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GP Week : Issue 50
What’s the point? Everything Athird of the season is done, and the World Championship is in a remarkable position. in a fitting tribute to a year of epic struggle, the three top contenders are equal on points. Each has two wins, Lorenzo and Rossi both have a pair of seconds, as well as one no-score apiece. Only Stoner has points from every race. The result is a round total of 106 points apiece. And as level a playing field as you could get. It’s as if, as Rossi’s revered crew chief Jerry Burgess quipped after the race, “the first six races didn’t mean anything”. But they did mean something, firstly by knocking the luckless Dani Pedrosa out of the immediate picture, and secondly by establishing the tri-partite landscape which each rider now surveys. For Stoner, they proved that the Ducati no longer has a speed advantage, but that dogged persistence and reliable performance are worth as much as a flashily fast bike. Just like he’s always said. For Lorenzo, his potential has been confirmed, with two fine defeats of illustrious team-mate Rossi, and only one mistake. But for Rossi, Catalunya was the pinnacle. It was his proof that he can not only withstand pressure and come back fighting, but that he can keep laughing all the time he’s doing it. He’s as strong as he’s ever been. If either of the others does beat him this year, they will deserve the highest accolade. To slide or not to slide the 4.727-km Montmelo circuit has always been sacred to the slide. the long power-on corners have yielded some of bike racing’s greatest sideways moments, from the days of Mick doohan ‘cookin’up a barbie’on his 500 honda through the wheelspinning years of the 990s. In 2009, there was some notable sliding again: mainly from 2006 (990) champion Nicky Hayden, an accomplished ex-dirt-tracker. Giving the lie to the notion that the less torquey and more tightly electronically controlled 800s aren’t capable of such drifting action. And giving the American a much-needed boost, placed sixth in free practice. But he wasn’t sliding like that in his race to tenth, after he was forced to contain his exuberance. His explanation shows that if it is electronics that have 26 tamed the tigers, it is only by necessity. It’s actually restrictive regulations on fuel consumption and control tyres that have brought the front and rear wheels back into line. When he had fuel to burn and tyres made to suit his personal style, a wheelspinner could and usually would win races. But with just 21 litres, there’s no room for any wasted wheelspin. And with just two universal tyre compounds available from Bridgestone, the harder compound a wheelspinner needs is no longer available. The only plus point, Hayden said, was he needed to use the rear brake less on the corner exit, now he could use the throttle more as he was used to. “That might save on a little gas.” Not enough, however. Sadly, in the end, ‘sensible’had to prevail over ‘spectacular’.