The Australian Moto GP race went to Casey Stoner and Ducati in a bit of a romp despite a strong early charge from Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden (who’ll be Stoner’s team-mate in 2009), but in spite of the margin of victory it was a highly entertaining race all the way back to seventh.
On the first lap, the Spaniard everyone loves to hate (Dani Pedrosa) crashed out on the second corner. Unfortunately for Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, he got tangled up in all the avoiding action and ended up being forced off the track; he kept it up but by the time he got back his race was toast.
"The Doctor", Valentino Rossi, had qualified a lousy 12th after a nasty practice crash that left him with whiplash to his neck and a bad headache. That didn’t stop him from methodically moving from 12th to second, picking off Nicky Hayden on the last lap as the Kentuckian’s rear tire was fried – and Rossi, who’d deliberately chosen a harder rear than most other riders, had the traction to do it.
Said Rossi, "That was a very exciting race for me, from start to finish! Unfortunately I made a small mistake yesterday and I paid a high price for it – both with my starting position and with my body!"
Behind the top three, fourth through seventh was a delightfully entertaining brawl with James Toseland on the Tech 3 Yamaha, Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, San Carlo Gresini’s Shinya Nakano, and JiR Scot rider Andrea Dovizioso (who’s taking Hayden’s place on the factory Repsol Honda team next year), slicing and dicing each other up as though it was a 125 rather than Moto GP event.
Toseland was particularly impressive, having a superb ride on his 28th birthday. Even when Rossi caught and passed him he wasn’t intimidated and promptly passed the maestro right back, holding him up for several laps. Rossi said, "The first time I passed James I thought I would be able to go but then he passed me back and I realised that his pace was not so bad, and we had a great battle! He was very strong and difficult to pass."
On the second-last lap, the order behind Rossi was Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Toseland, and Nakano – at the flag it was was Lorenzo (just), Nakano, Toseland, and Dovi. Toseland made a wild attempt to get back in front of the pack and scrambled everyone … he said later that, "Some people might not be too happy with me."
Great stuff to watch. More, please.
Oh, and the other interesting bit was that Anthony West, who’s been sacked from Kawasaki for his inconsistent results, beat his finally-healthy star team-mate John Hopkins. West has no deal for 2009 as yet.