Casey Stoner on his Marlboro Ducati continued his ominous form at the Sachsenring in Germany July 13, with his third pole and win in succession. That brings him just four points shy of Dani Pedrosa, the personality-challenged Repsol Honda rider crashing out all on his own after building a huge lead in appalling wet conditions. The on-track medical team suspect a broken ankle, so the Spaniard may not be able to ride at Laguna Seca in California next week.
Back on top of the championship after the weekend activities is none other than Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who had a tough start to the race but worked up to second before half-distance. While he looked willing to challenge Stoner, putting in several fastest laps, every time he did so Stoner responded and Rossi was never able to bring a serious challenge to the defending world champion.
Best ride of the day had to be Chris Vermeulen on the Rizla Suzuki. Starting back in 14th, Vermeulen clawed his way through the field through blinding conditions — the on-camera work was frightening, there was so much spray — to take the third podium position. He had to fight hard the last half-dozen laps to keep Alex de Angelis and his San Carlo Gresini Honda behind him.
"Chris the V" said, "It was a really difficult race, as there was a lot more water than we had practiced in on this circuit. I have got to give full credit to Bridgestone as they pushed me to go for a much harder compound than I wanted and it definitely worked."
Bridgestone took the first four places, Andrea Dovizioso being the first Michelin rider home in fifth on the JiR Scot Honda. It’s worth noting that the first four finishers were all on different brands of motorcycle, as well.
The field was decimated by crashes. Pedrosa was the first to go, but Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha), Marco Melandri (Marlboro Ducati), Anthony West (Kawasaki), and Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo all went down as well. West was challenging for fifth at the time, his best ride of the season, and managed to get the bike restarted to come back and collect 10th, a gritty performance after two big practice crashes had left him very sore and with several cracked vertebrae.
He’s no doubt got his eye on trying to keep his job for 2009, as Melandri and Ducati have already agreed to cancel Melandri’s contract at the end of the season and Kawasaki is known to have been talking with the Italian.
There are several names being bandied about as possible replacements for Melandri, but that of 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden is consistently at the top of the guess list so far. Bit early for "silly season" to be starting, but there you are.
Next race: July 20, Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, California.