Monday, June 02, 2008

MotoGP: Lucky Seven for The Doctor

Last year Valentino Rossi was miserable. Exposed as a tax cheat (or hero standing up to his thieving government), his tyres were black hoops of rubbery cack, vital bits of his engine were falling apart, he wasn't winning races and he was watching Casey Stoner romp off with win after win. This year, the real Valentino Rossi has re-appeared, and he took his 3rd win on the trot at Mugello for a total of 7 top class GP wins at the Italian circuit.

Rossi and his engineer Jeremy Burgess, probably the most devastating rider-engineer duo to ever grace the sport, now have a total command of Bridgestone tyres. Valentino insisted on a switch to the Japanese rubber this year because he reckoned that as long as he beat Stoner, he would probably win the title. Well, at Mugello he beat Stoner into 2nd place and now leads the championship chase by 12 points.

People have been claiming that Stoner and Ducati have lost their sparkle, and admittedly their lap times aren't quite matching last year's, but the real story is that everybody else has got a whole lot faster, particularly Yamaha and Michelin. The Ducati is no longer massively quicker than the other bikes, just a bit quicker. Stoner is still the best Ducati rider by miles. Where are the other Dukes? In the gravel trap, mostly. Bridgestone tyres no longer have the massively boring advantage they had last year, which makes Rossi's winning streak all the more impressive.

At Mugello, Yamaha proved that they have made the best all-round motorcycle this year. Not quite the quickest down the straights, but not that far off. Hella quick round corners. Jorge Lorenzo had a dozy weekend, slow in practise, fast enough in qualifying and falling off in the race after pushing a teeny bit too hard. The other Yamahas fared better. Apart from Rossi's dominant victory, Toseland had a great race to 6th including a few great overtakes without leaving yellow and blue paint on his opponents' machines. Edwards managed to better Toseland by one place as the race went on and tyres started to wear.

Honda had their development rider Tady Okada trundling round on the new air-valve bike. Although he's a million years old, has barely raced this century and was on an experimental machine, he still beat Ant West, who would do well to get fired and go to Superbike ASAP. The Honda's pneumatically-boinging valves didn't trash themselves, and there were a few extra miles per hour, so the engine will probably be tried out by one or both of the factory riders in a race soon. Dani Pedrosa took the spring-valve Honda to 3rd place, showing that there's not a great deal wrong with it. That's the trouble, there's no point replacing steel springs with compressed air just for the hell of it, there has to be an improvement, and if you're finishing on the podium already you have a lot to lose. We've been watching this space for months now and we'll be watching for at least a couple more weeks yet.

At the end of the race, the Italian crowd idiotically invaded the track, nearly getting themselves and the riders killed. Natural exuberance is fine, in fact it's brilliant, but that kind of stupidity can't carry on. Rossi actually had to ride off onto the grass on his cool-down lap as there were hundreds of fans on the tarmac.

So, The Doctor proves once again that he still has it. Not just the ability to crush the opposition, but to make us all split our sides laughing. The picture on the top of his crash hat, a photo-realistic image of Rossi's face, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, reminiscent of the tattoo that Steve-O from Jackass has of himself on his back, was priceless. Seeing the picture of Rossi looking terrified behind the screen bubble as he hurtled along the straights at 200mph was well worth a chuckle. He's pulling out a lead at the front of the championship. He's on a fantastic bike with tyres as good as anybody's. Rossi for the title?


Nicebloke said...

The best bike rider we've ever seen, and he has a wicked sense of humor to go with it - all hail Valentino!

Jimmy said...

Can't argue with that! He's a star.

Anonymous said...

new tag: brilliant