Moto GP come alive!


Stoner celebrates a win

After five of 17 races, the Moto GP season has finally come seriously to life with a spectacular race at the wonderful Mugello circuit in northern Italy. For the first time in quite a while, it’s fair to say that the Moto GP guys provided a superior spectacle to the World Superbike teams who raced at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on the same day.

Valentino Rossi broke his ass trying to keep alive his unbelievable string of seven consecutive Moto GP victories at his home track, but in the end had to be satisfied with third behind Ducati’s Casey Stoner and Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

The race was like the French edition at Le Mans, starting wet but drying, so that the riders had to make a hard decision on when to pit to swap bikes to get onto a machine with slicks and dry-weather settings. Unlike Le Mans, Rossi did it right and managed to avoid the four pit stops that destroyed his French race. The lack of points there contributed greatly to his now standing third in the title chase behind Stoner and Lorenzo.

Lorenzo provided the drama for the Fiat Yamaha team this time. After taking pole position in his last lap of qualifying, the Majorca native slid off into a gentle crash on the warm-up lap, setting off a frantic panic in the pits to get his "dry" bike onto wets for the start, and then an equally frantic panic to repair the "wet" bike and get it into "dry" trim for the inevitable swap.

The fact that he made second place after all that is a credit to the team and Lorenzo’s ability, and at the post-race press conference he said, "Honestly, this is as good as a win for me and I can’t really believe the race today, it was like a movie! "


Melandri pumped up
(Photographed at Le Mans)

Perhaps the best ride of the day went to Marco Melandri, riding the low-budget, no-factory-help Hayate/Kawasaki. Melandri was spectacular, actually leading the race for a couple of laps just before the leaders all dived in to swap bikes, and while he dropped back to 11th at the end of race he continued to impress everyone with (a) how well he’s riding this year, and (b) what a huge improvement Kawasaki made to its formerly POS Moto GP bike in the off-season. Pity they’ve backed off from active support.

Also impressive was Loris Capirossi on his Rizla Suzuki, riding very hard at the front and fighting for a podium right up to the last couple of laps. Mugello has a hugely-fast front straight, hardly the Suzuki’s forte, and it was remarkable to see him hanging on with the far more powerful bikes up front in the dry.

Andrea Dovizioso also impressed on his Repsol Honda. He was far faster than the "No. 1" rider on the team, Dani Pedrosa, and looked in contention for the win for most of the race, finally taking fourth. In fairness to Pedrosa, he had a nasty practice crash that hurt one hip badly – one report said he’d torn muscles up near his hip — and then he had another bad fall in the race itself. He’ll be lucky to be fit for the next race at the Catalunya race in Barcelona in two weeks time, but says he’ll work hard to be there.

So with six of 17 races done, the championship top 10 looks like this:

1. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 90 points; 2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 86; 3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 81; 4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honad, 57; 5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 56; 6. Marco Melandri, Italy, Hayate/Kawasaki, 48; 7. Colin Edwards, USA, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 45; 8. Loris Capirossi, Italy, Rizla Suzuki, 38; 9. Chris Vermeulen, Rizla Suzuki, 37; 10. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 34.


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