MotoGP: 2009 Donington Preview

Hat trick unlikely for Stoner

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Donington round of the 2009 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the British Grand Prix.

MotoGP brings its madcap antics and hilarious hijinks to Britain’s Midlands-Derbyshire, Nottingham, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Friar Tuck, Burton-Upon-Trent, Burton-Upon-Taylor, kippers, bangers, wankers and wickets. 70 years ago the sun never set on The British Empire; now it barely rises. The venue is Donington Park for what is being billed as the “23rd and final” running of the British Grand Prix there before the race moves to Silverstone, as Formula 1 and MotoGP are trading home fields for, like, the next 10 years or so. Casey Stoner has won the last two premier class events at Donington, but is a dark horse during this, the summer of his dyspepsia.

Valentino Rossi, fresh off a Sachsenring win that wasn’t as close as it looked, has gradually built a cushion in the world championship standings. He could take off today, work on his tan for a month, come back in August for the Czech Republic, and still lead everyone but his teammate and arch rival Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi leads Lorenzo by a mere 14 points, but leads Casey Stoner by 28, Dani Pedrosa by 68 and Gabor Talmacsi by 175. For Lorenzo and Stoner, the future is now; for Talmacsi, the future is, well, it’s, um, shoot, there just ISN’T any real future. Sorry, Gabe.

MotoGP says goodbye to Donington Park as the race moves to Silverstone in 2010.

[MotoGP reports that Talmacsi’s 15th place finish in Germany made him the first Hungarian to score points in the premier-class since Arpad Juhos finished 9th at the East German GP in 1972. Which has me wondering whatever became of all the East German Olympic athletes when the Iron Curtain came down. They were a rough bunch, especially the gals. For years it was rumored that members of the East German men’s swimming team who failed to medal would arrive at the next Olympics on the women’s team.]

Back in the good ol’ days of professional wrestling, in the 60’s, one of the Bad Guys, Buddy something or other, had a “secret hold” he called The Sleeper. When he got you in The Sleeper, it was OVER. You would just (pretend to) doze off into unconsciousness, unless you happened to be one of the Really Good Guys, who could amazingly shake off The Sleeper, kick ol’ Buddy in the onions, and pin him, one, two, three, just like THAT! Not that Rossi’s a bad guy – far from it – but he’s putting The Sleeper on the MotoGP field these days. And I don’t see anyone able to kick his onions, except perhaps Lorenzo, who would undoubtedly love the chance.

Connections – Real and Imagined

Every stop on the calendar brings us riders attempting to develop some kind of connection to the round – the city, the circuit, the time zone, something – capable of giving him an edge not only in the race, but in the competition to attract reporters with cameras and microphones. (Recall Mugello, where suddenly everyone was Italian. Rider’s country-of-origin is a laydown.)

Rizla Suzuki is based in, you guessed it, England.Having won at the circuit in the past – even the distant past, on somebody else’s bike in a completely different class – is always good. Rossi played the my-dad-won-at-this-track card earlier this year. Country-of-origin of the bike only works, obviously, in Italy and Japan, and works about the same for everyone, which means it doesn’t work.

So, for Round 10, the no-brainer connection is Brit James Toseland, an observation from the department of redundancy department. Speaking of no-brainers, it is James’ hope to exceed last year’s total of one lap before crashing out.

Ducati Marlboro’s Stoner and Nicky Hayden are getting a little rhythm from the press over their assertion that they don’t really LIKE Donington, despite Stoner’s having won the last two races there. Fiat Yamaha’s Rossi and Lorenzo feel Donington would be a good place to forget Saxony, where, sure, they ran 1 and 2, but didn’t really blitz the field the way they wanted to. Pedro and Dovi from Repsol Honda want a chance to AVENGE the Sachsenring, apparently feeling cheated by not having finished 1 and 2. [Note to Andrea: In order to finish second, you need to finish.] Rizla Suzuki is actually based in England, but neither Chris Vermeulen nor Loris Capirossi made the top ten in today’s free practice. And Hayate Kawasaki’s Marco Melandri once spent the night with friends in Loughborough.

Strong connections, everywhere you look.

A Little New Blood for 2010

Jorge “Aspar” Martinez has reportedly reached an agreement with Dorna to field a non-factory Ducati team in the premier class in 2010, and is widely expected to name current 250cc world championship leader Alvaro Bautista as his rider. I get all of this, except for the Ducati part. Perhaps Martinez’s current relationship with Aprilia is so meraviglioso that he wants to stick with an Italian machine in the premier class. Ben Spies made his MotoGP debut last year's British GP.

But if the 2009 season has taught us, or perhaps me, anything, it’s that the Demosedici is virtually un-rideable and capable of doing perfectly terrible things to one’s career. Bautista probably falls asleep at night dreaming about an 800cc Aprilia. Short of that, he would probably prefer a Yamaha or a Honda. I suppose, however, when fate taps a rider on the shoulder and says, “Hello, it’s time for you to start your premier class career,” you mostly just say, “okay.”

[Ed. - Aspar was also one of the potential teams Dorna contacted to take over the Kawasaki racing program. Word was Martinez pulled out because he insisted on having a Spanish rider to appease his sponsors.]

More Weather

The forecast for the weekend is likely giving Bridgestone hives – rain on Friday, sunny on Saturday, and cloudy and cool Sunday. Something for every taste and budget. In fact, why don’t I just go ahead and give James Toseland’s post race remarks to the press right here?

“Right, so it was a bit wet for Friday’s practice, and we had a pretty good set-up, but were looking for a little extra rear grip. Saturday’s practice was dry, and our set-up wasn’t great. Crikey, it was friggin’ awful, which is why we qualified in the bloody fifth row. Sunday morning’s walkabout was damp and cold, and we had to guess about the tyres for the race. Obviously, we guessed wrong, as usual. Believe me, we’re not at all happy about another 14th place finish, and are looking forward to better weather later in the season. Oh, and can I say just once more how totally cheesed off I am about getting passed again on the last lap by Mr. Edwards, who can kiss my red English arse.”

Casey Stoner was fastest in a wet free practice session until he was surpassed by a final effort by Dani Pedrosa.

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