MotoGP: 2009 Brno Results

Rossi dumps Lorenzo to take command of the 2009 championship

Sunday in Brno dawned clear and warm; most of the smog created during 40 years of toxic Soviet industrial policy seems to have finally dissipated. In the Fiat Yamaha garage, the two best motorcycle racers alive today must have contemplated the day with similar to-do lists:
  • 1. Win the race.
  • 2. Complete item #1 in such a way as to make the other guy run home cryin’ to his mama.
Barely an hour after the start of the race, Valentino Rossi had checked off both items on his list, while Jorge Lorenzo was on the phone with mom wiping away tears of frustration and explaining how he let the 2009 season get away from him.

Brno started out like Catalunya, with the Fiat Yamaha teammates running away from the field on hard tires. Lorenzo spent the first 15 laps of the race trailing Rossi, but by less than a second. On Lap 16 he finally got the Italian lined up and passed him. Although the crowd, riveted by Gabe Talmacsi’s battle with Niccolo Canepa for last place (eventually won by the Hungarian) missed the action, the announcers went wild, hoping against hope that Lorenzo could beat Rossi and keep fan interest in the season alive. Moments later, though, Lorenzo was down, out and done, leaving it to the journalists to find story lines capable of keeping MotoGP fans engaged for the final six rounds of the season.

Valentino Rossi moves closer to Grand Prix World Championship #9

With 11 rounds of the 2009 season in the can the standings at the top of the MotoGP food chain look like this:

MotoGP Top Eight Standings (after 11 rounds)
Pos. Rider Team Points
1st Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 212
2nd Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 162
3rd Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 150
4th Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 135
5th Colin Edwards Monster Yamaha Tech 3 112
6th Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda 107
7th Randy De Puniet LCR Honda 80
8th Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki 79

Last week I spent some time in this space exploring different scenarios likely to keep the outcome of the season, if not in doubt, then at least interesting – the continuing emergence of Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, Lorenzo enforcing his will on Rossi, Pedrosa going on a hot streak, etc. Jorge Lorenzo may be watching his title chances slip away.I will admit that none of these scenarios had Rossi earning 25 points today and Lorenzo earning zero. After the race, Rossi appeared to be hyper-excited over having won his 102nd premier class event. He was, in fact, celebrating his seventh premier class world championship, which is now clearly in his grasp.

 Rossi this year has virtually repeated the practice which won him the championship last year – stay among the leaders for the first half of the season, then go on a hot streak and blow everyone away in the second half. This year, with both Yamaha factory riders so dominant, Rossi’s mission was simpler than last year, i.e., go on a hot streak and blow Jorge Lorenzo away. Here’s a brief recap of how he’s done it:

  • Catalunya – passed Lorenzo on the last turn for the win.
  • Assen – finished first to Lorenzo’s second.
  • Laguna – withstood Lorenzo’s late charge and almost caught Pedrosa for the win.
  • Sachsenring – let Lorenzo smell the win and then took it from him. Again.
  • Brno – dropped him in the gravel and coasted home for the win.

Four firsts and a second over the last five rounds. 120 out of a possible 125 points. Rossi hasn’t finished behind Lorenzo since Round 5 at Mugello. It appears to me that Rossi got inside Lorenzo’s head at Catalunya and hasn’t left. The pressure on Lorenzo had been building steadily since, and he finally blew today, losing the race and whatever realistic chance he had of winning the 2009 championship. It wasn’t just losing the race, but coming up empty in the point standings, that fixed his wagon.

Rossi seems to have gotten into Lorenzo's head.

Taking on Rossi at this stage of his career must be kind of like playing in a major golf championship and being paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday with Tiger holding the lead: You’re going to lose – 14 out of 15 times.

Elsewhere on the Pavement

Miko Kallio (36) in his debut race with Ducati Marlboro had an "intimate" run-in with the team's former pilot Marco Melandri (33).
Chris Vermeulen looks distantly to the future, beyond Suzuki.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa picked up 20 points today in an utterly empty effort, spending the day alone in third place until Lorenzo left the building. Meanwhile, Toni Elias secured his first podium of the year, edging out Dovizioso and Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi for third. This while his Gresini Honda replacement for 2010, Marco Melandri, recorded a DNF after getting rear-ended by Mika Kallio on the last lap in what was the most, um, intimate crash I’ve seen all season. Melandri was clearly furious afterwards, apparently wanting to throw down with Kallio over some unconfirmed groping which allegedly took place while the men and their machines were cartwheeling across the gravel. An incident like this shows how easy it is for an Italian and a Finn to exchange meaningful ideas without understanding a word of the other’s language.

Capirossi claimed a respectable fifth place finish at Brno, while soon-to-be-ex-teammate Chris Vermeulen struggled at 11th. Suzuki has signed Alvaro Bautista, currently fighting for the 250cc championship, for the next two seasons, leaving Vermeulen without a ride … Nicky Hayden finished sixth today, continuing his season-long improvement from just plain dreadful to intensely mediocre … Colin Edwards, anxious to prove that his second place finish at Donington Park was, in fact, a fluke, finished seventh today and was not a factor. At least he was still able to beat teammate James Toseland, which is all he seems to care about anyway.

The weirdest occurrence of the day took place when The Rider of Last Resort, Michel Fabrizio, quit the race on Lap 5 with what was described as an arm injury. Fabrizio had been named by Pramac Racing just this week to stand in for Mika Kallio, who is on a three-race billet as Casey Stoner’s replacement on the factory Ducati team. I’m told that if Fabrizio is unable to go at Indianapolis, Pramac has located a deaf, peg-legged, one-eyed Somali pirate willing to put on the Pramac leathers and take the terrifying Desmosedici for a spin at The Brickyard. If this, in fact, occurs, look for Gabe Talmacsi to add to his point total – currently eight. (Ed: On the World Superbike front, Fabrizio’s injury may help Ben Spies’ title hunt.)

Japanese – It’s Even Hard for the Japanese to Understand

Yesterday the wire services carried an announcement by HRC President Tetsuo Suzuki that Honda had signed Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso to new two-year contracts. The race announcers today backed away from the story, saying that negotiations are progressing but no deal is in place. Apparently the president of HRC was, er, misinformed by a staffer who by now has probably committed ritual suicide. Look for a clarification of Mr. Suzuki’s comments later in the week, as well as the staff guy’s obituary.

Looking Ahead

The last weekend of August will find MotoGP at Indianapolis for Round 12. The folks at the IMS, fresh off a round of senior executive shake-ups (not to be confused with the legendary Lemon Shakeups currently playing at the State Fair) have their work cut out for them as regards their announced intention to host the biggest race on the MotoGP circuit – there were over 138,000 people at Brno today. Last year, MotoGP’s inaugural round at Indianapolis was held in a hurricane, which kept attendance under 100,000. Perhaps this year the weather gods will smile on the IMS – they really do owe us one.

Nicky Hayden and the rest of the MotoGP crew are returning Stateside for the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

If your zipcode starts with a 3, 4 or 5, you ought to think about coming to Indianapolis for the weekend and seeing a racing phenom at the top of his game. Although the race itself is likely to have little effect on the season’s outcome, there is something to be said for having seen a sports legend – Mickey Mantle, Joe Montana, and Michael Jordan come to mind – at the absolute height of his powers. God doesn’t make many of these men, and it is a privilege to watch them practice their craft.

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