Former 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner will be offering his GP insights on a regular basis to cyclenews.com readers… and we’re happy to have him. For more from the Wollongong Wonder, visit his website at www.waynegardnerapproved.com.au.GET USED TO IT
Casey Stoner’s win in Sunday’s Qatar MotoGP was the most calculated and intelligent ride I’ve ever seen him put in. He never overstepped the mark, never even looked like getting out of shape, and simply stalked Dani Pedrosa until the time was right to make a clean break and disappear. He is, without doubt and by far, the fastest rider out there. Now that he’s also riding the best bike on the grid, we can expect many similar performances over the coming season.Pedrosa yet again did what Pedrosa does best: starts brilliantly, sets some amazingly fast laps, and then fades badly towards the end when the tires start to wear. I know that Dani suffered from some pretty severe arm problems towards the end of the race, but I can’t help thinking this only added to the problems he already faces due to his complete lack of dirt track experience. On the larger bikes he’s always had issues when it comes to dealing with worn tires during the closing laps, and it’s something he’ll never learn to overcome. It’s a technical shortcoming that needed to have been addressed in his early teens. I’ve spoken with him about it in the past and he agrees that it’s definitely a limiting factor.Stoner, on the other hand, thrives at these points in races and is able to step up his performance to another level when the rubber starts to wear. Thanks to his formative background, he instinctively knows how to modify his style and his lines without sacrificing lap times as the tire degrades. Try as he might, Dani (and everyone else for that matter) will have to get used to the sight of Stoner disappearing into the distance this year.
MEANWHILE, OVER AT YAMAHA…
Yamaha have a bit of work to do. Their lack of drive off the corners and top speed deficit was plain for all to see. It’s clear they’ve directed all their development into chassis design, and to that end their efforts appear to have paid off. But the package is far from complete. Jorge Lorenzo had to take major risks to get anywhere near the flying Hondas, and the fact he was able to snatch second speaks volumes for his ability and determination. On the other hand, I was a little surprised at Ben Spies’ performance. He really should have been a lot further towards the front end. After such a strong showing in pre-season testing, it was a little disappointing. He really struggled to get past a sub-par Rossi on a Ducati that looks like it’s about to fall over at any moment. He will definitely improve, but those believing in his imminent elevation to serious championship challenger will have to wait a little longer yet. He still has another step or two to make.
REGRETS, HE’LL HAVE A FEW
Did you see Valentino nearly fall off while trying to fend off Spies? Yet again, it was another clear indication of the Ducati’s fundamental chassis design problems. Despite all their off-season efforts, the team have fixed precisely nothing. During the race the bike was also unstable on the entry into the corners, which seems to indicate an additional suspension issue. Then when he got in too hot on the corner in question he tried to adjust his body position to compensate – a move that then caused the front to fall over on him. He was lucky to catch it and hang on. You can see that Vale is very, very scared of the front on that bike. It still offers no feedback or information. It must be extremely unsettling. Amazingly, Rossi just can’t seem to adapt his style to the required degree to make the bike manageable. Yes, his shoulder is still apparently causing some problems, but considering he’s had to repeatedly and successfully modify his approach to learn 125, 250s, 500s, 990s and 800s, I’m very surprised he can’t go faster. More than ever, it just shows the genius of Stoner, who was somehow able to overcome the Ducati’s major flaws and win races. Anyone who reckons he only won his world title because of Ducati’s superior top speed – and there seems to be a lot of them – is a fool. As for Rossi’s seventh place finish, it was pretty much where I expected him to end up. As I’ve said before, Ducati are 12-months off the pace and not much will change in the next six or so months.
I’ve finally decided to sign up to Twitter and see what all the fuss is about. This means that, when possible, I’ll be making comments before, during and after every MotoGP and World Superbike race (where I have internet access), not to mention Remy’s CMV races in Spain as well as other important Team Gardner Racing events. I’ll also be giving general updates on products I’ve tested or new stuff that I’m interested in. It should be a bit of fun and I’m looking forward to learning what all the social networking fuss is about. Oh yeah, my Twitter tag is @TheWayneGardner.