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.CALIFORNIA DREAMING
I know it's only July, but I'm already prepared to give the pass of the year award to Casey Stoner. His amazing attack on teammate Dani Pedrosa leading into the corkscrew during the U.S. MotoGP was textbook precision stuff. It certainly gave Dani a surprise, that's for sure. Having ridden at Laguna Seca myself on numerous occasions, I can tell you just how challenging that manuever would have been. Only slightly less impressive was Casey's later pass on Jorge Lorenzo for the lead with six laps to go. Blazing around the outside on a blind kink at 260 km/h is not the easiest thing to do without ending up in the hospital, but again Casey showed the amazing level he's riding at this year.
Mind you, Lorenzo did leave himself open to that pass by making a small mistake on the exit of that final turn. The Californian track isn't the easiest place to make a pass on, so as risky as it may have been, I think the move was definitely the right option for Casey to attempt - especially considering the horsepower advantage of the Honda. In the end, it was a seriously dominant display from the number 27, who more than any other time in his career is clearly thinking a great deal about his approach to riding and racing. It's the best and most calculating ride I've ever seen him do.
But in the first half of the race things certainly weren't looking that great for the Australian. Once again suffering from tire issues, you could see him take the time to safely evaluate the state of his race package before adapting his style to suit its limitations. Once he had it all sussed, no one was going to get near him. However, that's not to take anything away from the performances of Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Both were awesome, and continue to demonstrate just how far they are above the rest of the field.
MEANWHILE, SOME DISTANCE BEHIND
Speaking of the others, I thought fourth was a slightly disappointing result for home rider Ben Spies, who I had down as a possible podium contender. But after a bad start courtesy of some launch control issues he simply found it tough to make the necessary passes early enough and from there on in was never a chance. He'll be downbeat about the whole affair, especially seeing what Lorenzo was able to achieve on the same bike.
Just for something different, Marco Simoncelli once again found the gravel trap to continue what must surely now be a frustrating and worrying trend for his team. I'm not surprised he fell, with his overly aggressive style being one that wouldn't have suited the demanding Laguna Seca layout. You need finesse and fine control to go fast there, and these appear to be traits that the Italian sorely lacks. Will he learn before it's too late? Although I still think he can win a race this year, the patience of Honda and Fausto Gresini must be wearing dangerously thin.
NOW I'VE HEARD IT ALL
I couldn't believe it when U.S. wild card rider Ben Bostrom decided to pull out of the race because he felt his LCR Honda was too good for him. Even worse was the fact he cited the importance of some Superbike race he was scheduled to take part in after the GP as playing a part in his decision. What an absolute disgrace. And what an absolute waste of time and money for the LCR team and its sponsors. The chance to take part in any MotoGP is an honor for anybody lucky enough to be offered the opportunity. It's what so many riders give everything to try and achieve. It's the pinnacle of motorcycle road racing. Most never get there. For Ben to just give up and take the easy option because he was looking a bit ordinary is about the poorest display I've ever seen.
True, the bloke was never going to set the world on fire and, really, I can't understand why he was given the chance in the first place. He's done nothing for over 10 years and nothing to deserve the shot he got at the weekend. Yes, he was woefully off the pace in practice and had run off track a few times in the race. But so what! Rather than moan about his lack of talent, the least he could have done was to finish the race at a pace he was comfortable with. What wasn't acceptable was the half-arsed effort he decided to put in. It did nothing for the event and only served to cheapen the whole ideal of MotoGP.