Sunday, June 18, 2006
You really wouldn’t want Sete Gibernau’s luck.
A horrific first turn pile-up saw Sete flipped over the handlebars when he caught his brake lever on his team mate Loris Capirossi’s Ducati. That set off a chain reaction that put six bikes in the trap and three riders in hospital. While the rest of the field was assembling for the restart, Sete was put in an ambulance and sent to Barcelona. It hit a truck on the motorway. If his collarbone wasn’t properly broken before the traffic accident it was afterwards. Capirossi, who looked to be unconscious in the sandtrap, went to hospital in a helicopter but scans showed none of the suspected internal bleeding. The other victim was Marco Melandri. He was caught up with at least two bikes and was unconscious for a long time. The first diagnosis is concussion, whiplash injuries to his neck, and a dislocated collarbone. If that’s all he got, he’s a lucky man.
What will Ducati do for the two GPs coming up over the next two weekends?
Assuming Loris isn’t badly hurt, tire tester Shinichi Itoh is likely to get a run out.
Pedrosa, Hopkins, and De Puniet made it to the restart. Then the race turned into a crash fest as well. At the end only eleven men made it to the flag.
Up front it was a tale of two dices: the first between Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden for the win, the second between two Americans, Hopkins and Roberts, for the final rostrum position. Stoner led early on but crashed, and Pedrosa, on his second bike, started slowly then came up through the field only to crash as well. As Nicky said afterwards, Rossi was always in control and despite setting the fastest lap of the race, he could never get close enough to mount a serious challenge. Hopkins, also on his second bike and suffering back pain where Pedrosa’s Honda had clipped him in that first turn melee again rode brilliantly on the much improved Bridgestones. Last year, the Japanese tire company had a nightmare here but this time they hung in well enough, but not quite well enough to hold off a cunning, calculating Roberts. Hopkins’ bike was running wide and Kenny waited until the very closing stages before going past and taking the last rostrum spot, his first since Rio 2002. Afterwards he said he didn’t start fast ‘because I didn’t want to bump into anyone important’, which is Roberts code for ‘I didn’t want to push as hard as those young kids early on.’ His dad didn’t want to say much afterwards but a tear was detected escaping from behind the shades.
The end result of a bloodcurdling day is that Nicky Hayden is back at the top of the championship but with Rossi five point closer to him. The Doc was extremely complimentary about Nicky, saying he ‘made a small miracle’ after his practice and qualifying performances. However, as he also pointed out, if it wasn’t for the breakdown in France he would have won the last three races, which ‘proves we are at the same level as last year.’
On the other hand, Ducati’s ambitions in the rider’s and constructors’ championships appear to have dematerialized in a cloud of Catalan dust.