So it would appear after the San Marino Moto GP at Misano that the Hondas aren’t unbeatable after all.
Casey Stoner took his Repsol Honda to yet another pole position, his eighth of the year, but defending champion Jorge Lorenzo of Spain jumped his factory Yamaha into the lead on the first lap and was never headed, riding a brilliant and consistent race to finish a comfortable seven seconds ahead of the first Honda – which wasn’t Stoner.
After pressing for the first half of the race, Stoner started to fall back and was gobbled up by his Repsol team-mate Dani Pedrosa at about 2/3 distance. Stoner made no excuses, said the bike was great, but “For the second half of the race I was just too tired, simple as that, I’m very grateful to have finished on the podium.” He blamed fatigue from working on the neck injury he received at Assen, plus having not slept well since the Indianapolis race last week.
On the other hand, Lorenzo was over the moon. “Today has been an incredible day … most importantly we have won again and also reduced a little bit our gap to Casey. I want to dedicate this victory to Wayne who returned to Misano this weekend.” That would be three-time world 500 cc champion Wayne Rainey, who became a paraplegic in 1993 after crashing at this same track and was on hand to help celebrate Yamaha’s 50th year of GP racing. When asked if it bothered him to come back to the scene of his tragedy, he simply said, “I was over that years ago.”
Loenzo still has a long way to go to catch Stoner to retain his world title, but he narrowed the gap to 35 points; 25 are awarded for a win, and there are five races left in the 18-event schedule.
The best racing of the day was for fourth, as Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda), Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Ben Spies (factory Yamaha) got together in the last few laps, putting on a terrific display of passing and aggression. They finished in that order, the first time Simoncelli has beaten Dovizioso this year.
The Ducatis had a mixed day, Valentino Rossi doing well to finish seventh after running strongly as high as fifth, while Nicky Hayden’s usual Misano luck prevailed as he crashed out over some bumps on only the third lap. Rossi said, “I’m pretty happy because we didn’t expect to do this well. I didn’t think I’d be able to stay with the second group, which is our goal at the moment, and instead we managed it for half the race.”
That was a more philosophical comment than that of his new helmet design, which is basically a big cartoon balloon full of fake comic strip profanity like bombs, exclamation points, black clouds and skull-and-crossbones. It’s hilarious.
The Doviziso/Simoncelli fight may be more important than it sounds (Dovizioso is third in the standings, Simoncelli eighth) because the 2012 silly season for contract negotiations is already seriously underway. Simoncelli, whose bike is supposed to be the same spec as the Repsol machines, is insisting on a formal upgrade to his position, while Dovizioso points to his record and asks why Honda would trade down in rider results.
Both men have other offers on the table and have threatened to leave if their demands aren’t met; Dovi has been talking with Yamaha while Ducati is known to be interested in Simoncelli. There’s at least one seat available at Yamaha’s Tech 3 team, but with both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden under contract for 2012 it’s hard to see anything but a customer bike available there for “Super Sic.”
The seat at Tech 3 is being vacated by Colin Edwards, who’s leaving to join one of the new Claiming Rule Teams for 2012. He’ll be riding on a bike run by the Forward team (currently in Moto 2), using a Yamaha engine. Edwards wants Tech 3 to build the frame and has been talking to long-time friend and engineer Guy Coulon about it. That might mean a little rules circumvention, as the CRT bikes are supposed to have no factory input …
Another departure from the field next year will be Loris Capirossi, who’s decided to quit after an amazing 22 years racing in all the various categories of GP bikes. He has 99 podiums in total, two 125 cc titles, and one 250 cc title.
There are some other riders who will almost certainly not be back (unless on one of the CRT teams), like Randy de Puniet, who’s had a horrible year on the LCR Honda. There will certainly be a bit of a rider shake-up, anyway, and hopefully an increase in grid numbers if the CRT concept takes off (free frame design, “production-based” engines, more fuel allowance, and a couple of other lessened restrictions).
World Championship Point Standings (after 13 of 18 races):
1.Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 259 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 224;
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda,185;
4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 150;
5. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 135
6. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati,133
7. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 105;
8. Marco Simoncellli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 93
9. Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 87
10. Hioshi Aoyama, Japan, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 82.
Next race, Motorland Aragon, Spain, September 18.