The season is over in the two major classes of international racing so it’s time for me to send the riders out their Report Cards for their efforts. I’ll start with MotoGp. Here goes.
A+ Jorge Lorenzo: A fitting World Champion. Finished in 1st or 2nd place in every race this season except for Assen where he was taken out by Bautista and Valencia where his impatience got the better of him while he was lapping slower traffic. Fast, smooth, a great qualifier and only shaded towards the end of the season by Pedrosa as the Honda juggernaut gathered pace again. It will be interesting to see how he copes with having Rossi as a team mate next season, but, as the incumbent and the younger rider, I don’t expect him to be intimidated at all.
A+ Dani Pedrosa. Won the most GP’s and closed what seemed like an impossible gap half way through the season to just 18 points at the end. By far his best MotoGp season ever, Dani showed that he can be a fine RACER as well as being a fine rider. His first full season without injury and it showed. Also matured as a wet weather rider, something he has struggled with in past seasons. Hard not to be impressed with his 2012 campaign.
A+ Casey Stoner. Signed off with a podium, came back from a terrible injury and resultant surgery to win his 6th straight AGP and showed us all what a ferociously good rider he could be right to the end. His impatience and resultant crash earlier in the season probably meant that he was never going to win the title, but no-one fights harder or can show more controlled aggression than the Australian. His early-season decision to quit at the end of 2012 may have tempered his riding in the second half but, on his day, he was sublime, untouchable and the envy of all of his peers who were effusive in their praise of his talent and commitment. In a paddock that is filled with colourless riders, Casey’s candour and lack of BS attitude will be sorely missed.
A Andrea Dovizioso. The likeable Italian brawled all season long with his TechIII team-mate but came out on top in the end by over 60 points. By anybody’s measure, the “Best of the Rest” Dovi is a demon under brakes and always saves a tiny bit for that last couple of laps, a factor that has served him well this season. He thoroughly shut down the 2nd Yamaha “works” rider (who actually pretty much shot himself in the foot most times) and thoroughly deserves a return to a full factory team ride. Whether Ducati deserve HIM is an entirely different matter.
B Alvaro Bautista. Second satellite bike home, though distant from Dovi by a considerable margin, Alvaro showed increasing signs of maturity mixed with his old, familiar rashness. Undoubtedly the time at Suzuki has taken its toll, who knows where he could be if he hadn’t wasted that time. There is still time for the likeable rider, but, with most “works” teams with a full roster for the next couple of seasons, getting to the top step is looking increasingly unlikely.
B Cal Crutchlow. Despite my predictions at the start of the season that Cal would do a “Toseland” and sink like a stone, he actually acquitted himself quite well. His battles with his team-mate were worth the price of admission at most tracks and, but for a few bits of bad luck, he could have finished a lot closer to the front. It will be very interesting to see how he gets along with his new tea-mate, the unproven and underwhelming Bradley Smith, next year. I predict that he won’t be finishing behind his team-mate too often in 2013.
B Stefan Bradl. A very solid year for his maiden effort in MotoGp. He was fast, smooth and consistent and he stayed upright. A very promising beginning. Hopefully he can progress to a better-funded team soon and show us just what a good rider he is.
C Valentino Rossi Who would have thought that the “Greatest of all time” would only rate a “C”. Sadly, he struggles to get even this rating in my opinion. While everybody knows that the Ducati is a stinker, the fact is that Stoner won on it just before Vale took it over and all the input that he and Burgess were able to give was worthless in the end. Why? Because Rossi either couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt his riding style to suit the bike. It is all very well to complain about the bike, but that is the bike you asked for and that is what you got. If you then can’t put it on the podium then who is to blame? Rossi returns to Yamaha with high hopes but it remains to be seen how much the two years at Ducati have scarred him. In all his career he has never had to struggle and the signs of what that struggle has done to him mentally and physically are not pretty.
D Nicky Hayden. I have never made any secret of my opinion of Nicky Hayden. He is in MotoGp because the manufacturers need the American market, end of story. Three GP wins and one fluky championship is all that he has to show for it. If ever there was a “pretender” in the class, Hayden is it. The American journalists make a big deal about how popular he is in the paddock and what a hard worker he is, but he’s not a race winner and he never will be. Hayden has passed his use-by date a long time ago and should gracefully retire and give up his seat to a rider who can get results.
F Ben Spies. I’m being generous here. Spies has been an abject failure at this level, showing again what a yawning gap there is between being a good superbike rider and a MotoGp champion. Too many unforced errors, too many excuses and too much weight of expectation that he was never going to be able to shoulder. Graduating to MotoGp was by far and away the very worst thing that he could have done.
So, that’s my top 10. Tomorrow I’ll look at Moto2 and Moto3 and then later I’ll look at WSBK. Feel free to comment, disagree and add your thoughts.