Sunday, March 26, 2006
How much of Valentino Rossi’s vibration problems were sandbagging? Would he really be able to fight for the rostrum as he and his team thought? We’ll never know because after getting a flying start from the outside of the third row, Valentino Rossi had his rear wheel taken out from under him by Toni Elias–who’d found himself on the inside of Turn One with nowhere to go.
Rossi was the only rider to hit the tarmac but a big chunk of the field had their progress seriously disrupted. After a few seconds’ gesturing Valentino picked his bike up and set off after the field with twisted ‘bars, bent brake lever and right footrest, and an inoperable brake lever. He explained the delay by saying that when he crashes he usually trashes the bike so it took a while to think about getting going again.
Just to make Camel Yamaha’s day, Colin Edwards was forced onto the grass in the same incident.
Poor Sete Gibernau started the race strongly with his team mate and finished the first lap in third place – and then the electrics in his quick shifter decided to go on strike. I don’t think he expected to start 2006 as he finished ’05 – with a mechanical failure.
Over the last two years, race times have dropped like stones in a high-speed lift, yet today’s race was 15 seconds slower than last year and no-one is exactly sure why. Certainly the relatively slow pace adds weight to Rossi’s assertion that he would have been able to battle with Nicky Hayden for the final rostrum position.
It may also have helped the amazing Dani Pedrosa finish second in his first MotoGP race. He didn’t just finish second, he pushed Loris Capirossi all the way and looked like a veteran MotoGP rider, picking the bike up early coming out of corners and firing it out on the fat part of the tire. He got to within half-a-second of Loris a few laps from home but with six to go the Italian pushed again and three laps later Pedrosa was beaten. Nevertheless, he became the first rider in the top class to get a rostrum finish on his debut since both Biaggi and Haga at Suzuka in 1998.
Rossi said he wasn’t impressed by Pedrosa because “I knew he was fast.’
The other class rookie who embarrassed a few regulars was Casey Stoner, who came home sixth despite having missed the last two Winter tests.
The one thing everyone, including Rossi, was agreed on was that Loris Capirossi had things under control all weekend. Last year he went from victories at Motegi and Sepang to Qatar and had a disaster in the race when his Bridgestones refused to work. In two weeks MotoGP moves back to the Middle East and we’ll find out if Bridgestone can do the same job there. Valentino, for once, finds himself playing catch up not doing as escape act.
Jerry Burgess, as usual, had a novel take on the situation: “This is where I thought we’d end up after the first race of 2004,” – a reference to Valentino’s first race on the M1 which he won.