MotoGP: 2009 Mugello Results

Stoner makes a statement at Mugello


At the start of Sunday’s Mugello round of the MotoGP World Championship, it looked like a replay of the previous race at Le Mans – a wet track, flag-to-flag conditions, pandemonium in the pits, and some likely surprises headed for the podium.

By the end of the day, though, it was vintage MotoGP. Occupying the podium were the season’s three leaders heading into the weekend, with Australian Casey Stoner back atop the step and the championship standings as well.

Thus Valentino Rossi’s win streak in Italy ended at seven, and Jorge Lorenzo, whose day was almost over before it began, secured 20 championship points and maintained his slight lead over Rossi for the championship. But the day belonged to Stoner and Ducati, which earned its first ever MotoGP win on its home circuit.

Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo finds himself stuck between a pair of Italians, Marco Melandri (left) and Loris Capirossi.

As we saw at Le Mans, a little rainwater on these tracks produces some odd goings-on. On Sunday, Fiat Yamaha’s Lorenzo slid off the track on his sighting lap, reminiscent of Roberto Guerrero’s parade lap spin at Indianapolis in 1992. Jorge calmly rode into the pits, jumped on his number two bike, and took his position in the starting grid.

Once the race actually started, Lap 1 found him dawdling in 10th place, and ended with one Chris Vermeulen leading the field on his Rizla Suzuki. Andrea Dovizioso, on the Repsol Honda, led for seven laps after not having seen a podium since last season. And Marco Melandri, riding the Hayate Kawasaki held together with duct tape, was competitive early and even led at the end of Lap 10.

By Lap 12, however, the track was mostly dry, all of the riders had switched from wet tires to slicks, and the usual suspects took over, as the following splits illustrate:

2009 Italian Grand Prix splits
Pos. Lap 10 Lap 14 Lap 18 Lap 22 Final
1 Melandri Stoner Stoner Stoner Stoner
2 Rossi Capirossi Capirossi Lorenzo Lorenzo
3 Lorenzo Dovizioso Dovizioso Rossi Rossi
4 Stoner Lorenzo Lorenzo Capirossi Dovizioso
5 Elias Rossi Rossi Dovizioso Capirossi
6 Dovizioso Toseland Toseland Toseland Edwards
7 Capirossi de Puniet de Puniet Edwards Toseland
8 Vermeulen Melandri Edwards de Puniet de Puniet
9 Kallio Hayden Canepa Canepa Canepa

I’ve included Laps 22 and 23 to illustrate two points. The first is that Andrea Dovizioso is today’s news, while Loris Capirossi is so yesterday. Unlike many other sports, in motorcycle racing young and daring beats old and crafty. Dovizioso’s seizure of fourth place from Capirossi on the last lap is not about a couple of extra championship points. It is a passing of the baton, and has more figurative significance than literal. Dovi is going to be a force on this tour, while Capirossi will soon be heading off into the sunset.

The second, and far more entertaining point, is how on any given weekend Colin Edwards would gladly sell his mother in order to beat teammate James Toseland. Toseland got off to a hideous start in this one, worse than most of his bad starts, and was running 16th and 17th from Laps 4 through 9. After his tire/bike change, he began a charge which took him as high as 6th, while teammate Edwards was busy falling back to 15th. Edwards began moving up in the standings on Lap 12, but was still two positions behind Toseland as late as Lap 21. Final result: Edwards passes Toseland again on the last lap of the race, finishing 6th to Toseland’s 7th. And although it was Toseland’s highest placement of the year, it must really grind him to get passed late again by his hated teammate. Hard cheese, James.

Is This MotoGP or the Global Financial Crisis?

A word many of us have become quite familiar with over the past year is “tranche”, the ordered layers in a “collateralized mortgage obligation” in which the best quality mortgages are in the top layers and the really toxic junk is in the bottom ones. Clearly, looking at the MotoGP World Championship standings, one can begin to see tranches developing: #27 Casey Stoner sticks it to #46.

  • MotoGP’s Top Tranche is comprised of Stoner, Lorenzo and Rossi. They appear to be in a class by themselves. I had thought Dani Pedrosa to be in this tranche, too, but his latest injury and DNF in Sunday’s race has dropped him into:
  • Tranche Two, which also includes Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Melandri and Colin Edwards. 12 points separate Edwards and Pedrosa, whose near-term future looks dubious given his physical condition. These guys figure to be bridesmaids on a regular basis, but are unlikely to wear white at the altar anytime soon.
  • Tranche Three includes Loris Capirossi, Chris Vermeulen and Randy De Puniet. They’re ‘tweeners, not really good and not really bad. You’ll probably see a podium or two from this group yet this year, but they are not threats to challenge for the championship.
  • Tranche Four features Toseland, the Honda Gresini duo of Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis, and Pramac Ducati’s Mika Kallio. Of the four, Kallio is the only one with any cojones, but he’s a rookie trying to tame the brutal Desmosedici, and thus unlikely to see many first division finishes. The other three are just filling the field every week, trying to stay clear of the contenders and not get themselves killed out there
  • Tranche Five is the dangerous guys, the guys unable to get out of their own way and likely to get in yours. Tranche Five includes Nicky Hayden, Niccolo Canepa and Sete Gibernau, all on Ducatis, as well as Yuki “Crash” Takahashi on a satellite Scot Honda. At Mugello, Canepa finished a surprising 9th, while Hayden ended up 12th(again), Gibernau sat out with an injury suffered in France, and Takahashi crashed out on Lap 10.

Up Next: Spain II Catalunya

Two weeks from now the ethanol medicine show returns to Spain, only this time they’re calling it Catalunya. Kind of the same way they call Italy II “San Marino” and how they duck the issue altogether by referring to Spain III as “Valencia.” All of this would probably work out better if they just bagged the countries and used the city names. Qatar would become Doha. Japan would become Motegi; France would become Le Mans, and so on. You wouldn’t have United States and Indianapolis, making it sound like Indianapolis isn’t in the United States. You’d have Monterey and Indianapolis.

Casey Stoner earns Ducati Marlboro its first win at Mugello.

The problem is, the sponsors want it both ways. After all, who wants to be the title sponsor of the Grand Prix de Mugello when you can sponsor the Grand Prix d’Italia? What has more thump, the Grand Prix de Jerez, or the Grand Prix d’Espagna? But how can you sponsor THE Grand Prix of Spain when there are, in fact, THREE of them? How is San Marino not in Italy? Who wants to sponsor AN Italian Grand Prix? These are weighty issues. Perhaps the best, most European solution is to lengthen the titles, in which case you could end up with GP CINZANO DI SAN MARINO E RIVIERA DI RIMINI, A PICTURESQUE PINT-SIZED DUCHY LOCATED IN EASTERN ITALY ON THE SHORES OF THE BEAUTIFUL ADRIATIC SEA. Which would work just fine, unless you were required to paint it on a motorcycle, or wanted the tattoo.

2009 MotoGP top five standings (after five rounds)
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1st Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 90
2nd Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 86
3rd Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 81
4th Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 57
5th Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda 48

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