The life of podium eye candy is not as easy as it looks, at least when you got Valentino Rossi wearing his cap sideways and two fellows celebrating their first podiums of the season.
The Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner show headlined the Czech GP, with the Italian coming away the victor. Rossi scored the checkers but it was a crash that defined the race, as Stoner lowsided on Lap 6 while leading his Italian rival. Joining Rossi on the podium, instead of the usual suspects were two unexpected names, Alice Ducati’s Toni Elias and Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi.
It appeared that Stoner would deliver an answer to Rossi’s previous victory at Laguna Seca when the Brno race got underway. The Ducati pilot scored the holeshot and opened up a gap while Rossi lost some time getting around fellow front-row starter, John Hopkins. Stoner set a brisk pace early, although once Rossi drew a bead on the Duc he began to creep closer. A promising battle, however, was not to be as the Desmosedici front wheel tucked and Stoner lowsided.
“I was anticipating a very hard battle if I did catch him,” said Rossi on his charge toward the Ducati ace, “so when I saw the red bike slide out I could hardly believe it – this made things a lot easier for me!”
The win, coupled with Stoner’s DNF, gives Rossi a distinct 50-point advantage in the championship.
“Of course I can’t count this as a complete victory because Casey fell, and I am sorry for him,” said Rossi, “but this is racing and I have to be happy with this result. We are 50 points clear which is a lot and I am very excited to be going to Misano in this situation.”
As for Stoner it is the first rider-error-induced DNF of his Ducati career and a crippling blow to his championship title defense.
“The crash came out of the blue, that corner was an easy one but I lost the front and it happened very quickly, very suddenly and I didn’t manage to save it,” said Stoner. “It’s a hard one to explain and we will look at the data but sometimes this kind of crash happens at this level of racing and it was my mistake!”
Although the crash seems to wreck Stoner’s championship hopes, the Ducati camp is not flying the white flag yet, with one of the marque’s home races at Misano approaching and Stoner saying: “Anything can happen in racing but fifty points is a big gap against such a strong and consistent competitor. Anyway I never throw in the towel, nor does anybody at Ducati, and we will keep fighting until the end.”
Rossi and Stoner are the obvious headlines at Brno, but an unlikely podium is complemented by a surprising top 10. Just when Elias seems irrelevant in MotoGP the Spaniard rips off a podium out of nowhere – the Alice Ducati rider’s second-place finish being just the second rostrum appearance by a satellite team in 2008.
Capirossi’s third-place result is a pleasant surprise for the elder statesman of the GP paddock, who is one of the many riders still returning to form after an injury this season.
“I want to say what a fantastic day this is for me today! After the injury in Barcelona I have not had the opportunity to go quick due to my condition,” said Capirex, “but all the people around me – including the whole team and Suzuki – stayed really close to me and gave me great support so I am really happy to pay them back with this podium – it actually feels more like a win for me because it means so much!”
Finishing just off the podium was the top-placed Honda rider. No, it wasn’t Dani Pedrosa, try Gresini Honda’s Shinya Nakano. The Japanese rider was in turn followed by another unlikely result from Kawasaki’s Anthony West – the Aussie’s best finish of the year.
West’s fellow countryman Chris Vermeulen was sixth-fastest aboard the Rizla Suzuki, followed by Ducati’s Marco Melandri in seventh – one of the Italian’s best results in a disastrous ’08 campaign. Gresini’s Alex de Angelis wrapped up an all-Bridgestone top 8.
On a circuit that obviously favored the ‘Stones, the top Michelin man was JiR Scot Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, with fellow rookie Jorge Lorenzo rounding out the top 10.
Other notable finishes include a poor result from the usually consistent Colin Edwards (14th) and a dismal placing for the one-time points leader Dani Pedrosa (15th).
The Grand Prix paddock now heads South to San Marino and the Misano circuit in two week’s time.
MotoGP Brno Results:
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 43’28.841
2. Toni Elias (SPA) Alice Team + 15.004
3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 21.689
4. Shinya Nakano (JPN) San Carlo Honda Gresini + 25.859
5. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing + 29.465
6. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki + 30.608
7. Marco Melandri (ITA) Ducati Marlboro + 36.453
8. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini + 36.750
9. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) JiR Team Scot MotoGP + 38.822
10. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team + 39.573
11. John Hopkins (USA) Kawasaki Racing + 39.610
12. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Alice Team + 40.892
13. James Toseland (GBR) Tech 3 Yamaha + 1’11.490
14. Colin Edwards (USA) Tech 3 Yamaha + 1’21.133
15. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda + 1’37.038
16. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP + 1’38.407
DNF Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro 16 Lap