The postponed Japanese Moto GP race (it got bumped into October when the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcano disrupted world air traffic last April) wasn’t a lot more exciting than recent Moto GP processions — until the last couple of laps.
At that point Yamaha "team-mates" Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo began hammering on each other for the last podium spot, Ducati’s Casey Stoner already well-gone with a big lead, followed by Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso.
To say the least, there’s no love lost between the Yamaha riders, the two literally banging fairings several times in perhaps a dozen passes and repasses in the final two laps. Rossi ended up taking the spot, making it two races in a row that Lorenzo hasn’t made the podium, the only times this year.
After the race, Lorenzo began crying foul riding: "I have to say that at some points I do not think he was completely fair, we were both on the limit but some of his moves were maybe a bit too much and he touched me and pushed me wide when I don’t think it was right."
Rossi craftily smiled and cried, "What a great race! Of course I would have preferred to be battling for the win but anyway it was a great feeling, a real show and I want to congratulate Jorge because he was very strong and didn’t give up!" adding comments that implied that Lorenzo had held him up early in the race.
Yamaha racing director Lin Jarvis had the best comment of all. When asked if there’d be any chats in the pits about Rossi’s riding tactics, he paused, then said drily, "I doubt there will be any ‘chats’".
Even more than usual at this time of year, the off-track stuff was a lot more interesting than the racing.
While Lorenzo came into the weekend with a big lead in the world championship, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa still had a mathematical chance to catch him — at least until the first practice session, when apparently his Repsol Honda’s fly-by-wire throttle got confused under braking and he got spit off, breaking his left collarbone in two places.
While Lorenzo still needs to score seven points to confirm his title, he’s got four races left to do so and there are two races in the next two weekends, so given Pedrosa’s flight home to Spain to plate his broken bones, Lorenzo’s going to be world champion.
Given that, you can understand Rossi’s decision to hammer the guy in the race – not to mention that Yamaha’s insistence on keeping Lorenzo while dropping Rossi’s pay is the main reason Vale has left the tuning fork company for Ducati in 2011.
Not to further mention that Rossi and Lorenzo cordially despise one another, hence Jarvis’ remark about ‘chats’ in the pits.
Dovizioso’s second place, following his first Moto GP pole position and harrying Stoner the entire race, certainly helped in his ongoing "negotiations" (read: battle) with Honda regarding his 2011 contract. He says he’s guaranteed a factory ride; Honda having hired Stoner and resigned Pedrosa, is trying to backpedal.
Following the Fab Four up front, veteran Colin Edwards got his best finish of the season on his Tech 3 Yamaha, taking fifth to validate the team’s decision to hire him for 2011. He was rumoured to be heading back to World Superbike with Xerox Ducati, but when Ducati decided to pull the plug on the factory team that plan went south in a hurry.
His team-mate Ben Spies, who’s taking Rossi’s place in 2011, was uncharacteristically nowhere this race, because he and Nicky Hayden had a close encounter of the worst kind on the second lap, sending both into the gravel. They rejoined well back; Spies managed eighth, but Hayden lost a lot more time and could only fight back up to 12th.
Next race, October 10 at Sepang, Malaysia.
Moto GP Standings after 14 of 18 races
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 297 points; 2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 228; 3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 180; 4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 159; 5. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 156;
6. Ben Spies, USA, Tech 3 Yamaha, 139; 7. Nicky Hayden, USA, Marlboro Ducati, 129; 8. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 88; 9. Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 84; 10. Colin Edwards, USA, Tech 3 Yamaha, 81.
Lorenzo is Whining. He’s way out in front in the championship he should have backed off if he didn’t want to fight.