MotoGP: 2009 Donington Park Results

Dovizioso brings home a wet win for Repsol Honda

On a predictably English afternoon when there was plenty of nice weather for ducks, Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso was the beneficiary of several unpredictable occurrences. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi crashed while leading the race, joined by Toni Elias, whose high-side came after having led for a couple of early laps. Casey Stoner apparently opted for snow tires at the start, and found himself getting lapped midway through the race. Dani Pedrosa had it going on early, but began fading around lap 10 and ended up finishing ninth. So Dovizoso survived the battle of attrition to record his first ever premier class victory, while Rossi continues to win the war, making lemonade from lemons and extending his world championship points lead.

Lost in the sauce of Dovizioso’s inspiring win were great performances by a number of riders, foremost among them American Colin Edwards and LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet of France, who joined Dovi on the podium. For Edwards, it was his first podium since Assen in 2008, while de Puniet’s top-three finish was his first since Motegi in 2007. Edwards stole second place from de Puniet on the last turn of the last lap, which brought only slightly less joy to his heart than did his pass of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate James Toseland on Lap 17. At age 35, Edwards doesn’t figure to have too many of these outings left in him, and seemed determined to savor this one, unaided by a couple of backhanded compliments from team owner and resident buffoon Herve Poncharal.

Andrea Dovizioso was a surprise winner in the final MotoGP race at Donington Park.

Colin Edwards earned his first podium spot since 2008 at Assen.
Randy de Puniet's podium gives us the excuse to include the mention "Playboy" in this story.
The first third of the race found the factory Yamahas and Hondas swapping leads until Lorenzo hit the skids on lap 9. The next 10 laps had Rossi and Dovizioso running one-two, both looking smooth, relaxed and very Italian. Rossi’s unforced low-side on Lap 20 left Dovi alone in first place by almost ten seconds, and the race appeared over. However, by lap 26 de Puniet and Edwards had closed to within four seconds of the Italian, and it was, suddenly and weirdly, a race, albeit one absent the Big Four. Dovizioso was able to maintain his lead over the last four laps, while Edwards figured out how to do to de Puniet what he loves doing to Toseland, i.e., throwing sand in his gearbox on the last lap.

Farther back in the pack, a number of other riders enjoyed productive days. Alex de Angelis on the Gresini Honda started 12th and finished fourth, while Pramac Racing’s Niccola “Pokey” Canepa started 16th and finished eighth, with both riders picking up eight spots on the grid during the race. De Puniet himself added seven, having started in the ten hole, and even Gabe Talmacsi improved his 17th-place qualifying position to a 12th-place finish in the race. Riders enjoying noticeably lousy days, in addition to Lorenzo and Elias, were Stoner, who worked himself from fourth to 14th, and Pedrosa, who had started second and finished ninth. Rossi, who fell to 11th place in his lap 20 crash, rallied to finish fifth on the day. Had he fallen on lap 3 instead of lap 20, he might still have won this race.

Lessons Learned

The final running of the British Grand Prix at Donington taught us at least one thing – England is a damp, moldy, rusted, antiquated country with crappy weather, and Donington itself is Exhibit A. Those of us who didn’t know it before – and even I knew this – learned that MotoGP is a dry weather sport, one which, like soccer, football, rugby, and lacrosse, to name a few, is far more enjoyable and entertaining to watch when it’s not raining, despite what any purists might claim.

Ducati Marlboro's decision to start on wet tires backfired as Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden finished at the back of the pack.

Did today’s results presage a changing of the guard in the top ranks of MotoGP? Hardly. On a dry track, it’s impossible to think that the Big Four wouldn’t have been in the mix all day, with one of them probably having won. Is Casey Stoner done? Probably not, although the Ducati Marlboro team’s decision to put wet tires on his and Hayden’s machines for the start of the race was suspect. And his health issues appear unresolved. Is Andrea Dovizioso the next big thing in MotoGP? Very possibly, though it’s too soon to say. Let’s see what he’s done a year from now. And does this question and answer format get old in a hurry? You bet.

Honda, which looked like roadkill only a few rounds ago, had a great day on Sunday, claiming three of the top four spots. And the satellite teams, the Rodney Dangerfields of MotoGP, stuck one in the eye of the factory teams, taking six of the top eight spots. Both results would have been more meaningful on a warm, sunny afternoon. However, on a day when the racing royalty was struggling, Dovizioso, Edwards, de Puniet and de Angelis saw opportunity, and seized it. Bravo, fellas.

Motorcycles on Vacation"Did you hear about the guy on who put energy drink into his gas tank?"

MotoGP now heads into its summer recess, not reconvening again until Brno in mid-August. Heading into the break, Rossi leads Lorenzo by a full 25 points, while Stoner is barely hanging in the top three, trailing Lorenzo by 12 points. Edwards, in fifth place, now trails Pedrosa by 12 points, having nominated himself as a candidate to join the Big Four.

Dovizioso has sixth place to himself, with a 15 point lead over Marco Melandri, and gets to savor the taste of his first win for a little while. Meanwhile, Stoner and Hayden have to be scratching their heads, wondering what’s become of their season.

Can’t Understand Higher Mathematics? Try Some Lower Mathematics

Now for a little basic math, or what my economics professors in college used to call “pure guesswork”. Rossi leads the championship series by 25 points with seven races left. Were he to win each of the last seven with Lorenzo finishing second each time, he would win the championship by, like, 60 points. If Lorenzo beat Rossi each of the next seven races, Jorge would win the championship by 10 points.

Therefore, I’m prognosticating (a truly great verb) that Rossi’s magic number is two. If Rossi wins two more races, I think he’ll be well on his way to World Championship number nine. Two more wins, and he can lollygag back in the field with Hayden and Talmacsi and Canepa and their Desmosedicis.

The Fiat Yamaha duel fizzled at Donington but Rossi and Lorenzo should provide for a thrilling finish over the last seven races.

Two more wins and he’s a lock. If you’re like me, and think the math is full of holes, just take my word for it.

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