This was it. One of those races where I expected Sheldon Cooper to jump out periodically, shouting Bazinga! I would have done it too. But I was too busy clutching my hands, wringing them, taking deep breaths to calm my pounding heart, and wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans. I would have of course, been happier if I had a big glass of rum and Coke at hand. Yes, this was definitely one of those races – the kind that comes up once in a while during the season. It’s the sort you remember – full of guts, glory, good luck, and of course a bit of bad luck.
Even the teams found it difficult to define. So Dani Pedrosa called it “total chaos”. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo called it “difficult”, Valentino Rossi a “really nice race” and the Repsol Honda team, in a press release called it “bizarre”. But it was the San Carlo Honda Gresini team that put it beautifully. In a press release they said, “It was written in the stars that today would be the day Team San Carlo Honda Gresini wrote another page in their history”.
So it was that MotoGP made its way to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Jonathan Rea was to stand in for Casey Stoner, who is still recovering from his Indianapolis injury. Pedrosa, riding high on his Brno success, was gearing up for a victory, even as Lorenzo got ready to defend his position in the Championship Standings, and Nicky Hayden returned to hit the circuit once again (finally. I missed him). Misano promised to be an emotional race – Super Sic’s home circuit, this was the first race here since his passing last year.
A difficult Qualifying left us with Pedrosa at pole, followed by Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow. It did seem like another MotoGP race, where Honda and Yamaha would be stars once again. And so the warm up lap began. It was uneventful. The bikes lined up, waiting for the lights to go off. The engines rumbled, as the riders took their position. One, two, three, and they were off. Wait a minute. They weren’t. The yellow flags came out just as the bikes tried to take off, because of technical problems with Karel Abraham’s bike. There was confusion as some bikes made a false start, only to stop.
The teams got back into position and readied for another start. Meanwhile, Pedrosa’s team tried to remove the front tyre warmer, but the wheel locked. They did manage to resolve the issue, but Pedrosa had to start from the back of the grid. The riders took off on another warm-up lap even as the race was shortened to 27 laps.
It was evident even as the race re-started that this was going to be a different battle. The lights turned red and the racers took off down the circuit, even as Lorenzo pulled away. The riders took the first corner and Rossi came up to 2nd from 6th. Pedrosa was meanwhile, working his way up – fast and neat. A few corners in, it happened, that moment when you scream ‘Oh No’ at the television screen, dumbfounded, no matter what your affiliation. Hector Barbera crashed taking out Pedrosa in the process. The Championship was officially a mess. Crutchlow soon followed suit, crashing after he lost the front.
But the race goes on – always. Lorenzo pulled away, creating a formidable gap. Right behind, Rossi fought to stay ahead, even as Stefan Bradl hunted him down, fighting to pass the nine-time world champion. But stubborn Rossi stayed ahead, refusing to give way. The battle soon shifted focus.
It was Bradl vs Dovi vs Bautista. My fingers may have been crossed for Vale, but I watched the fight for 3rd with my mouth open. Bautista fought Spies, passed him and attacked Dovizioso. The lap counter continued its countdown. There were 12 laps to go and Bautista got past Dovizioso to move into 4th. Bradl was an easy target now. The chase continued. The San Carlo Honda Gresini continued its hunt, striking two laps later. The German slipped places even as Bautista took the 3rd spot. Behind him, Dovizioso continued his climb, pushing hard, riding fast. Bradl slipped even further as Dovizioso and Spies fought past.
It was the last lap. Lorenzo, forgotten, cruised to victory, as Vale followed to take 2nd. But the race wasn’t over. Dovizioso and Bautista fought, wheel to wheel, past the corner, and towards the chequered flag. But Dovi ran wide on the exit. Bautista took the third spot on the podium, a mere 0.003s ahead of the Italian.
This was it. The moment of victory – a perfect win – Bautista’s first at Marco’s circuit. He later said in a press release, “This is a very special weekend for me and the team because of our memories of Marco are so strong coming here to the circuit named in his honour…I am so happy for the team and for Marco because I am sure that wherever he is right now, he was pushing us along. I could feel his hand on my shoulder today and I realized at the end that my name had come loose from my leathers, so you could say it was Marco that was with us today. It has been an extraordinary day and I almost crashed at the start – I picked myself up on my right elbow.”
It was an extraordinary moment too for Rossi, his best race on a Ducati in the dry. It was the dream team’s last race on home ground. He later said in a Ducati press release, “It’s a great result, which I’d like to dedicate to Sic and his family, Paolo, Rossella and Martina…after two difficult years, we really needed that. I’m very pleased because we did a dry race at a high level, always with a fast pace, and with a limited gap to Lorenzo. We worked well. The new frame and swingarm allow us to make more changes to the geometry, and in fact, here the feeling with the front was improved and the bike also seemed to be better balanced on acceleration.” He added that the setup was good allowing him to be fast and consistent through the race.
Was this just a one-off? Or has Ducati finally turned a corner? If the Misano test is anything to go by, it does seem that the factory bike is on the up. That’s what Hayden and Rossi have said, with the Italian even saying that they seem to have found their way. Next up is Aragón. Pedrosa will be back skirmishing with Lorenzo, who now leads the championship 38 points ahead with 270 points. The fight is on.
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