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GP Week : Issue 177a
HOW THE CROWNS WERE WON MotoGP: Practice makes perfect There was a new look on the grid for 1012. It was full of motorbikes. Last year, after a couple of injuries, only 14 started at one season-end GP, at Phillip Island. Now Suzuki had gone, leaving only 12 MotoGP prototypes. Bring on the new B-team: a new category called CRT using production- based engines (double the six-only allocation for the protos) in racing frames. They made up the numbers, but commanded no further attention. It was the usual suspects at the front, more or less. Not among them Ben Spies, whose second year on a factory Yamaha was a disaster combining a string of random and often bizarre technical failures with increasingly desperate riding errors. It was down to team-mate Lorenzo and the factory Honda pair of Stoner and Pedrosa. For the first half of the year they had a good go at it, Lorenzo edging ahead, thanks partly to the fact that the Honda riders struggled with the latest Bridgestone tyres, introduced after the start of the year. Only when HRC rushed out next year’s prototype mid-season did Honda regain some of its familiar high ground.Stoner lost his chance when he broke his ankle at Indy, raced the next day to fourth, then missed three rounds – he made up for it with a classic comeback to win his sixth home Australian GP in a row.Pedrosa lost it because of a lack of strength earlier in the year, but earned new respect for a his new fighting spirit. Lorenzo won it not by the number of wins, although six was not shabby. It was because he never finished lower than second. “I think we made an almost perfect season,” he said after securing the crown. His only non-finish was he was knocked down at the first corner at Assen. Until the last race, when an ill-judged and apparently flustered overtake ended in a massive high-side. By then, however, he could afford the mistake. Big plaudits to fourth-placed Andrea Dovizioso, spurned by Honda and bent on revenge. He was on the rostrum six times on the satellite Yamaha. The same to Monster Yamaha team- mate Cal Crutchlow, who was frequently inches away from Dovi all race long, and in the early part of the year ahead of him. Cal had the hard-luck story of the year: running out of gas on the last lap at Motegi while battling for third. It dropped him to seventh overall, behind improving new Honda (ex-Suzuki) rider Alvaro Bautista and Valentino Rossi’s Ducati. Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl moved up to join LCR Honda and was easily rookie of the year, and almost on the rostrum once: impressive start. The saga of the Marlboro Ducatis needs almost a book to itself. Rossi’s second year yielded one wet rostrum at Le Mans and a freak second place at Misano in the dry (he had the advantage of several days testing there; the rest came to the line with virtually none after wet practice for yet another race). For the rest, it was a repetition of the previous year: no front feeling, understeer, lack of traction, inability to war the tyres ... same old story, in spite of a complete chassis redesign (carbon to aluminium) and continued updates. By the end, even the promises of new Ducati owner Audi weren’t enough. He became the news story of the summer when he signed to go back to Yamaha next year.By the end also, race department director and design chief Filippo Preziosi paid the price of two years of growing red faces to match the bikes’ livery, moved on to be replaced by Audi nominee, former BMW racing boss Bernhard Gobmeier, fresh from taking the Superbike team to success. Loyal to the last, Nicky Hayden at first outperformed Rossi, but two accidents cost him dear. 46 GPWEEK.com // 46 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> FEATURE