Saturday, April 08, 2006

MotoGP: Too old? Get out!

MotoGP rookie Casey Stoner's remarkable top qualifying time yesterday at the Qatar Grand Prix is just one more example of a changing of the guard in that series. Last season it became apparent that the older stalwarts of the series might be on their way out just as (coincidentally) a whole raft of young, extremely fast riders are on their way in.

The front row for today's Grand Prix features two of these younger riders, ironically sandwiching one of the oldest riders in MotoGP, Loris Capirossi. Capirossi also won the first race of the season, despite a very hard charge by another rookie, 250cc champion Dani Pedrosa. The other front row occupant in question is Toni Elias who, although not a rookie, finally finds himself on a very competitive machine, a Honda RC211V run by Fausto Gresini's Fortuna-backed team.

On the second row is Pedrosa and his team-mate, American superstar Nicky Hayden. Hayden is certainly not a newcomer to the series, but is still only 24, and can safely be regarded as part of the youth movement.

Of course there's always the exceptions that prove the rule. As previously mentioned, Capirossi is the man to beat at the moment, but at 33, and in his 11th season in the premier class, he's no spring chicken. Conversely, one of the other young Honda riders, Marco Melandri, finds himself down in 12th position. This is only guy to really give Rossi much to worry about last season unless you count Hayden's win at the one track that actually scares Rossi, Laguna Seca.

What of the "elderly" MotoGP refugees? Alex Barros could well be in the running for the World Superbike title. His underdeveloped Honda CBR has already given him podium places, and will have much improved parts and a more powerful engine by the next round. Meanwhile, Troy Bayliss has already returned to winning ways in World Superbike and looks favourite for the title.

And Max Biaggi sits sulkily on the sidelines waiting for the call to replace an injured rider. Hang on Max, the phone's ringing!!! It's Harald Eckl from the Kawasaki MotoGP team, who wants you to replace Randy de Puniet, who has an injured hand. Can you hold Harold, Max has a call on the other line... it's Ronald Ten Kate, who wants you to fill in for Karl Muggeridge on the World Superbike Ten Kate Honda. I guess we'll see Max on track soon enough....


TwoWheelsRule said...

Casey needs to learn tire conservation, it is this skill that puts the greats on the podium and the still learnings far back at the checkered flag. The old men still did it today, two old guys and one young one. Valentino is one of the best this sport has ever seen, and he is still the one to beat.

Nicebloke said...

And since Nicky is in his 4th year in MotoGP, he's clearly understanding how to save tyres. Made for a terrific race. And I would say Valentino IS the best the sport has ever seen.