Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Weekend Review Part 1

Sometimes real life gets in the way of the more important pastime of following motorsport, but I'm happy to say I have had a chance to watch the MotoGP race, the WRC event from Corsica, the opening round of the DTM and the 2 of the 3 BTCC races. The British Superbike races and Le Mans Endurance Series event will be covered later, hopefully tomorrow.

The 2nd round of the MotoGP season in Qatar was a cracker, and gives a better idea of how the season will shape up. After landing a surprise pole position in only his second race, Casey Stoner leapt out in front for the first 1/3 of the race, whilst a dogfight between Hayden, Capirossi, Rossi and Gibernau raged behind. Soon however, Casey's inexperience showed through as his tyres went off. He gradually slipped back down the field to end in a very creditable fifth. Up front Rossi and Hayden scrapped over the lead, with Hayden showing the first real indication that he can run with the Doctor. Hayden must be satisfied with his performance, especially as he was able to one-up his precocious young team-mate Pedrosa, who made Nicky look a bit silly at Jerez. Valentino, for his part, didn't attribute his less-than-dominant performance to the ongoing chatter problems and was actually very pleased with how his bike performed.

Capirossi ended up 3rd to retain leadership of the championship, ahead of Nicky. Gibernau was a solid 4th on the Ducati, whilst further down the field the young guns I talked about on Saturday, Pedrosa and Melandri, were arguing over 6th.

So it was a mixed day for both the elder statesman of the sport and those brash kids who will take MotoGP into the next decade.

In Corsica, Sebastien Loeb once again showed why he is the greatest tarmac rally driver of all time, as well as being one of the overall all-time greats. Unlike 2005, where he was completely dominant and therefore didn't have a chance to show his true mettle, this time he had to work for the win, and drive with his head. Marcus Gronholm was never far behind, but at the same time never close enough to pressure Seb. He was very gracious about it, though, complimenting Loeb's terrific performance, whilst at the same time saying he hopes to not have to be the gracious loser when the WRC hits the gravel in the next 3 rounds. Further down the field, the battle between Hirvonen and Sordo was especially exciting, both drivers showing their remarkable talent, by balancing outright speed against the need for points. It paid off for both - Sordo moves to 3rd in the title race and Hirvonen gets back into the top 8 after some poor early results.

I was glad that I didn't post a driver-by-driver preview of the DTM, because I would have looked a bit stupid. Many of the predictions I was making turned out to be totally wrong. I was expecting Susie Stoddard to be slower than Vanina Ickx (she wasn't); I felt Bernd Schneider was over the hill (he's not - he won); I expected Timo Scheider and his team-mate Frank Stippler to be dark horses (they weren't - they ended up mid-pack); and I predicted Green and Ekstrom would both be fast (they both retired after stupid incidents). However, I was spot-on when I said Kristensen, Frentzen and Hakinnen were all title contenders this year. Their 2nd, 3rd and 4th places respectively indicate both good form and good car speed, and if Green and Ekstrom can get back in it, this could be one of the closest racing championships in 2006.

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