MotoGP 2010 Estoril Results
Lorenzo rules, Pedrosa clings, and Stoner chokes
The run-up to the Grande Premio de Portugal was the riders’ worst nightmare – two days of soaking wet practice, qualifications rained out, and a windy, dry track for race day. The pilots with the most “skin in the game” were Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, with second place for the season up for grabs. At the end of the day, Pedrosa managed a valiant top ten finish, Rossi moved up into third place for the year, and Stoner had, in the words of Jimi Hendrix, “tire tracks all across your back,” courtesy of an unforced low-side on Lap Five.
In case I forget to mention – Jorge Lorenzo won today’s race going away, enjoying his seventh pole and eighth win of the season, and his third straight at Estoril. This was perhaps Lorenzo’s most enjoyable race of the season, as he finally managed to repay teammate Valentino Rossi for Rossi’s reckless behavior at Motegi in early October. Today, Rossi had taken the early lead from Lorenzo on Lap Four and held it until Lap 16, after which Lorenzo put his head down and was gone, eventually winning by over eight seconds. Lorenzo was thus able to re-assert his claim as the top dog in the fractured Fiat Yamaha garage, with his first win since Brno in August, and depriving Rossi of five additional points the Italian would dearly love to have as he chases Pedrosa for second place overall.
Pedrosa started the day with 228 points and ran a brave and surprisingly competitive race a month removed from fracturing his left clavicle. His eighth place finish earned him eight points. Rossi’s 20 point day put him at 217 for the year, but he trails the Spaniard by 19 heading into Valencia. Pedrosa now has a magic number to clinch second, which he can do by finishing in the top nine next week. Rossi, trailing by 19 points, absolutely must win next week to keep his faint hopes alive.
Today’s big loser was Ducati defector Casey Stoner, who, with 205 points going into the weekend, had the best chance of overtaking Pedrosa. Instead, he slid out of the race, and the conversation for second place, early on, in the fabled Parabolica. Since his surprising world championship campaign in 2007, his first year with Ducati, Stoner has been competitive, but has failed to dominate. One might argue that 2007 was, in fact, a fluke, comparable to Nicky Hayden’s fluke championship season the previous year. (In his eight year career, Hayden has won only three MotoGP races in the premier class, with his last win coming at Laguna Seca in 2006.)
For The Aliens, the end of the 2010 line arrives next week in Valencia. Barring unforeseen disaster (see Ben Spies below), your 2010 podium will include, in order, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi. Outside of Spain, few MotoGP fans will be in a hurry to embrace this outcome. We are left to wonder how things might have ended had Rossi and Pedrosa not suffered the serious injuries which are, unfortunately, a fact of life in this sport.
Elsewhere on the Grid
The best battle of the day featured two hot young Italians riding Hondas – Andrea Dovizioso on the Repsol factory bike and rookie Marco Simoncelli on the satellite San Carlo Gresini entry. These two spent much of the day eyeballing one another, and the last few laps were thrilling. At the end, it appeared that Simoncelli had captured his first premier class podium, until Dovi blew past him on the final straight to steal it by .06 seconds, a replay of what he did to Nicky Hayden in Qatar. Nonetheless, it was Simoncelli’s most productive day of the season, and he looks likely to enjoy many podiums going forward.
The biggest surprise of the day was Rookie of the Year Ben Spies losing it during the warm-up, dislocating his ankle, missing the race, and possibly setting the stage for Cal Crutchlow to make his premier class debut five months early. Spies had a shot at establishing the all-time rookie points record, the result of his uncanny ability to learn tracks on the fly. Today, his luck ran out in the face of unfortunate racing conditions and a lack of practice time. Or perhaps his number was just up. One hopes that his ankle, originally injured in a fall at Le Mans, doesn’t become a chronic source of distress. His accident could also mean his missing out on testing his shiny new factory Yamaha immediately following the Valencia round. We wish him well.
Pramac Racing’s Aleix Espargaro limped off the track after crashing on Lap One. Fortunately, he has already secured a Moto2 ride for next year with the Pons Kalex team. Carlos Checa, in place of Mika Kallio, retired midway through today’s race with what was first described as a mechanical issue, and later attributed to “arm pump.” (Personally, I think Pramac’s management had a collective case of “arm pump” signing the aged Checa for two races.) When he retired today, he was embroiled in a tight race for last place with Loris Capirossi who was officially named to the Pramac team for 2011.
Randy de Puniet ruined my day by finishing sixth after having “qualified” eighth. Surely, had there been a legitimate qualifying practice, my boy Randy would have started in Row Two … Colin Edwards gave a credible performance today, finishing seventh after starting tenth … Fellow American Nicky Hayden appeared to have chosen the wrong tires today. His soft compound front propelled him to the early lead, but he fell back after the first few laps, managing to hold onto fifth place for the day.
Lorenzo walked away from a frightening high-side during FP3 on Saturday, after landing on his back and shoulders. His airbag deployed, and he appeared to be completely fit today. He’s obviously run out of post-race celebrations, as he reprised his planting-the-flag-on-the-moon routine from earlier in the year. That’s the problem – the only problem – with winning eight races in one season.
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