Ryder Notes 2006: The Empire Strikes Back (China Race)


Sunday, May 14, 2006

The factory Honda Repsol team finished one-two in Shanghai but neither of their riders looked particularly happy. Dani Pedrosa scored a debut win off pole after early leader Colin Edwards and a mightily impressive John Hopkins faded slightly as the relentless pace set by the full factory Hondas showed itself.

The still chattering Yamaha and the now only slightly slower Suzuki couldn’t stay with the way the Repsol bike could put down their power and charge off down the three-quarter-mile straight. Mind you, neither could the privateer Hondas, three of which were involved in a brutal dice with the Ducatis for fifth place.

Valentino Rossi’s season took another bizarre twist when his front (yes, front) tire chunked on the straight and took the mudguard with it. He came in but thought the vibration was from a damaged rear tire as has been the case in, until today, 100% of cases. He had a new rear tire put in and was off before any of the Camel crew had noticed the four-inch chunk out of the front slick. He wasn’t out of pit lane before he was standing on the pegs looking over the screen at his front tire.

Dani Pedrosa accepted victory in his usual manner. He did do a bit of smiling and allowed that winning is always a good thing and that winning in a class as tough as MotoGP was extra special but there were no wheelies or burnouts nor any waving to the crowd.

By most people’s standards Nicky had a good day: second in a MotoGP race and increasing your championship lead from one to 13 points could be considered reasons to be cheerful. Nicky simply said he was happy about the championship but he’s here to win. He was gracious enough to say he threw everything at Dani and he withstood the pressure. A few laps from home Nicky took 0.4 seconds out of Dani’s 1.9sec lead but the Spaniard simply responded with the fastest lap of the race. He used to do that a lot in 250s.

Colin was as happy as he could be with third. It was, he said, the best he could have done on the day but the post-race press conference he opened with a plea to Yamaha – pretty please with sugar on – to get rid of the chatter.

So four races in to the season Rossi is 32 points down on the leader, we’ve had three rookies on pole, and four different winners. Anyone still think MotoGP is predictable?

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