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.SPANISH TAKEDOWN
Okay, first thing's first: the incident involving Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi during Sunday's Spanish MotoGP at Jerez was nothing more than a racing incident. Yes, the move up the inside by Vale was a highly ambitious one, especially considering the wet conditions and the dubious nature of the Ducati front end, but there's no way he intended it to end in the gravel. He basically got in too hot, and the rest is history.Despite the fact that Vale has nine World Championships under his belt, I'm not overly surprised by the crash. I've seen him make mistakes before. He's human, and these things happen. Actually, I was encouraged by his performance leading up to the crash. There's no doubt he was trying extremely hard and taking a lot of risks to try and get a decent result, and this proves he's still committed to giving everything out on the track and not just taking things easy.Despite the problems he's having, he's certainly not content to just ride around making up the numbers for a big pay check. Still, it was certainly something both riders could have done without. Which brings me to...
THE TRACKSIDE RESPONSE
I think the small army of marshals who rushed to Rossi's aid in the immediate aftermath of the crash did the right thing. A lot of people are suggesting they were extremely biased in taking the action they did while seemingly ignoring Stoner's request for a push-start to get him back in the race. I don't see it that way. Track marshals should be concerned with only one thing: rider safety.After the crash they would have seen Stoner standing up unaided and Rossi pinned beneath two bikes. It's my opinion that they would have assumed Casey was fine and therefore resolved to assist the rider who was still on the ground. This, to me, is the absolute correct response. The task of sending a crashed rider on their way again is secondary to the issue of rider welfare.Having said that, it's very disappointing that Casey wasn't able to resume and I can understand his extreme frustration at the way events unfolded.
Do you know why I think Valentino kept his helmet on when he went to the Honda garage to apologize? Embarrassment. I think he'd had a bit of time to think about the incident while he was riding around and understood that he'd made a big error. He's been taken out before and knows what it's like to be on the receiving end.Some have suggested he should have waited until later, when there were no TV cameras around, to go and see Stoner. But as a rider in this situation, the first thing you want to do is go and see the other guy to say sorry and make sure he's okay. If anything, I was disappointed at Casey's response. Yes, he was pretty angry and rightly so, but this would have been a chance to score big brownie points and endear himself to many fans around the world.Still, you can bet Dorna would have loved it. It was certainly great TV and there's nothing like a bit of drama to spice up proceedings. Will this incident mark the start of a war between the two? Hardly. Things will be back to normal next race at Estoril. Casey will come out of the blocks with all guns blazing and annihilate the opposition. If it's dry, Rossi will be once again relegated to mid-pack and be nowhere near him.For what it's worth, I think Casey will still win the 2011 championship. While the weekend was a definite setback, count on the fact that Lorenzo and Pedrosa will also have at least one DNF this year, either through crashes or mechanical issues. Casey will make up the points deficit.