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MotoGP 2010 Brno Preview
Lorenzo's in charge unless he, like, runs out of engines
MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Brno round of the 2010 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Czech Republic Grand Prix.
Standing at the halfway point of the 2010 MotoGP season, what do we know for sure? Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo has been just this side of perfection. Teammate Valentino Rossi is roaring back from his broken leg and may yet figure in the 2010 championship. Repsol Honda studs Pedrosa and Dovizioso are nipping at Fiat Yamaha’s heels, but are fighting for second place. Ducati mullah Casey Stoner is off to greener pastures next season at Honda after what is shaping up to be a disappointing year. And Ben Spies seems to have a bright future and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The story of the year, however, and another potential black eye for Dorna & Co. is the worrisome burn rate being suffered by MotoGP engines under the moronic “six engine rule.”
Were this any other recent MotoGP season, we could all just sit back, watch Jorge Lorenzo bound up onto the podium every week, and slack off through the end of the season. His body of work thus far has been immaculate, and his 72 point lead over second place Pedrosa, if projected out to the end of the season, would vastly exceed my math skills and intellectual curiosity. Having Rossi back out on the grid adds some spice to this otherwise ho-hum scenario. We could expect some epic crashes from Pedrosa and Dovizioso as they pressed harder and harder each round to remain relevant. The 2010 wild card, however, is the fact that Lorenzo has two new engines left, as well as three beaters, for the rest of the season. Rossi and the Repsol boys, on the other hand, are in splendid shape.
What are the odds that Lorenzo could be up the creek without a paddle for the last couple of races of the season? Let me re-phrase: What are the odds that an engine built to unimaginable tolerances, operating consistently up against the red line and turning somewhere around 300 revolutions per second could come unglued at any given moment? In a word, as Lorenzo demonstrated at Sachsenring, good. Casey Stoner may have the same problem, as he has trashed two engines thus far, and has only two new engines left. The rider in the worst shape, however, has to be Suzuki rookie Alvaro Bautista, who has scrapped three engines and has but one new one left for the second half of the season. The MotoGP gods have placed an asterisk next to Bautista and Capirossi’s names on the cosmic scoresheet and are going to allow the sorry Rizla Suzuki team another half dozen or so engines so they don’t just pick up their marbles and head home after Philip Island. Whatever.
Expect Dorna and FIM to scrap the six engine rule for next season or, at the latest, 2012, when the entire landscape changes. One wonders what the Powers That Be might come up with as a replacement. Requiring riders to complete the first five laps of each race blindfolded? Toll booths? Mandatory turn signals? Penalizing riders who overtake other riders without using the mandatory turn signals? Whatever they come up with, it likely won’t be as dumb as the six engine rule.
Last year, Valentino Rossi pressured teammate Lorenzo into the gravel at Brno, as Lorenzo crashed out with five laps to go and Rossi breezed, on his way to the 2009 title. Lorenzo’s misery was music to Dani Pedrosa and one Toni Elias, both of whom ended up on the podium. The 2008 race again featured Rossi winning, joined on the podium, again, by Elias, as well as Loris Capirossi in what may have been the last of the Italian’s career. After qualifying first that year, Stoner crashed out early. Most years the Czech Grand Prix gives us a surprise finisher, or two, on the podium; it would be nice to see an upset again this year after a season of fairly predictable outcomes.
That Sound You Hear is the Other Shoe Dropping. Finally.
This is apparently the weekend when those two ranchers in northern Wyoming, the last two folks on earth who haven’t heard that Valentino Rossi is taking his act to Ducati next year, will get to read the announcement. Right after the one from Yamaha announcing how happy they are to be promoting Ben Spies to the factory team to back up Lorenzo. And followed shortly thereafter by the one from Herve Poncharal’s publicity cabal touting the promotion of Cal Crutchlow from WSB to the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team for next season.
It is widely expected that Fiat will take their sponsorship gazillions over to Ducati next season, which may be enough to give Italian racing fans a permanent case of what my late Aunt Frannie used to refer to as the “high-jollickin’ flinks.” It is also likely that the birth of the next great new MotoGP class, Moto3 featuring 250cc four-stroke engines, will be announced this weekend as well. If Moto3 can duplicate the energy and excitement of Moto2, the sport may be on its way to resembling professional boxing, where the most exciting competitions take place at the lower weights.
Oh, and here’s a shout out to the obscenely rich kids of the world – cheers, Karel – who have done an exemplary job of selecting their parents. Young Mr. Abraham’s dad just bought him a Ducati MotoGP premier class team to horse around with for the next three years. Perhaps Dorna’s new rule next year is that Abraham gets to win at the Brno track, which daddy owns. As desperate as they are to fill the grid, it would take a lot to surprise me at this point.
Don’t Do It, Randy
Barely three weeks after badly fracturing his left leg at Sachsenring, LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet is making loud noises about returning this week at Brno. As if we didn’t know that MotoGP riders are wired a little differently than the rest of us. No, for our boy Randy it’s not enough to just slip on a little leather and settle into some nice, relaxing 200 mph top-end laps on one of the world’s most demanding circuits. No, our boy feels up to the task barely three weeks after fracturing his leg in two places and having a titanium rod or two inserted (into what? The marrow?) to keep things from flying apart. Perhaps this is simply a misguided attempt to one-up Rossi, whose rapid recovery from a similar injury was absolutely eerie. Whatever it is, it’s not a great idea. Bon chance, Randy.
Your Weekend Forecast
The weather outlook for your greater Southern Moravia region this weekend is a little sketchy, with a chance of late rain on both Friday and Sunday. Sunday’s high is expected in the upper 70’s. The forecast for the podium is less clear, but I’m expecting both factory Yamaha riders up there, joined by either Pedrosa or Stoner. It will take a textbook Brno upset to boost one of the competitive Americans – Hayden or Spies – to this week’s podium. Personally, I’m pulling for the upset.
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