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GP Week : Issue 72
by the Texan veteran Colin Edwards, riding a satellite-team Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. The Honda had problems adapting to the new Bridgestones: stiffer than the Michelins and requiring different chassis responses. Yamaha, meanwhile, had wrought the M1 into that paragon of racing: the bike everyone wants to ride. Almost anyone can go fast on it. This remained a distant dream for Ducati. Stoner could work miracles he was well enough, but in spite of promising satellite performances by ex-125/250 man Mike Kallio (rookie of the year) and late- season arrival Aleix Espargaro, it remained a one-man bike. To the dismay of new Marlboro team recruit Nicky Hayden, who never stopped trying to improve, but made progress far slower than he would have liked. By year's end he was closer to the front, but ended up a downbeat 13th overall, still a work in progress: "Next year we'll get to tracks and already have some data: that should help," he said. The Stars and Stripes were waved instead by Edwards, in his seventh year and still awaiting that first win, but riding as well as ever. His best was a run from almost last to second in the wet in Britain, while he was consistent and strong everywhere else. Fifth was thoroughly deserved. Another American hove into view at year's end, travelling at high speed. Ben Spies had secured the Superbike title at his first attempt, and ran as a wild card on a fifth Yamaha in the final round at Valencia. He impressed everybody, climbing from 12th to a strong seventh, then nosing even closer to the front men in post-race tests. He'll be interesting next year. Seventh to 13th overall were very close: a span of just 11 points covering the group. Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda) emerged on top, erratically brilliant as always, with a best of third at Brno, but unemployed at year's end. Team-mate Alex de Angelis, much feared as a wild man (he knocked Edwards and Hayden down at Assen), was four points behind with a best of second: he too was looking for a ride. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), Marco Melandri (Hayate Kawasaki), Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) were next, then Hayden, each of them with a sad story. The Suzukis struggled for pace all year. Melandri's first year on the Kawasaki became his only one: the factory decided to pull out and the team survived on sufferance and without any technical development. De Puniet managed to cut his crash rate radically, but then fell while motocross training and broke his ankle badly, spoiling the second half of his year. And how about the control tyres? Following a spell in which Bridgestones had come to dominate former rulers Michelin, it was welcomed in at least putting everyone at the same disadvantage. Didn't work out quite like that. Firstly the long-life restricted-use tyres (20 per weekend each, pre- selected from just two available compounds) turned out to perform a lot better than had been expected. Secondly, the stiffer carcases suited some bikes and riders better than others. Overall, however, the move was hailed even by its opponents as a grudging success. All part of a season of which the same can be said. With everyone one year further on in tyre adaptation, with engines dumbed down still further, and with all the main players still on the same bikes for next year, 2010 is highly promising as well. 32