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MotoGP 2010 Phillip Island Results
Stoner returns to winning form as Rossi and Hayden tangle
For the fourth consecutive year, Casey Stoner rode his Ducati to a convincing win in the Australian Grand Prix, while newly crowned world champion Jorge Lorenzo managed an equally stress-free second place finish. The real action, however, was in the race for third place, as Fiat Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden took turns putting very aggressive moves on one another. After today’s battle, won by Rossi, Team Ducati may need to think about installing a wall in the garage next season.
More than any other sport I know, MotoGP renders the term “teammate” meaningless, with some of the closest racing each year taking place between guys wearing the same colors. A notable exception to this rule has been on Team Ducati the past two seasons, as Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden have never, to my recollection, gone at one another. Generally, this has been because they are rarely within 10 seconds of each other on the track. The fact that neither has the stereotypical hot-blooded Spanish or Italian heritage is probably another factor.
Today’s race, a dull affair otherwise, suggests that such may not be the case next season, as Rossi joins Hayden and Stoner moves to the factory Honda team with the notoriously touchy Dani Pedrosa. Hayden appeared put out after Rossi’s first pass, which pushed the American so wide in the turn that both Rossi and his compatriot Marco Simoncelli were able to get through. Hayden quickly disposed of Simoncelli and turned his attention back to Rossi.
Although it took a while, Hayden finally went through on Rossi with two laps remaining. Rossi returned the favor late in the final lap to secure the final podium spot. To his credit, after the race Hayden voiced not a single complaint about his future teammate’s tactics.
Rossi, during this Pacific swing, has been playing catch-up and displaying a side of his personality we don’t usually see when he’s running at the front. Today, he began from the eight hole after an unfortunate QP yesterday. Again today, he failed to start well, and had to make up lots of ground in order to get back in contention. In Motegi, he threw down with Lorenzo, trading paint and daring his teammate to retaliate. Last week, he mowed down ten riders, including Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, for the win. Today, he gave Hayden the option of giving way or crashing out, and refused to concede when Hayden went through on him late in the race. Valentino Rossi puts on big smiles when he has a camera pointed at him, but point a motorcycle at him and he’ll show you his teeth.
Stoner, now with soon-to-be teammate Dani Pedrosa squarely in his sights for second place in the season standings, must view this season’s eventual standings as a proxy for which of the two will be The Man for Honda next year. Pedrosa, who elected not to race after difficult practice sessions and qualifying 14th, now leads the Australian by 23 points heading to the final two races of the year at Estoril and Valencia. The Spaniard can be forgiven for thinking that the set-up for the season’s end is not fair, especially given the implications for next season. One thing is certain – the factory Honda team next year is going to be nails.
The real loser in today’s race was Repsol Honda #2 Andrea Dovizioso, who seemed to collide briefly with someone on Lap One, apparently sustaining damage to his left handlebar. Having started from the nine hole, he soon fell back to 13th place before retiring altogether on Lap Four. Heading into the weekend, he trailed Rossi by two points and Stoner by one in the battle for third place overall. Today, Stoner has him by 26 and Rossi by 18, with both at or near the top of their respective games. Not the outcome the Italian had hoped for coming off consecutive podiums at Motegi and Sepang.
The battle for third place has now become the battle for second. With the injured Pedrosa holding at 228 points, Stoner at 205 and Rossi at 197; Dovizioso’s 179 are no longer pertinent. With two weeks until Estoril, Pedrosa figures to get back in the game, but not at 100%. Nor does Stoner enjoy the advantage at Estoril and Valencia that he has at Phillip Island. It appears to be a fair statement that the race for runners-up to Jorge Lorenzo in 2010 is wide open. How amazing would it be for Rossi, having missed a quarter of the season, to come back and finish second for the year?
Elsewhere on the Grid
The Kentucky Kid returned to Heartbreak Hotel today, reminiscent of his early season angst, once again missing out on the podium by 38/1000ths of a second after starting sixth. Fellow American Ben Spies started from the front row and out-dueled fellow rookie Marco Simoncelli for fifth today, clinching the Rookie of the Year award in the process.
Soon-to-be former Pramac Racing heartthrob Aleix Espargaro, ticketed for Moto2 next season, equaled his most productive day of the season, starting 11th but managing an eighth place finish. And my boy Randy de Puniet, still uncommitted for next season, pleased me by qualifying seventh and finishing tenth today. His brolly girl is most definitely from Babe-alonia.
Colin Edwards started fifth and finished eighth, in case anyone’s wondering.
A Glance at the Undercards
There is joy in Mudville tonight as Mr. Alex de Angelis, the Rodney Dangerfield of this year’s moto-comedy, finally pulled off a win in Moto2, finishing two seconds in front of British teen sensation Scott Redding and almost three seconds in front of Italian Andrea Iannone.
De Angelis’ season has been a train wreck, never having gotten untracked in Moto2, stepping up to the premier class for a cup of coffee, and having to return again to Moto2, hat in hands. He and Moto2 champion Toni Elias both came down from the premier class after last season with similar credentials, but Elias has been eating watermelon all year, while de Angelis has been spitting out seeds.
In today’s 125 tilt, Marc Marquez asserted his will over rivals Nicolas Terol and Pol Espargaro with a decisive win. Espargaro and Terol joined Marquez on the podium, but Marquez now leads Terol by 12 points for the season, with Espargaro another five points back. Derbi, with only a handful of entries on the 125 grid, now holds spots #1 and #3 for the season while clinching the 125cc manufacturer title.
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