MotoGP had barely returned from its summer hiatus when another three-week break arrived to halt the intriguing championship battle, just as it was getting seriously interesting. Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo pushed each other to the wire at Brno and all the indications are that the season may come to a similar conclusion. Six races remain, taking place over the next nine weekends, for a champion to be crowned with the countdown starting at Misano.
In Casey Stoner’s absence, there can be no doubt that we’re looking at a two-horse race for the title and the two Spaniards gave us a taste of what’s to come in the run-in at the Czech Republic. The pair were virtually inseparable from start to finish with Pedrosa making the decisive move with just two corners remaining. What looked like becoming a 23 point gap between the two had instead been reduced to 13 and the momentum was firmly with Pedrosa.
The task for Dani now is to maintain the edge that he and his team have established over the summer. Repsol Honda have actually won five of the last six races and the man who has so often seen title challenges ruined by untimely injuries, now has the opportunity of a lifetime.
The same can also be said of his new teammate for the time being although simply being on the MotoGP grid will be an achievement to savour for Jonathan Rea. The Ulsterman will make his Grand Prix debut with Repsol Honda this weekend following years of loyalty to the Japanese manufacturer which has taken him to multiple BSB and World Superbike wins. Rea also helped Honda to victory at the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race in July and has unquestionably earned his spot.
It would be asking a lot for Rea to get anywhere near his teammate and play a supporting role in the championship, something that will place added significance on the role of Ben Spies. The American has announced this week his switch to the satellite Ducati team in 2013 so how motivated he would be to help Yamaha remains to be seen, but the team will definitely be urging him to make life difficult for Pedrosa. Spies, meanwhile, will simply be hoping his motorcycle runs reliably for once.
One man who is definitely staying with Yamaha-power for next year is Cal Crutchlow who has signed up for another season with Tech 3. Crutchlow will be riding on the crest of a wave after making history, something British athletes have doing a lot lately, with his first podium finish at Brno. The Coventry rider now has to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder and find the consistency of his teammate Andrea Dovizioso who’s stood on the podium five times this year.
Unless the weather co-operates, Ducati can only dream of a podium finish but there will plenty attending Misano this weekend hoping for precisely that. The home fans will have their last chance to see Valentino Rossi on the Desmosedici in person before his return to Yamaha which the Italian will want to mark with a good result. Ducati will also welcome Nicky Hayden back into the fold after injury kept him out of Brno, giving the supporters two factory GP12s to cheer.
While the situation returns to normal at Ducati, things have changed further down the pitlane with CRT squad Avintia Blusens relegating Ivan Silva to the role of test rider. David Salom has vacated the Pedercini Kawasaki in World Superbikes to join Yonny Hernandez on the BQR machine, meaning there will be two SBK regulars mixing it with the Grand Prix stars on Sunday.
For most attending this event, it promises to be an emotional occasion though with MotoGP attending for the first time since the circuit was officially renamed the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. The universally popular Italian, who lost his life in Malaysia last year, lived less than five miles away from the track on the Adriatic coast and the riders from all three classes have already paid tribute by cycling the circuit together on Thursday.
Along with MotoGP, the support classes will also be back in action with Marc Marquez planning to resume his charge to the Moto2 title, even if Brno didn’t go exactly as he’d planned. Sandro Cortese is in a similarly strong position in Moto3 and victories for either, or both, could move them to within touching distance of championship glory.
The GP Aperol di San Marino e Riviera di Rimini will get underway at 8:15am on Friday morning with the opening Moto3 practice session and The Checkered Flag will have extensive coverage throughout the weekend.
Misano Former Winners:
|2011||Jorge Lorenzo||Marc Marquez||Nicolas Terol|
|2010||Dani Pedrosa||Toni Elias||Marc Marquez|
|2009||Valentino Rossi||Hector Barbera||Julian Simon|
|2008||Valentino Rossi||Alvaro Bautista||Gabor Talmacsi|
|2007||Casey Stoner||Jorge Lorenzo||Mattia Pasini|