Traditions go way back here in Lower Slobovia, one of which is the much loved circus parade. In a successful circus parade, if the elephants start out in front of the dogs and ponies, they finish in front of them. Contrast this with a successful MotoGP race featuring lots of overtaking and lead changes. Today’s Czech Grand Prix, dominated again by the piston-like Jorge Lorenzo, was a parade, the least exciting form of MotoGP competition. Luckily, the 148,000 fans on hand – props to the organizers – found enough going on with the sideshows alone to fully enjoy themselves.
Prior to digressing about the race and the swirl of events surrounding it, I need to digress about Jorge Lorenzo’s victory celebrations and his growing resemblance to Chad Ochocinco before the NFL outlawed most of his better stuff. Today’s act, for which J Lo successfully arranged a putting green, a putter and a ball, fell a little flat as he missed the 2 foot gimme, with photographers scrambling for The Shot. The idea, however, was hilarious, and, as such, worthy of a 15 yard penalty in the NFL. To its credit, MotoGP can take a joke.
The highlights of today’s race can be summarized in one long, clumsy collection of sentence fragments: Lorenzo stiff-arms Pedrosa; Stoner works Spies; Dovi eats gravel; Hayden is hurt, and Rossi struggles, for Rossi. We overestimated Rossi’s condition based upon his first two races since his injury, but he’s clearly not yet up to his former speed. The world expects his return to form this season, if not next year wearing red for the factory Ducati team with teammate Nicky Hayden.
On a day he shouldn’t have been racing at all, Randy de Puniet broke his nine round streak and finished ahead of his qualifying spot, 23 days after breaking his leg in two places getting run down by soon-to-be former Pramac racing sensation Mika Kallio. He’s reminding me how I lost money betting on the 1974 UCLA Bruins. No way NC State was going to break The Streak. I owe Mr. de Puniet an apology; he proved today he is all man. As, to a lesser extent, did Andrea Dovizioso, who fell in traffic and stood up on the racing surface with Rossi and several others IN HIS GRILL, AT SPEED. Tragedy, somehow, was averted, and Dovi lived to race again today, although he retired several laps later.
It was a great weekend for Ben Spies, who had a look at his second career podium before Stoner reminded him that he’s a former world champion. (A former world champion who, this season, other than a gift second place finish at Laguna when Pedrosa came unglued, has no wins and a handful of thirds to his name.) But qualifying second and finishing fourth must be considered a win for the American rookie. The MotoGP announcers observed how interesting it will be for the remainder of the season watching Spies and Rossi spar over the once and future Yamaha factory seat.
Please forgive the atmospherics, but during the middle of the race, as I watched Lorenzo go from leading Pedrosa by 0.8 seconds to leading him by 3.4 seconds, the sensation was that rider and machine had merged into one single-minded missile, wire-guided on the optimal line, making it look natural, making it look easy. On a day when many thought Pedrosa capable of running away with the win from the pole, Lorenzo led every lap and won his seventh race in ten tries, with seconds in the other three, having become one of damned few riders at any level to dominate the first ten races of a season in such formidable style. Lorenzo does, in fact, rule.
If you’re a fan of anyone other than Lorenzo, you know what it used to feel like as a Washington Redskins fan facing the Dallas Cowboys late in the year during most of the 1970’s. You knew you were going to lose, probably badly. The best you could hope for, privately, was injuries to the Dallas players. For lucid fans of anyone other than Lorenzo – Pedrosa, Stoner, Rossi or, less each round, Dovizioso – your only hope is that Lorenzo falls badly, and soon. Otherwise, he will clinch sometime around Sepang and mail in the rest of his season from there.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Nicky Hayden, despite a wrist he injured in qualifying, managed a respectable sixth. (I chipped the same bone ice skating as a kid, and it was amazingly painful.) Colin Edwards, too, looked better, finishing seventh for the second round in succession. The mini-race between Gresini Honda’s Marco Melandri and Aspar Ducati heartthrob Hector Barbera was won by Melandri, who is rumored to be off to WSB next year for one season before returning to MotoGP in 2012 aboard a prospective BMW team, confirming my earlier contention that his season aboard the Gresini Honda has been less than completely satisfying.
The only other noteworthy mini-race today featured Honda satellite riders de Puniet and Marco Simoncelli, with de Puniet taking 10th. Along the way, Simoncelli had traded paint with Hector Barbera and Alvaro Bautista, a highly amusing series of tangles between varsity bench players who had starred on the 250cc JV last season.
As for the rest of the field, it was another grim day for most. Capirossi crashed out early, placing the entire Suzuki Man’s Burden on young teammate Alvaro Bautista, who was doing a credible job in 12th place until he, too, crashed out on the last turn of the last lap, a forbidden error and one he had previously committed at Qatar while also running 12th. Alvaro, we must start doing a better job of learning from our mistakes, no?
I Get That, but I Don’t Get THAT
Dovizioso’s recent problems – no podiums in the five rounds since Silverstone – are rumored be related to the impending three man factory Honda team for 2011 and his place thereon. Something about pressure to take Melandri’s seat at Gresini on a factory-supported bike for a year while Honda determines if Pedrosa can get it done in 2011, otherwise they bring Dovi back from Gresini in 2012 to partner with Stoner and say AMF to Dani. Apparently Mr. Dovizioso isn’t too warm for the idea. I get that. I think he has a stronger long-term future than teammate Pedrosa.
Mika Kallio crashed again, all but assuring him a ride in Moto2 next season. After his rookie year in 2009 I thought he was going places. I didn’t think one of them was Moto2. Inconsistent teammate Aleix Espargaro fought it out with Alex de Angelis for last place all day, with de Angelis bringing up the rear yet again. I don’t get why he’s not more competitive on the Honda. Roger Lee Hayden I get; Alex de Angelis I don’t get.
From Here to Indianapolis
Given Lorenzo’s stranglehold on the championship, what is there to discuss heading into Round 11 at the Motor Speedway? The game of musical chairs unfolding in full this weekend? How about the idea that Lorenzo may not NEED any engines after Sepang; if he runs out, ain’t no big thing. He can just watch. How about Rossi’s injury, and the likelihood that Nicky Hayden will see his third consecutive podium in Indianapolis. And what’s up with Casey Stoner’s apparent lack of concern about winning a race? Will Colin Edwards return next year with Monster Tech 3?
And will MotoGP return to Indianapolis after this year? I know the folks at the IMS want to keep MotoGP, but does MotoGP want to keep the IMS? It would be surprising if Dorna were to decide to take the second US Grand Prix and move it away from Indianapolis. I can see moving it on the calendar so it coincides more closely with Laguna Seca. Then you’d have even more reason to re-name the two races the U.S Grand Prix West and the U.S. Grand Prix East. Have them on consecutive weekends with all three classes of bikes, then take the summer break, then start up again in Europe.
Problems, problems, it’s always problems with you people.