Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MotoGP Motegi: Jorge Horses Vale

Jorge Lorenzo produced a faultless performance to win the Japanese round of the MotoGP championship at Motegi. To everybody's surprise, it was an interesting race that had battles for position right down the field. With qualifying rained off, the grid was based on free practise sessions, giving a front row of Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi made an excellent start on his FIAT Yamaha, and was followed into the first turn by the Rizla Suzuki of Chris Vermeulen. Dani Pedrosa made his usual rocket launch off the line on his Repsol Honda to take third place, pushing Stoner's Marlboro Ducati down to fourth. Jorge Lorenzo could only manage fifth on the second FIAT Yamaha, ahead of the second Repsol Honda of Andrea Dovizioso. In the midfield, Nicky Hayden lasted just four corners before his Marlboro Ducati was torpedoed by Yuki Takahashi's Scot Honda, the Japanese youngster getting a bit over-excited at his home race.

Vermeulen could not keep up with the pace of the leaders, and swiftly dropped back, while Lorenzo fought his way up the field to catch Pedrosa. The two Spanish arch-rivals had a good scrap for second place, with the cocky Lorenzo getting the best of his sour-faced enemy Pedrosa.

Arguably the most impressive performance was Marco Melandri on the sole Hayate bike. The repainted Kawasaki machine is usually considered to be the worst bike on the grid, so it was amazing to see Melandri in seventh place, climbing all over Stoner and Vermeulen. Although Stoner was, as always, the leading Ducati rider, he was having terrible trouble with a vibrating front brake, and repeatedly ran wide as he tried to pass his fellow Aussie.

At the front, Valentino Rossi was not managing to pull away from his team-mate Lorenzo, with the surprisingly fast Honda of Dani Pedrosa staying in touch with the pair of blue Yamahas. Soon, the two Yamahas were fighting for the lead. Lorenzo passed Rossi, but the wily Italian cut back in tight to re-take first place. A few corners later, Lorenzo passed his team leader in a close but clean move into the downhill right-hander. Rossi was now just in front of Pedrosa, with the second Repsol Honda of Dovizioso also joining the fight. Casey Stoner was now up to speed, but was a few seconds behind the leaders in fifth place.

In the middle of the pack, the second Ducati was the Pramac machine of Mika Kallio. The Finnish rookie had started from 17th after highsiding on a cold tyre during the practise session that was used to determine grid positions. Now Kallio was scything through the field, heading for a top ten position.

With 8 laps to go, Dani Pedrosa was hustling Rossi for second place. Still recovering from surgery to his arm and knee, the tiny Spaniard was as determined as he has ever been, outbraking Rossi for probably the first time ever to grab second place, only to lose out as Rossi cut back inside him. Again, Pedrosa passed Rossi on the brakes, and again he ran slightly wide, letting The Doctor back through. On the next lap, Dani made a move stick at the same place where Lorenzo had passed Rossi. However, the reigning champion stayed right on Pedrosa's tail, pulling off a similar move to retake second place into the hairpin.

Andrea Dovizioso was now slowing, and falling back towards the wailing V4 Ducati of Stoner. With two laps left, Dovi ran a little wide and Stoner seized fourth position.

Jorge Lorenzo held his lead to the flag, taking a sensational victory for Yamaha, on Honda's own test track. Valentino Rossi had to accept second place behind his team-mate, while the injured Pedrosa took an excellent third place, even managing a brief smile in parc ferme. Stoner had to settle for fourth, with Dovizioso fifth and Marco Melandri in an outstanding sixth that left his Hayate team ecstatic. Capirossi took 7th, while Kallio took a stunning 8th place.

Lorenzo performed his usual victory celebration of strutting into a gravel trap and planting a Lorenzo's Land flag, but had to be pushed back to the pitlane when his bike stalled. A relay of marshals and officials took turns to shove the victor home. Jorge Lorenzo now leads the championship by one point from Valentino Rossi, with Casey Stoner just two points further back. From a poor start, the season has suddenly started to look interesting.

No comments: