MADE IN JAPAN
The best thing I can say about Sunday’s Japanese GP is that it was unusual. Three riders jumped the start, Valentino Rossi crashed out on the first lap, and Casey Stoner ran off the track after suffering a near disastrous high-speed tank-slapper. After all that, it was pretty obvious that the race was going to struggle to deliver any real action. The Motegi track itself also didn’t do us any favors. There’s just something about the nature of that place that seems to always prevent a memorable spectacle. I’ve raced sports cars there in the past and it’s been the same thing – long, drawn-out processions. Seeing all the front-end crashes and run-offs suffered by the likes of Bautista, Elias, Cudlin, Hayden and Crutchlow in the race, I also wouldn’t mind betting that the actual track surface isn’t the best, and that low temperatures were also making it difficult for riders to generate any front tire heat.
Anyway, hats off to Dani Pedrosa. That win will have scored him huge brownie points with the top Honda brass, who finally saw their bike win at Motegi after many years of trying. Jorge was as smooth as ever, and despite the fact he’s nearing the end of his reign as World Champion, showed no signs of throwing in the towel. In the end, the real action came from the battle between Simoncelli and Dovizioso for fourth place. It was an entertaining scrap and for me justifies Honda’s decision to provide Simoncelli, and not Dovizioso, with factory gear for next year. Dovi really should have finished ahead yesterday. While obviously a very talented rider, he just hasn’t got what it takes to go that extra two or three-percent. In contrast, I think that Simoncelli may just have that little bit extra. In addition, yesterday’s close scrap also provided the first indication that Super Sic has finally worked out how to make tight passes late in a race without causing disaster.
A lot of people have already been asking me about what happened with Casey’s near miss, when that huge head-shake from his bike saw him run off into the gravel and nearly crash. While it’s not something you see often, the extremely sensitive nature of a MotoGP bike means that something like this is always on the cards. I’ve had the same thing happen to me when I was racing. It even caused me to crash on at least one occasion. It’s a pretty scary thing, let me tell you. It happens when the bike hits a bump or series of bumps in the track at very high speed. But that’s not the only contributing factor. Maybe your weight is distributed in a slightly different way to normal, and maybe the front wheel is aligned, for a split second, in a slightly different angle than normal when it hits the bump. It’s like when all the planets align to cause the prime conditions for the bike to become severely unsettled.
The massive shake then causes the brake pads to get knocked back in the calipers, so when it comes time to grab the brake, nothing happens. That means you have to pump the brake lever hard again. But by now the pads have returned to their normal position and there’s a good chance you’ll go flying over the handlebars, or as in Casey’s case, have the back wheel jump violently off the road. As we all saw, he did an amazing job to save it. He also did an amazing job to put a very frightening incident behind him to finish third. I know he looked a bit disappointed at the end, but I reckon he should be extremely pleased with his save, as well as the fact he still leads the championship by a fair margin. At this level of racing, you can’t win ‘em all.