Wayne Gardner writes for cyclenews.com...WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES
I've got to say, I'm more than a little surprised. Last weekend at Indianapolis Jorge Lorenzo looked for all money like he had no answer to the Casey Stoner juggernaut. This weekend at Misano he stormed back into possible title contention with an amazing ride that no one could respond to. I'm also quite surprised that Casey should highlight sleep deprivation and muscular fatigue as the reason for dropping off so far and finishing third. I hope there's not more going on here health-wise than meets the eye. Yes, travelling constantly between different time zones and racing MotoGP bikes is a stressful occupation, but he's a young and extremely fit athlete and probably should be up to the task of backing up after a tough week on the road. I know his neck injury from Assen has also been preventing him from training as he'd like, therefore effecting his fitness, but I'm still a little puzzled at his performance.
In practice he looked absolutely unstoppable, so it just goes to show that the top guys can certainly have off days when it comes to the actual race. In the early laps I felt he was staying with Jorge without too much of a problem and expected him to blast past and disappear at any moment. Obviously that never eventuated. Then again, the fact he chose to settle for a safe third when it became apparent he wasn't in with a showing is a strong sign of Casey's maturity. And while Lorenzo has closed the gap to Stoner on the points table, I still don't see anything getting in the way of Casey winning a second World Championship - provided he gets enough sleep, of course.
TOEING THE LINE
So should Dani Pedrosa have been instructed by Honda to stay behind Casey, thereby allowing the Australian to claim the most points possible and limit the deficit to Lorenzo? There's certainly a strong case for it. After all, Honda has spent many millions of dollars over the past few years in an attempt to win an 800cc MotoGP title. This is their last chance to do so. One of their riders (Stoner) is leading the championship by a comfortable margin. Being beaten by another Honda rider (Pedrosa) who can't win the title will not help the cause.
Despite all these factors, I don't think team orders were necessary. More to the point, Honda wouldn't have thought so, either. Strange as it may sound, the Japanese are not fans of sticking their noses into these things unless it comes down to a do-or-die final round situation. With five races left in 2011, that certainly wasn't the case in this instance. The other thing is, Honda will have complete confidence in Casey to be able to bounce back to his best next race. As for Casey himself, I'm sure he'd rather win the championship on his own merits - not because someone was told not to pass him.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Ben Spies needs to be much more aggressive (especially in the opening laps of races) if he's ever going to make the next step up as a MotoGP rider. While he's had an okay 2011 so far, the performances of Lorenzo have generally demonstrated the potential of the Yamaha M1 and where it needs to be finishing in races. Mostly Ben's been a fair way behind, and considering he's nearing the end of his second full MotoGP season, this is a bit of a concern. Ben reminds me very much of Eddie Lawson. Eddie was a guy who would only be comfortable with going all-out if everything on the bike was perfect. And while that approach certainly worked for Eddie, I don't think Ben has that same luxury.
Guys like Jorge, Casey and Dani are just too consistently fast to be given any opportunity to escape. At the Misano race, Ben again appeared to struggle out of the gates before becoming entangled in a highly entertaining battle with Dovizioso and Simoncelli. But I can't help feeling these are guys he should well and truly be beating if he's indeed the next big thing that many people still predict. As things stand, Ben will win more races in the next 18 or so months. However, unless he can do it consistently by the end of 2012 his days as a full factory rider may be numbered.