I am so excited; I could jump up and down screaming Halleluiah. We are well into January and there’s two more months to MotoGP season. Oh, I can’t wait. I have been this lost soul, wandering through my Sundays watching TV shows like there is no tomorrow.
And while I simply adore Dean and my trenchcoat angel Castiel, it’s the growl of MotoGP bikes that make me the happiest. Yes, I am one of those ones who refuse to wear earplugs while watching a race live; I get that happy little shiver, and love conversations that centre around fairing, suspension, tyres and engines.
So, even though this season was a little more of the way seasons have been the past couple of years: Honda and Yamaha duelling, as Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner fight for the crown, 2012 offered up a little more than just the usual. 2012 also proved to be an awesome year for this blog, after I won the Eni – Energy for Success 2012 award for best article in the under-36 category. So here goes, my 10 key moments last season, and no, they are not in the order of importance!
I Power Move
It started with the 1000cc bikes – more powerful than ever, promising off-the-wall fights. And well, more power to the bikes I say. Plus, may I add, the sweet sound they made as they roared past in Valencia was nothing short of music, i.e. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
II Numbers Game
Then, came the introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams, meant to increase the number of racers at the grid to 21 riders. It was great to see a populated grid, but a shame to see phenomenal racers like Colin Edwards struggling on the CRT and being lapped rather consistently by the factory and satellite teams. The Aprilia ART machines did prove competent, but as a viewer, I often felt that there were two races playing out simultaneously – one between the CRTs and the other between the factory and satellite bikes.
III Dreams Gone Sour
After the debacle that was the 2011 season, Ducati returned determined to break through and grab some podium finishes. Valentino Rossi tried his best, his very best. But despite grabbing two podiums, it was obvious that there was something really, really wrong with the machine, at least for Vale. He struggled, complained bitterly, and often found himself racing the slower satellite bikes or the CRTs. But the Ducati seemed to come alive on wet as Vale took the 3rd spot at Le Mans, and then later in dry conditions, an emotional Vale took 2nd at Misano. The season however seemed to have hit a plateau for Nicky Hayden. The Kentucky Kid showed much promise through many of the races, but somehow always managed to slip back down the grid as the race progressed. He didn’t grab a single podium last year.
IV Casey Goes Fishing
The first shocker of the season came at Le Mans when Casey Stoner, 24 hours before the race, made an announcement that stunned the grid, fans, and journalists alike. He was retiring. In true Stoner style, the Australian didn’t spare the punches stating rather baldly that he had lost the passion and was disappointed with what the sport had become.
He said: “After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it. I don’t have the passion for it and so at this time, it’s better if I retire now.”
There are a lot of things that have disappointed me, and also a lot of things I have loved about this sport, but unfortunately the balance has gone in the wrong direction. And so, basically, we won’t be continuing any more. It would nice if I could say I would stay one more year, but then where does it stop? So we decided to finish everything as we are now.”
V Rise and Shine
Dani Pedrosa, who has for long been living under the shadow of most of his teammates, rose up as a worthy challenger, becoming the Championship contender. He gave Stoner and Lorenzo a fight for the title, one that became intense after Stoner took a break from racing to recover from an injury. But, Pedrosa’s championship dreams fell by the wayside after the Australian Grand Prix, when a retirement extended Lorenzo’s lead by 43 points. With just one more race to go at Valencia (one that Pedrosa won), the Spaniard’s championship dreams were postponed by another season. He ended 2nd in the championship with 7 wins, 15 podiums and 332 points, his best season to date.
VI Moving Camps
Then, came the announcement we had all been waiting for. It was obvious that the Italian dream team was in trouble. There was anarchy in the red camp, as Valentino Rossi openly grumbled about his non-performing machine post-Qatar. Then, in August, during the much-deserved break, Yamaha announced that Vale would be returning to the blue camp. The managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing, Lin Jarvis said while announcing their 2013-14 line-up with Vale and Jorge Lorenzo, “We have run this ‘super team’ together in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and during that time we achieved the ‘triple crown’ titles with rider, manufacturer, and team world championship victories for three consecutive years…I have no doubt that with the experience, knowledge, skills and speed of these two great champion riders, we will be able to challenge for many race wins and for the 2013 and 2014 world championship titles.”
Yamaha eagerly posted a video welcoming Vale home. Here it is:
VII A Fall From Grace
If ever there was a testament to bad luck, it was Ben Spies. The American entered MotoGP riding high on his success at SBK. But, fortune did not favor him. Whatever could go wrong did. But things were looking up at the other side of the garage. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo’s performance was perfect. He was bringing home the wins. Then, Yamaha told Spies to shape up or say bye-bye. Luck however continued to spiral downward until he crashed at Sepang and suffered a separated shoulder, cracked rib and bruised lung. His season had ended. Test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga took his place for the last two races. Meanwhile, Spies signed on with Pramac Racing to ride the Ducati in 2013.
Spies later told Cycle World, “Looking back, I know I tried 100 percent in all the races, but as everybody saw with all the crazy mechanical problems we had this past season – blistered and chunked tires, rear suspension failure, blown engine, fried clutch, overheated brakes – something else wasn’t 100 percent. There’s no way anybody could have planned all that or made it happen. Usually one of those things happens once a year to a rider. For us, they all happened in one year, back-to-back. It looks bad for the team, but I know it had nothing to do with them. It was just a lot of bad luck.”
VIII The Honey Badger Attacks!
If you ask me who my favourite rider was in 2012, I would of course say Vale. But that’s loyalty talking. There was just one rider, who jumped out and grabbed my attention, stunning me and everyone else. I am talking about Cal Crutchlow. This was his second MotoGP and Cal gave us startling performances, phenomenal nose-to-nose racing with teammate Andrea Dovizioso, and of course his stunning ride at Silverstone. He ended the season with two podium finishes, the first at Brno, and 7th in Championship standing, as well as a slew of new fans who can’t wait to see him work his magic this year.
IX The Winner Takes it All
The frightening crash at Valencia and the determined Honda riders notwithstanding, Jorge Lorenzo dominated 2012 running almost flawless races through the season. He finished 1st or 2nd in 16 races with 350 points. The only two times he did not finish in one of the two positions was first at Assen and then at Valencia. He is the third rider (after Mike Hailwood and Phil Read) in the history of Grand Prix racing to win more than a single world title in both the intermediate and premier class.
X The Score Board That Never Seemed To Move
There were five names that consistently made it to the top of the scoreboard through the 18 races. If it wasn’t Jorge Lorenzo, then it was Dani Pedrosa, or Casey Stoner. They played musical chairs and often left me wondering when things would change. The two riders that provided race relief were Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, riding Tech 3, the satellite Yamaha team. It was heartening to see the satellite teams giving the factory bikes competition. It also proves that Cal and Dovizioso will make it to the watch-out-for-them list this year.