Monday, September 01, 2008

MotoGP: Post-Misano Musings

Now that the dust has settled from the San Marino round of the MotoGP championship at Misano, here are the main talking points that came up: Casey's constant crashing, and Pedrosa ditching les pneus fran├žais for most honorable number one Japanese tyres.

The little Australian world champion was addicted to crashing in his younger days (hell, he still doesn't look a day over 12.) Like all addicts, Casey has suffered a relapse. That losing battle with Rossi at Laguna has rattled him severely. Stoner claimed Rossi's passing moves were too hard, worse than he's seen for years. He obviously hasn't watched any World Superbikes lately, where those kinds of forceful passes are so common that TV commentator James Whitham's usual cry when he sees a hard move, "Have some of that!" has almost become a catchphrase.

Casey fell off at Laguna during a huge battle with Rossi that made him lose his cool. His desperation to avoid another such battle has led him to fall off at the following two races. (Thanks to those of you who voted in the last poll, where 76% of you thought that Rossi had Stoner rattled. Good call, people.) Rossi has finally discovered the Stoner/Ducati weakness. They don't like it up 'em!

The eency-weency, teeny-weeny, itty-bitty Spaniard has been even more sour-faced than usual lately. You thought that Rossi turned into a whinger when he fell out with Michelin? You ain't seen nothing! At least it's less of a surprise that Pedrosa would spit the dummy and chuck the toys out of the pram, considering that he could be mistaken for a 6 month old baby. Such is the strength of Pedrosa's hatred for Michelin (he didn't even want to be on frog-sourced rubber this year), and the strength of his personal mananger Alberto Puig's control over HRC, that the Repsol Honda team will run Dani on Bridgestone tyres, starting immediately.

Changing tyres mid-season? What the hell? This has obviously been on the cards for a little while. Some of the satellite Honda bikes have been on Bridgestones for a couple of years, so HRC have data about how to make a Honda work on Bridgestones. Just to check that this data was applicable to the factory Honda, HRC cunningly gave Bridgestone runner Shinya Nakano a full-fat Dani Pedrosa bike, complete with his favoured steel valve springs. Nakano has had a couple of good showings and set some fast laps. This proves that the Bridgestone setup data accumulated by the Honda Gresini team can be applied to the factory Repsol Honda.

Sure, it's a big risk to switch tyre companies mid-season, if you actually care about this year's championship result. But Dani and HRC don't really care. This year is lost, and they are using the last few races as the best kind of testing there is: racing. Add to that the fact that Honda know all about how Bridgestones work on Dani's bike, thanks to Shinya. This is definitely not the same as Rossi's switch to Bridgestones, which nobody had ever bolted to a Yamaha M1 before. Honda don't need a genius like Rossi's Aussie engineer Jeremy Burgess, they just need an HRC engineer who has worked in the Gresini garage. Simple.

The switch will be a major psychological boost for the po-faced Spaniard, and he's a damned quick rider and fast learner. How he will fare for the rest of the season is anybody's guess, but he could surprise us all.

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