MotoGP: 2009 Phillip Island Results

Sure, this one was over before it started, but Stoner's back

When last we left our helmeted heroes, Jorge Lorenzo had just completed an overpowering win at Estoril, picking up 12 points on rival Valentino Rossi and making the 2009 championship season a race again. Casey Stoner returned from a three round vacay and managed a very respectable second. Dani Pedrosa had turned in a very relaxed third, and a troubled Rossi struggled on his way to a fourth-place finish, some 23 seconds behind Lorenzo.

At Phillip Island, Stoner and Rossi had been fast all weekend, and the pressure was on Lorenzo to come up with race settings that would put him in the mix. In his focus on being up front at the end, he failed, once again, to pay attention to how he started the race. His poor start today led to the brutal lowside in Turn One and probably cost him his shot at the 2009 championship.

On a number of occasions this season, Fiat Yamaha’s Lorenzo has started very poorly and found himself running with the Vermeulens and Melandris in the first few turns. Today, starting from the four hole, he found himself trailing Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden heading into the first turn. Given the fact that Hayden had started seventh, and is not known for particularly quick starts, it points to another lack of early focus for Lorenzo. Hayden slowed down heading into the turn, and Lorenzo came up on him and clipped his rear wheel. In the replay, you could see Lorenzo’s front brake disintegrating. Moments later, Lorenzo was in the midst of an 80 yard slide into his fourth DNF of the season, Hayden was on his way to Canberra, and the 2009 championship, for all practical purposes, was over.

The Australian Grand Prix gave us the Casey Stoner versus Valentino Rossi duel many expected to see all season if it weren't for Stoner's illness and the rise of Jorge Lorenzo.

While Estoril was a parade, Phillip Island was a match race, followed by a parade. Stoner and Rossi went mano à mano all day long, with Stoner never trailing, but never leading by more than perhaps two seconds. The announcers couldn’t decide whether Stoner was playing with Rossi or whether Rossi was trying to push Stoner into making a mistake, and the debate went on all day.

In the end, it wasn’t much of a debate at all, with Stoner appearing fully in control on a track where he does, and should, do well. This was his third win in a row at Phillip Island, and the locals were euphoric. If it had been Rossi and Stoner slugging it out for the 2009 title, the Australian GP would have been an epic race. With Rossi now a virtual lock, and Stoner loitering in third place, it was just a nice match. Stoner probably enjoyed giving Rossi a little payback from Laguna Seca last year, where the Italian rode him down and put him in the dirt on the way to taking his title from him.

For Lorenzo, Hope Springs Eternal

By all rights, the 2009 championship race should now be over. In virtually any other sport you can name, a guy with a lead like Rossi’s would settle down, ride very cautiously for the next two events, gather a few points along the way and take his 2009 trophy home with him.

Jorge Lorenzo was probably not this cheerful after the Phillip Island race.After all, it would take bilateral miracles at this point for Lorenzo to overtake the Italian. “Bilateral”, in this sense, means that not only would Lorenzo have to win twice, but Rossi would have to crash twice, for Lorenzo to pick up 38 points in two rounds. Lorenzo’s only hope rests in the fact that Valentino Rossi is metabolically unable to “take it easy.”

Like Cal Ripken, Jr., Rossi would want to kick your butt in tiddlywinks. He rode hard today, not as hard as he would have if he needed the win, but hard enough to find himself sailing through space after a mistake. The hypercompetitive Rossi is still capable of making an ego-driven error that could again open the door for Lorenzo. I’m not sure, however, that even Rossi could be goaded to make TWO ego-driven errors.

Elsewhere on the GridThese Rizla Suzuki law enforcement officers helped make sure Loris Capirossi was penalized for exceeding the engine use limit.

Gresini Honda’s Alex de Angelis rode to another highly respectable fourth place finish today, and may be breathing down Gabor Talmacsi’s neck for the Scot Honda ride next season … Marco Melandri rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Estoril with a gratifying seventh today on the Hayate Kawasaki, despite having smashed an errant seagull with his hand during practice on Friday (Ed: Sadly, the seagull did not rise phoenix-like.)

Loris Capirossi ran afoul of the new “five engine” rule today and had to start in the last position on the grid. Suzuki was also penalized ten points in the manufacturer’s trophy competition, possibly putting them in negative territory for the year.

If I were Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards, I’d see about having my number changed. It seems like he’s qualified and finished fifth in every race this season. Both James Toseland and Niccolo Canepa crashed during Friday’s practice session. Canepa showed up today with a note from his mom excusing him from the race … I don’t know why I enjoy watching the trials and tribulations of Toseland so much, but I do. Today he was penalized for the second time this season for jumping the start, and had to complete a drive-through pit row as punishment. (He got black-flagged at Laguna for blowing off the drive-through.) I get the same warm fuzzy feeling watching Rasheed Wallace getting tee’d up by officials during NBA games.

Let’s Put a Stop to These Rumors Once and for All

It’s no secret – Valentino Rossi wants to be Alex Rodriguez, with the biggest contractual johnson in the sport. Which is why he’s always looking around. Which is why he remains subject to both rumor and innuendo, each and every day, in each and every way. (Thank you, Suze Orman.)

Contrary to the latest rumors from what his crew chief calls "d***head Italian journalists", Valentino Rossi is still contracted to Yamaha.

The latest of these had him signing some kind of gigundo contract with Ducati Marlboro for 2011. Such a contract, a very Phillip Morris-thing to do, would hurt the sport, raising the price of poker and pushing more sponsors out to the periphery, where their dollars are even less well-spent than they are as primary sponsors. Hey Vale – count your money and your blessings. Re-up with Fiat Yamaha again next year. Let Lorenzo go whale hunting and become the next Nicky Hayden.

MotoGP Top Five standings (after 15 rounds)
Pos. Rider Team Points
1st Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 270
2nd Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 232
3rd Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 195
4th Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 189
5th Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda 152

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