Misano, despite being on Italy's Adriatic coast, is actually considered, for FIM purposes anyway, to be in the neighbouring republic of San Marino. It's not actually as unreasonable as you might think - San Marino is so tiny that if the circuit were within it, frankly there would be precious little room for anything else. And it really is very close - just a few kilometres.
Grand Prix racing only came back to the beautiful little circuit in 2007 after a lengthy absence for safety improvements. The biggest improvement was to make the circuit run anticlockwise, which suddenly increased the runoff in some of the more ferocious corners as well as reducing entry speeds in places. It's a genuinely interesting and nice circuit, it always blesses us with close, exciting racing and it's a pleasure to ride as well. Oh, and Valentino Rossi lives just down the road, though he's only won here the once, last year after Stoner crashed out.
Of course this year there is no Stoner, the Australian still being sidelined with his illness. So motivation for the championship leader comes instead from his presumptuous team mate Jorge Lorenzo, who is pressing the master hard. Dani Pedrosa, too, has recaptured some of his old form and is actually riding almost as well as we expect these days. No surprise, then, that it was this trio who dominated free practice, with both sessions coming out the same - Rossi from Lorenzo from Pedrosa.
Qualifying was a similar story, with Rossi taking the lead from Alex de Angelis - keen to impress at his home round - Randy de Puniet and, briefly, Marco Melandri. It then became a straight three way fight between Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. It looked as though Lorenzo had cracked it with an excellent push to take the lead from Rossi with just fifty seconds of the session to go. But just under forty seconds later Pedrosa blasted across the line three tenths quicker. Then Rossi went through another two tenths faster, completing the lap ten seconds after the official session ended but, because he had started it before the time was allowed to stand. Toni Elias was just a hundredth of a second slower than third placed Lorenzo, with Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden within a whisker of each other in fifth and sixth. Alex de Angelis, Andrea Dovizioso and Randy de Puniet made up row three with the top ten being completed by Loris Capirossi.
As is usually the case at Misano, race day dawned slightly cloudy but warm. Very warm, in fact, the overnight low being similar to a British summer's day. And those clouds didn't last long, burning off to reveal a magnificent azure sky. Yep, another day in paradise. Valentino Rossi continued his clean sweep at the top of the leaderboard by dominating warmup as well, a full three quarters of a second faster than Lorenzo who seemed to be struggling with the Yamaha and who, in fact, hadn't been his normal perky self all weekend. Was the pressure getting to him?
Lining up on the grid it was amusing to see that Valentino Rossi retains his sense of humour. last week, you may remember, he fell off all on his own at Indianapolis. To celebrate his mistake he appeared on the grid wearinga helmet with Donkey from Shrek painted on it, and his trademark "The Doctor" writing on the back replaced with "The Donkey" as he apparently felt that he was, well, a bit of an ass.
When the lights went out it'll come as no surprise to hear that it was Pedrosa who made the holeshot, the diminutive Spaniard firing the Honda off the line and making the most of his weight advantage. More of a surprise was the fact that Toni Elias slotted into second behind him, with Rossi ahead of Lorenzo in third. While not much of a surprise to the cynical hacks in the audience, Alex de Angelis' sudden appearance on the inside of Colin Edwards in turn two was certainly a shock to him. Especially as the local rider proceeded to simply torpedo the Texan, launching his Yamaha into Nicky Hayden's Ducati and clobbering the back of Lorenzo's Yamaha as well. Lorenzo was fortunate enough to stay on, while the tow Americans were both dumped in the gravel through no fault of their own, unhurt but extremely annoyed. Randy de Puniet was forced to take to the gravel to avoid the carnage, managing to rejoin but a distant last.
Lap two saw Lorenzo make a determined lunge past his team mate at the same spot as the previous lap's chaos, and while Rossi clearly thought about coming straight back, and indeed appeared to have the pace to do so, he elected instead to stay calm and let everything stabilise before puttingt he hammer down. Pedrosa was failing to break away, though there was certainly a bit of a gap appearing between him and Elias but nowhere near enough to cause much concern. Lap five saw Elias drop from second to fourth in a few corners as Rossi pounced, first on Lorenzo then on Elias to start closing down Pedrosa. Not to be outdone, Lorenzo also set off after the leaders. It took another three laps, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Rossi hoovered up the space between him and Pedrosa, lined him up for the pass and then slipped through beautifully ina textbook display of clean-but-no-comeback-whatsoever overtaking. The championship leader then proceeded to extend a lead of nearly a second in just a couple of laps while Pedrosa tried in vain to stay ahead of Lorenzo. By halfway through the race we were looking ata Yamaha one-two, and though there was some toing and froing at the front the gap never dropped below a second and a half and Valentino Rossi took the victory in emphatic style from Jorge Lorenzo, with Pedrosa finishing third but nearly eight seconds behind.
Behind the leading trio, a massive scrap developed which continued pretty well all race long. Loris Capirossi and the Crescent team have got the Suzuki working pretty well now, and Capirex was well and truly mixing it with the works Honda of Dovizioso and the semi works machine of Toni Elias. Really a case of age and guile beating youth and enthusiasm, I think. Well, almost, as Dovizioso managed to snatch fourth place back from the likeable Italian veteran at the last moment, relegating him to fifth ahead of Elias.
Mika Kallio rode a lonely race, having a clear bubble of air around him for most of the time, but it was a credible performance for the young Finn who now returns to the Pramac team as Casey Stoner will be back for the next round. Marco Melandri held off a last minute surge from Chris Vermeulen who in turn prevailed ina long term scrap with James Toseland, who rounded out the top ten.
Randy de Puniet, by the way, got up to twelfth. Which is pretty good, considering.
So now we have a few weeks break before starting the final leg at Estoril. Rossi has a cushion and with four races left to go can actually afford to finish second to Lorenzo for all of them and still win. It might just be an exciting round...
Misano MotoGP Results
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
5. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
6. Toni Elias (Honda)
7. Mike Kallio (Ducati)
8. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki)
9. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
10. James Toseland (Yamaha)
MotoGP standings (after thirteen rounds)
1. Valentino Rossi 237
2. Jorge Lorenzo 207
3. Dani Pedrosa 157
4. Casey Stoner 150
5. Andrea Dovizioso 133
6. Colin Edwards 123
7. Loris Capirossi 97
8. Alex de Angelis 88
9. Randy de Puniet 88
10. Marco Melandri 87