The Repsol Honda team reached an impressive milestone this weekend when Andrea Dovizioso claimed second place at the Japan GP, giving his team their 250th podium finish.
From 1995, the Honda factory team and Repsol, have won 8 premier-class world titles, 90 wins, and 250 podium finishes.
Mick Doohan has led the charge for the Repsol Honda team. Doohan can lay claim to 48 of those podium finishes. More amazingly, 35 of those 48 podium finishes were race wins, and none of them were third place finishes.
The Honda team has score podiums in every cylinder capacity (500cc, 990cc, 800cc) that the premier class has had. Doohan led the charge, but he got plenty of help from riders like Alex Criville, Shinichi Itoh, Valentino Rossi, and Dovizioso.
Dani Pedrosa has just one podium finish less then the legendary Doohan. Pedrosa, since he started racing in the premier class in 2006, has scored 47 podium finishes.
Over 16 years, 13 riders have stood on the podium, representing Repsol and the Honda factory team.
Congratulations to Repsol, Honda, and the 13 riders to climb the steps. Mick Doohan, Dani Pedrosa, Alex Crivillé, Valentino Rossi, Tadayuki Okada, Shinichi Itoh, Takuma Aoki, Sete Gibernau, Tohru Ukawa, Alex Barros, Max Biaggi, Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso.
The death of 19 year-old Shoya Tomizawa in a gruesome crash midway through the Moto2 race in San Marino cast a pall over not just MotoGP, but the entire motorsports industry.
Racing, after all, is a business; few of those involved would participate if the money suddenly disappeared. Many fans are attracted, in part, by the possibility of seeing vehicles going airborne, whereas none would pay to watch rush hour traffic. Promoters discovered long ago that higher speeds (and more violent collisions) lead to greater attendance and higher profits. The inevitable, though surprisingly rare, result is that young lives are snuffed out.
MotoGP has, in my opinion, done pretty much everything imaginable to reduce risk in the sport. (According to the latest disagreeable outburst from Casey Stoner, it has perhaps done too much, the result being a false sense of security among riders.) In the end, contrary to our basic human sense of fairness, most of these tragedies come down to plain old luck.
It was luck, as much as anything, that delivered Alex de Angelis from serious permanent injury, or worse, in his indescribable crash in practice at Jerez this year, from which he walked away. It was luck alone that delivered Andrea Dovizioso from a fate similar to that of Tomizawa (and young Peter Lenz at Indianapolis only eight days earlier) at Brno. Had he been two seconds slower, he would have gone down directly in front of Valentino Rossi. Rossi would then have been in the same impossible position de Angelis and Scott Redding found themselves in at Misano. One wonders about the long term psychological effects this accident will have on the teenaged Redding.
At this moment, none of us involved in MotoGP is anxious to discuss the other events from Round 12, but discuss we must. Motorcycle.com, and this writer, join the rest of the racing world in extending our sympathies to the Tomizawa family, his friends and crew. Sunday, when the umbrella girls were on the grid, and the race announcers were introducing the contenders, Tomizawa, more than any of the others, displayed the sheer unbridled joy of someone making a living doing work he loves. That he was to die hours later from, of all things, heart failure, is one of the cruel ironies of the day. A young athlete, with a courageous heart as big as the great outdoors, dying at 19 years old from heart failure. It just doesn’t get much worse than this.
Pedrosa Wins Again
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa won his second race in succession, and his fourth of the season, with an easy win at Misano. Series leader and Fiat Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo finished second, followed by defending world champion Valentino Rossi. The premier class riders had learned of Tomizawa’s death shortly before the race started, and the news appeared to deflate the grid, the result being a fairly uneventful procession.
Early on Lap 1, Ducati rider Nicky Hayden rear-ended the hapless Loris Capirossi, ending Capirossi’s day and leading, several laps later, to Hayden’s retirement from the race. The Rizla Suzuki rider is scheduled to have surgery on his left pinkie this week, but should be fit and ready to go for another inspiring 12th place finish in two weeks at Aragon.
Two-thirds of the way through the season, it is clear that Pedrosa’s Honda is faster than Lorenzo’s Yamaha. Lorenzo, however, continues to show patience and maturity, staying within himself and racking up podiums and points every round. For Pedrosa, it’s down to a seemingly insoluble math problem. Lately, he’s picking up an average of seven points per race on Lorenzo, but trails by 63 points with only six rounds remaining in the season. According to my abacus, this puts him on track to pass Lorenzo – sometime around Round 4 of next season.
Lorenzo maintained his season-long streak of appearing on the podium every week; last year’s Mr. Inconsistency has become this year’s Mr. Regular as a Piston. Meanwhile, my boy Randy de Puniet, on the satellite LCR Honda, reverted to his old habits, qualifying a brilliant sixth and finishing a not-quite-so-brilliant 13th. And soon-to-be-former Pramac Racing Finn Mika Kallio made it four DNFs in the last five rounds, retiring with a mechanical issue with 11 laps to go on Sunday. Things are pretty bad when the rumors have you losing your seat to Loris Capirossi in 2011.
More Silly Season Stuff
It’s official – Cal Crutchlow is bringing his delicious British accent to MotoGP next season, moving up from the Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike team to the satellite Monster Tech 3 opening created by Ben Spies. At this point, it looks like he will team with the aging Colin Edwards, who has definitely lost a step this season. It was also announced that Marco Melandri will be leaving Fausto Gresini’s San Carlo Honda team to take – you guessed it – Crutchlow’s seat with the Yamaha WSBK outfit. Must feel like old home week for Melandri, who rode Yamahas during his first two seasons in the MotoGP premier class in 2003-2004.
Elsewhere, the Aspar Ducati team announced over the weekend that they would continue their project in 2011 with Hector Barbera on board the GP-10. Barbera has made decent progress on the Italian bike, having started out with a bunch of 12th and 13th-place finishes, recording mostly ninths and 10ths since Catalunya.
Perhaps Danny Kent Should Be Coaching Dani Pedrosa
On Saturday, 17 year-old Jake Gagne of Ramona, California wrapped up the 2010 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup title with a second-place finish at Misano. In doing so, he managed to edge Briton Danny Kent for the championship, despite Kent’s victory in Saturday’s race.
Kent trailed Gagne by 11 points heading into Saturday’s season finale, and knew that he not only needed to win the race, but that Gagne had to finish fourth, or worse, for Kent to take the championship. Early on, Kent took the lead, with Gagne running third. Kent then deliberately slowed the pace of the race, successfully hoping to get more riders involved, and trying to force Gagne farther back into the pack. Although his strategy was ultimately unsuccessful, it was smart racing. Both Gagne and Kent are widely expected to graduate to the 125 class for 2011.
Dani Pedrosa could learn a thing or two from young Mr. Kent. Simply winning the remaining races on the schedule, as difficult as that might be, won’t be enough for a title unless he can regularly force Lorenzo off the podium. Plan A for Pedrosa must be to grab the lead as quickly as possible; his slingshot starts make this a regular possibility. Plan B, when Plan A works, is to slow the pace, block Lorenzo, try to bring the field into the scrap, and hope to frustrate Lorenzo into making a mistake. For Pedrosa, notoriously difficult to pass, this is the only approach that makes any sense, in a season dominated by Jorge Lorenzo and a heartbreaking number of flags flying at half staff.