Duncan Bishop

Abraham’s rookie season exceeding expectations

Duncan Bishop

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Expectations were low and criticism was high when Karel Abraham's move up to the premier class was announced last season.

At the time, he had yet to claim a podium in his six years of Grand Prix racing.

Abraham drew the ire of fans and journalists, who saw a talent for writing cheques rather than a talented Czech. His father is the owner of the Brno circuit and a successful pacemaker company near Brno, and there is no denying that it is cash that brought him into MotoGP this season.

Coincidentally, the news meant more focus on a peripheral figure in Moto2 last year, and he subsequently raised his game.

The pre-prepared story for this season of 'out-of-depth moneybags' was certainly shaken up when the then-20 year old took his first Grand Prix win in his final intermediate class race at Valencia.

In parc ferme after his maiden victory, Italian television posed him a question with more than a hint of sarcasm: "Do you feel that this win justifies your move up to MotoGP?"

Abraham, who has plenty of self belief and is not afraid of being candid about it, took the question at face value and replied in the affirmative.

The Czech rookie knows that criticism will always come his way, and has the answers ready to hand. His may be one of the more extreme cases, but he rightly points out that money makes the MotoGP world go round —whether that cash comes from sponsors, the organisations behind the series or family members.

Where he can best respond to his doubters is on-track. To compare a privateer Ducati to the modified factory team machines ridden by two former World Champions would be harsh on Abraham, but putting his results up against those of the Pramac satellite team makes for impressive reading.

He has finished ahead of both of their riders (Loris Capirossi, Randy de Puniet and substitute Sylvain Guintoli) at seven of the season's opening 10 races.

He has also cut out the crashing to a large extent. For a rider who previously topped the 2008 list for most falls with an astonishing 23, he has gradually been mastering the art of staying upright, without losing the will to push the bike to the limit.

"Everyone says that the Ducati is a difficult bike to ride, but I have never ridden anything else, so I wouldn't know," Abraham told me midway through his rookie season.

Aware of its reputation and how much he still has to learn, sometimes he picks up experience by following other riders around. This has lead to him getting the closest he has been all season to series leader Casey Stoner, at the post-race test at Mugello.

Abraham's standing up to Stoner gained him some fans, attention and respect in the paddock; the stuff that money can't buy.

It's unlikely that any big teams will be offering him a factory ride anytime soon, but winning this season's rookie of the year award and placing ahead of the likes of Hector Barbera, Alvaro Bautista and the Pramac duo would show that he deserves his spot in the premier class — however he made his way in.

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