MotoGP Blog: Confused in Jerez

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MCN MotoGP reporter Matt Birt exclusively shares hs views post Valencia.. Matt has spent years living out of a suitcase to follow the MotoGP circus around the world, to get the inside scoops for MCN…

To say I’m a little confused tonight would be a bit of an understatement after today’s events at the Jerez.

I’m confused on two fronts actually, the first being the state of the nation down at HRC. Those regular readers of this blog will be aware that pretty much every Honda rider who has jumped on the new RC212V 800 has complained about it being down on power and in desperate need of an engine upgrade.

Most vocal was world champion Nicky Hayden in Malaysia recently, and in Jerez Marco Melandri has thrown his hat into the ring supporting the comments of the Kentucky Kid.

Which brings me to Dani Pedrosa. Now from where I’m sitting and where I was watching on the track today, Dani has taken to the new bike like a duck to water.

He looks in his element with the smaller machine, and the timesheets suggest he’s not having any of the problems of the other Honda riders.

He was a whisker off being fastest today and I watched him out on track and it was incredible. He’s so smooth and precise and so bloody fast that his riding style is textbook and he’s proved the theory that the 250 riders will benefit most from the switch to 800cc.

HRC had to fend off accusations all last year that it was showing favouritism towards Dani, and vehemently denied on more than one occasion that the new 800 would be tailor-made to suit Dani’s pint-sized frame.

Well we know the bike is small as we saw in Malaysia with Carlos Checa, who looked horribly uncomfortable, and had a face of man who was sitting on a bed of nails.

So size does matter. And being as small as Dani is – probably he just about nudges eight stone when dripping wet – is giving him a massive advantage.

But what I’m confused at is why Dani doesn’t seem to have any problems getting the bike round the track very, very fast, when an army of other riders are banging Honda’s door down begging for more power.

And unless I’ve suddenly started not to understand the English language, I haven’t heard Dani utter a word in frustration about the lack of power. Clearly he’s not going to bite the hand that feeds him, or perhaps he just wants to keep his powder dry after Estoril.

But is he that good that his technique and undoubted skills on a 250 mean he’s just able to adapt to the new high corner speed style much faster than anybody else?

Let’s not forget though Melandri was a world 250 champion, Shinya Nakano lost a world 250 championship by the width of a fag packet, and Toni Elias was no mug in the 250 class.

I think already though we have seen that Pedrosa will represent Honda’s biggest hope of winning the first ever 800cc world title.

Another thing that left me slightly bemused today was Chaz Davies and his failure to get out of his civvies and ride the Ilmor X3 as anticipated.

Remember, he was called by the team on Monday, hastily arranged a flight down to Jerez Tuesday night and for what?

The chance to top up his suntan and soak up a few petrol fumes. He didn’t ride which staggers me.

Now I know Ilmor ran into some big problems today with electronic gremlins hitting again, and Chaz’s hopes of a ride were hardly helped when Andrew Pitt chucked an X3 just before 1pm.

But they couldn’t even give him five laps!

As far as I can tell Jeremy is about 80 per cent certain to get the ride and whether Ilmor can be persuaded to gamble on Chaz remains to be seen.

Thankfully after yesterday’s rain we actually got some track action, but the cold temperatures only meant the circuit was in good enough condition to ride for four of the eight hours allocated.

And apparently he is still in the frame for the ride because as I wrote yesterday, Dorna is pushing like hell to have a young British rider in MotoGP.

At the moment Ilmor hasn’t got a sponsor and is looking at having to cough up around £10m to do the full season in 2007 with two riders.

So I’ve heard that Dorna is willing to cough up big money to have Chaz on an X3 with Jeremy McWilliams in an all-British line-up.

And with high profile Aussie’s like Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen in the championship, Dorna isn’t overly concerned about Pitt securing the ride.

Nobody really bothered until about 1pm this afternoon but at the end of the day Rossi topped the timesheets again. If that sword on his fairing does also represent his crusade to wrestle back the world title from Honda then he’s certainly laying down an early marker.

Sadly I didn’t get chance to speak to him tonight as I was frantically legging it up and down pit lane to get the views and opinions of a few other guys including Stoner, Melandri, Nakano, John Hopkins and Vermeulen.

I was in the back of the Camel Yamaha truck tonight grabbing a few words of wisdom off Colin Edwards though and at the front is Valentino’s own personal changing room.

So having been ushered in for a chat with Colin in the truck, he was chatting away to Valentino about a variety of Michelin tyres they’d tested, asking each other what they liked and didn’t.

So I’m standing around and had a chuckle, as Valentino got undressed out of his leathers. There was the greatest rider in history standing about 10 feet away from me in just his underpants and I couldn’t help but think how much I could earn from the thousands of women who’d have paid bloody good money to be in my shoes at that point.

Colin seemed well happy and he followed Dani for a bit today, and he said Pedrosa looked good on the Honda. He also said Dani’s bike had much more grunt off the corners than his Yamaha.

That confused me again, because every other Honda rider has moaned about a lack of acceleration, yet Dani’s bike was out-gunning the Yamaha. Perhaps some of that can be attributed to Dani’s body weight, but he wouldn’t blast away from the Yamaha if the bike were gutless on acceleration.

I nearly had a shocker while talking to Colin tonight actually. He’d grabbed a couple of cans of coke and I’d sat mine down on one of the crates while I scribbled down some notes.

During a pause I went for a quick swig and nearly hit disaster. You see Colin likes nothing more than chewing tobacco and obviously every now and then he needs to get rid shall we say.

So a coke can is his usual preferred form of disposal. So I turn round and see two cans of coke, and can’t remember which is mine. I grab one and it feels a bit empty. Best choice of my life as the one I’d picked up was the one he’d been using to spit in.

Apparently the tactic is if the ring pull is facing down in the can, then it’s a definite no-no. That was a lucky escape.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt