MOTOGP: Round 11 – Brno, Czech Republic – 16 August

With Casey Stoner taking a medical sabbatical from MotoGP for three races, MotoGP lost a bit of its zip coming into Brno, and the race itself also lacked a little sparkle even though it saw a classic duel between team mates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo at the front for most of the race.

Off the starting line, Lorenzo had a bad start and saw Tony Elias rocket past him from the second row, while Dani Pedrosa’s low body weight advantage once again showed as he took the lead from Rossi going into the first turn. It didn’t last long, however, and a few corners into the first lap, Rossi reclaimed the lead at the same time that Lorenzo also put Elias back in his place.

However, it took Lorenzo longer to take care of his arch-rival compatriot Pedrosa to reclaim the second spot he’d started with. he finally did it on lap 4 with a nice move around the outside, parking the Yamaha right in the inside line into the next turn that meat Pedrosa had no choice but to yield. Once Lorenzo was past, the two Yamahas took off and left Pedrosa in a very lonely third place for the remainder of the afternoon.

At the mid-race point, Rossi tried one of his classic tactics of putting a few record-setting fast laps in to break the competition. But it didn’t work on Lorenzo, who responded and started to set faster and faster laps of his own. The two were locked together, Lorenzo seemingly faster but Rossi in charge.

Finally, with six laps to go, Lorenzo dived down the inside of Rossi into turn 3 and forced his way through. Sometimes this can be another Rossi tactic – force the other guy into the lead so that he can then watch the racing line and let the other rider feel the pressure of being harried from the back for a few laps. But that didn’t seem to be the case here, and Rossi seemed visibly startled and annoyed by the move: he was not about to let this stand, and immediately set about plotting his revenge the next time around.

Come the next time into turn 3 and Rossi appeared set to strike – and Lorenzo knew it. Jorge tried to go into the turn wider, carrying more speed, to try and fend off the anticipated strike – but he overcooked it and the bike slid out form under him, sending both rider and hardware into the gravel. The bike was done, and Lorenzo was furious – mostly, one suspects, with himself. It handed Rossi an easy cruise to the chequered flag and a 50pt advantage over his only serious remaining rival in the championship, a massive psychological boost.

There’s no question that Lorenzo is fast and talented – the best rider on the grid, possibly even including Valentino Rossi. But he’s also still young, prone to the occasional rash move due to lack of experience, and it means that while he tops the timesheets in practice and qualifying, he doesn’t have the consistency over a full race distance to avoid the frequently race-ending mistake that kills a championship campaign. It’ll come – maybe even as soon as 2010 – but until it does, he’s making it easy for Rossi.

Further back, Lorenzo’s exit promoted Pedrosa to second and meant that the pack some ten seconds behind him consisting of Elias, Andrea Dovizioso and Loris Capirossi became the battle for the final podium spot. It was a pitched battle between Elias and Dovizioso – in truth, Capirossi was only in with a chance if the two of them took each other out and allowed him to pounce. Elias led for most of the race, but then started trading places with Dovizioso at a furious rate – at one point, Dovizioso pulled off a sweet pass only for the Honda to destabilise and leave him hanging on for dear life with his knees, definitely the save of the day. But ultimately Elias reclaimed the spot and left Dovizioso only just able to beat Capirossi to the finishing line by the narrowest of margins. It wa s a great result for Elias, who had just found out that he’s out of the Gresni Honda team in 2010 and looking for a ride – this should help him on the job market.

Further back, there was another battle over 9th place between Marco Melandri and Mika Kallio. Melandri shot past the replacement Ducati driver on the last lap, but Kallio was caught by surprise and already committed to the apex of the next corner – which was exactly where the Kawasaki now was. The two bikes collided with enough force that Kallio was thrown forward to virtually ride pillion as both riders skated off into the gravel. Kallio was deeply displeased, roughly rushing Melandri away when Marco came over to remonstrate in cloud of dust and gravel that had been thrown up.

Meanwhile, as all this was happening, Rossi was crossing the line and taking a bow. It had been a perfect day for him, but less so for the MotoGP championship, which now goes to the United States with the championship effectively decided even six laps from the end of the season. It’s a shame that the fire has gone out of the title hunt so early, but it’s not Rossi’s fault that his chief rivals (Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa) have hobbled their challenges (mystery illness, mistakes, early injury respectively.)

Until then – all hail the once and future world champion, the Greatest Of All Time!

Race results

Pos  Rider             Bike               Time/Gap
 1.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha           43m08.991s
 2.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda             + 11.766s
 3.  Toni Elias        Gresini Honda     + 20.756s
 4.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda             + 21.418s
 5.  Loris Capirossi   Suzuki            + 21.538s
 6.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati            + 25.544s
 7.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha     + 25.676s
 8.  Alex de Angelis   Gresini Honda     + 34.109s
 9.  James Toseland    Tech 3 Yamaha     + 35.617s
10.  Randy de Puniet   LCR Honda         + 39.824s
11.  Chris Vermeulen   Suzuki            + 40.776s
12.  Niccolo Canepa    Pramac Ducati     + 50.661s
13.  Gabor Talmacsi    Scot Honda        + 59.188s

Retirements:

     Mika Kallio       Ducati           20 laps
     Marco Melandri    Hayate Kawasaki  20 laps
     Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha           17 laps
     Michel Fabrizio   Pramac Ducati    5 laps

MotoGP championship standings

Lorenzo’s second conseutive fall in two races makes the championship all-too-easy for Rossi, gifting him a 50pt lead over his young team mate. If he does no more than finish second for the remaining races of the year, he will still win the championship.

Pos Driver  Points
1   Valentino Rossi     212
2   Jorge Lorenzo       162
3   Casey Stoner        150
4   Daniel Pedrosa      135
5   Colin Edwards       112
6   Andrea Dovizioso    107
7   Randy de Puniet      80
8   Marco Melandri       79
9   Loris Capirossi      77
10  Chris Vermeulen      72
11  Alex de Angelis      68
12  Toni Elias           63
13  James Toseland       62
14  Nicky Hayden         57
15  Mika Kallio          34
16  Niccolo Canepa       32
17  Sete Gibernau        12
18  Yuki Takahashi        9
19  Gabor Talmacsi        8
        
Pos Constructor Points
1   Yamaha      255
2   Honda       184
3   Ducati      166
4   Suzuki      100
5   Kawasaki    79
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