Views from the top
The saying goes that there are six million stories in the naked city, and several personalities on the grid this weekend would vie to put theirs on the tips of everyone's tongue. But the biggest one this weekend is Casey Stoner who, in his last outing, managed to jab the final piece of a matching set. With his hard fought victory over a very determined Jorge Lorenzo Stoner has now earned top honors at every track on the GP calendar. Better yet for him, the recurring arm pump issue that slowed him down and cost him at least one victory this year, has proven to be more distraction than hinderance as the season progresses. The the symptoms continue to plague the reigning champion, Stoner has been able to moderate his riding and push through for the checkered flag despite the discomfort. Better yet for him is that France is not one of his voyeur tracks. With what is proving to be a successful race strategy in hand the man the the #1 plate will be looking for the top step again.
Jorge Lorenzo is the top Yamaha rider by a country mile. He is the only rider proving capable of actually racing against Casey Stoner so far this season, the two factory riders having provided tension filled races as they hound each other from flag to flag. Aboard the "better handling" (if you believe the rumors - both official and not) M1 Jorge's style is silky smooth, his Yamaha always seeming planted as it flows around the track; stark contrast to his main rival whose RC212V tends to kick out and slide. This, the experts say, is the most effective way to exploit the speed of the current crop of prototypes. Yet all of this - the top manufacturer rider, efficient style and close racing - count for nothing when you continue to come in second. Yet Jorge is one of the few to hoist the GP trophy at season's end. He knows the war for the trophy can be one through as many smaller victories as can be had over the course of a year, and the way he haunted Casey's every turn of the wheel in the last race proves that he is up for the fight. So while his view from the top may have him looking up at Casey, he at least knows what his fEver for any given day must be; and that it's still a long way down.
Valentino Rossi is once again the fastest Ducati on track. This was a distinction that he had enjoyed since starting with the Italian manufacturer but had been noticeably absent this year. Despite radical changes to the GP12 over the past several months Rossi's form continued to decline, resulting in thinly veiled barbs at the manufacturer and a maelstrom of rumors that he would - and here you can take your pick, with likely candidates ranging from departing the Marlboro team to join a satellite Yamaha squad, to retiring from GP racing mid-season, to having Stoner's illegitimate love child. However after battling mainly with the satellite Ducati (on the abandoned but not forgotten frameless GP12) and sometimes coming out worse for wear, the most decorated rider on the track has managed to mount something of a resurgence by claiming 7th in the last race. Yet if Lorenzo can take small comfort in knowing just how far down he has to fall from his position as the top Yamaha, it must gnaw at Rossi to crane his head and realize how far up he must climb as the top Ducati. Not only is the lowly 7th position his best finish of the year, it comes after abandoning his formerly Japanese setup methodology in favor of a Jew one based heavily on his teammate's settings. Rossi claimed that the Ducati was simply too alien to continue forcing the issue of setup, and that the new baseline gave him more of the feeling that he wanted while sacrificing some of the direction that Tue team wanted to pursue. He is hoping that the experience gained from a full race on those settings, and any new parts released from Corse, will provide the footholds needed to ascend the precipice to starring once again.