This is about MotoGP, and please pay special attention to number 1. ;;)
TOP 10 MotoGP RIDERSWith the tragic loss of Marco Simoncelli and the dominance of world champion Casey Stoner, 2011 may not have exactly been a vintage year for MotoGP. That however shouldn’t make us forget about some excellent performances from a number of riders over the course of the year, so read on to find out who did enough to be included in my top ten riders of the season.
10. Karel Abraham
On the strength of his record in Moto2, it would have been fair to assume that Abraham would have ended up at the bottom of the standings in his first year of the championship. In reality however, the young Czech acquitted himself well. Riding a Ducati ran by sponsor Cardion, Abraham beat both of the more-fancied Pramac riders of Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi, and would’ve likely beaten Cal Crutchlow to the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title if he hadn’t had fallen off the bike at the final round at Valencia. Expect more giant-killing from him next season.
9. Colin Edwards
The venerable American rider lived up to his reputation as a safe, yet capable pair of hands in 2011, scoring points for his Tech 3 team on all bar one occasion. Edwards generally had the measure of highly-rated teammate Cal Crutchlow, and his podium finish at Silverstone served to remind the paddock of his unfulfilled potential. Moving to the brand new Forward Racing team for next year, it will be interesting to see how Edwards rises to the challenge of developing a completely unproven bike.
8. Valentino Rossi
Few expected seven-time champion Rossi to repeat the miracle he performed with the Yamaha team back in 2004 with Ducati this season, but on the same token, few expected him to feature on the podium just once all season. Though the Ducati bike clearly lagged behind its Japanese rivals this year, the fact remains that he outscored new teammate Nicky Hayden by just seven points. For a man of Rossi’s talent, that just isn’t good enough. It remains to be seen whether Ducati will be able to sufficiently up their game next year, but ‘The Doctor’ will have to do likewise if he plans on returning to the winner’s circle.
7. Andrea Dovizioso
Though the statistics indicate that 2011 was his best season of his short MotoGP career so far, they belie the fact that for the majority of the season, Dovizioso’s pace was lacking in comparison to Repsol Honda teammates Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner. Furthermore, he was outpaced by Marco Simoncelli on the satellite Gresini bike at times, and his third place in the championship came his way purely on the virtue of Pedrosa’s three-round absence. Moving to Tech 3 in place of Edwards next year should give him the opportunity to re-establish his credentials.
6. Ben Spies
It is perhaps poignant that in 2011, Spies scored the precise same figure of points for the factory Yamaha team as he did in 2010 for Tech 3. Admittedly, he did miss a round of the season due to injury, but at the same time he arguably failed to live up to the promise he showed so lucidly on satellite machinery last year. His maiden win in the rain at Assen was superb, but he was generally unable to consistently challenge new teammate Jorge Lorenzo for the majority of the year. He will need to do so next year if he is to live up to his billing as a champion-in-waiting.
5. Alvaro Bautista
A lowly thirteenth position in the championship may not sound like much to write home about, but it doesn’t stop 2011 from having been an excellent year for Bautista. The Spaniard often qualified and raced his Suzuki where it no had no real right to be, frequently running ahead of the works Ducatis, Tech 3 Yamahas and Gresini Hondas. Of course, a number of potential top-five finishes were squandered thanks to Bautista’s unfortunate propensity to crash, but his speed was certainly not found wanting. Hopefully, his performances will have been enough to spur Suzuki on to run two bikes next season.
4. Marco Simoncelli
Prior to his sad and untimely death at the penultimate round of the season, Simoncelli was undoubtedly the revelation of the season. After kicking off the campaign with a string of incidents, the charming Italian rider hit his stride, taking two pole positions and two podium finishes. He dominated his Gresini Honda teammate Hiroshi Aoyama all season long, and was able to put himself amongst the works Repsol bikes from time to time as well. We will unfortunately never know what might have been in store for Simoncelli in years to come, but on the strength of his performances this season, it’s nearly certain that MotoGP lost a future world champion.
3. Dani Pedrosa
It was a tight call between Pedrosa and compatriot Jorge Lorenzo for second place in this list, but Casey Stoner’s incredible form on an identical bike to that of Pedrosa means that it’s he who loses out. He was removed from the title equation early on when a controversial clash with Simoncelli led to a broken collarbone which sidelined him for three races, but was nonetheless able to take three victories. During those races, he looked every inch a match for Stoner, but there just weren’t enough times when that was the case. Consistency will hence be the key for Pedrosa to usurp Stoner in the battle for the crown next year.
2. Jorge Lorenzo
In hindsight, it’s difficult to imagine the circumstances under which Lorenzo would have beaten Stoner to the title – he was already forty points in arrears before his finger injury which prevented him from participating in the final three rounds of the season. But, bearing in mind the performance deficiency of the Yamaha in comparison to the Honda, Lorenzo did a fine job to match Pedrosa’s tally of three wins. He saw off the challenge of a new teammate in Ben Spies with apparent ease, helped by having finished in the top four at all but two races. He should be back in contention next season if the 2012 Yamaha bike is up to scratch.
1. Casey Stoner
Simply put, nobody could touch Stoner over the course of the entire season. There were days where Pedrosa looked to have the measure over him, or Lorenzo’s Yamaha was a threat to Honda hegemony, but Stoner ensured that on those days, he still finished on the podium. Indeed, he only failed to appear on the podium once all season, when he was bungled off the track by Valentino Rossi in the wet at Jerez. While the injuries of Pedrosa and Lorenzo undoubtedly made life easier for Stoner, the circumstances under which the Australian secured his second title shouldn’t detract from his achievements. The chasing pack have plenty of work to do if they are to stop him from running away with a third title next year.