MotoGP: 2012 Aragon
On the wings of praise and a prayer For the first time in a long time Dani Pedrosa enters the closing rounds of the season injury free. The factory Repsol Honda rider has been plagued by a series of early onset errors and misfortune that has seen him sidelined time and again by mid-season each year, effectively scuttling any championship aspirations he may have entertained. 2012 has proven to be the turning year thus far, with Pedrosa racking up his best finishes in a season to date but also keeping well clear of the Clinica Mobile. Unsurprisingly the result is that he is now the closest he has ever been to claiming top honors for the season, yet the Spanish superstar is still susceptible to just plain bad luck. In a strange domini effect more suited to the movies than the MotoGP grid, a problem with Karel Abaraham's bike forced a delayed start which then led to Pedrosa's bike being hauled off grid to fix a brake problem found when removing the tire warmers which led to Pedrosa being forced to start from the back of the grid which led to him falling off in a collision while trying to charge to the front. From pole to DNF in less than a lap. With 125 points still on the table he is not out of the hunt by any means, especially with Lorenzo chasing a first ever win at this weekend's track. However Lorenzo is not known for making many mistakes and Pedrosa's misshap has put him a foot behind. Just a step ahead stands championship leader Jorge Lorenzo astride his special liveried Yamaha M1. Pedrosa's compatriot rode a typically brilliant race, maximizing his advantage in the overall standings with his chief rival elimated from the race. This, his sixth win of the season, leapfrogs him well into a double digit lead at 38 points. With his stranglehold on the 2012 season tightening Lorenzo was gracious when reviewing the events of the race. Despite an apparently easy victory Lorenzo indicated that he actually had to work to maintain his lead. Rossi, in second place, had begun to close with the Yamaha rider which forced Lorenzo to up the pace to stay ahead. Lorenzo remained humble, indicating that he still has to push for wins in spite of a growing lead in the championship. Yet he is still a former GP champion and has shown so much more maturity in recent outings that it is a sure bet that he will not risk everything on the chance of claiming the top step. The Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli is a special track for Valentino Rossi, representing both his home track and the seat of his enormous fan base, the 4.064 km circuithas been the scene of some of his more memorable racing experiences; and the last round was no exception. Bolstered no doubt by recent testing and on track development at the same venue, and perhaps fanned along by the spiritual hands of his recently departed friend for whom the track has recently been renamed, Rossi thrilled his sizable in-situ following to a 2nd place finish. The placing, on paper, is a tie for Rossi's best finish on the Ducati; but the significance goes much further. It is by far Rossi's highest finish in a dry race aboard the Bologna based machine. More to the point, Rossi finished only 4 seconds behind former (and soon-to-be-again) teammate Jorge Lorenzo aboard the Yamaha M1. To put it bluntly, for the first time in almost 2 years Ducati's GP looked like a proper factory prototype in the dry. For Rossi, the runner-up finish was a victory of sorts and he celebrated vivaciously with the crowd. The past 2 seasons have provided few opportunities for such revelry and all in attendance to support to the 46 showed how much it had been missed. Yet the most promising sign of things to come may have occured off track, when Rossi indicated that the new chassis allowed greater flexibility in setup which allowed them to find a workable setup for the race. This news may be too late to secure Rossi's continuance with the red team, yet may bolster the spirits of soon-to-be squad-mates Ben Spies and Andrea Dovizioso. Both men have spent the current season fighting over the Yamaha's remaining factory machine. With Jorge Lorenzo performing at a level almost unmatched in any garage, there was no doubt who the first seat would go to. Both men were hopeful of securing the second however - Dovi pinning his hopes on a record setting season aboard the satellite Yamaha and Spies banking on a fantastic two seasons including the only dry win against the alien field. Yet both were undercut with the news that Rossi would be returning to the baby he had bid goodbye to and, in a strange turn of coincidence, both have wound up on a factory supported Ducati. The Desmo GP has been notoriously tricky to become accostomed to, with veteran rider Nicky Hayden admonishing both to enter the garage with an open mind because of the bike's ideosyncracies. Both riders will take some heart in Rossi's turn of fortune with the latest incarnation and Hayden's own favorable comments after testing, but the verdict on how it will impact each man will have to wait for some months yet. Pulling up the rear of the factory bikes, Jonathan Rea failed miserably... to finish last. A newcomer to the series Rea was afforded his first opportunity to turn a prototype wheel in anger against a determined field and rewarded the team with a well deserved top 10 finish. While the British rider was not able to challenge the established riders on prototype machines, he still managed to push ahead of the CRT machines and complete the race in 8th place. Rea admits that he has not yet begun to push the boundaries of the RC213V's limits, however after severely limited testing time and an incredibly cramped schedule that jetsets the Honda rider across 3 series every weekend for a month Rea can take more than a little comfort in merely keeping the bike on two wheels. Certainly MotoGP's only prototype wildcard had his moments during the race, but he maintained his composure to bring it on for a win. This weekend will provide further seat time during which he will look to become more familiar with the machine and team and, hopefully, push for a better finish.