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REVIEW - PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 26TH 2010
The top 10 MotoGP riders of 2010
Jorge Lorenzo surprised everybody and took his first title in the top motorcycling category in dominant fashion. Toby Moody reviews the season assesses the class of 2010 in MotoGP


  By Toby Moody
 
 

The 2010 MotoGP season was and wasn't a classic. It was a classic in that a kid at just 23 years old won the title, but not in that the majority of fans will remember it was the summer without their darling, Valentino Rossi, whose crash in early June took the momentum out of many the other side of the TV screens across the world.

Personally, I believe people will look back on 2010 with more respect towards Lorenzo in years to come because he will win more titles and he'll win them equally as well, whether that may be in dominance such as he did in '10, or with the kind of speed and race-craft that he used to win at Jerez this year. Besides, all racers stop racing sooner or later and the world keeps on spinning on its axis.

It wasn't the end of the world when Rossi's leg snapped at Mugello, although the serious reality of a violent and public death happened at Misano with Shoya Tomizawa going an inch or two off line and never coming back. It was the very opposite reason as to why we love live TV.

Yamaha won the triple crown of riders', manufacturers' and teams' titles for the third season on the bounce. That's proper domination: to win nine of the 12 800cc titles since 2007 when Ducati wiped the floor, and all the more reason why Honda got itself in a bit of a kerfuffle trying to win one of those 800cc titles in 2010; maybe they'd have to wait until 2011 to try and get one.

From a racing point of view, Silverstone reappeared, but not as many of the two wheelers knew it when they last left in 1986 - a time at which Jorge Lorenzo was not even born - while Aragon morphed itself from being a back-up race in 2009 to a full time affair in 2010. Rumours of it being in the middle of nowhere were from the metropolitan types rather than those who live in worlds with more grass around them. From certain angles, Aragon looked like it was in Morocco, but in the end was the saviour for Ducati, with a win for Stoner and a podium for Hayden too.

Best moments

For me, Jerez and Lorenzo going backwards at the start to the extent of not even being awake. Then after Pedrosa lead for 26.5 laps, the new champion lead the 27th. Jumping in the lake was a great spontaneous moment too.

Marc Marquez winning after the madness at Estoril. It will never happen like that for a very, very long time.

Best board room decision

Moto2 and its wide open options. Nine winners from 17 races. Were it not for Elias's wise head from having the MotoGP maturity pill there would have been 11.

Worst board room decision

Being stuck in the mud with cost-saving and no track running on a Friday morning when all of the teams have been there since Wednesday.

Best difficult moment

Working out if Marc Marquez could get back onto the grid, even at the back of it, after he crashed on the way to the dummy grid for the restart at Estoril.

Worst difficult moment

When the girl from Dorna came into the box half way through the Misano MotoGP race and showed us a piece of paper with blue biro scrawled across it saying 'Tomizawa is dead'.

Top ten riders

10. Marco Melandri

Marco Melandri

Returned to Gresini Honda for the third time, but soon into the problems of old. Binned the Ohlins forks for good ol' Honda specials from SHOWA at Le Mans but that was to be his last card. They made a difference for two races, then it faded.

It was a shame as the kid means well, and has proven he's a winner in the past but it was his last chance before taking a choice ride in WSBK on the Yamaha R1.

The paddock will miss him, but he said at Valencia: "I might be back, you never know".

9. Randy de Puniet

Randy de Puniet

Perennial LCR second string Honda that was pedalled like hell by the flying frog. Early summer run was simply stunning with calls for a works ride to be his reward in 2011. Then his first race crash of the season was at Sachsenring, when already weakened after falling on Lorenzo's oil in qualifying.

Crashing was OK, it was just getting both legs run over by the unsighted Mika Kallio that was the problem, breaking his leg. It took the doctors over 40 minutes to get his boot off he was yelping so much.

Amazingly, he returned in just four weeks with the questionable doctor's go-ahead at Brno. Although he said he was OK, he never quite got back to the form that he was at before the off in Germany.

8. Marco Simoncelli

Marco Simoncelli

Image of the paddock's Court Jester was backed up pre-season with a big off at Sepang test. Situation normal with the 'I'll just ride round it' attitude he had on 125s and 250s. He soon learnt that wouldn't work on a MotoGP bike. He would crash with metronomic precision on a Friday afternoon, once crashing twice in the session leaving Gresini with a mounting parts bill for the season.

There must have been something in Japan as in the second half of the season he got it together, finishing every race from Brno onwards, even if at Misano had a grass-cutting moment when sixth. Another to suffer with lack of track time to 'learn' the electronics package; a new one arriving to the garage at Laguna meant he looped it into the CA dust in practice. Fun guy who is a fighter with the visor down. Very brave.

7. Nicky Hayden

Nicky Hayden

Anything was going to be better than 2009 for Hayden and indeed it was. Three fourths straight out of the blocks gave him reason to stick two fingers up at people who'd almost given up on him from 2009 and the 'impossible' Ducati, but then the front end slips started. Once at Jerez in practice at 125mph and another in the race at Mugello right in front of, prophetically enough, the Ducati stand.

He beat Lorenzo with that thrilling last-lap brawl at Aragon to remind us why he was a MotoGP world champion. Once Ducati knew that Stoner was going to Honda mid-season, or even earlier, they realised they had to make a Ducati more rideable for the others out there. Always giving 100 per cent. If he was in F1, he'd be Mark Webber in the popularity stakes.

6. Ben Spies

Ben Spies

Classed as a Rookie but only on the scoring sheets. The reigning World Superbike Champion had done a couple of races in 2008 but they didn't really count as the Suzuki was no match for anything. Now on a Rossi hand-me-down Yamaha he could learn. Still, there were eight circuits he didn't know at all and that's half a season's worth. Could a rookie with the ridiculously little amount of testing and even more ridiculous lack of Friday morning running learn a place that quickly?

Spies gave it a very good go; indeed the best go we've seen from a non previous GP rider for a very long time. Evidence that circuit data and knowledge worked came with a podium at Silverstone and pole and second at Indy. Bashing his ankle at Le Mans and Portugal (on the out lap) were the unlucky bits. Very solid-minded guy who is from the old school of bike racing, almost as if he is from the Roberts era with his simplicity and uncluttered manner. No silly teddy bears or kisses to the camera with Spies.

5. Andrea Dovizioso

Andrea Dovizioso

First year in a works team for the never-ridden-anything-else Italian. Impressed on what many saw as a below-par Honda at the start of the season, but really was down to faith in the electronics engineers that had come over from Yamaha, where the electronics were perceived as the best on the grid. It was all going so well in the first third of the year until it all slipped a bit.

Others got better and quicker and he couldn't quite go with them. Honda's late-season engines that were built upon experience of the early ones were the best engine the grid has ever seen under the six-engine rule. It worked for him with pole at Motegi, with a second there and the week after. Contract shenanigans over for which team he was going to ride in 2011 can't have helped, whatever anyone says. It just unsettles you in what was already an unsettled garage politically.

4. Casey Stoner

Casey Stoner

Ups and downs for Stoner in 2010. I for one had my money on him for the title. It was all going so well until lap 6 when the front went down the road. It never got any better for quite a while after that dead cert, win in his pocket, race in the Middle East. Indeed, it got worse at Le Mans when it went again. It was as if he quite rightly decided to go slower to faster with safe rides that re-established confidence in the front end while engineers fiddled with it.

Podiums were there but nothing like the old fire that we'd seen in the past. But then we went to Aragon and they moved the seating position to aid movement of his injured wrist from 2008 and just like that he was there. Quick in the wet, quick in the dry and won the race - and the next one in Japan! Where did that come from?

He had a silly off on lap one in Sepang when he applied 50% more pressure on the front brake lever than he had in qualifying, while he won in Oz by a mile. Portugal was another odd Ducati front-end slip, but fundamentally he was back on form come the close of the season and ready to fire a great many shots over some bows when he jumps on a Honda in 2011 to prove he wasn't just quick on a Ducati.

3. Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi

Ah, could Valentino Rossi have won the 2010 title if he rode the whole season uninjured? That is the talking point that has heated up more bike racing-related discussion than ever before. The simple answer is that we'll never know, but getting into his 15th season of GP racing without an injury that prevented him taking the start of a race is quite remarkable considering the nature of the sport as a whole.

In the end it was his injured shoulder from a Moto-X accident after the first round that caused him more jip than his leg injury, and that is still on going to this day even though he had surgery on it after Valencia. It was evident that when he returned from injury and won in Malaysia that people said normality had resumed. Number 46 was winning again.

But to recover from such a nasty break and win in the same season shows you how much will and fight there is still with the sport's greatest star. He still lines up the stars though as that win in Malaysia took some of the limelight away from Lorenzo winning the championship on the same day, all part of the mind games and the head screwing he's so good at.

They are the mind games that he himself may have fallen victim to at Mugello when he fell off. He was trailing his team mate for the first time ever, 11 points back after three races. It was a territory he'd never been in before and his only way back to normality was to go faster and faster and faster to put the pesky sharks back where they belonged...but the not quite warmed up Bridgestone put paid to that as it spun up at 111mph.

2. Dani Pedrosa

Dani Pedrosa

For the first time in a while the speedy starter started the season free from injury, but the bike was the bit that was injured. He just couldn't get on with it. To make matters worse, team-mate Dovizioso flew to an opening race podium with a different set-up to Dani's, but the turn around that HRC came up with for Pedrosa was up there with the good ol' HRC purists know and love. In just eight weeks they'd turned it around into a winner. The magic was back.

Pedrosa then flew to wins and seconds and ignoring his Laguna Seca crash when being pressured by Lorenzo closing in on his rival, but a bizarre stuck throttle in the opening minutes of free practice on Friday at Motegi meant his collarbone was broken into four pieces and three races missed.

The last two races he limped through with the injury maybe worse than just broken bones. It was all going so well until that throttle stuck open. Would he have won the title without that problem? No. He'd still be second, just not by a 138-point deficit.

1. Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo

Surprised himself when he got onto the podium at the opening race in Qatar just one second behind team-mate Rossi. Having injured his hand pre-season he knew he was on the back foot (or hand) physically and knew it was a damage limitation weekend. He wouldn't shake hands with anyone to try and save it for the race, but 20 points that night gave him the spring in his step he never lost until Aragon, 13 races later, when he pipped for his first non podium finish of the season.

It's no wonder he won the title finishing 16 of 18 races swigging champagne, while in the other two he was fourth over the line. That's why he won the title by 138 points; five and a half races worth of points.

A worthy champion who for me had his best race early on in the year at Jerez when he was nowhere in the early stages but fought race-long leader Pedrosa to beat him in an epic, risk-all duel, on the last lap. His confidence from that day forward was unstoppable.

  FEATURES FROM DEC 23, 2010 - DEC 29, 2010
The top 10 WRC drivers of 2010
By David Evans
The 2010 World Rally Championship season review
By David Evans
The first salvo in the new Concorde battle
By Dieter Rencken
Memories of the year: Tackling the Col du Turini with Walter Rohrl
By Andrew van de Burgt
Memories of the year: A fast ride with Jean Alesi
By Jonathan Noble
A day behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car
By Glenn Freeman
Memories of the year: Manning the pits for Tagliani at Indy
By Charles Bradley
The top 10 MotoGP riders of 2010
By Toby Moody
Memories of the year: A diary of sheer delights
By Henry Hope-Frost
The 2010 DTM season review
By Glenn Freeman
The top 10 DTM drivers of 2010
By Glenn Freeman
Memories of the year: A night out in Darlington
By Marcus Simmons
The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season review
By Diego Mejia
The top 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers of 2010
By Diego Mejia
Memories of the year: Kubica on the limit at Monaco
By Edd Straw
The top 10 WTCC drivers of 2010
By Steven English
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