shift change – gp of qatar

March 23, 2008


two weeks ago, motogp made history by running under the floodlights of losail international circuit.

at first, i thought that it was an cheap (?!?!) gimmick but i’m sold after watching the race. the lights added a whole new dimension that i didn’t expect.

the weekend was a complete success with only one minor quibble – the cool track temperature. several teams expressed their concern about this issue asking for the race to be run later in the year (originally qatar was run in sept). qatar officials would like to retain the opening race slot which will likely delay the start of the season to april and we wouldn’t have a month long break to the second race.

qatar was run at night for several reasons, one of them being the sweltering heat during midday. however, temperatures plummeted once the sun set. in fact, it was actually too cold. the tarmac cooled to a frigid 13 deg c (55 deg f) whereas typical summer day track temps are around 35-40 deg c (95-104 deg f). 

i’d rather see the qatar race return to its sept date and the season kick off with jerez or another european round. the atmosphere at qatar is subdued and fan unfriendly. it seems very sterile since the only grandstand is on the main straight and the track is located in the middle of the desert. unless u’re an emirate prince u have no place being there.

maybe the qatar round should just be removed from the calendar altogether. but it looks like we’ll have to wait until 2016 for that to happen. by then their oil reserves will have run out…


meh – motogp qatar wrapup

March 10, 2008


title says it all. i’m thoroughly unimpressed with the first round on the motogp calendar. probably not what u really wanted to hear but as the spanish say, “es la verdad.” 

the historic race (first gp event ever held under lights) started out great but then fizzled out at the end much like last year’s races. maybe there was too much hype…

imo, qualifying was the highlight of the weekend. unbelievably, the yamaha-michelin trifecta trumped the world champ casey stoner (marlboro ducati) by snatching up the WHOLE front row. pole went to rookie jorge lorenzo (fiat yamaha) followed by another rookie james toseland (tech 3 yamaha) and vet colin edwards (tech 3 yamaha). toseland smartly set the marker early in the qualifying as the track temp was warmer at the beginning of the session. stoner’s last attempt at pole was hampered by a slowing toni elias (alice ducati). stoner was 4th quickest. valentino rossi (fiat yamaha) headed up the 3rd row. from the looks of things, rossi’s gamble with bridgestone did not pay off. he hasn’t topped timesheets since his win at estoril 6 months ago. since then, rossi has riding pillion.

the 22 lap race was a bit lackluster in the entertainment dept. however, several interesting stories unraveled during the race.

like last year, casey stoner ran away with the win, 5.3 sec ahead of lorenzo (we’ll get to this later). the stoner-ducati-bridgestone package set the standard that night and probably for the rest of the season. he bided his time sitting in 4th position for 7 laps dicing it up with lorenzo. as the top 4 positions barreled down the front straight to complete the 7th lap, the ducati out-muscled everyone and snatched the lead going into turn 1 with lorenzo close behind. once in clean air, stoner put the hammer down and set consistent fastest laps and walked away from the field.

this, however, wasn’t the case for everyone on a ducati. stoner’s teammate marco melandri (marlboro ducati) and both alice ducatis struggled throughout the race. melandri was the 2nd ducati across the line in 11th 44.3 sec behind his teammate. i wouldn’t consider the italian a slouch by any means, either. he’s been on the podium 19 times and won the 250 championship. furthermore, toni elias and sylvain guintoli finished further behind claiming the last 2 point scoring places, respectively. this suggests that the gp8 is a beast unlike any other in the paddock with only stoner able to tame it. top speeds of all 4 ducatis are around 324kph (4kph faster than the rest of the field) so it’s not a question of engine spec. that leaves suspension set up and rider skill. julian ryder said that he had a chance to look at the data sheets for the ducati riders and that they were all relatively equal except for stoner carrying much highers speeds on corner entry (thanks, j4rno-ro2).

i think michelin has rebounded from its dismal 2007 season. first, they occupy the entire front row of the grid and, second, they took 7 out of the top 10 positions. i really think that if rossi would’ve stuck with michelin he would have been battling at least his teammate for second instead of floundering in 5th. in fact, james toseland on the inferior spring-valve yamaha was ready to pounce on rossi on the last lap. michelin is back and they’re furieux!

speaking of pissed, dani pedrosa (repsol honda) rode like rambo after he learned that murdock double-crossed him (watch this, u’ll know what i mean then).

pedrosa, fighting a severe wrist injury, got the holeshot (8th to 1st by turn 1) and lead the race for 4 laps. rossi clawed the the position away and the two were duking it out for several laps even after stoner and lorenzo passed them. it looked like pedrosa was being held back by rossi and once past the gap between grew quickly. i’m not a pedrosa fan (not even close) but i was seriously impressed that he gutted it out.

i was also very impressed with the crew of rookies. lorenzo, toseland, and andrea dovizioso (jir-scot honda) all faired well. they occupied positions 2-4 in only their first race. dovi is geat fun to watch as he manhandles his rcv212. he also pulled a “valentino” on the man himself stuffing him on penultimate corner on the last lap.

even though the race was a bit boring (i almost dozed off midrace) plenty of news came from it. the next race is in 3 weeks at jerez which is a more technical, twisty track where hp shouldn’t be as much a factor. hopefully, the field will bring it to stoner and end this madness.