MotoGP 2010 Laguna Seca Results

Lorenzo wins again as Pedrosa folds under pressure

A number of things about Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca were just wrong. By winning handily, Fiat Yamaha’s Lorenzo extended his lead in the 2010 world championship to a dehumanizing 72 points; it’s wrong that it’s so easy for Lorenzo this year. It’s wrong that Valentino Rossi, scarcely seven weeks after observing his shinbone poking through his flesh, ends up on the podium in only his second race back. It’s wrong that Roger Lee Hayden can show up straight from Geechland and score five championship points, because it’s wrong that a mere dozen bikes managed to cross the finish line. Most wrong of all is the U.S. Grand Prix attracting only 51,000 fans on a perfect Sunday afternoon. Signs of the apocalypse abound.
Jorge Lorenzo captured his sixth win in nine races while Casey Stoner reached the podium for the fourth consecutive race.

Some people will claim Jorge Lorenzo won the 2010 U.S. Grand Prix, while others will say that Dani Pedrosa lost it. To crash out unforced while leading the race, as Pedrosa did, lends credence to the latter opinion. We have observed several times this season that Dani Pedrosa enters each race knowing 1) he has to win, and 2) that he has to be absolutely perfect in order to do so. During the race, we all saw various riders having what the announcers refer to as “moments” – moments when they are not exactly in control of a machine, upon which they are sitting, traveling 150 miles per hour. Ducati’s Casey Stoner had two moments early in the day that may have cost him the race. I recall Dovizioso having several moments as his tires were decomposing late in the day, and Ben Spies had a late one that cost him fifth position. The pressure of having to be perfect caused Pedrosa’s crash today. And it will only get worse from here, as Lorenzo can now play it safe and coast home to the championship.

Jorge Lorenzo celebrated his win by dressing up as an astronaut planting his flag.

That Laguna Seca is one of the most difficult circuits in the world was proven again. Four riders crashed, while a fifth, Hector Barbera, retired with a mechanical issue. In the 2008 U.S. Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi tracked down defending world champion Casey Stoner and pressured him into a crash and out of the win. This year Lorenzo did the same thing to Pedrosa, although the two Spaniards weren’t trading paint the way Rossi and Stoner were. Back in the day, when my favorite football team would mount a comeback, I used to joke about them having a 12th man – Mo Mentum. These days, Mo is working for Lorenzo. His job is to sit on the back of Stoner and Pedrosa’s bikes, slowing them down, and whispering in their ears, “Here comes Jorge. YOU’RE GONNA CRASH!”

A Good Day for the Americans…

The U.S. Grand Prix was a pretty complete success for the American contingent of riders. Ducati’s Nicky Hayden started seventh and finished fifth, his best outing since Silverstone, despite one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever seen. Ben Spies started fifth and finished sixth, and had Hayden beat until running very wide very late in the day. Ben got off to a strong start, faltered for several laps, and then began what is becoming a customary late charge back into contention.

Nicky Hayden finished fifth, a spot ahead of Ben Spies.

Colin Edwards, blowing smoke in mid-week about how much fun it would be to run World Superbike next season – oh sure – started eighth and finished a surprising seventh, by far his best showing of the year. And even Old Lonesome, Roger Lee, managed to finish 11th after starting in the 17 hole. Let’s see, he picked up six spots during the day, five of which would have been occupied by guys who crashed or quit. Oh well, at least he didn’t crash or get lapped.

…and a Few Other Guys

The incomparable Valentino Rossi started sixth, finished third and still had something left in the tank at the end. That he finished at all is remarkable. That he was able to take out up-and-coming young Repsol Honda stud Andrea Dovizioso was a shocker. [I’m already geeked up about watching Rossi and Lorenzo go at each other’s throats next season in the last year of the 800’s, although it won’t be as compelling with Rossi wearing red.]

Valentino Rossi beat Andrea Dovizioso to take his first podium result since breaking his leg.

Satellite Honda rider Marco Melandri had a successful day, too, dropkicking rookie teammate Marco Simoncelli on the way to eighth place. Even Pramac Racing’s long-suffering Mike Kallio, whose woes continued through yesterday as he qualified 15th, finished ninth today in the first credible semblance of his entire 2009 season.

The Big Picture at the Halfway Point

Here are your top ten riders midway through the year:

MotoGP Championship Top Ten Standings After Nine Rounds
Pos. Rider Team Points
1 Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 210
2 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 138
3 Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda 115
4 Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 103
5 Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 90
6 Nicky Hayden Ducati Marlboro 89
7 Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 77
8 Randy De Puniet LCR Honda 69
9 Marco Melandri San Carlo Gresini Honda 53
10 Marco Simoncelli San Carlo Gresini Honda 49

What it means is this: the 2010 MotoGP season is now officially a battle for second place. I continue to believe that Dovizioso will finish ahead of Pedrosa, and am not convinced that Rossi won’t finish second for the year.

Today Casey Stoner had the third-fastest bike and received a gift of second place when Pedrosa went out; I don’t expect the Australian to finish in the top three. That Nicky Hayden trails Rossi by a single point in the standings is the most misleading statistic in this sport, as there is a world – a big ol’ world – of difference in their prospects going forward.

As the Vale-to-Ducati rumors continue, talk of Ben Spies moving up to Fiat Yamaha will follow.

Ben Spies looks fully capable of finishing ahead of Hayden this year, and will be a complete handful in 2011 on the factory Yamaha. Barring injury, I expect Melandri and Simoncelli, The Dueling Marcos, to round out the top ten for the year, a major win for Simoncelli, a not-quite-so-major one for Melandri.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

MotoGP now goes on a three week summer sabbatical, after which it will try to revive some interest in itself at the Cardion AB Grand Prix Ceske Republiky, which sounds to me like Larry Csonka trying to speak Spanglish in an old Miller Lite commercial. Three weeks out of the news, a mid-August race somewhere behind the old Iron Curtain, and a runaway championship – a PR exec’s nightmare! The good news is that a mere two weeks later we’ll be at The Red Bull Other United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, not to mention the AMA Flat Track brouhaha at the State Fairgrounds that same weekend. Be there. Aloha.

I wish they all could be California girls.

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