Every once in a while, you get two see two artisans at work. Perfection is required in the oft dangerous world of professional motorcycle racing at the highest levels. Occassionally, the mark of a true champion is their ability to improvise, to make do with the inadequacies of their tools, persevere through impossible odds, and insert the most worrisome of emotions into their competitors – doubt. Casey Stoner is surely doubting himself after watching this pass (believe me, the picture really doesn’t do it justice), and then taking his own stroll through the dirt, and dropping his bike. Never mind that Rossi was not reared on dirt bikes like young master Stoner. To see a low speed crash in dirt from a dirt tracker like Stoner can mean only one thing. The acid of doubt is eroding his confidence.
Rossi has taken aggression to his rivals to play mental games with them, often forcing them into retirement. Exhibit A – Max Biaggi. Exhibit B – Sete Gibernau. With Sete, Rossi was so bold as to let the Catalan know that he would never win again. This coming on the heels of a particulary nasty pass Sete placed on The Doctor. Sete never did taste the top step again.
Until now, Rossi has been somewhat deferential to the young Australian, despite his theft of a crown Rossi considered his. Stoner has been smart, and withdrawn from opportunities to pull that tiger by its tail. The tiger is angry, and the psychological games are coming. Stoner is angry, and he’s going to play right into Rossi’s hands. This should make for a very entertaining rest of the year. The only wildcard being that Laguna is a notoriously difficult place to pass, allowing Rossi to neuter any advantage of the Ducati. I’m not so sure that strategy is going to work at the remaining tracks.