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Toby Moody

Pedrosa's title blow: Karma or cruel luck?
A series of bizarre events contrived to put Dani Pedrosa out of the San Marino MotoGP, and in effect take the life out of the championship fight. Toby Moody unravels the Misano madness

Were it not for Karel Abraham stalling on the grid at the start of the San Marino MotoGP race at Misano, there may still have been a MotoGP championship to play for between Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.

Technically I suppose, you could argue that we still do have one. But with 38 points now between them, and five races remaining, things have gone a little flat.

Oh for what might've been.

The circumstances surrounding Pedrosa's pole-to-crash Sunday were nothing short of bizarre.

Abraham's bike stalled, just as it had off the dummy grid, and the start was aborted very quickly by race director Mike Webb. A nervous look from Abraham over his shoulder had said it all; being hit from behind is a sure way to get seriously hurt.

Some riders let their clutches in when the lights went orange but as with many cases such as this, not all of them knew the format for such a situation – disappointing given it is put in place for their safety...

What happened next may necessitate a change of the rules in the future for the bikes sat on the grid for another five minutes before the restart. Quite why they couldn't wheel the broken Abraham Ducati out of the way, send the riders off on another warming up lap and then have a lap lopped off the race, I don't know.

Instead the resulting dead air time on the grid was to cost Pedrosa dearly.

Who will stop Lorenzo now?
Who will stop Lorenzo now? © XPB

Dani et al, had enough time to take his helmet off while mechanics jumped the wall with tyre warmers, drinks bottles, umbrella and laptops between the starts.

But when it was time to remove the tyre warmer from the pole-sitting Repsol Honda's front, it was discovered that the front brake had locked on. Frantically the HRC guys released the pressure from the master cylinder but by this time the clock was ticking again and the bike had to be removed from the grid so as not to delay the start.

Ironically no sooner had it been moved to pitlane but the brake problem was cured. By now the bike had to be started from pitlane and, starting the warm-up lap from pitlane means you must line up at the back of the grid. This rule was not observed and the bike was wheeled back onto pole position.

Pedrosa, having now left the dummy grid from the 'wrong' position then suddenly found that the pitlane speed limiter had been flicked on in the melee – as if he didn't have enough mental anguish to worry about by. This took him a few corners to decipher and then thrash through and catch the others... by which point he was positioned at the back of the grid for wheeling his bike back on the grid in the first place.

He made up six places before the first corner but at La Quercia, he was skittled out of the race by Hector Barbera.

Quite what Barbera was thinking, that he could follow a fired up Pedrosa through a tight gap on his first race lap back after breaking his leg in mid-July, is for his conscience only. But when you are a midfield runner and there is a risk of taking out a championship contender from your own country, with every conceivable angle of television camera trained on you, you do have to use your brain.

Hector might have trouble getting served in a Repsol fuel station ever again...

It's now 'one all' between Pedrosa and Lorenzo in terms of being taken out on the first lap this year. And the ironic twist that this dealt the Spaniard a harsh blow to his title aspirations, was not lost on many. Some Americans who have never forgiven and never forgotten Estoril 2006 were seen wickedly texting their friends. The polite ones used the word 'karma'.

While Pedrosa's problems played out, Lorenzo had taken up his inherited pole position, gesticulated at Cal Crutchlow to play this safe for Yamaha, and sped ahead.

Valentino Rossi was second and the crowd cheered as memories of the old days flooded back to all of us, not least of all the yellow clad fans in the stands who swarmed with excitement and anticipation.

Who will stop Lorenzo now?
Rossi was finally back on the podium © XPB

On lap four, Lorenzo had a big moment in the first sector, and it looked as if the Italian dream was about to come true. "I don't know how I didn't crash," he said afterwards.

Rossi saw this unfurl in front of him, and an instantaneous newsflash raced through his mind. "My God," he thought. "I might have to prepare to win this". Lorenzo held his cool though. Rossi did too, in the certain knowledge that his tyres would fade, as they had done with such tidal regularity this year.

But here's the thing, they didn't. VR's best lap in the race was 1m34.85s; his worst was a 1m35.3s.

If he'd known they were going to last so well, maybe things would've been different with Lorenzo. And the Yamaha man, Rossi's team-mate next year, would've played safe knowing Pedrosa was out...

The paddock felt a bit sorry for the little Spaniard on Sunday afternoon. He's kept his head down all year, not got injured, emerged from being the ever-so-slightly number two rider, stayed focussed through the Stoner retirement maelstrom and delivered one of his best races in the big class at Brno. But Lorenzo, metronome that he is, has finished 12 of 13 races in either first or second place. It's going to be very difficult for Dani to topple him.

As for the aborted start confusion, I wonder if there is a need to go through the five-minute procedure again in the future? Did those extra few minutes on the grid mean too much heat sink went through the #26 Honda?

Normally that should never be a problem, bikes complete laps in practice and return to the pits stinking hot with no cooling fans or blowers placed around them. The only difference was that on the grid the wheel stayed on the bike, rather than being removed as it would be in the garage. Maybe a few extra degrees of temperature caused the calliper to lock on as the bike stood there, but what we do know is that it didn't happen to the other twenty bikes on the grid.

It was a freak scenario that could've happened out on track and potentially resulted in a big crash. But fortunately that was not the case for the hapless Dani.

We'll never know what could've been.

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