MotoGP: 2009 Misano Preview

a.k.a. The Other Italian Grand Prix

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Misano round of the 2009 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the San Marino Grand Prix.

Barely a week after an eventful, if not necessarily exciting, run at Indianapolis, the daring young men of MotoGP head off to Italy for the Gran Prix Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, generally referred to by the riders as Misano. If your Italian is as good as mine, all of this means virtually nothing to you. At we are committed to giving you the deep background you (and I) need in order to sound informed about this stuff. So, here is the English version of Round 13:

  • The Misano World Circuit is the track, a unique layout that resembles a capital letter T which got in the way of Yuki Takahashi.
  • San Marino is the country, a tiny little speck of a nation, the capital of which is San Marino, which I find amusing. It consists of roughly 60 square kilometers, 24 square miles in right-thinking countries, with a population of around 30,000. The entire country could fit inside the University of Michigan football stadium; Rhode Island would beat the tar out of it in a war.
  • Rimini is a gorgeous little resort town on the Adriatic coast, the capital city of the province of, you guessed it, Rimini. (Apparently the Italians were starting to running out of names for their places, and had to double up on a few.) The race organizers glued the two towns together in order to give the fans enough room to sit down.
  • Cinzano manufactures several varieties of vermouth, which taste like white wine in which someone soaked their gym socks.
  • Della Street was Perry Mason’s comely assistant/secretary/troubleshooter. Della is also Italian for “of”. So is “di”.
The Misano Adriatico has a unique T-shaped layout.

Put it all together, and you end up with, like, The Cinzano Grand Prix of San Marino and of the Rimini Riviera. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like, say, the Italian Grand Prix. Catchy or not, it is the venue for this week’s race, and is likely to have a great deal to do with the outcome of the 2009 season.

Jorge Lorenzo has no room for error in his title fight with Valentino Rossi.
Nicky Hayden's Indy podium helped Ducati decide to pick up his option for 2010.
The Pressure is on Jorge Lorenzo

With Rossi’s lead in the championship race suddenly cut in half and a title at least plausible again, the pressure is clearly on Lorenzo to keep his bike upright – another DNF would be a disaster. He’s had three so far this season, while Rossi has had one – since 2007. The tension inside the Fiat Yamaha garage these days must be unbearable, with Rossi and his crew trying to stay above it all, Lorenzo and HIS crew pulling out all the stops, and everyone trying to at least give the appearance of being one big happy family – a family that doesn’t speak to each other and needs to be separated by a wall.

Despite what you may read elsewhere, at this point in the season nothing else matters championship-wise. Dani Pedrosa – doesn’t matter. Colin Edwards and Andrea Dovizioso – don’t matter. Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden – they just don’t matter. All most of them are fighting for are contracts for 2010. Lorenzo needs to finish in front of Rossi, while Rossi needs to force Lorenzo to make a mistake. Rossi can’t afford to simply dawdle with the Toselands and Espargaros, and even if he could, he wouldn’t.

Lorenzo’s margin for error has shrunk to zero, and MotoGP is a tough place to make a living without it. Brings to mind the image of Philippe Petit, the nutjob who walked the tightrope between the Twin Towers in 2003 and thereby defined “no margin for error” for all time.

Ethnocentricity is Alive and Well at MotoGP

Despite its minute stature, San Marino boasts a homeboy in this week’s tilt, as Alex de Angelis, fresh off his first-ever MotoGP podium in Indianapolis, returns to his birthplace trying to put his country’s flag front and center for the second week in a row. The rest of the Italian rider contingent Also Italian: these Fiat Yamaha girls.will be trying to do the same, including Doctor Rossi, who grew up ten miles down the road, Andrea Dovizioso, Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri and Niccolo Canepa.

As my dad used to say, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. The remaining Ducati riders – Hayden, Kallio, and Espargaro – can be relied on to play the Bologna card. According to my flashcards, Fiat is an Italian company. Randy de Puniet’s team boss, Lucio Cecchinello, is as Italian as they get, as is Fausto Gresini, la grande sporgenza of the San Carlo Honda team. It wouldn’t surprise me to have someone report this week that Colin Edwards took a girl named Luciana Russo to his senior prom and that Chris Vermeulen’s favorite food is spaghetti a la carbonara.

Meanwhile, at the Back of the Pack

Aleix Espargaro had to be encouraged by his virgin outing in the premier class, scoring points and not getting laid out in the gravel. He was quoted as expecting to do even better this week, which tells me he will get laid out and not score any points … Gabor Talmacsi had better keep those sponsor dollars rolling in, as he has been the last rider to cross the finish line in five of the seven races he’s started. At Donington, he finished 12th You know who's not visiting San Marino this year? Those two green bikes.out 15 finishers; at Laguna he recorded a DNF trying to run without his training wheels … Since his podium at Donington, Randy de Puniet has done nothing to assure himself of a ride next year. Sponsors and team owners don’t mind riders breaking ankles in MotoGP races, but take a dim view of such injuries when they occur between races.

My friend David Emmett says James Toseland will land a ride next year just by being British. (Perhaps de Puniet will land one for being French?) The same cannot be said of Niccolo Canepa for just being Italian … No, that’s not the wind you’re hearing right about now – it’s the sound of Nicky Hayden exhaling. His podium at Indianapolis helped secure a second year on the Desmosedici (Italian for “meatgrinder”) as Ducati Marlboro announces Hayden will return with the team for 2010 … I’ve looked all over the internet trying to find a single positive comment about the Fox TV broadcast from Sunday’s race, with no luck at all. They were breaking for commercials during both Pedrosa’s and Rossi’s crashes. Apparently the camera coverage was weak and the announcers were terrible.

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