At the end of last season Ducati pulled off an astonishing coup. They brought Superbike rider Troy Bayliss into MotoGP for the last race of the year, and he won. In the off season, they were equally bold and signed the exciting young Australian Casey "crash and burn" Stoner into their team. His first season in grown-up MotoGP had been pretty mixed. One podium, some promising rides, but a lot, a real lot of throwing it off the track crashes. Honda were maybe not able to bring out his best. We are only 3 races into the new season, and already "Advance Australia Fair" has rung out, with Casey on the top step of the podium. Twice.
Something is working very well indeed for Ducati. Their "old boy" Loris Capirossi, rode a fabulous race today to take the third step on the podium. The adjective "dominant" is being used about Ducati's performance. OK, it's very early in the season to start making predictions about the whole year and the championship, but when a small, independent manufacturer can pull out the stops in this way and produce the goods for Stoner and Capirossi to win and take 3rd, and to have resources enough to supply a completely privateer outfit, d'Antin, with the equipment to get Alex Barros, yes, THAT Barros, up to a fourth place finish, you have to admit there's a bit of a wow factor.
Honda have more bikes in the field than anyone else. Yamaha have become used to being top dogs by dint of having the bike meister, Rossi, and the tactics and technical guru, Burgess, at their disposal and yet this weekend, both these big big guns were embarrassed by the comparative minnows, Ducati.
Could it be, perhaps, that by being top dogs in racing for such a long time now, Honda and Yamaha have lost the plot a wee bit? Ducati have very obviously kept their eye sternly on the reason for going racing on a Sunday. Win, and we sell bikes next week.