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Toby Moody

A look at Italy's drought in MotoGP
It has been 16 races since the Italian anthem played for a winner in the MotoGP category. Toby Moody looks at the chances of that happening again this year

I flew out of Bologna airport after the San Marino Grand Prix with all the associated chaos and madness of most of Italy returning from holiday.

The comedy of chihuahuas in Louis Vuitton bags, the eye candy and the omnipresent sunglasses when inside – it's great. What was also great was getting a copy of Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian newspaper, to see how it viewed the Misano weekend.

There were days when there would be big celebrations on the front cover, featuring the likes of Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi or Valentino Rossi. Sometimes, the football report got downscaled. But, alas, it's been a while since that's happened. But I fancy that the Spanish sport paper Marca had a frontpage full of MotoGP after the nation's wins in all three classes at Misano.

Rossi, the last Italian winner, 16 races ago
Rossi, the last Italian winner, 16 races ago

It's been a long while – 16 races – since an Italian won in MotoGP. Since Rossi won in Malaysia last October, it's been as long as the gap between Biaggi's wins at Brno in 1998 and Welkom in '99. And the last time there were no Italian wins in the premier class during an entire season was '97, when Repsol Honda men Mick Doohan, Alex Criville and Tadayuki Okada won all 15 races between them.

It might seem funny for a Brit to feel a pang for the Italian national anthem to ring out over the track PA, but it's not while Andrea Dovizioso has to work on cracking the Casey Stoner/Jorge Lorenzo/Dani Pedrosa circle of steel, Marco Simoncelli is in the process of working it out, while Capirossi has just faded – it seems the massive effort he put in during 2006 really did take the wind out of his sails.

The depths of this 2011 season will make Ducati stronger because it has a carbon copy of what Ferrari had in Formula 1 with Michael Schumacher, Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn in 1996. But it wasn't until 2000 that they won the championship, something that took longer than we all expected. With Ducati probably building another new bike to test between now and the winter, then another one again before the start of the 2012 season, you have to hand it to them to be able to do all that.

So, it all hangs on Dovizioso and Simoncelli to try to add a more positive tune to Monday papers in Italy between now and the end of the season. With just five races left, can they do it? They both have the right bike underneath them, Dovi's done it before – at Donington in 2009 – and Simoncelli knows he has a new Honda deal as good as signed so it's all ready.

I'll be going to Italy on the Monday after Valencia, the final GP of 2011, so it'll be interesting to see what Gazzetta has to say about their own. I do, of course, hope to read about a fantastic result in MotoGP in Fleet Street's sports pages, but Cal Crutchlow will admit that may be next year.

Darwin Awards

There have been some howling mistakes during racing on two and four wheels this year, but Johan Zarco's quite bizarre give-away of the 125cc San Marino GP is one of bike racing's best Darwin Award nominations.

2011 runaway dominator Nicolas Terol fought hard against Zarco throughout the race but got beaten by the Frenchman through the final few corners. Heading out of the last left-hander he sat up and waved at Terol's similar Aprilia/Derbi engined bike.

Speaking to those who grilled Zarco after the race, it seems he was making a point of 'waiting' for Terol to steam past because he "thought the championship leader had a better bike and would beat him anyway" so he wanted to make a point by waving him past as if making some sort of statement to his Ajo team.

Johan Zarco fights with Nico Terol
Johan Zarco fights with Nico Terol ©

You go through the Red Bull Rookies, you sleep on the manager's sofa to save money, you get a decent ride in 125 at world level and then you try to make some statement about another guy who you are convinced has a better engine?

He's right about Terol having a bit more speed, though (5km/h more down the back straight on the last lap), but Zarco stayed ahead, even if he did overcook it at the end of the back straight. It was fantastic racing and he'd won by five bike lengths out of the final left. But no, he thought he'd be clever.

As three-time world champion Kenny Roberts says: "You don't get gifted a win, let alone a World Championship."

Zarco gifted a win, possibly the 2011 title and the key to his psyche to Terol and the rest of his rivals at Misano. He'll recover from it, but people will point and whisper behind his back for a while. Oh, and it's a Spanish race next in Terol's homeland. I wonder what the trackside banners will say?

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