Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MotoGP and AMA surprises

If this weekend was anything to go by, we're in for an interesting season of motorcycle racing: Ducati's incredible top speed performance at the Qatar MotoGP was just one of example of how the formbook was upset. Back here in the USA, a privateer team won the Daytona 200 (and also came second), whilst the man who's won the AMA Superbike championship six times crashed out of the Daytona Superbike race.

The incredible power of Ducati's 800cc MotoGP bike took everyone by surprise, and will certainly have their rivals scratching their heads. It didn't matter whether Casey Stoner was behind Yamaha's Valentino Rossi coming onto the start/finish straight, because he had the power to ride past him on the throttle and be in front by the line each and every lap. Bridgestone played their part in this too, providing a tyre that could deal with the Italian bike's fearsome acceleration.

It has to be said that Ducati won't have such dominance at every track - the main straight at Losail is particularly long, unlike tracks like Jerez, Donington and Laguna Seca. However it is clear that everyone else needs to do some work.

If there was any good news for Yamaha it was the 800cc M1 (still without an official name) seemed to handle very well, especially on the brakes. Last year's front end issue appear to be gone (and have turned up in Honda garages). Even though Honda's Dani Pedrosa was able to pass Rossi on the straight, the incredible braking performance of the Yamaha ensured Rossi found the apex of the first corner first each and every time.

A shout must also go out to Suzuki's John Hopkins, who struggled through the pain of a fractured hand to take fourth. If Suzuki can eke out a little more performance, Hopkins could certainly be the top American this year, challenging for podiums, and maybe even wins.

Down at Daytona, the Superbike race gave '06 champ Ben Spies his first win at Daytona. Most surprising though was the competitiveness of the Hondas and Kawasakis. Even though the Kwaks both crashed, they were running much better than last year. Honda meanwhile seem to have gotten to grips with their new traction control system and bagged 2nd and 3rd for their efforts. Yamaha also showed some promise as Eric Bostrom led for a while before suffering a tire failure. All in all, the 2007 season already seems to promise much more exciting racing than 2006's snoozefest.

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