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GP Week : Issue 165
SPIES: IF IT WASN’T FOR BAD LUCK ... DANI COMES BACK FIGHTING 41 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: After the disastrous rear suspension collapse ended Ben Spies’s hopes of being first American home at Laguna Seca, the bad luck that had already dogged his season kept right on at Indy and Brno. The first at the American track was particularly heartbreaking because Ben had led the first two laps and was still right up there when suddenly he disappeared from view in a dense smoke- screen. His engine – quite new, with one practice at Mugello and three at Indy – let go as he passed he pits. Fortunately those following made it through the fog without hitting him, nor was there oil on the racing line. At Brno the team was still awaiting the report, but project manager Tsuji-San said it was a top-end failure, “probably a valve” . At the same Brno debrief Tsuji admitted that the back-end collapse at Indy had been a component failure (obviously); a shock mount that was below par. Quality control, and (like the engine failure) definitely not residual crash damage, he insisted. But problems weren’t over for Ben, his racing future hanging in the balance as he contemplates a return to World Superbikes, among other possibilities. At Brno he qualified heading the second row and was ready to make amends. “My start was okay, at first,” he said. When he shifted to second gear the engine hit the rev limiter. Cooked clutch. Once more he dropped back radically as he waited for it to cool. He was working his way back towards the factory pack when he slipped off. Spies has non-scored at the last three races. Add his other problems: broken sub-frame at Qatar, visor malfunction at Le Mans, a crash at Catalunya, tyre disintegration at Silverstone and Assen, and food poisoning in Italy, his earlier talk of being a victim of voodoo was spookily prescient. “Has anyone got a chicken to sacrifice?” he joked at Brno. Reputations are hard to cast off. Ever since he arrived in MotoGP in 2006, three smaller-class titles in his pocket, Dani Pedrosa has been considered unwilling to fight. His rather sparse 16-race win record was made up of runaways. In hand-to-hand combat, he would always shrink away. A more aggressive Dani (the Spanish call it “fighty”) has emerged over the past season or more, but only tentatively at first. In the 2012 version, especially when freed from the yoke of faster team-mate Stoner, the fighty version proved fully fledged. For 21 laps at Brno he and Lorenzo circulated together, first the Yamaha ahead, and then the Honda. Halfway round, Lorenzo pounced. The pass was close and scary, firmly done. The old Dani would have settled for second. Not this time. He pushed at the bottom of the hill, then threw it all into a last desperate lunge up the steep climb to the final left and right. His light weight and Honda’s surging horsepower played a big part. Not as much as his own aggression. Lorenzo under-estimated his opponent to the extent he didn’t even take a defensive line. Suddenly Dani was almost alongside. Jorge released the brakes to regain the lead but ran wide. Dani won a second race in succession, by inches. The points gap was cut from 18 to 13. Suddenly the championship looked a whole lot more interesting. MOTOGP >>> UPDATE