The 2011 MotoGP season came to a close this afternoon in Valencia with one of the most exciting races of the year. A fitting way to conclude a largely forgettable and regrettable (barring Casey Stoner’s achievements) season. Funny, as it also concluded the 800cc era, which can be summarized just as the 2011 season has been.
Casey Stoner took the final 800 race by 0.015 second over Ben Spies after coughing up a near 10-second-lead. Spies managed to take the lead with a lap to go before Stoner retook the advantage out of the final corner. “When we came out of the last corner I got the paint sucked off the bike by Casey as he went past,” Spies said, hinting that Stoner’s Honda had “a bit more motor… down the front straightaway.”
Andrea Dovizioso took the final podium position and secured his third place in the world championship standings today after holding off and eventually leaving teammate Dani Pedrosa, who eventually finished fifth.
Much of the weekend’s drama came at the start, when a collision between Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista sent Bautista, Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, and Randy de Puniet into the gravel. Bautista claimed Dovi moved over on him and left him nowhere to go, Italian media outlets argued that it was Bautista who had turned into Dovi. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of those arguments. But the result was three Ducatis, who had looked more competitive than they had all season, packing up early from a wildly unpredictable race in conditions that played into the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1’s hands.
Away from the on-track competition, there was on-track festivities to commemorate the life of Marco Simoncelli. The 24-year-old Italian who was killed at the Malaysian GP two weeks ago was remembered with a lap of honor featuring all riders from MotoGP, Moto2, and the 125s, all headed by 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz, piloting Simoncelli’s Honda. What followed was a two-minute casino, at the request of Simoncelli’s father. Two minutes of fireworks and engines revving. Hard to imagine a better way to remember such a charismatic young man.
But with the close of a season and an era of which many will wish they could forget, a new chapter opens to the public on Tuesday when teams will return to the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia (hangovers permitting) to test the new 1000cc machines for 2012. It will mark the first time that Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati have all had their 1000cc machines on track simultaneously and will give us a glimpse as to just how far ahead of everyone Honda are, and just how much ground Ducati have made up.