Duncan Bishop

From champions to changes

Duncan Bishop

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As Casey Stoner and Ben Spies flew down the straight
for the final time in the 2011 season, it was almost as if both of them were
racing to bring the 800cc era to a close as quickly as possible.

The much-maligned white elephant of the MotoGP World
Championship was bid a fond 'good riddance', at Valencia, ironically with one
of the closest duels for victory of its lifetime.

An experiment gone wrong, a case of technology
outpacing regulations or an unpredicted cure for insomnia - depending on your
opinion and level of tact - it is hard to find anyone with anything positive to
say about the past five seasons of racing. Those who disagree with such a blunt
analysis would hold a contrasting viewpoint to the Don of MotoGP: Dorna CEO
Carmelo Ezpeleta has criticised the 800cc era as overpriced, underwhelming and
unsustainable.

2011 wasn't a vintage season in many respects.
Processional races, a lead which hardly changed hands in either the races or
the championship standings and several key riders either injured or
uncompetitive - without mentioning the darkest moment in 800cc history two
weeks ago. All three titles were decided with the runner-up not crossing the
finish line and the premier class crown was clinched with two races to spare.
But despite the shortcomings of the season, the winners all deserved their
accolades.

Stoner may have been on the best bike, but also got
the best out of the Honda RC213V to remain untouchable this year. Whether you
enjoy his dominance is a matter of taste, but nobody came close to him in terms
of cold, hard facts and figures.

The positives for those not so keen on Honda's only
800cc title winner are that Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies have been
able to match him on occasions in 2011. A Valentino Rossi return to form, a
successful switch to Yamaha from Andrea Dovizioso and some surprises would keep
almost every partisan fan happy next time around, while the neutrals will be praying
that a change of machinery brings with it closer racing.

Stefan Bradl likely has fewer fans than Marc Marquez,
but the German's title win was a triumph for consistency in the Moto2 class.
Their roles were reversed once Marquez began to finish races and the momentum
lay with the rookie, but Bradl is every bit the worthy champion. Some may claim
that a fit Marquez would have beaten him at Valencia, but that holds little
weight in my eyes. With the title already won, nobody can say how the race would
have gone had it been in play. A few meetings held this weekend with HRC mean
that we may not see who is the better of the two until 2013.

Finally, the 125cc world champion. Nico Terol also
laid the foundations for the title early in the season, and lifted a huge
weight from his shoulders. Still young, he nonetheless had spent a long few
years fighting for the honour. It hasn't been an easy month for the Spaniard - he
confessed to me this past Thursday at the track that he was in need of some
rest and relaxation after some sleepless post-Australia nights - and Zarco
pushed him almost all the way, but Terol is now ready for Moto2 and perhaps a
Marquez-esque rookie season.

Not such a shame to say goodbye to the 800cc bikes
then, but I for one will miss the 125cc class. That's a whole lot of history
that we say goodbye to in order to make way for Moto3. Does it take away from
the prestige of a category when an entire lineage of champions and direct
comparisons comes to an end? I think so. If the new category provides exciting
racing though, then most likely few will share the sentiment.

The perfect
tribute

Just when we thought that we were all cried out,
Michele Pirro went and did that. We'd
all said a final goodbye to Marco Simoncelli with the excellent Schwantz-led
tribute lap, but everyone who saw the troubled figure of Fausto Gresini this
week wanted a little something extra to help with his healing. The post-warm-up
lap was for Marco, but Pirro's win was definitely one for Fausto.

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