Monday, June 05, 2006

Bike racing wrap-up

Thanks to a temporary loss of my source for non-US racing, I only got to see the AMA and MotoGP races this weekend. I kept track of the TT and the Le Mans test day via the internet. As it stands right now I have no idea what happened in the British Superbike races, the Acropolis Rally or any of the three touring car events (Australian, British and World).

So anyway, I'll press on regardless...

The MotoGP race on Sunday was once again an absolute cracker. Many people (me included) have been talking up the resurgence of World Superbike this year, but the fact is that the tightest battles for the race lead have generally been in MotoGP, not WSBK. At one point in the Italian Grand Prix, a train of seven top riders were dicing for the lead. When Rossi made an error midway through the race he lost not one, not two, but three positions! The final outcome was one that the Italian crowd surely enjoyed: a win for Rossi and second place for Capirossi (an Italian on an Italian bike).

Nicky Hayden delivered another fine performance but once again was unable to secure the victory. It was another characteristic performance in which he ran with the top bikes without too much fuss. However, Nicky still seems to lack that final 5% confidence, not so much in his riding ability, which is equal to anyone except perhaps Rossi, but more in his belief that he can actually beat these guys. It's clear that he can. If you can pass Rossi for the lead of a race, then you can win. Nicky's Laguna win last year should have killed off that final shred of self-doubt, but I think that he (like many people) dismissed it as a fluke, due more to his track knowledge than any actual ability to win. What a shame - I'm sure the reason he won at Laguna was the simple belief that he COULD win. If he can go into every race like that, he will win the World Championship this year.

Back on this side of the pond, my prediction for the AMA Superbike races proved correct. This was the weekend that Mat Mladin stopped the rot. I was sure he'd win the first race, mainly because Mat is always sublimely good at Road America. Going into the second, I was expecting Ben Spies to fight back... which he did. Unfortunately, a red-flag mid-race wiped out his five second lead, allowed Mat to change his tyres (ruined in his fight back from a pathetic start) and basically gave him the equivelent of a re-boot after a potential "blue screen of death" situation. To be fair, the string of fast laps that Mat put in were insanely quick, and served to reiterate the fact that he is a remarkably talented guy.

Funny moment on the TV broadcast, as a quick interview with Ben Bostrom had him revealing that he was happy to roll around in 8th. Hate to say "I told you so"...

Over at the TT, John McGuinness got the job done in Superbike and broke the lap record twice. Not really surprising. Young Brit Ian Hutchinson put in a great performance, and went on to do very well in the Superstock race too, losing out to quick Kiwi Bruce Anstey. No additional serious injuries to report, but a few small crashes (I never understand how any crash at the TT can be small). The three riders in critical condition from earlier accidents have not improved.

I think I'll hold off on discussion of the Le Mans test day, and roll it all into one big preview article. Big news on this end is that planning for our annual Le Mans party is now underway, and tartiflette and merguez feature prominently in our plans. Yum!

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