The Spaniard took a spectacular pole on Saturday, then leapt into an immediate lead at the off. But after three laps it was all over for the Honda rider, who fell (again), leaving the way clear for Casey to romp home ahead of Andrea Dovizioso on the third Honda.
I guess Dani was pushing too hard too soon on tyres not yet up to full heat, but his fall gave Casey a crucial victory as it enabled him to open a lead going into the final third of the championship. It is far from over, but barring technical issues or injuries, I think it will be difficult for the rest to catch the flying Australian. Two-week summer break or no two-week break, he just picked up where he left off in Laguna Seca.
Casey had a slight problem this weekend, and that problem was called ‘Dani’. Once that was solved he was able to dominate from the front, ending six seconds ahead. But it is starting to get very interesting further back
When we look at the result we see the two factory Hondas followed by the private Honda of Marco Simoncelli ahead of the Yamahas of champions Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies. Then we had the two Ducatis of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden in sixth and seventh respectively.
That is about the pecking order at the moment, but it is starting to become extremely tight, with just six seconds covering Andrea back to Valentino. After 22 laps that works out at less than a third of a second per lap, and if we add in Val’s gap to Casey, who ended six seconds up on Andrea making it 12 seconds from first to sixth, it is just half a second.
At the beginning of the season the deficit was around a second a lap. Even making allowances for the fact that Valentino made a bad start and just loves this flowing, up-down track that gave him his first grand prix when he raced 125cc bikes at 16, it is clear Ducati has played catch-up. So tight was the result that a better start may have seen Val finish fifth or possibly fourth.
We had Valentino’s race engineer Jerry Burgess in the studio on my Sport 1 broadcast programme before the race, and he told us they’d found something, and were hopeful of finding even more time before the end of the season.
He would not be specific, but suggested PUMA’s partner team would soon be fighting at the sharp end. In fact, Jerry said a podium on merit for Ducati was probably on the cards.
Nicky made a really aggressive start, and had a solid race to seventh. For obvious reasons it can’t be easy being team-mate to Valentino, yet Nicky just gets his head down race weekend after race weekend and does what is expected. I really believe he deserves more credit than many in the paddock give him.
Now we head off to Indianapolis for the round at the ‘Home of Motor Racing’, as the Americans call it. The ‘Brickyard’ has been resurfaced from Turns 5 to 16 which should make matters more interesting, and it is a mark of Nicky that even during his summer break at home in Kentucky he popped across to Indy to ride the new surface and do some promotional work.