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GP Week : Issue 72
AWARDS >> s selected by Michael Scott There was a time during the season when it was far from sure we would ever see Stoner come back as a force in racing. Something similar happened to Freddie Spencer, after all, at just about the same age of 24. And the 2007 champion had raised the spectre of burnout himself, before disappearing into the outback on a three-race ten-week sickie. The ghost was most emphatically laid to rest. Not only did Stoner come back at Estoril as he had originally promised. He was also blazingly back on top form. Second at that race, he won the next two with almost contemptuous ease, and was set to do the same thing at the last round when he fell off on the warm-up lap. Stoner's mid-year malaise was puzzling to everybody, not least the rider. Whatever the cause (the current suspect is either sodium imbalance or lactose intolerance), he means to put it firmly in the past. Many thought that Stoner's success was down to his complete faith in Ducati's electronics. Even Rossi called him "the first of the traction- control generation". More details emerged during 2009: how Stoner actually has found a way to out-think the traction-control, to regain more direct responses to his throttle input. He goes beyond TC. Stoner has hidden depths as well as obvious strengths. 3 -- Casey Stoner It may only have been a 250. But Aoyama's capture of the last-ever quarter-litre crown was as unobtrusively heroic as it was historic. He defeated such redoubtable hard chargers as Marco Simoncelli, Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera with a degree of finesse that has always characterised the best 250 riders. His smooth lines and flowing progress contrast very favourably with the gung-ho style of the Latinos that he defeated. Most impressively of all, perhaps: he won Honda's first championship in the class since 2005 ... with only one motorcycle. Far from being a big factory-backed operation, this put him on a level with the lowliest of privateers. Hiro simply couldn't afford to spill in practice or in the wet. This was something else that made him look conspicuously careful, in this company of chargers. He only lost composure once -- at the last race, with the title in the balance. But the way he regained it: saving a near disastrous crash, then starting out again still cool, was enough to save the day. Modest and articulate, Aoyama thinks his greatest fault may be "I am not aggressive enough". The tactics served him well in 2009. Next year he goes with his rivals to MotoGP. We will see how well they work with the big boys. 4 -- Hiro Aoyama The self-styled Texan Tornado is an old-school racer. He does it for fun, but takes it seriously enough that when things go his way he's generally ready to make the most of his chances. Not to say he's just hell for leather: actually he's one of the smoothest. What he did better than ever in 2009 was overtake people. At several races he'd find reverse gear in the early stages, for all sorts of reasons. Then he'd get himself all collected and the bike right, and set about the task of getting back up again. Almost inevitably this was one step short of the four top factory riders -- a role he sometimes seemed to accept a bit too easily. But then again, at 35 he knows where he's at. And finished fifth overall, to underline it. Colin is a proud red-neck: swears, drinks beer, chews tobacco, watches shocking stuff on his lap- top, has an awesome gun collection, likes big V8 muscle cars, talks about the size of his genitals in magazine interviews ... in short is gloriously politically incorrect and a lot of fun. As great a contrast to the new generation of racing automatons like Pedrosa as you can find. For that reason alone, the longer he stays in MotoGP, the better. 5 -- Colin Edwards 49