MotoGP 2010 Valencia Results

Spain celebrates as Lorenzo adds a cherry to his 2010 sundae


Any lingering doubts that Spain is the capital of big time motorcycle racing were put to rest today. In the 125 class, Marc Marquez’s fourth place finish today clinched the 2010 title, with countrymen Nicolas Terol and Pol Espargaro rounding out the top three. Spaniard Julian Corsi’s third place finish in the Moto2 tilt gave him just enough to claim second place for the season behind compatriot Toni Elias. And in the premier class, 2010 champion Jorge Lorenzo survived an early altercation with Marco Simoncelli to win his home grand prix, while Dani Pedrosa had enough left in his tank to claim second place for the year.

The premier class title having been decided weeks ago, the main drama today centered on whether Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi could overtake Repsol Honda celeb Dani Pedrosa for second place. Doing so would have necessitated Rossi winning the race and Pedrosa finishing tenth or below. Early in Lap One, it became apparent that neither outcome was likely, as Pedrosa moved up from eighth place on the grid into second while Rossi was busy slipping from fourth place to as low as ninth. Over the course of 30 laps, Rossi recovered nicely on his way to finishing third, while Pedrosa gradually faded, ultimately finishing seventh.

The crowd at Valencia had cause to celebrate with three Spanish World Champions in Toni Elias, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez.

Casey Stoner’s Ducati GP10 had been lightning fast all weekend; the Australian qualified on the pole and took the early lead ahead of Pedrosa. Lorenzo, who qualified second, was undoubtedly motivated to finish the season on a high note in front of the home crowd. His old habit of starting poorly raised its head again today, and he found himself in fifth place after the first lap. It was on Casey Stoner ended his tenure with Ducati with another podium finish.Lap Two that he and rookie Marco Simoncelli, aboard the San Carlo Gresini Honda, had a brief pas de deux that brought Lorenzo within a whisker of parting company with his M1, when Simoncelli refused to yield. Somehow, an enraged Lorenzo managed to keep his seat, although in doing so he briefly fell back to seventh place.

That was Lorenzo’s last miscue of the day. From Lap Two on, he ran pretty much of a perfect race, going through on the rest of the field as if they weren’t even there. He got back at Simoncelli into fourth place on Lap Seven. Both he and Rossi went through on a tiring Pedrosa on Lap 10, looking practically like teammates in the process. On Lap 12 he punked Rossi, a known friend and countryman of the loathsome Simoncelli, and turned his attention to Stoner. Finally, on Lap 23, while Stoner continued wrestling with his Desmosedici and wobbled coming out of Turn One, Lorenzo went through on Turn Two, and that was that, as he eventually crossed the line 4.5 seconds ahead of Stoner. His win today, his ninth of the season, established a new single season points record in the premier class, surpassing Rossi’s former mark, set in 2008, by 10 points.

Valentino Rossi bids farewell to his M1 after one final podium finish.

Today’s race marked the end of an era, as both Rossi and Stoner are changing team affiliations effective Monday. With Lorenzo and Pedrosa rounding out the Big Four, it will be fascinating to see how the competition evolves next year. As has been observed numerous times, the riders in this sport are way more important than the bikes, and The Aliens are likely to continue to dominate next year. One would have to be slightly crazy to bet against Lorenzo in 2011, given his performance this year and the continuity he (and Pedrosa) will enjoy in 2011 by not changing teams. Let the testing begin!

Elsewhere on the Grid

Ben Spies won the contest for Top American in 2010 early and by default as Ducati’s Nicky Hayden slid out of the race, and contention, on Lap Three. Spies, who spent virtually all day in seventh place, found something late and successfully took on Simoncelli, Andrea Dovizioso and Pedrosa before finishing fourth. The top rookie of 2010 now moves up to the factory Yamaha with Lorenzo and figures to start winning races next year while relegating countrymen Hayden and Colin Edwards to yesterday’s news. Edwards, who started the day a single point behind Marco Melandri in the battle for tenth place for the season, was able to finish in front of the Italian, but lost the tiebreaker, something to do with having scored fewer touchdowns and more field goals.

2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year Ben Spies ended the year with a fourth-place finish at Valencia.

Simoncelli, who had qualified on the first row this weekend, demonstrated that he not only has a big frame and big hair, but big balls as well. Midway through the race he was simultaneously taking runs at both Lorenzo and Rossi and not giving an inch. Nicky Hayden made a deal with the Diavel.He was undoubtedly disappointed at finishing sixth. His aggressive riding style made him the second most successful rookie in the field this year, but may land him in the hospital in the future. His eighth place finish for the season compares favorably to Hector Barbera’s 12th, Alvaro Bautista’s 13th, and Hiro Aoyama’s 15th. In my humble opinion, only Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Spies had more significant accomplishments this season.

And the biggest disappointments for 2010? I would put Colin Edwards at the top of the list, having fallen from fifth in 2009 to 11th in 2010. I would add Nicky Hayden who, despite having made progress from his disastrous 2009 campaign, still trailed a rookie satellite rider for the year; that should never happen for a factory rider. Hiro Aoyama belongs on this list, having managed to crack the top ten only once this year in Malaysia. He will be looking over his shoulder next year riding for Fausto Gresini, who changes riders the way most of us change oil filters. And no list of big disappointments would be complete without Mr. Underachievement himself, Loris Capirossi. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – how on earth does this guy earn a seat on the Pramac Racing team for 2011?

Here’s a Chart You Haven’t Seen Before

Just for fun, I decided to apply a little statistical analysis to the top six factory riders (sorry, Alvaro) to see how they measure up in a critical metric – winning percentage. Doing so allows us, for example, to compare Rossi’s 77 premier class wins (64 excluding his two 500cc seasons) with Lorenzo’s 14 over a shorter time span. The numbers may surprise you.

RIDER

# YEARS

# STARTS

# WINS

WINNING %

Valentino Rossi

9

149

64

43%

Jorge Lorenzo

3

52

14

27%

Casey Stoner

5

85

23

27%

Dani Pedrosa

5

86

12

14%

Nicky Hayden

8

135

3

2%

Andrea Dovizioso

3

53

1

2%

Conclusion: Rossi is the king of this current crop of riders, but, at age 31, is coming off his worst season. Lorenzo’s star is on the rise, as is Pedrosa’s, while Stoner’s is in descent. Dovizioso’s best years are ahead of him, while Hayden’s are probably past. The odds are dramatically against Nicky Hayden signing another two year contract with Ducati, or any other factory team, when his new deal expires at the end of the 2012 season. Three wins in 135 starts won’t keep any rider in the upper echelon of MotoGP.

Jorge Lorenzo set a new record for points in a single season with 383 points in his first, but possibly not last, MotoGP World Championship.

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