MotoGP: 2009 Valencia Results

Stoner's sighting lap debacle a huge gift to Pedrosa

How one views the results of Sunday’s final round of the 2009 MotoGP championship at Valencia depends largely upon one’s country of origin. Americans and Spaniards LOVED it. For Italians, there was good news and bad news. The Brits, Finns, French and Hungarians in the crowd of 94,000 didn’t have much to cheer for, but they’re accustomed to that. For the Australians, however, Valencia 2009 was a train wreck.

Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner was coming off two straight wins and had been fast all weekend, capturing the pole again on Saturday. The race figured to be a duel between him and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, with third place in the 2009 standings at stake. Pedrosa’s history at Valencia has been stellar, and he’s a homeboy to boot. Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had little motivation on this day, other than their customary desire to run one another off the track and into a bridge abutment. (They finished second and third, respectively, without breaking a sweat.)

With Casey Stoner out of the race before it even started, Dani Pedrosa had an easy win in front of a friendly Spanish crowd.

On the warm-up lap, Stoner must have been fantasizing about Mugello, where he had won earlier in the season, depriving Rossi of a win in his home GP. Perhaps he was remembering how Lorenzo crashed on the sighting lap in the same race. (That day, Lorenzo ended up in second place, a single second behind Stoner.) Perhaps he was thinking about grilling some shrimp on the barbie after the race. Whatever. He was clearly NOT thinking about racing motorcycles. Midway through the lap, Stoner went highside, up, over and out of the race.

The Brit announcers on the MotoGP video feed were apoplectic. Here they were, expecting a fantastic duel to the bloody finish between Stoner and Pedrosa, and just like that, it was over. They speculated that the rest of the field was unaware of Stoner’s plight until the starting flag fell. In his surprise, it appeared that Pedrosa almost forgot to lower his visor. He had just been handed third place in the world. La vida es buena. After the race, Ducati Marlboro attributed the problem to cold tires.

Not that it really matters but Valentino Rossi beat Jorge Lorenzo once again.

Once the race started, it became another of the processions that insiders would rather not talk about. Pedrosa ran away from the field, trailed (almost half-heartedly, it seemed) by Rossi and Lorenzo. Pedrosa looked the way he had at Laguna, where he had separated himself from the field until a heroic last lap effort by Rossi almost reeled him in. Rossi wasn’t going to ride hard enough to catch Pedrosa today. (Had the Italian ridden his best race, he was probably not going to catch the Spaniard today.) It was fun listening to the announcers disparaging Pedrosa’s manhood, however, suggesting that he’s great when he’s frontrunning by himself, but isn’t a scrapper in the turns where most races are won and lost. I keep finding myself wanting to refer to him as El Chihuahua; mustn’t do that.

Heavy Breathing Back in the Pack

Today, the real action was going on behind The Big Four. Undercard #1 featured wildcard Yamaha dude Ben Spies and Monster Tech 3 deposee James Toseland. Spies is taking Toseland’s seat next year, and the Brit is understandably cheesed off. I expect Toseland would have gladly sold his mother to beat Spies today. Fortunately for Mrs. Toseland, James dawdled his way to another 12th-place finish while Spies was busy finishing seventh.

By beating Andrea Dovizioso, Ben Spies put himself into the good books of his new teammate Colin Edwards.

Undercard #2 featured Colin Edwards, who entered the weekend trailing Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso by four points in the battle for fifth place for the season. Dovizioso held the tiebreaker by virtue of his win at Donington earlier in the year, meaning Edwards needed to beat him by five points today. Edwards staked his claim to fourth place early on, and needed Dovi to finish no higher than eighth. Late in the race, Dovizioso, who had been in seventh place, was passed by Spies. Spies had just given Edwards a one point advantage, a very nice “how-do-you-do” from the new guy on the team. Afterwards, Edwards said he’d buy his new teammate anything he wanted. Edwards should also send flowers to Stoner for making the whole scenario plausible; had Stoner made the podium, Edwards couldn’t have pulled off the upset.

Undercard #3 featured lame ducks Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis, late of Gresini Honda, in their premier class swan song. This one was an early TKO, with Elias jumping out in front early and finishing sixth to de Angelis’ undistinguished 10th. Both riders appear headed for Moto2 next year. I will admit that de Angelis has my favorite helmet in MotoGP, but then again I’ve always been partial to day-glo rainbows. Elias’ race earned him seventh place for the year and the right to feel he’s gotten screwed by Fausto Gresini.

Nicky Hayden finished the season on a positive note, finishing fifth.

Undercard #4 featured Nicky Hayden versus himself. Desperately needing a strong finish to what has been a difficult brutal season, Hayden ran fast and strong all day and finished a respectable fifth. Would have been sixth if Stoner hadn’t gone walkabout, but still respectable. Hope springs eternal for the Kentucky Kid. He better get the Desmosedici figured out before next spring; Kallio and Espargaro will be breathing down his neck otherwise.

So Long, 2009. Hello, 2010.

My sense of this past season is that it shouldn’t have been so easy for Valentino Rossi to repeat as world champion. Pedrosa was hurt when the season began. Lorenzo kept falling off his bike, and Stoner got sick in mid-season. MotoGP is a “Big Four and All the Rest” ecosystem and doesn’t figure to change too much next year. The guys moving up from the 250cc class are not going to step in and dominate the premier class, despite their flashy resumes and obvious talent. Ditto for Ben Spies, although having three competitive American riders has to be a good thing for the sport.

Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa are expected to be players again in 2010.

Lorenzo and Rossi figure to go hard at each other again next year, and the age factor seems to favor Lorenzo, at least in the long term. I expect Stoner to be a force again in 2010, as he looked sensational after coming back from his illness. And Pedrosa has apparently sought, and will be receiving, significantly increased support from HRC going forward. My wish for the 2010 season is to have someone outside of The Big Four win one of the early races on the schedule and inject a little mystery into the sport. That, and no more parades.

MotoGP 2009 Final Standings
Pos. Rider Team Points
1st Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 306
2nd Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 261
3rd Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 234
4th Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 220
5th Colin Edwards Monster Yamaha Tech 3 161

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