Archive for March, 2007
Garth Tander (Toll HSV Dealer Team) fulfilled a racing ambition this weekend to win the second round at Perth’s Barbagallo racetrack. Tander is a Western Australian, so to take out not only the round win, but to do it in such a convincing way (taking pole position and winning all three races) was testament not only to his talent as a driver but the strength of the VE Commodore teams.
Tander, who celebrated the victory with a rooftop salute to the parochial crowd, commented after the race: “It’s right up there with winning Bathurst — there’s no doubt about that”.
Whilst Tander’s victory was headline news all over the V8 radar, some commentators (myself included) were happy to see the long-time suffering Ford team of Dick Johnson-Jim Bean Racing (DJR) finally show the promise of old with a deserved fourh and fifth place from drivers Steven Johnson and Will Davison. Both men fought hard over the whole weekend to beat Ford favourite Craig Lowndes in his 888/Team Vodafone Falcon, who was placed sixth for the round.
Another impressive drive came from Lee Holdsworthy, from the Valvoline Cummins Team. Holdsworthy and the team took a calculated risk in the second qualifying session by putting on fresh ‘green tyres’ to place him in the final qualifying shoot-out. He was able to maintain his position during the three races to come out with a solid ninth for the round.
Lowndes had an indifferent race meet, qualifying in fourth. Ford’s other golden boy, James Courtney in the Jeld-Wen Falcon, had a horror weekend with a huge crash in qualifying and then engine and component failures ruining his chance to consolidate his first-round success and placing 16th for the round.
Also unlucky was Jason Bright in the Britek Falcon. He did not even get to start racing due to a freaky accident involving Jason Richards (Tasman Motorsport) during qualifying. This saw the team pack the car into the transporter to Melbourne to be repaired for the next round in New Zealand.
Mark Skaife (Holden Racing Team) had a strong weekend, and was the only driver (other than Tander’s team mate and the round’s second-placed driver Rick Kelly) to push Tander to the end. In the final laps of the third race, Skaife was relentless in his chase. Given a few more laps it would have been interesting to see if he could have overtaken Tander to ruin his clean sweep.
Rick Kelly, the 2006 champion, seemed to travel under the radar, exaggerated by Tander’s domination. However, by the Sunday afternoon he was in second place for the round with another consistent display.
This weekend also saw V8 Supercar and Ford stalwart John Bowe (JB) in the Glenford Racing Falcon, overtake the late great Peter Brock by starting in his 213th series round. Fittingly, JB also won his first points for the year, by coming in 21st for the round. I have said in earlier articles that JB would find it tough in his final year, but he drove well this weekend and was unluckily caught up in incidents which pushed him back in the pack. His three points would have to be the hardest fought in his career.
The final top ten placings for the weekend where: 1. Garth Tander (Toll HSV Dealer Team), 2. Rick Kelly (Toll HSV Dealer Team), 3. Mark Skaife (Holden Racing Team), 4. Steven Johnson (Jim Beam Racing), 5. Will Davison (Jim Beam Racing), 6. Craig Lowndes (Team Vodafone), 7. Mark Winterbottom (Ford Performance Racing), 8. Greg Murphy (Tasman Motorsport), 9. Lee Holdsworth (Valvoline Cummins Race Team), 10. Todd Kelly (Holden Racing Team).
Following the Jerez MotoGP, Aussie young gun Casey Stoner, has come out firing against what he sees as irresponsible riding. It has to do with the battle in the early and middle part of the race between himself on the Ducati and Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa.
Now admittedly I wold feel somewhat nervous if I was racing closely with Carlos ‘The Chucker’ Checa, but I think Stoner needs to take a deep breath and realise that everyone out on the track, regardless of who they are or what they are riding, is out there to win.
His little rant to the media this week, reminded me of another whinger in the MotoGP paddock…Max Biaggi. Undoubtably Max can ride a bike and fast, just not as fast as long time nemesis Valentino Rossi. When he raced in the MotoGP, he would 0ften whinge about the fact that everyone was out to beat him…from the other racers to even the Honda factory whom he rode for.
History will show Max just couldn’t compete with Rossi at his (Rossi’s) level and like Sete Gibernau after him, was totally out psyhced by Valentino.
So Casey, look back to see what you could become if you keep going down the path of blaming others for your inability to win races. Truth be known you should have qualified better. Also you had a bad start. Work on these things and you will be upfront and not dicing it with the 2nd tier riders.
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After a strong display at the second round in Jerez, Spain, Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha M1) is now leading the MotoGP championship from round one winner Casey Stoner on the Ducati.
Aussie Stoner struggled with the bike early in the race and was lucky not to get knocked off by some exuberant passing traffic early on in the shape of Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa. Rossi was never headed after taking the lead from pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa. Stoner recovered well late in the race (after dropping to eighth) to comfortably overtake 2006 champion Nicky Hayden with seven laps to go and finish fourth behind Toni Elias.
John Hopkins also performed well. However, he had an accident while battling Hayden for fourth on lap 16. Hopper has shown great pace in these first two rounds but in this race just could not stay on the bike. He restarted the race after the fall to finish a gallant 19th.
Hayden found some form after a disastrous first round to take seventh place. At the start of the race he blitzed the field, getting an unusually great start to be fourth, but faded late and let Stoner, Melandri and Checa beat him over the line.
The real news, however, was Rossi’s total domination in his 85th career victory. The M1 Yamaha was simply perfect the whole race. The victory broke a five-race drought for the popular Italian, who hadn’t won a race since September.
Speaking on the Yamaha website, Rossi said: “After the situation at this race last year, this is much, much better! Our first priority today was to get points and I knew that to win I would have to ride at the maximum, but today my Yamaha really flew and I was able to do a great race. It feels like a long time since I last won and this is a great emotion and a very special victory for me, especially in Jerez in front of this great crowd.
“Qatar was good but to taste victory again is a wonderful feeling. We had some problems on Friday and again yesterday and then after this morning’s warm-up we made some more small modifications. My tyres worked well today and Michelin have done a good job. I got a great start, didn’t make any mistakes and had a good battle with Pedrosa, who we knew would be the danger today.”
Rossi’s team-mate Colin ‘Texas Tornado’ Edwards also had a return to the podium with a solid third place behind Honda’s Pedrosa. Another strong consistent top-ten finish by Aussie Chris Vermeulen did his chances no harm for a solid 2007 on the improved Suzuki.
The top ten finishers were: 1. Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha), 2. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), 3. Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha), 4. Toni Elias (Gresini Honda), 5. Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro), 6. Carlos Checa (Honda LCR), 7. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda), 8. Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda), 9. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki), 10. Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda).
So the 2007 championship is two races old and again more questions were raised than answers given. Will Rossi be able to continue this form for the rest of the season? Will a maturing Casey Stoner replace Pedrosa as the title threat? And can Nicky Hayden find his missing ‘mojo’ to stake his rightful claim on the season?
The opening round of the 2007 MotoGP championship has been run and won in Qatar this weekend and what a greatrace it was. Being an Aussie and a Rossi fan I was looking forward for a couple of reasons.
I was interested in not only seeing how the new 800cc bikes would go but in watching how Valentino Rossi would begin his chase to regain his lost MotoGp crown. Valentino made a great start to the weekend by taking pole position from Aussie Casey Stoner on the Ducati and with Texan Colin Edwards and Honda rider Toni Elais filling up the first four spots it was looking to be a great start for Rossi in 2007.
Interestingly in the warm up before the race Valentino’s Yamaha was well down in the times, suggesting the Yamaha team might have a ‘race pace’ issue. Casey Stoner and the Ducati really showing blistering speed down the very long main straight, proving once and for all that red ones do go faster!!!
After a good start by Rossi and Stoner, disappointingly Edwards had a terrible start allowing himself to be swamped by the pack and drift down the order and he never recovered. But out front Rossi and Stoner were in the beginnings of what was to be a great battle for the number one spot on the podium. To see the incredible pace of the Ducati down the straight was awesome. The Honda of Dani Pedrosa was also quick, however when he was instructed to set the ECU mode to 4 by his pit board, he lost momentum and ability to keep up with Rossi and Stoner, and had to fight hard to keep Suzuki’s John Hopkins at bay.
In the end it was a tight battle with Rossi’s M1 Yamaha obviously having a superior chassis but with his distinct lack of horsepower and top speed, he couldn’t out run the hard charging Aussie. So Casey Stoner finally broke through for his maiden MotoGP win and did it in great style absorbing the pressure exerted by Rossi for the whole race. I have commented in earlier posts that he really needs to step it up and prove he can win races. Today he showed he can, and the Ducati crew couldn’t be happier.
Interestingly 2006 champion Nicky Hayden floundered all race and eventually finished 8th behind Aussie Chris Vermeulen who fought well from a bad qualifying position to be 7th.
So what has this first round told us?
Firstly – the Ducati is quick and with Stoner on board (and keeping it upright) it will be hard to beat in the horsepower tracks
Secondly – Rossi’s Yamaha, whilst ultimately lacks outright grunt, will be a tough bike to beat. If and when the Jeremey Burgess and his team find that last 10 kph, it will be interesting to watch to see if Rossi can keep pace with the Ducati.
Lastly – Nicky Hayden seems to be missing his drive from last year. It’s early days however I am sure the plucky American can bounce back and look to prove to all that his form last year was no fluke.
The final top 5 positions for the race where:
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