Japanese show dignity in disaster
There was a time when a first-lap crash from Valentino Rossi would have been the biggest talking point of any Grand Prix weekend but the fact his latest misdemeanour - at Motegi last Sunday - has been all but buried under the debris of the post-race aftermath says as much about the ignominy of his first season with Ducati as it does about the drama of a remarkably eventful Grand Prix of Japan.
Of the 18 riders who started the race (with Karel Abraham not even making the grid due to concussion) only 13 made it to the chequered flag and of those riders only seven avoided an off-track excursion of some kind, be it through the pit-lane or across the gravel.
It was an exciting one to watch from pit-lane and the drama continued long into the night as explanations were given and fingers pointed in the riders' post-race debriefs, with Rossi citing a mistake from Jorge Lorenzo as the reason for his first "DNF" of the year.
"Lorenzo went onto the grass slightly in turn one, and in the next turn he moved suddenly to get his trajectory right," explained Rossi. "He didn't see me because I was slightly behind. When he touched me, it pushed me into [Ben] Spies, who touched my front brake lever. It was normal racing contact, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Spies initially shrugged off his disappointment at being shoved off track by Rossi in the same incident and said nobody was to blame for what was a racing incident, although he later suggested otherwise on a social networking site.
Marco Simoncelli claimed he made his jump-start because he saw Andrea Dovizioso move out of the corner of his eye whilst Dovizioso, admitted it was his mistake.
Spain's Dani Pedrosa was jubilant after winning the Japanese Grand Prix. Photo: AP
Álvaro Bautista also blamed a poor start on the confusion at the lights, although he was one of several riders later apologising to his team, including the debutant Damian Cudlin, who crashed when ambition got the better of him in the latter stages of in the race.
However, perhaps the man with the most to reflect on was Casey Stoner, who escaped with a podium finish and saw his title advantage cut by just four points despite running off track and dropping back to seventh place when his brakes failed after hitting a bump.
Up to that point Stoner was odds-on for a win that would have extended his lead to 53 points and left him needing simply to finish ahead of Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island next Sunday in order to seal the title. Now his best bet is to take victory and hope for the slightly less unlikely result of the Spaniard not making the podium in order to claim the title at his home grand prix on his 26th birthday.
On a circuit about 70 miles away from the damaged Fukushima powerplant, after all the controversy and some frankly scandalous headlines about radiation fears in the Spanish and Italian press (the latter were represented at Motegi by just one journalist), not to mention certain members of riders' entourages walking around the paddock with geigermeters, it was fitting that the only thing anybody wanted to talk about after the Grand Prix of Japan was the racing.
The Japanese people have shown so much dignity in the face of disaster and their determination to hold this event despite criticism from some quarters (there is an argument that the money spent on repairs to the track could have been better allocated to those areas still in desperate need of humanitarian aid) was summed up by Hiroshi Aoyama, who himself showed great restraint throughout the "will they, won't they" debate staged by some of his fellow riders.
"There are a lot of people still suffering and we have had a lot of support from different countries - a lot of people gave us money - but some things we cannot fix by money so if we can bring MotoGP here we can bring positive energy, a positive mentality," he told the BBC. "This means a lot for the Japanese people."
I am catching up with my blog a little later than usual this week, which is largely down to the mild narcolepsy that seems to come with jet-lag. For some reason I am suffering with it more this year than I have in the past, despite my best (and most noble, you understand) attempts to get onto UK time by heading for a karaoke bar on Sunday night, along with much of the rest of the paddock - riders included.
In fact, no fewer than four of the 11 who suffered some kind of mishap in the race were there to sing away their blues at the now notorious "Cage" in central Narita. I thought it would be good fun to ask people on Twitter to come up with some song requests for the riders, which threw up some pretty funny suggestions.
My favourite was the request from @jacklewin46 for Jorge Lorenzo to sing "Tie Me Kangaroo Down". If you think you can do better than that, I'd love to hear it.
By the time you read this Héctor Barberá will hopefully have completed successful surgery on the collarbone break he suffered when he crashed out of the race in Japan. Héctor spent 48 hours in intensive care in Dokkyo hospital near Utsonomiya before being cleared to travel back to Spain and go under the knife of Dr Xavier Mir, who conducted similar operations on Dani Pedrosa and Colin Edwards earlier this season.
Hopefully for Héctor's sake the break is more akin to Edwards' than Pedrosa's - likewise the recovery period - so that we can see him back on board at Phillip Island and Sepang in just over a week's time.
With two races in different continents across a seven-day period this is a vital period in which to stay fit, strong... and awake. Hopefully we can all manage it!