2006 MotoGP Championship - Round 12 - Brno, Czech Republic - August 18/19/20 - Coverage by MCNEWS.COM.AU
|MotoGP Championship leader Nicky
Hayden (Repsol HRC) again rose to the occasion for his home Grand
Prix to take a dominant win at the tight and twisty Laguna Seca
circuit in California five weeks ago. This weekend though he
was back on European soil at Brno and the man whose crown he is out
to steal has looked to be enjoying his visit to more familiar
environs of Europe and had put his Yamaha on pole position. Rossi
does not have an easy task ahead of him in his defence of the crown
though as he had a 51 point deficit to overcome and only six rounds
left to do it. If it was anyone else he would be nearly ruled
out of having a chance at the title coming from that far behind but
of course The Doctor is not just anyone and still plenty of punters
would still willingly put their money down on him to win the title
Rossi rarely fails to convert a pole position into a race win and has an awesome 84% conversion record on that score since he first came into the premier class. Brno marked the 31st MotoGP pole position of the Italian's career and his pole time was the fastest ever lap of Brno by a motorcycle. The top eleven qualifiers all lapped quicker than Sete Gibernau's pole setting time of last year and the top 15 had gone quicker than the fastest race lap of last year. This weekend also marked the 10th anniversary of Rossi's first ever win in GP racing. On August 18, 1996 a very young Rossi took the win at Brno on a 125cc machine.
Loris Capirossi had also been strong all weekend and was finally back to something close to full fitness after that terrible crash earlier in Barcelona two months ago. Kenny Roberts had also made it onto the front row, the third time in succession the American had put his Honda powered Team Roberts machine onto the front row.
Nicky Hayden headed the second row from Nakano and Elias. MotoGP debutantes Pedrosa and Stoner had both failed to qualify well with the diminutive Spaniard recording the ninth quickest time while Stoner could only manage 12th. Another interesting turn up in qualifying was the fact that James Ellison had out-qualified Carlos Checa for the first time as the pair continue to struggle for pace on their Dunlop shod Yamahas.
When the real action got underway and the starting lights went out it was Loris Capirossi who used his launch control to the best effect to lead the field into turn one. Casey Stoner again proved that his clutch hand is dynamite as the young Aussie is one of the only riders to choose not to use any form of launch control system but still managed to catapult himself forward from that lowly 12th place on the grid right up to fourth position by the time they got to turn one. Hayden was in second place but Rossi soon pushed him back to third place while Capirossi had gone like a scalded cat to have an impressive buffer over his pursuers by the time they started the second lap. Dani Pedrosa was trying very hard and saved many nasty rear end breakaways on the opening lap to move onto the back of Casey Stoner as they commenced lap two. Colin Edwards was also doing well to be right on the tail of Pedrosa with countryman Kenny Roberts in the mix also.
Pedrosa got Stoner late on the second lap and a couple of turns later Edwards also slotted past Stoner to relegate the young Aussie to sixth place.
Capirossi was setting a cracking pace that nobody could match. The Italian veteran had a massive 1.7 second lead after only three laps but as always a cloud still hung over the race distance longevity of his Bridgestone rubber. By lap four Capirossi had pulled another half a second over Rossi who in turn had a couple of bike lengths over Hayden and Pedrosa.
Dani Pedrosa was starting to look for a way past Hayden and actually briefly got his nose in front but had to pull out of the move or he was going to take both himself and his team-mate out of the race. Capirossi again pulled another half a second away from Rossi on the next lap to make the gap an impressive 2.8 seconds.
Hayden was having to brake dangerously late to hold off the advances of Pedrosa who clearly looked to be getting held up by his team-mate. Pedrosa tried the same move on the next lap and this time around made it stick and immediately started to pull away from the American and started to close on Rossi.
Marco Melandri had began his charge, after getting the better of Stoner and Edwards, the Italian then started to close in on Hayden.
Capirossi was looking completely untroubled up front and had not slackened his pace by any noticeable margin. As they started lap ten of the 22 lap race the Ducati man had a 4.5 second buffer over Rossi. Melandri had squeezed past Hayden to take third place and done extremely well to charge his way forward from as far back as 11th place early in the race to work his way up to fourth place but still had Hayden and Stoner all over his tail and it was looking unlikely that he would be able to work his way into a podium position if the leading trio all remained upright to the flag.
Half race distance and still Capirossi was putting in the fastest lap times and had a 5.7 second buffer over Rossi. Pedrosa was doing everything he could to try and challenge Rossi for that second position and was having to take a few risks in order to try and make himself a chance. It looked as though he was on a mission and was going to pull a desperate move to get that second place or crash while trying. Hayden and Stoner had pushed Melandri back to sixth place but the trio remained tight. Kenny Roberts was also in that mix and threatening to turn the three-way battle for fourth place into a four-way affair. Casey Stoner declared that he was not content to sit on the tail of Hayden and pushed the American back to fifth place on lap 15. Capirossi continued to set the pace way out in front and looked to be doing it comfortable while Pedrosa was still all over the back of Rossi and looking for a way past. Capirossi could afford to lose a second a lap over the final seven laps and still narrowly take the win such was his buffer over Rossi and Pedrosa. Only a mistake or a mechanical failure was going to stop Capirossi from taking the most dominant win we have seen in MotoGP for some time.
Rossi continued to fend off the advances of Pedrosa. Melandri had forced his way back past Hayden and Stoner to reclaim fourth position but was a long way behind Pedrosa.
Pedrosa made a big challenge up the inside of Rossi with five laps to run but Rossi wiped his nose and Pedrosa had to stand it up or both of them were certainly heading for a painful tumble down the road. It was about as close as it gets and clearly showed the amazing psychological level that these racers compete at and process information. Pedrosa got Rossi half a lap later, Rossi came back at him a couple of corners later, Pedrosa again after another couple of corners, then again Rossi comes back at him to take that second place again. Then with four laps to run Pedrosa nosed his way in front yet again, Rossi up the inside under brakes though to make it clear that there was no way in hell he was going to give up that second place without a ferocious fight all the way to the end.
Rossi pulled a couple of bike lengths out of Pedrosa late on lap 18. Kenny Roberts had upped his game to move past Hayden, Stoner and Melandri to claim fourth place and that also looked likely to be shaping up as a titanic battle all the way to the flag.
With two laps to run Capirossi was a country mile ahead of Rossi who in turn looked to be perhaps nearly safe from any further advances of Pedrosa. Either that or the Spaniard was letting him think the pressure was off before going all out on the last lap to steal the win at the final turn... Championship leader Nicky Hayden was coming under further attack as with a couple of laps to run Shinya Nakano pushed the Repsol man back to ninth position!
Loris Capirossi played up the crowd on the final lap with some lurid slides and monos to celebrate the most dominant MotoGP win we have seen for a long time. Rossi crossed the line only 5 seconds behind Capirossi but that was only due to Capirossi's playing up to the crowd on the final laps. Rest assured Rossi was not in the same league of the Capirossi/Ducati/Bridgestone combination at Brno today. Pedrosa settled for third place rather than risk taking both himself and Rossi out of the race, the Spaniards challenge evaporated with two laps to run and he crossed the line 3 seconds behind Rossi for a safe third place.
Kenny Roberts kept his nose in front of Melandri and Stoner on the final lap to take an impressive fourth place to make him the second Honda home. All that with a privately built chassis.... That will have HRC's chassis engineers perhaps doubting their skills and given the comparative budgets they damn well should be! And it also puts a big one finger salute up to all those naysayers that had written off the 2000 World Champion.
An important race in the fight for the title with championship leader Hayden struggling for drive and crossing the line in ninth place just behind Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano. Pedrosa's third place narrowed the gap to Hayden down to only 25 points. And Rossi's 20 points has him also looking a lot more dangerous, the 38 point gap to the championship leader looking a lot more achievable than the 51 point deficit he was suffering after the previous round at Laguna Seca.
September 10 is when the hostilities reconvene in the sweaty heat of Sepang before then heading to Phillip Island the next weekend followed by a quick dash up to Motegi to complete a busy three weeks for the MotoGP paddock. The penultimate round is at Estoril on October 15 them it is a fortnight to take stock before the championship finale at Valencia on October 29 and it looks almost certain that the championship may well go right down to the wire at the final corner at Valencia. Seven months and 17 rounds all heading down to the final corner of the season should provide all the ingredients to make the ideal recipe that is the 2006 MotoGP World Championship.