Sunday, December 4, 2011

Debut wins: Rossi vs. Stoner

It's always hard to make a comparison between championship wins.  Every season and every title has it's own unique characteristics, but just for fun we are comparing two recent seasons where riders triumphed after changing bikes.  We'll leave it up to you to decide which one was more memorable.

The championships in question took place in 2004 and 2007, the former being when Valentino Rossi switched to Yamaha, the latter having seen Casey Stoner debut for Ducati. Both years saw new rider-bike combinations that were as surprising as they were dominant.

Going in chronological order, we start with Rossi and his move to Yamaha.  After dominating the previous seasons on the RC211V, the Doctor's decision to abandon the best bike on the grid in favor of the struggling Yamaha left many scratching their heads.  The partnership got off to a great start, however, with Rossi winning the season opener in South Africa, after a thrilling and cleanly fought battle with Max Biaggi. Things got a little bumpy after that (fourth place finishes at Jerez and Le Mans), and it turned out that Valentino's biggest title rival wasn't Biaggi, but Spaniard Sete Gibernau.

Their battle reached it's climax in Qatar, where the famous incident took place with Rossi's team cleaning his grid spot for him.  The Italian was penalized and forced to start from the back, eventually crashing out in a furious charged toward the front.  Gibernau went on to win the race, after which Rossi famously declared: "I'll do everything I can to make sure that Sete never wins another race." And he didn't.  The Yamaha mounted Valentino took the final three GP's of the season, securing the title at Phillip Island after an exciting last lap battle with Gibernau.

While Rossi's move to Yamaha received an almost painful amount of media attention, Casey Stoner arrived at Ducati almost unnoticed in 2007.  The Australian was coming off an up and down season on the LCR Honda, marked by some impressive displays of speed and numerous crashes.  Casey was Ducati's second choice after they failed to sign Marco Melandri, and nobody expected him to challenge team leader Loris Capirossi.

All of this changed at Qatar, however, where Stoner showed the full potential of the new 800cc Ducati and the Bridgestone tires.  He went on to win another 9 races that season, adding 4 podiums, 6 fastest laps and 5 pole positions along the way.  Much to everyone's surprise, Stoner had managed to best the in-house competition (Capirossi), as well as the other favorites (Pedrosa and Rossi), to clinch the title at Motegi, with three races remaining.  It was a huge achievement for Ducati, having first entered MotoGP in 2003, and it remains their only title in the premier class of GP racing.

source: GP One

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