Duncan Bishop

A moderately exciting race

Duncan Bishop

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Cal Crutchlow at the Spanish GP

If you're looking for excitement, then moderation is never normally the way to go. Calling it a night after two weak American ales, leaving half of an obscenely-sized pizza for the morning and other such sensible ideas are just that little bit less fun than unadulterated excess.

This past weekend at Jerez, a bit of middle ground was just the ticket.

Ask a rider what conditions they prefer, and they will all opt for a dry track with warm temperatures. The second choice - if really pushed - is a fully wet race. You won't hear anyone saying: "It would be excellent if it could rain for a little bit, then dry out, then perhaps we could have another spot of rain before the end."

Yes, the same old suspects stepped onto the rostrum at the Spanish GP, but there was at least some uncertainty and variation in the lead-up to what was eventually a dry race. The weather was largely to thank for some eventful practice sessions, plus the most entertaining qualifying session in many a Grand Prix.

Take, for example. Valentino Rossi's opening to the southern Spanish sojourn: Second in a wet Free Practice 2, showing that under certain conditions he can get the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 around a track within a second of the fastest rider, The Doctor's Friday showing was a pyrrhic victory in that it only made his lack of pace in qualifying all the more notable. 3.5 seconds off pole and 2.5 off a teammate on equal machinery in what was as close to a dry session as the skies were going to allow had the Italian press up in arms (they don't do moderation, remember).

Onto race day, and we were denied the madness of a flag-to-flag contest or a repeat of last year's wild battle up front, but there were enough shake-ups to maintain interest.

Casey Stoner's first 1000cc win owed much to his opening couple of laps, as the charts show tremendous equality between he and Jorge Lorenzo - besides the 0.5 second difference on lap two. Lorenzo basically matched the 2011 World Champion for pace every step of the way, although that extra impetus to make an overtake stick was not quite there.

The Australian's arm pump problem is again present only in patches — despite the narrative the TV director wished to build up with constant shots of crossed arms and lingering images of a remarkably dull forearm for seconds on end.

You still get the impression that the issue will return at a later GP — just as you felt that Lorenzo's passing chances were ever-so-slightly manufactured by the leader easing off on laps eighteen and nineteen - but as long as the eventual race winner isn't crossing the line 20 seconds clear, I think we can deal with that. Dominance is impressive, but holding off a rival at a marginally slower pace can at times be even more so.

Whilst it was a Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa podium (the 15th time that they have shared a premier class rostrum), the hopeful sign to break up the most successful touring trio since The Police reunion shows is Cal Crutchlow. Weariness at overhyping a Brit after James Toseland's burnout in 2009 meant that few would single out the Tech 3 rider as a podium challenger for 2012, but there were further indications that he is the real deal at Jerez.

Had the Saturday rainfall persisted rather than petering out, we could have been talking about a first Briton on pole position since 2002. That would have been a question of fortune, but what followed on Sunday was all talent. It was Crutchlow who was the first to find the extra tenths to get into the 1:40s (he dipped back into the 1:41s for three laps thereafter when battling for position) and it was he who recorded the fastest lap of the race: 1:40.019. The last time a Brit did that was when Barry Sheene laid down the best time in the 1984 South African GP, at a time when Crutchlow was not even born.

And whilst some of his rivals have the more conventional problems of arm pump, chattering and an incomprehensible Italian bike, none of them have had to deal with a rat in their motorhome, keeping them awake for most of Friday and Saturday night. As bizarre as it sounds, that was Crutchlow's most persistent difficulty in Spain.

With the prospect of no sleep 'til Estoril and wet conditions for the Portuguese GP, the season picks up pace in the most intriguing of fashions heading into next week's race. Enjoy the ride — in moderation, of course.

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