Alex Hofmann: Phillip Island Round Up

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Sunday was a mixed day for a lot of us in MotoGP, but it could not have gotten any better for Casey Stoner. Not only did he win his home round in Phillip Island for the fifth time in succession, but he scored his second world championship – at home, in Australia.

To add to the feeling of sweetness he and wife Adriana are expecting their first baby; the future can’t get any brighter for Casey, who won his first championship with Ducati Corse in 2007. My congratulations to him on winning the championship, which is also Honda’s first of the 800cc era, and, with MotoGP switching to 1000cc bikes next year, the last.

But we have to commiserate with outgoing champion Jorge Lorenzo, who gave it everything in his title defence. The Yamaha rider arrived in Australia determined to keep the points’ gap between them below 50 so that he could take double pot shots at Casey in Malaysia and Valencia.

Jorge’s fall in the closing minutes of Sunday warm-up was typical of his attitude: Casey had pole, but Jorge was not going to let him have it his own way, so pushed to the absolute limit. We don’t know exactly why he fell, but my guess is that a gust of wind from the nearby Bass Straits caught him out, and that was it: Man down with a severed fourth finger on his left hand, and unable race.

I’m told the doctors managed to retain full functionality of his finger and hand, so he’ll be back, probably in time for the final round on 6 November. This shows how quickly fortunes change in MotoGP.

Jorge’s withdrawal virtually gifted the race to Casey, but he still had to do the business, and he did it is style, taking the flag by two seconds from the independent Honda of Marco Simoncelli, with Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa on the other two factory Hondas making it a clean sweep for the Japanese bikes.

Things did not go as well for PUMA’s partner team, Ducati. All weekend Valentino Rossi looked uncomfortable at a circuit he loves and previously starred at. He has had problems with the finger he hurt in Japan a fortnight ago when he, Jorge and Ben Spies were involved in a first lap incident, but Valentino has raced and won with worse injuries, so I think it’s more a matter of his bike not ‘gelling’ with its tyres. This makes it difficult to be confident, even as seven-time MotoGP world champion.

He eventually crashed out at mid-distance while working his way forward from 13th on the grid, and I guess he would have finished fifth in the windy conditions, which also featured intermittent rain just to make things more interesting.

Nicky Hayden, riding the other Ducati, started sixth, his best grid position of the year, but his tyres also went off, and with the conditions making for a greasy surface, he switched to his ‘wet’ (set-up) bike. Nicky eventually finished seventh, which, as he says is not good, but better than expected given the circumstances. Plus it puts a few more points on the board.

Now we all face a mad rush to get across from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur for Sunday’s race in Malaysia. For us life means racing on a beautiful circuit on a friendly Down Under island one week; in a concrete superstadium situated right on the Equator the next. All venues are different; each has its own attractions and foibles. Such is MotoGP.
 

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