Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Monday, August 29, 2005

Picking up where things left off…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

As I mentioned in my weekend race preview blog entry the big news for the MotoGP race weekend would probably center on Valentino Rossi. Well, I’m some what disappointed to say that I was correct…not because I dislike Rossi but because I always want to see a race series offer up exciting and competitive racing. Rossi’s four year MotoGP romp has become predictable…

Rossi rules at Brno

The break over the past four weeks have given the racers and teams an opportunity to regroup after a a summer in which Rossi has crushed his opposition winning eight of the ten races coming into Brno. The R&D departments at the various teams and tire companies have been working overtime trying to match the Yamaha/Michelin pairing but the lack of new equipment at Brno was someone surprising. Honda has some tests scheduled immediately after the Czech Grand Prix to try out some new parts on their V5 but didn’t race with any major new parts in the race. Bridgestone did bring some new tires and it was obvious during qualifying that the Ducati, Kawasaki and Suzuki teams found definite improvement in the new rubber. Otherwise, the bikes were mainly unchanged from what was wheeled into the garages at the end of the previous race at Sachsenring, Germany.

After a frantic qualifying session, Sete Gibernau put his Honda on pole ahead of Nicky Hayden and a resurgent Loris Capirossi. Rossi was next, joined on row two by Melandri and Checa. In addition to the two Ducatis, the Bridgestones also carried Hopkins to the middle of the third row with Barros ahead and Edwards behind. Gibernau looked strong all through qualifying, meaning this may actually have been his best chance of winning a race, something he desperately needs after being repeatedly beaten earlier in the season by Rossi at Jerez, Le Mans, Catalunya and Sachsenring.

With everyone hoping that Gibernau would have what it took to run with Rossi, the racers gridded up for the race. At the start, both riders charged to the front and immediately started to pull a gap over the following pack of Melandri, Hayden, Capirossi and Barros. By lap two, it was clear that the race would be another titanic struggle between the two bitter rivals. With each lap, the two riders exchanged the lead and steadily pulled away from the battle for third. There Hayden, Melandri, Capirossi and Barros all fought in a tight pack. These intra-rider struggles slowed the pace which bunched up the group a little but it also allowed a hard charging Biaggi to join the fray.

Just like in the first races of the season as the race progressed Hayden started to drop back while Biaggi surged forward. Unlike early in the season, Melandri also started to fade and Capirossi charged forward. A the laps wound down the battle appeared to boil down to a Rossi/Gibernau duel with a rapidly closing Capirossi tantilizing close to his second podium of the year. At the beginning of the last lap, Rossi made his move on Gibernau and again went into the lead. The Italian was able to pull a small gap but not the kind of unassailable lead that he was able to open in the rain in Britain. Gibernau seemed to hold the gap at around one second and clearly had the intention of making a lunge for the win at the final chicane. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas on the final 1/3 of the last lap denying him an opportunity to challenge Rossi. The post-race story is that there was a failure with the fuel injection system on Sete’s RC211V. From a psychological point of view this bike failure is sure to have confused things inside the Spainard’s helmet. One one hand, he was yet again denied a win and a win is the only thing that can restore Gibernau’s confidence. On the other hand, the mechanical DNF gives his battered ego an excuse after again being smacked by Rossi so his confidence may not have gotten any lower. Gibernau’s misfortune gifted Capirossi with a second place resulting in Ducati’s best finish of the season. It also rescued Biaggi’s race taking him from a 10th place qualifying effort to the final spot on the rostrum. With Biaggi’s future role at Honda still in doubt his third place finish goes a long way towards keeping him on the company payroll.

Another rider whose performance at Brno probably helped his chances for 2006 was Brazilian Alex Barros, who fought with Capirossi for the second half of the race, whose eventual fourth place finish was his fifth top five of the year. Hayden held on for fifth but his drift backward after running third in the early stages probably didn’t impress him or the Honda bosses. Likewise, Melandri’s inability to return after the summer vacation to the form he showed over the first few races of the season means he continues to slip down the championship order - falling to third behind Biaggi in the title fight. At the end of the weekend Rossi has expanded his lead to 132 points. Biaggi is three points up on Melandri who has a three point gap over Edwards. Gibernau is in fifth, with Barros in sixth and Hayden in seventh, these three riders separated by only three points.

The Czech GP was the last race on European soil until the final race at Valencia in November. This marks the beginning of the “fly away” races with the first being three weeks from now in Japan, followed one week later by Sepang, Qatar a week after that, Phillip Island in mid-October and finally Turkey a week after that. These non-European races test the riders, the teams and the tire manufacturers as they have to ship everything they need to these remote locations. There are six more races spread over the next 10 weeks. That means a total of 150 points are left on the board given that a win pays 25. Rossi only needs to win one more race this season to tie up his 4th MotoGP championship and his 7th GP title.

Whether it is returning from the break between seasons, between teams or just a month off between races Valentino Rossi always seems to pick right back up where he left off…by winning!

[image from the Gizmag web site.]