not the performance of a Champ. He should have been praising his team.

That Honda engine seemed to do pretty well eh? God help us when the pneumatic arrives, if it ever does. Win or lose, Pedrosa has the weight of the world on his shoulders, poor lad. He does not look like he enjoys his racing - I hope he does because it's a miserable existence if not.

Lorenzo gained all the respect I lost for Stoner. He's mad. And welcome back Rossi, who seems happy again, and is looking strong for the championship. Bit different to last year eh Jimmy?

Jimmy said...

I just read that Rossi changed his tyre choice at the last minute and said it was perfect. I wonder if Stoner was given the same one, but thought it was rubbish...

I agree about Lorenzo, he's really something. Can't believe he even raced after that highside. Top bloke. And yes, it is a tad different to last year!