Once again, the only person who could stay with Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi at the Czech Moto GP at the Brno circuit was his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
And when Lorenzo crashed after passing Rossi, the Italian basically coasted the last five laps to the flag.
“I give him very hard work,” said Rossi. “I guard my 0.4 seconds like treasure.” After Lorenzo passed and almost immediately fell, “’I enjoy the last laps like a tourist.”
That’s got to be demoralizing for the rest of the field, which was strung out in an almost embarrassing manner.
Second went to Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa nearly 12 seconds back, while third went to Tony Elias on the Gresini Honda, another nine seconds in arrears.
From there things continued to string out, with nearly 40 seconds between Rossi and Randy de Puniet in 10th. Not exactly a seriously vintage contest, this one.
The rider changes for this weekend and the back-stage stuff was considerably more interesting, really. Ducati’s Casey Stoner has taken three races off on the advice of his doctors; he’s still battling a mysterious anemia and a gastritis condition. He was replaced by Mika Kallio, promoted up from the satellite Pramac team, and Kallio’s seat in turn went to Michel Fabrizio, who is currently third in the World Superbike series on his Xerox Ducati 1198.
Nicky Hayden was no doubt highly relieved to outqualify Kallio – if only just – and to finish sixth, continuing his slow improvement on the wayward Ducati. As for the replacements, Kallio crashed and Fabrizio suffered a rare engine failure. That sort of thing is very important now, as a new rule effective this weekend (supposedly in an attempt to contain costs) allows each rider only five engines for the seven remaining races.
Marco Melandri also crashed the Hayate Kawasaki, leaving only 13 riders to finish the race. The Hayate/Kawasaki will definitely be history at the end of this season, and Melandri has apparently signed with his old Gresini Honda team, which is dropping Tony Elias, who’s furious at the move especially considering he just finished on the podium at this race.
The Suzuki team surprised nobody by confirming that they’ve signed Spanish 250 GP ace Alvaro Bautista to a two-year contract. Since Loris Capirossi has already been offered a renewal, that leaves Aussie Chris Vermeulen out in the cold.
The third satellite Ducati (which has been sitting idle for two weekends since the money dried up on Sete Gibernau’s attempted return to competition) looks likely to go to Hector Barbera, another highly entertaining Spanish nut-case currently in the 250 class.
At the top of the tree, Jorge Lorenzo has still to announce where he’s going, although realistically it’s hard to see where he’d be better off than at Yamaha. The M-1 is clearly the class of the field at the moment, and it seems unlikely he’d be able to seriously attack Rossi on anything else at the moment.
Of course, with Stoner’s illness there’s talk that he won’t be back, which would throw open the rumour gates once again. It’s that time of the year when the guessing is more fun than the racing – especially when the “racing” is as processional as the Brno event was.
The next race is at Indianapolis August 30.
Series standings after 11 of 17 races are:
1. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 212 points; 2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 162; 3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 150; 4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, 135; 5. Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Tech 3 Yamaha, 112;
6. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 107; 7. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 80; 8. Marco Melandri, Italy, Hayate/Kawasaki, 79; 9. Loris Capirossi, Italy, Rizla Suzuki, 77; 10. Chris Vermeulen, Australia, Rizla Suzuki, 72.