Tuesday, May 02, 2006

WTCC fun, MotoGP pretends to be 125s and more

Time to reflect on some of the weekend's racing....

BMW showed upstarts SEAT how it's done in the World Touring Car Championship at Magny Cours in France. With the Alfa Romeos in woeful shape and struggling to do any better than about 20th, the Beemers took full advantage of their zippy starts to take both races. Wily campaigner (and defending champion) Andy Priaulx sat back in 8th in the first race when it became clear he wouldn't win, in order to claim pole for the second due to reverse grid rules. His strategy paid off, as he led from start to finish. Race one winner Dirk Muller was caught up in a typical touring car pile-up on the first lap, leaving Jorg Muller, his BMW Germany team-mate, to chase down James Thompson and Jordi Gene in the SEATs. After getting past both he set off after Priaulx, but eventually ran out of time. Priaulx has now knocked French ice-racing superstar Yvan Muller out of first place in the title race, which, being British, I'm not going to complain about!

I missed the first WTCC race of the season, but was pleased to see how big the field is, and how professional the teams are. It's nice tight racing without the angry argy-bargy of the British or Australian series.

Who'd have thought that 990cc prototype racing bikes could dogfight like 125s? Well apparently they can, especially if there's four hungry young lads all on the same bike, with only three MotoGP wins between them. Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa, Marco Melandri and Casey Stoner all the spent the best part of half the race passing each other on every single damn corner! Being a Hayden fan I was hoping to see him win his first non-US MotoGP race, but would have been happy for the cherub-faced young Stoner to pull off his first MotoGP win in only his third time out. Alas, the wily Melandri, who started 14th, was able to take it from Stoner with half a lap remaining after Nicky fell off the pace and Dani crashed. Not to toot my own horn, but I've been predicting just such a situation since the start of the season. The best news of all is that we might be in for this kind of racing for the whole year! Lovely...

In the "it's been a long time coming" department, Travis Pastrana finally took his first professional rally victory on Sunday at the Rim of the World Rally here in California. Well done Travis! I've met the lad at a number of events we've both been competing in, and he's super-friendly, very enthusiastic and a terrific ambassador for the sport. Perhaps his win at Rim indicates good form for the X-Games Rally in August. Second went to his team-mate, DC Shoes founder Ken Block, whilst the best-placed local driver was Kiwi Leon Styles in third.

Elsewhere in California, the AMA Superbike series again found arrogant Aussie Mat Mladin (or Mat M'Lady as he gets referred to in our household) on the back foot as team-mate Ben Spies took another double victory. Next race is in my neck of the woods as they come to Infineon Raceway, and I'll be on the spot to watch Mat get his rear-end handed to him again. Probably.

DTM and BSB reviews still to come...

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