MotoGP: 2010 Silverstone Preview

With Rossi out of the picture, the lines have been re-drawn

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Silverstone round of the 2010 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the British Grand Prix.

Fiat Yamaha superstud Valentino Rossi’s shocking crash and injury at his home Mugello circuit two weeks ago has shifted the balance of power in the MotoGP premier class. While teammate and rival Jorge Lorenzo is now the undisputed heavyweight division favorite, Honda is suddenly the manufacturer du jour, and the fourth member of MotoGP’s perennial Top Four has yet to identify himself. Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso join Lorenzo, for now, as the usual suspects to podium each round. But like an ongoing bridge game at the old folks’ home, this is a group in need of a fourth.

A glance at the point standings suggests that Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden may be the near-term answer. Until his crash at Mugello, he had run three fine races this season, narrowly missing the podium each time. (Recall how Andrea Dovizioso burned him on the final straight at Losail by mere thousandths of a second.) And although Casey Stoner enjoyed some saving grace at Mugello with his fourth place finish, he spent most of the day dawdling in sixth behind the likes of Marco Melandri and Randy de Puniet. If there is to be a Ducati Marlboro rider on the podium this week at Silverstone, it’ll probably be Hayden.

Jorge Lorenzo is now the odds-on favorite to win the title.

The mind boggles at the thought that Player #4 might not be Hayden or, at least, teammate Stoner, who currently resides in eighth place in the championship standings. The three riders flanking Hayden and Stoner all ride for Honda – Randy de Puniet and the Dueling Marcos, Melandri and Simoncelli. Imagine a Honda rookie and two second-stringers in the conversation for the Top Four. And one thing is looking increasingly certain – Honda is on track to take back the manufacturer’s trophy for the first time since Hayden’s glorious year of 2006. Rossi’s injury and the travails being suffered by Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammates Colin Edwards and Ben Spies make that a virtual certainty.

“Dani and Dovi” Taking Turns

At Losail, Dovizioso podiumed in third position while Pedrosa, still trying to sort out his new suspension, finished a distant seventh. Pedrosa narrowly missed out on a win at Jerez, getting de-pantsed by Lorenzo on the race’s last lap, while Dovizioso ended up well out of the money in sixth place, the only time he’s finished off the podium this season. It was Dovizioso’s turn again in France, as he took third while Pedrosa managed fifth. Both, of course, medaled at Mugello as Pedrosa won handily while Dovi ended up in third position.

Yamaha's loss may turn out to be Honda's gain.

Based upon this dismal little analysis, it would appear that Dovizioso has honors this week. He celebrated his first and only win in the premier class last year at the British Grand Prix. Unfortunately, that race was run at Donington, and has nothing whatsoever to do with this week’s tilt at Silverstone.

Will There Be a Desmosedici on the Podium at Silverstone?

Probably not.

Glancing at the layout of the track, it would appear to be a Ducati-friendly circuit, with plenty of length, lots of straight track, and only a handful of tight corners. Were 2010 a normal year, with Stoner contending for a championship, I might be inclined to predict a win for the young Australian this week. As we’ve seen, however, it’s been anything but a normal year for Casey Stoner.

Nicky Hayden tried his hand at cricket in a PR event for the British Grand Prix.

Nicky Hayden is my dark horse pick for a podium this week. After starting the season with three inspired fourth-place finishes, his crash at Mugello had to hurt. Since no one on the grid has any racing experience at the new Silverstone track – even Loris Capirossi isn’t THAT old – the playing field is level, and this could be Hayden’s week. One thing is for certain – none of the satellite Ducati riders is likely to be in the mix. Although Aleix Espargaro is beginning to show some signs of life, Mika Kallio looks fully capable of following up his Rookie of the Year award in 2009 with the Mutt of the Year award in 2010. Being injured all season long hasn’t helped his cause. Hector Barbera is doing better than expected in his first year with Ducati, and trails the ascendant Ben Spies by a single point in the standings. Barbera and his team would be happy with another top ten finish. A podium is a little too much to ask. Or is it?

The 2009 British Grand Prix, Through the Looking Glass

I’m thinking back to the weirdness that was the 2009 British GP, in which Andrea Dovizioso collected his first premier class win, followed by Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet and Alex de Angelis, late of Moto2. Lorenzo crashed early, Rossi survived an early crash to finish fifth, and Pedrosa fell to ninth, while Stoner and Hayden were the last two riders to finish at all, running on snow tires. Satellite teams took six of the top eight spots. The odds against this type of circus occurring again this year are pretty high, in my opinion. However, one should expect the unexpected at the British GP, especially on a track that none of the riders knows from a bale of hay.

Silverstone hasn't hosted Grand Prix motorcycle racing since 1986. The new layout is 0.472 miles longer and is designed specifically to meet MotoGP regulations.

Laugh of the Week

The speculation surrounding Rossi’s replacement for the foreseeable future took a hilarious turn this past week when James Toseland allowed his name to be thrown into the ring. After a fair-to-middling MotoGP rookie year in 2008, Toseland’s 2009 season, riding for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, was a disaster. Afterwards, he was banished to World Superbike, where he’s just another rider, who hates Colin Edwards. Neither he nor his current teammate Cal Crutchlow has anything going on in WSB, other than riding for Yamaha. If I were Rossi, and Fiat Yamaha named Toseland as my replacement, I’d take my mohawk to Bologna and start negotiating with Ducati for 2011 RIGHT NOW.

Your Weekend Weather Report

The forecast for the greater Towcester area this weekend calls for mostly clear skies and breezy conditions, with temps in the upper teens. That’s Celsius, you blockhead. Fahrenheit readings will be in the low to mid-60’s. Look for a few early crashes while the riders are warming up their tires. Tyres.

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