20 May 2008 | News
by VIKY, D-Club member
Who’s ever going to catch up with him now? Whether it rains or shines, it’s always him: Valentino Rossi, today with 90 wins under his belt alongside Angel Nieto and sitting pretty at the top of the world motorcycle racing standings.
What more could you ask from a day that proved that Yamaha is the most balanced bike that anyone can ride without even apparently making much effort, as demonstrated by the shape poor Jorge Lorenzo was in: two fractured ankles, two nasty spills during the time trials – he got off to a bad start but came in 2nd past the checkered flag. Colin Edwards, who hadn’t been seen much since his golden years in Superbike competition, didn’t make a single mistake and came in 3rd to make the winners’ platform look more like a Yamaha dealership.
Vale rode a race like the one in China, even if he himself probably hadn’t expected to do so well. After spending most of Friday playing around with the driving position for his M1, he was assigned a disappointing 4th place in the starting grid (more precisely, the half second behind the leader was disappointing) due to the excellent performance of a tire that he’d never succeeded in using very well before.
After getting off to a good start, he got passed right away on the first curve by Hayden, Vermeulen, and Toseland, as Casey Stoner took the lead followed closely by Dani Pedrosa with Colin Edwards hot at his heels. Rossi began fighting his way back up through the ranks, first blowing by Hayden and then Vermeulen before gluing himself to his friend Colin’s exhaust pipe. After getting past Edwards, Vale began putting the pressure on Dani and Casey, passing the Spaniard first and then the Australian.
From here on in, after only three laps the race was already Rossi’s hands. With one fastest lap after another, only Pedrosa attempted to keep up with him but never really gave him much need for worry.
Ten laps from the end, the Stoner story reached its denouement: in the long curve to the right after the straightway, Casey slowed down suddenly as Colin swerved out behind him just in time to claim a 3rd place finish. Stoner had to push his way back into his box and change his bike that hadn’t been provided with rain tires (it started raining in the 7th lap) and get back in the race two laps behind the others.
Bringing up the rear, Jorge Lorenzo gained ground until he was right behind Edwards (3rd) and Pedrosa (2°), passing first the American and shortly later the Spaniard, in this way gaining second place and widening the gap further.
At 5 laps from the end, even the Texan passed Pedrosa, and this put only Yamahas on the winners’ stand with Rossi crossing the finish line ahead of Lorenzo and Edwards, Pedrosa coming in 4th and Vermeulen 5th, and a good 6th place for Dovizioso followed by James Toseland. Casey Stoner is still having problems and came in 16th just behind Marco Melandri at 15th .
In the honor lap, Angel Nieto brought Valentino back to his box on his M1 in celebration of the 90th victory by the racer from Pesaro.
Although there’s been a lot of talk about the troubles Casey Stoner has been having lately, every self-respecting champion has had to face moments of difficulty. Just look at what Valentino Rossi has gone through in the past two years: some people had even dared say his career was over. The truth is, Stoner still has a lot to learn. He beat everyone else last year because his Ducati was one step ahead of the other bikes. Now that that’s no longer the case, Casey has to tough it out for himself. The hard thing is not reaching the top but staying there.
I' ve got my own theory on the tires mystery: Bridgestone is simply happier to win with Rossi, not only for the greater media impact that a champion of his caliber brings, but simply because the bike ridden by rival Jorge Lorenzo is the exact same as Valentino’s except for the tires. Bridgestone wants Michelin and everyone else to know that – bikes being equal – Bridgestone tires make the difference.
The next race is scheduled for Mugello, a hometown affair for the Italians who always ride faster here. Rossi won here last year, even after he’d ridden at clearly less than his best for the entire past season, and for last year’s fantastic Casey Stoner, Mugello was one of the few places his Ducati encountered difficulty, even if he did finish fourth that day. Mugello will be another interrogation point for Lorenzo, not to mention Dovizioso or De Angelis because neither have ever raced in the highest CC Class before. The tune for Toseland is different because he’s never even seen Mugello.
With Rossi at the top of the standings, the atmosphere is sure to be intense: we almost expect him to ride with a knife blade clenched between his teeth…and a sharp one at that!