Farewell, MotoGP 2011: Spectacular Spies, Stoner the “Stealer”, Celebrating Super Sic.

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Riders of all classes, led by ex-champ Kevin Scwantz, line up at the grid to pay tribute to Marco Simoncelli.

To say that the ultimate race weekend of MotoGP 2011 was emotional would be the understatement of the year.

For the first time in several years of following MotoGP, I’ve to say that it was the most difficult season-ender to sit through, as we racing fans not only have to bid our final farewell to the racing hurricane that was Marco Simoncelli, but also to the era of 125cc and 800cc spec motorbikes.

Here’s a fantastic tribute to the man they called Super Sic: Riders of all classes participated in a tribute lap around the Valencia circuit, spearheaded by former champion Kevin Scwhantz, who wore Marco’s no.58:

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On to the racing: Terol was crowned the last 125cc Champion, and although Bradl suffered a crash early on in the Moto2 race, the result was moot and academic, as the withdrawal of his closest rival, Marc Marquez due to injury, meant that the German was the new Moto2 Champion.

A lot of the fans, me included, assumed that already-crowned MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner would ride off into the sunset by himself for the main race, and while he did take an unsurprising early lead, the main talking point during the 1st half of the race was the dramatic T1 crash that took out Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista, LCR’s Randy De Puniet, and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi. Fans of The Doctor can only look on in dismay as they abandoned hopes of a decent finish to quite a dismal season for the icon. C’est la vie.

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However, during the 2nd part of the race, the trifecta of Honda (Stoner in 1st, Dovisiozo in 2nd, Pedrosa in 3rd) was shattered by a charging Ben Spies of Yamaha, as he broke free from the shackles of 4th to overtake the 2 battling Hondas and, shocker of the day, managed to catch the seemingly cruising Stoner to take the race lead as the number of laps remaining continue to dwindle. Viewers were left at the edge of their seats as we all await on whether Spies can reach the chequered flag first and what Stoner can come up with. Remarkably, the 2011 Champion brandished his mettle as he beat the Yamaha to the line by a mere 0.015 second-photo finish! Quite a crazy end to a season of undeniable rollercoaster-type highs and lows.

Interestingly, Casey Stoner now holds the record of winning the first and last races of the 800cc era (2007-2011) in MotoGP. Show-off.

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To break up all the drama, have a photo of Ben Spies “planking” atop his Yamaha:

Spies making productive use of his downtime. Hmm.

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Until next season then, fellow crazy fans. Meanwhile, may we all live our lives as if we are racing without fear or regrets.

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The Bouncebackable Dictionary: DEMI-ALIEN.

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DEMI-ALIEN:
1 A highly-skilled MotoGP rider who is capable of winning but has yet to prove that he can battle long-term with the Recognized Aliens (i.e. Valention Rossi,  Casey Stoner,  Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa) of MotoGP.
2. A potential MotoGP Alien-in-the-making.

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E.g. Ben Spies is a very good rider, but being pipped by Casey Stoner on the line last week in Valencia showed that he needs to up his game and is still lingering in the demi-alien territory.

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Keep Calm and Race On: 10 Reasons Why The Jerez MotoGP Rocked.

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Let me get this out of the way: If you missed this race then you should bitch-slap yourself. Repeatedly.

Spain is a country that is absolutely loco over bike racing, and I’m pleased to report that the riders did not disappoint the faithful apostles that trekked to Jerez and dutifully donned their raincoats for the drizzly race:

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THAT Rossi-Stoner on-track tussle: The moment that racing fans will discuss, analyze, and fight over for the next four weeks. In typical Rossi fashion, he attempted to overtake Stoner on turn 1, but forgetting that he’s not riding a reliable Yamaha anymore but a temperamental Ducati, lost the front and took Stoner down with him in a tangled heap. Both riders had the agility and presence of mind to get back on their bikes to rejoin the race, but the marshals seemed to have given more assistance to Rossi (as proven by the 2nd photo) which cost Stoner precious time and eventually, the race. Small wonder that the gregarious Aussie was pissed.

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Marco Simoncelli’s jaw-dropping pass on Casey Stoner to take the race lead, and his surprising crash/retirement: The afro-haired Italian was most certainly the surprise package of the race. I was too busy keeping my eye on Stoner and Lorenzo’s cat-and-mouse chase that I’ve only noticed Simoncelli’s amazing charge when he boldly overtook Stoner’s dominant factory Honda for the lead, much to the astonishment of practically everyone bar his mother. Shame his amazing charge was halted by his crash. Post-race, Simoncelli also bemoaned the lack of assistance by track marshals. What does a rider have to do to get help, change their name to Valentino Rossi?

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The Battle for 2nd between Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies: They are my top 2 favorite riders in MotoGP, and when things started to heat up between the two on-track, I fought the urge to bite all my nails and almost had one eye closed throughout the tussle. I know both riders are generally “decent” and will not maliciously attack the opponent, but with a damp track and adrenaline coursing through their veins, anything can happen. Spies eventually got the better of Pedrosa and stole 2nd, but mysteriously crashed out a few minutes later which gifted the struggling wee Spaniard the 2nd spot.

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Rain–the Great Equalizer: No question about it, the rain dictated the tempo of the race and wrecked havoc with some of the riders’ fates. After Championship leader Stoner retired, race leader Simoncelli followed, then Randy de Puniet, and then Spies, and then Colin Edwards, who was poised to take the last podium position, bit the dust. Tough luck, mate.

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Dani Pedrosa doing a wheelie as he crossed the Finish Line: Seeing the likes of Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner performing the wheelie to celebrate victories is hardly surprising, but Pedrosa has always been unusually reserved when it comes to celebrations, so seeing him loosen up in front of his home fans was certainly a pleasant surprise. Must have been a massive relief for him to survive that crazy race!

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Post-race: Local hombre and race winner Jorge Lorenzo being labeled as Australian by one TV network. Um, que?! Geography fail. Either that or the tech dude is one big Casey Stoner fan. No wonder Jorge looked confused in the photo.

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Who’s That Dude with the Hombres? If you’ve told me last Friday that Nicky Hayden of Ducati will share the podium with Lorenzo and Pedrosa come raceday, I would have shamelessly laughed in your face, paused to take a breath, and then laughed madly again. However, the gritty American proved that the Ducati can be tamed and that he can calm down long enough to survive the onslaught of slides and crashes. I make fun of him a lot, but I’ll give him credit for this one–Well played, Haystack!

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The King and His Boys: King Juan Carlos of Spain is a massive bike racing fan, and he’s not afraid to flaunt it. His delight at having two Spaniards top the race was quite obvious, as he looked every inch like the proud father (or should that be grandfather?) while he fawned over Lorenzo and Pedrosa before and during the awarding ceremonies. Good thing the two hombres kept calm and raced on– now that’s what being obedient constituents are about! P.S. The boys also behaved themselves and shook hands willingly, no more need for the King’s intervention!

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Post-race: Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner’s face-to-face (or should that be helmet-to-face?) encounter about THAT crash: Apparently, Stoner was not visibly miffed with Rossi, but still managed to edge in the dig “Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent” after Valentino apologized. Meeooww! I want to take that words and put it into a t-shirt. Surely, that comment will live in infamy, Casey.

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Feast your eyes on seventy-five seconds of non-stop racing action from the weekend:

Sadly, we now we have to live with four weeks of MotoGP hiatus. Why must the racing gods be so cruel, at times?

Hurry back, MotoGP!

Random Photo of the Day: MotoGP Goes National Geographic

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Pic from motogpisforlulz

 

Ever wonder what the animal counterparts of the Class of 2010 MotoGP riders will look like? Well, wonder no more.

You know what I’d really pay good money for? Having all those animals ride the 800cc bikes for 1 race. I bet my life’s savings that it would be nothing short of EPIC.

 

Video of the Day: The Ben Spies Method

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Forget about Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Casey Stoner for a moment and watch this 2009 clip of then-reigning World Superbikes Champion, Ben Spies, explaining how he lorded it over the more experienced riders even on tracks he was unfamiliar with beforehand.

Remember his name (for you’ll be screaming it later?), for this guy will surely be a Future MotoGP Champion.

Ignore the fact that he’ll have a powerful, factory-spec Yamaha bike between his legs next season (if you can), the fact that he can poke fun at himself with a straight face (and that charming Texan accent), shamelessly shops for keychains like a true tourist, and can spontaenously create replicas of racing tracks using styrofoam gets top marks in my book.

Now, excuse me while I get myself a nice, tall glass of cold water. That was a lot of smoldering stares in the space of four minutes.

Stone(r)-Cold Win: The 2010 Aragon MotoGP Round-Up

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A Wheelie for the Win: Casey Stoner is finally back to his winning form. Image via GPUpdate.

He’s been called lots of things, from Rolling Stoner, Crashy Stoner to Stacey Moaner, but one thing about this Aussie is that he knows how to win in rampant style.

These are the relevant bits and pieces from the race for those who missed it:

1.0
Motorland Aragon made its MotoGP debut and it looks the boss. However, the inclusion of Aragon in MotoGP now makes it 4 Spanish tracks in a season, so perhaps either Jerez or Catalunya needs to be cut off, even for 1 trial season?

2.0
Prior to the race, this trivbit was disseminated across Social Networkingland: If Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo wins the race, the series is assured of a Spanish Champion, as only Honda rider Dani Pedrosa will be able to mathematically challenge him. Will Jorge be able to fulfill this?

3.0
Friday and Saturday.
Honda man Dani Pedrosa immediately threw down the gauntlet as he dominated in the early practice session. Casey Stoner was the surprise of the day as he topped the 2nd wet practice session.

4.0
Qualifying.
Casey Stoner continued to surprise as he denied both Spanish frontrunners the chance to be pole in their home turf. Jorge Lorenzo was 2nd and Dani Pedrosa 3rd. The 2nd Ducati of Nicky Hayden was 4th while Rising Star Ben Spies of Tech3 was 5th, while reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi had to line up at 7th.

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Raceday.
The Aussie may have snuck in pole position, but majority of the crowd and fans still banked on a Spanish winner, and who can blame them, considering the Ducati’s mercurial characteristics, coupled with Stoner’s on-off form? However, any doubts over Stoner’s intent to win were promptly erased as he rocketed off the starting line, with Lorenzo following close and Hayden getting the better off his ex-teammate Pedrosa, who lost 3 places at the get-go.

6.0
If there’s anything that this season has proved, it’s the fact that the wee man of Honda has banished the ghost of his ‘timid on-track personality’ past, as he charged through the field like a man possessed, taking on Spies, Hayden, then Lorenzo to take 2nd position and started hunting down the Aussie in red.

7.0
For a few laps, Pedrosa started cutting down Stoner’s lead, but as the race went on, whatever the Honda man threw at Stoner, the Aussie man threw back at him two-fold, and as the latter part of the race drew on, it became clear that this was truly Stoner’s race to lose.

8.0
Cut to the battles that made the race:
Nicky Hayden never strayed beyond inches of Jorge Lorenzo’s rear tyre throughout the race, and in the last lap, the 2006 World Champion resurrected his once dominant form as he completed a ballsy pass on the Yamaha man to steal 3rd and the last podium position, much to the astonishment of the crowd.
Meanwhile, Ben Spies showed that he is worth Yamaha’s gamble, as his grit and sheer determination got him a well-deserved 5th place, ahead of Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, who seemed to have been out-psyched by the Texan as he crashed out with barely a lap to go.

9.0
Interesting facts and questions from the race:
-It took Ducati 13 Rounds before winning a race this season.
-The last time that no Yamaha rider made it to the podium was in Valencia, 2007.
-This is the first time in 13 rounds that Jorge Lorenzo failed to make it to the podium (he allegedly was in a stroppy mood after the race and didn’t get to ‘properly’ acknowledge the fans as he rode back to Parc Ferme. How true is this?)
-Does Ducati’s win means their dry spell is coming to a close, and that Valentino Rossi is in ‘safe’ hands for 2011?
Colin Edwards has been confirmed by Tech 3 Yamaha for 2011. He will partner British rider and current Yamaha WSBK rider Cal Crutchlow.
Dani Pedrosa has cut down Lorenzo’s Championship lead to 56 points, with 5 rounds to go.
-Staying with Pedrosa, he has recently signed a 2-year contract with HRC, which means he’ll be Casey Stoner’s teammate for 2011. Who will win the #1 status at HRC?

There you have it. Stoner finally breaks his duck and takes the Duke to the top yet again. Will he shake things up between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, as Rossi continues his flirtation with anonymity, or will it be business as usual for the Spaniards in Motegi?

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For those who missed all the action (and talk):

There’s Fight in the Wee Man Still: The 2010 Indianapolis MotoGP Round-Up

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Dani "Pedrobot" Pedrosa makes a personal milestone in Indy. Image via GPUpdate


Saturday

Reigning World Superbike Champion and Tech3 Rider Ben “Elbowz” Spies made his countrymen proud by clocking in his first pole position in his MotoGP debut season. Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was 2nd, Casey Stoner 3rd, Dani Pedrosa lined up in 5th, and an uncharacteristically mistake-laden Valentino Rossi had to settle for 7th in the grid. He’s had a podium finish and a pole, so can the Texan Spies break the duck and take his maiden win?

Sunday

Spies started brightly and was beginning to pull away from the pack, that was until positions 2nd -7th were all shaken up by the Honda rider Pedrosa, who did not have one of his famous rocket starts–instead, he began to hunt down the riders in front of him, starting with Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, Jorge Lorenzo, and then-2nd placer and fellow Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso. The Texan was able to maintain a decent gap to the Spaniard, but as the latter began churning out consecutive fastest laps, the much-anticipated maiden win was put into immediate danger. The overtake for the race win occurred near the start-finish straight as Pedrosa took advantage of the slipstream and his bike’s more superior straight-line speed. Afterward, his lead was never in danger and as the likes of Marco Melandri, Casey Stoner and Mika Kallio fell by the wayside due to the punishing track conditions, the top 2 eased off and diverted the attention to the on-track tussles between Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden, and a charging Valentino Rossi.

Lorenzo came through and snatched the last podium position, with his teammate Rossi salvaging a decent 4th place. Dovizioso ran out of steam and had to settle for 5th, while Hayden took his bike and the points home safely by finishing 6th, which is no easy feat considering that his knee slider was barely existing by that time.

Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, in all his glorious heft, awarded Dani Pedrosa with the 1st place trophy while late-night talk show host Jay Leno awarded Ben Spies with the runner-up trophy. Interestingly, he has just been confirmed to take Rossi’s seat in Yamaha for 2011, and I do believe, even as early as now, that he is the man to watch out for next season. He is already starting to live up to the hype, and if Jorge thinks that Ben will merely be his #2, he could not be any more wrong.

The Honda man Pedrosa is still 68 points behind Lorenzo in the Championship standings, but now having broken his “2-wins a season curse”, with an impressive ride, he will surely work hard to push his fellow Spaniard until the final race of the season. So Jorge, better spend less time tweeting and/or thinking of your next outrageous victory stunts, this wee man has just thrown the gauntlet and will not give up his title hopes without a proper fight.

For those who missed the action: