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.BEST RIDE EVER!
What a massive result by Dani Pedrosa. Before Sunday’s Portuguese MotoGP I didn’t give him much of a chance, primarily because he’s just had a shoulder operation and secondly because there’s nothing in his past record to suggest he was capable of such a well-crafted ride. I underestimated him and he responded with the most calculating effort I’ve ever seen him put in. Unable to take the lead early on, he just sat behind Jorge Lorenzo for most of the race. It was an extremely intelligent approach.
In the early stages Dani’s lines weren’t as effective as Jorge’s and he certainly wasn't as quick. But by opting to sit behind his fellow Spaniard he was able to learn some valuable lessons. Did you notice that his lines changed according to what Lorenzo was showing him and that his lap times subsequently improved during the race? He then used all that gathered information against the World Champion when the time was right. Lorenzo, despite being on the sweetest handling bike around that track without a doubt, had no answer.
It was all brilliantly managed and there were no worn tire issues to cause the types of late-race problems that Dani normally encounters. Maybe this latest injury has been a blessing in disguise. When you go into a race injured, some of your best rides can come out of it. Maybe it’s because an injury forces you to be a bit more reserved and settled and encourages you to take a more calculated approach. Either way, he’s certainly given everyone something to think about. Especially Casey Stoner.
Third place was a fairly disappointing result for Casey, who all of a sudden has lost that air of invincibility he’s enjoyed since pre-season testing. I picked him for the win at the start of last week, but the bottom line is he couldn’t catch Dani on the same bike. He didn’t look like he had it together the whole weekend. I was a bit surprised and I think so was he, to be honest. For some reason his bike wasn’t working that well in the last two sections of the track, and I also don’t think he was in the right frame of mind. Maybe all this off-track banter between him and Rossi after the Jerez incident is affecting him. He certainly wasn’t riding like Casey and he quickly needs to get beyond it all and move on as soon as possible.
SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE REST
Marco Simoncelli needs to cool it. He’s obviously very talented and very fast, but he’s simply jumping off the bike too regularly. It’s disappointing because I think he would have been in with a good chance of a top three finish on the weekend. I think Valentino did an okay job with a bike that’s still not very good. The Ducati seems to have improved a little bit but it’s clearly still a long way behind. Vale wouldn’t have been pleased at being pipped on the line for fourth by Dovizioso, but that simply came down to Rossi not having the confidence to carry corner speed onto the main straight.
Someone asked me the other day if Casey would still be winning on this year’s Ducati if he’d stayed with the team. I think the answer is no. Not even he could make up the shortfall to the Yamahas and Hondas that the bike now suffers. If he'd stayed, he'd be suffering the same front-end losses he suffered last year.
I was also impressed by Cal Crutchlow’s effort on the weekend. At the beginning of the year I wasn’t convinced that he should get a start in MotoGP just yet but he’s proved me wrong so far. He’s a real fighter - I’ll give him that. It’s the type of attitude you need to make it in MotoGP and it’s great to see.