MotoGP finally gets interesting


Jorge Lorenzo takes a win

Yamaha is on top, Honda is greatly improved, the Hayate (or Bike That Used to be a Kawasaki) is surprising the hell out of everybody, Suzuki is still struggling, Ducati had a bad day, and if Nicky Hayden didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all.

Interesting race at Motegi in Japan, and it WAS a race, for a change, with four different makes in the top six. There were five riders potentially in the mix for the win, although really the Fiat Yamahas of winner Jorge Lorenzo and second-place Valentino Rossi pretty much ran things from the front for the entire race. The scrapping for the lead between the two Yamaha team-mates was excellent, as was the battle for second, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa doing a remarkable job to carry the fight to Rossi, still-healing knee and all. Third was definitely a triumph for the unlikeable Spaniard (who still looks like his dog just died when talking about how happy he is at the post-race press conferences).

Behind him, his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso also had an excellent race, challenging Pedrosa for quite some time before falling back slightly and being pipped by a resurgent Casey Stoner on the Marlboro Ducati on the last lap. Farther back, there was great racing right through the field.

The weekend was a bit of a shambles, as practice was curtailed and qualifying cancelled due to torrential downpours. Given the excellent race results, perhaps Dorna might consider cancelling practice and qualifying at future events. Probably shouldn’t give them ideas, I suppose …


Nicky has a moment

Nicky Hayden is having more bad luck this year than everyone else on the grid put together. After rare electronics and engine problems in Qatar, compounded by a huge highside that required stitches across his chest (even though he landed on his back … think about that one) he seemed to be finally getting more comfortable with the Ducati in Japan, then on the first lap Yuki Takahashi, in his first Moto GP start, simply drove into the back of Hayden’s Ducati and launched them both into the gravel. The on-board camera on Takahashi’s bike was unbelievable, like the guy simply forgot to brake.

Hayden, ever the gentleman, said, "I don’t want to say much about that, I don’t want to look like a cry-baby but, you know, it was the first lap! Luckily I feel okay. I actually landed in the same place on my back as the crash in Qatar and my leathers and helmet have got exactly the same marks. It’s a shame because this weekend I honestly felt we were making some progress."

Probably the happiest guy on the track was Marco Melandri, who finished sixth on the Hayate (or Bike That Used to be a Kawasaki), shocking the hell out of everybody. From here on, Kawasaki has repeatedly said, there will be no help from the factory, no updates, no nothing – the team is on its own. But you can imagine that with Melandri’s excellent result in Japan (and gauging by his lap times, he’d quite possibly have been in the same place in Qatar had he not run off the track early in the race), there will be some serious boardroom discussions at Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

It’s early days, of course, with only two races run, but at this point it looks like a superb season is developing. World Superbike may not be the only entertaining racing in the game after all this season.

Motegi Moto GP Results:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha; 2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha; 3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda; 4. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati; 5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda; 6. Marco Melandri, Italy, Hayate (or Bike That Used to be a Kawasaki); 7. Loris Capirossi, Italy, Rizla Suzuki; 8. Mika Kallio, Finland, Pramac Racing Ducati; 9. James Toseland, U.K., Tech 3 Yamaha; 10. Chris Vermeulen, Australia, Rizla Suzuki.

The next race will be at Jerez in Spain, May 3.


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