San Marino Preview

Shinya_Nakano on MotoGP_2007 2007年MotoGP(日本GP)...Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a great preview of this weekend’s race in San Marino, which I didn’t even know was a country, from crash.net.    Visit crash.net @ http://www.crash.net/motorsport/motogp/feature/13204-0/san_marino_grand_prix_-_preview.html

Cast your mind back to the 2007 San Marino Grand Prix. Casey Stoner claimed a dominant victory, while Valentino Rossi suffered a devastating retirement that all but brought an end to his MotoGP title hopes.

Fast forward back to 2008 and as the MotoGP riders get ready for this year’s edition of the Misano event, the roles are very much reversed; Rossi heads to his home circuit with his fingers gently brushing this year’s trophy, while Stoner balances precariously on his back foot.

Fifty points separate the two with only six races of this year’s occasionally bruising, but consistently thrilling, title race remaining and the momentum has certainly shifted to Rossi.Following on from the victory at Laguna Seca that will likely go down in MotoGP folklore in years to come, Rossi added another 25 points to his margin at Brno when Stoner slid off his Ducati and into retirement whilst leading.

It was a costly mistake that could well deny Stoner the chance at a second consecutive MotoGP title, although in terms of out-and-out speed, the Ducati rider does seem to have the edge on the competition at the moment.

However, speed does not always mean consistency, and Rossi has proven this year that you need both. Still, while he returns to Misano – which is just a short distance from where he grew up – with high hopes of keeping Stoner honest, his first target is to redeem himself in front the barmy army of fans that watched him fail to finish last year. Expect to see a sea of yellow and blue lining the circuit this weekend…

Victory would also see Rossi win his 68th race, significant because it would equal that of Giacomo Agostini’s record. Regarded by many as the greater rider of all time – alongside Rossi of course – Agostini is expected to be in attendance, just to make the moment all the more poignant.

Beyond Rossi’s win and Stoner’s mistake in Czech Republic, the big news to come out of the previous round was undoubtedly the dismal performance by the Michelin riders, most notably Dani Pedrosa.  Embarking on a comeback trail following injury, one-time championship leader Pedrosa was forced to amble around the back of the field all weekend on the way to 15th place in the race, while he also took the decision not to stay at the circuit for post-event testing. A public lambasting of Michelin duly followed.

Although Michelin insist they will be more competitive at Misano, an increasing amount of noise is being made about a switch to a control tyre next season, a contract rivals Bridgestone would be favourites to win. Even if that doesn’t occur though, Michelin could face an exodus of teams switching to alternative rubber in 2009 if the situation doesn’t improve…

His absence has, however, caused him to slip from the battle for fourth place in the standings, which is continuing to be led by Jorge Lorenzo, the Italian showing flashes of his best form again as he grapples with the myriad of injuries that have stymied his rookie season.

He is coming under pressure, however, from Andrea Dovizioso, who got his head down to finish ninth in Brno, despite being amongst those to be hobbled by their rubber. Another rider to consider Misano his home round, Dovizioso will look to bridge the ten point gap to arch-rival Lorenzo and snatch ‘best of the rest’ status from him.

Colin Edwards, one of the sharpest critics of Michelin following Brno, remains just eight points further back in sixth place, although he is under pressure from the in-form Chris Vermeulen, the Suzuki rider’s two podiums and a sixth place finish hauling him well into the fight for fourth place in the standings.

Suzuki have high hopes for Misano too after Loris Capirossi grabbed a third consecutive podium for them at Brno, a race that also saw the lesser heralded riders grab a few headlines.   This included Toni Elias on the Alice Ducati, who produced a marvellous performance to claim second place in the Czech Republic, while Shinya Nakano showed his capabilities on up to date machinery with fourth place. Anthony West on the Kawasaki in fifth place completed the day for unsung heroes.

Ironically, not one of those three riders is well positioned to hold onto their rides for next season, so each will head to Misano needing to impressive prospective employees instead. Something similar to Brno should do it…

Even so, the only rider confirmed to lose their spot in 2009 is West, who is set to be ousted by Marco Melandri at Team Green if he cannot secure a ride on a third bike. The Italian showed well at Brno, particularly in the latter stages, but whether the likelihood of his move to Kawasaki will take the pressure off or cause him to lose motivation remains to be seen…

Elsewhere, James Toseland will be looking to haul himself inside the top ten overall again having slipped to 11th in the standings, while Alex de Angelis heads to Misano with the ability to officially call the San Marino Grand Prix his home race. Following Nakano’s performance at Brno, he will be eager to show off his occasionally fleeting competitiveness here.

In the 250cc class, Marco Simoncelli will be another home-town rider keen to build on his championship lead, which currently stands at 16 points over Mika Kallio, while Mike Di Meglio looks set to maintain his place in charge of the 125cc class, regardless of what happens this weekend.

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