Monday, June 29, 2009

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

(left to right) Lorenzo, Rossi, Stoner
Lorenzo (left) sprays winner Rossi on the podium, but Stoner isn't in the mood

Following the Battle of Barcelona, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo's reluctant ceasefire at Assen represented the calm after the storm.

But there was blood and thunder in the chasing group, which featured a bunch of the hardest riders you could throw together.

Guys like James Toseland, Alex de Angelis, Toni Elias, Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden are renowned hard chargers, all riding for contracts next year, and you could tell.

"I know we were only fighting for sixth place but it felt more like there was a title on the line out there!" said Hayden, who lost pace in the second half of the race because of a loose handlebar.

The blood came from Mika Kallio, who crashed on the final lap and trapped his left hand under his Ducati, burning away his glove and part of his finger.

Admirably, he was able to laugh it off: "It is so painful, an incredible pain on the same finger I already injured during my first MotoGP test at Valencia. Maybe it would be better to cut it off!"

To his enormous credit, it was Toseland who came out on top to clinch sixth, but nobody rode harder than Elias.

He came through from last place to seventh, only to run himself and Capirossi off track with a reckless attempt at one last pass in the final corner.

Despite apologising to Loris immediately after the race, the move earned him a 20-second penalty that relegated him to fifteenth place.

With the announcement over the weekend that Marco Simoncelli will be coming into the Gresini Team garage next season, you can sense the desperation of Elias and De Angelis, who accused his team-mate after the race of being "unsporting, both on the track and off it."

It was another rough weekend for Casey Stoner, with his mystery illness returning to limit him to a second consecutive third place.

Casey Stoner
Stoner is not having the best of times at present

It has been reported that Stoner has a stomach problem, and whilst it is true that he has suffered cramps during the last two races, he insists that they are the result of tiredness, which he is unable to explain.

Stoner voiced his irritation at a different matter after qualifying on Friday, when he complained of rivals riding slowly on the racing line to get a tow for a fast lap.

"Race Direction pretty much make the rules and the punishments up as they go along," he fumed.

"They need to start penalising these riders because it is dangerous, but I don't expect them to because they never do. There's no point even asking."

One thing the Grand Prix Commission have been decisive about is dropping their idea for a single bike rule in MotoGP next season.

The move had been considered in order to reduce costs and to allow more teams to put a bike on the grid.

But it seems recent events, such as the thrilling flag-to-flag races at Le Mans and Mugello, when the riders came in to switch bikes, have persuaded them otherwise.

A single-bike rule would have also meant that Lorenzo would have been unable to start at Mugello, where he crashed on the warm-up lap.

The other announcement made by the FIM this weekend was to confirm Dunlop as the single tyre supplier for the Moto2 class, which will replace the 250s in 2010, on a three-year contract.

One of the teams had an early Moto2 prototype at Assen, and Steve Parrish was invited to complete a couple of laps, which you'll be able to see when we get chance to do a proper piece on the new category soon.

The new bikes, which will house 600cc Honda engines in prototype chassis designs, sound amazing and are already quick.

Aleix Espargaró proved as much at Jerez last weekend when he raced an early Yamaha-powered prototype in the Formula Extreme category, qualifying just two tenths of a second slower than Alex Debon's pole position for the 250cc race at the same track earlier this year and then leading the race before crashing.

Sensationally, Espargaró led the 250cc race at Assen too and for me the elder brother of teenage 125 sensation Pol was the unsung hero of the weekend.

Discarded by the Grand Prix paddock at the end of last season as a talented but unfocused rider, Espargaró was given a call on Monday to replace injured Hungarian rider Balasz Nemeth on the factory Aprilia made vacant just a few weeks previously by MotoGP-bound compatriot Gabor Talmacsi.

It seems eight months on the dole were enough to give the 19-year-old some perspective and he looks to have added application to his natural flair, qualifying fifth and then leading the first lap of the race before finishing in an outstanding fourth place.

With a year's testing on the Moto2 bike under his belt by next season he may well be one of the names to watch out for in 2010, which should give you just enough time to learn how to say it.

No comments:

Post a Comment