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The Race That Was Catalunya

It has been a week since the Catalunya GP and I haven’t posted a word on it. I guess I could take the easy way out and say that my day job left me barely enough time to write. But that would be just an excuse.

Deep down, I know I have struggled to write about this race. I have always tried to bring a different touch to each race, searched for that something special, which stood out – for me, that is. But I often fear that all my posts will after a time sound the same.

The posts would be very different if I was travelling to see each race live. Perhaps one day, that dream will come true. But till then, I see what the television airs. So often times, the real races, the ones that take place at the middle or back of the grid, are relegated to team press releases.

How was Catalunya any different? I asked myself this question many times. Qatar, Jerez, and Estoril had the same three names on the podium. The order may have varied, but Stoner, Lorenzo, and Pedrosa rocked in all the races. Le Mans was an aberration. Valentino Rossi rose like a phoenix in the rain, muscling his way past Stoner in a mind-blowing finish to reach a 2nd. But Catalunya was dry. So, how was it any different?

The passion that is Valentino Rossi. At Catalunya GP 2012. Image courtesy Motorsport X-Press; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

We know it was, simply because it was a startling race. Every time I watch a MotoGP race, I come away convinced of a few things. Among them is the knowledge that Casey Stoner’s method balances Valentino Rossi’s madness; his cool, logical, calculation offset by Rossi’s passionate precision. I see such similarity as I watch them race. Yet, the two couldn’t be more different.

I see a youthful exuberance in Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, a quiet determination in Cal Crutchlow, steeliness in Andrea Dovizioso, and a distinct panache that is all Nicky Hayden.

There should be confusion on the track. Instead, there is synchrony, the harmony of a philharmonic orchestra reaching a crescendo. And perhaps, in many ways, it all did come together rather seamlessly in Catalunya. For a change, that is. The racers seemed rejuvenated. Or perhaps I was, after the spectacular Le Mans GP.

Andrea Dovizioso at Catalunya GP 2012. Image courtesy Motorsport X-Press; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

The two hometown heroes, Pedrosa and Lorenzo battled to the finish – racing towards the chequered flag, closing in and then opening up the gap between each other. Close on their heels, Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Stoner battled for a third, till the very last swish of the flag. Dovizioso and Crutchlow have been like tigers stalking their prey for most of the 2012 season. They have been waiting in the wings and have given us some amazing moments. So, it was with bated breath that I watched the grand finale. It was almost the end of the race. Suddenly, Stoner, it seemed, was tired of being at 4th. He started the push for a 3rd, front to tail, and it seemed almost like he would get want he wanted. But Dovizioso has been waiting for a podium for too long. He held off the world champion in what was a spectacular, nail-biting finish.

Rossi, the phoenix, was different too. Maybe it was the Le Mans victory? I saw him push his Ducati, or at least as far as the bike would let him go. It was one of his best dry races on a Ducati. He said so too, in a press release. “…I finished closer to the group in front of me, and the gap in lap times was about half a second, which is the smallest that we’ve had so far.” He talked of hope (something he gave up on post-Qatar) and said of the two-day testing ahead, “We hope to take another small step, because the riders who were ahead of me today weren’t ‘too far’ ahead.”

Catalunya was a first of sorts this season. Stoner wasn’t on the podium, for the first time since Jerez last year. Lorenzo, determined to snatch Stoner’s crown is now 20 points ahead.

As the race came to a close, I watched Lorenzo do his elaborate victory dance, setting off frothy mushroom-like foam in Lorenzo’s Land colours. I realized then that I was now looking forward to seeing some new faces on the podium.

Maybe I am biased, but I know that Vale is getting ready for a brilliant comeback. Knowing what we know about Rossi, he’s determined to make the Ducati a championship bike. And he’s well on his way.

Waiting to strike: Cal Crutchlow at Catalunya GP 2012. Image courtesy Motorsport X-Press; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

Who else will we see on the podium doing an elaborate victory dance? It’s only a matter of time before Crutchlow makes his presence felt. Silverstone perhaps? Who else I wonder? Maybe that’s why Catalunya was different from all the other races this season. It was here that I realized that I was now looking for the next generation of competition. Perhaps the next few races will unveil these faces?

All images used courtesy Motorsport X-Press

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