QLD | 7,865Kms
Stoner wins at 2012 Laguna Seca MotoGP
JUST Bikes 30/07/2012
The past weekend’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix in Laguna Seca turned out to be a battle of the two MotoGP heavyweights in Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo landed the first punch by securing pole with a 1’20.554 flying lap – beating out Stoner’s new qualifying record set only a few laps earlier - and looked to have Stoner on the ropes for much of the race, but it turned out to be Stoner that delivered the knockout blow.
The Repsol Honda pair of Stoner and Pedrosa qualified second and third, while Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing), Cal Crutchlow (Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3) and Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3) filled the second row. The factory Ducatis of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi qualified eighth and tenth respectively.
After the raceday warmup was delayed due to heavy fog, the conditions were mild and dry for the race start. Lorenzo took the holeshot into Laguna Seca’s tricky turn one, followed by Pedrosa and Stoner, who was the only one of the front-runners to have started on the softer option rear tyre. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Michele Pirro crashed in the first turn, while Pramac Racing Team’s Toni Elías crashed out a lap later.
On lap two, Stoner was finding his pace and made his way past Pedrosa as he started to chase down Lorenzo at the front. As Lorenzo was keeping the Repsol pair honest, Yamaha’s Ben Spies was heading up a group in fourth including the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo of Dovizioso and Crutchlow, as well as Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda). The running order barely changed for the next 20 laps, but that didn’t mean the racing was static. Crutchlow was all over the back of the rear wheel of Dovizioso, as the pair continued their season-long tussle, while at the front, Lorenzo was having to continuously hold off Stoner, who was all over the back of the Spaniard looking for a way past.
Pedrosa had a huge wobble before the final turn of lap 12, which he was just able to save, but lost a second on Stoner correcting the mistake. On the same lap, Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini was forced to retire with a mechanical issue. Behind the leaders, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden was finding his stride at his ‘home’ track midway through the race, making up space on the frontrunners, with teammate Valentino Rossi in tow.
With 14 laps remaining, Lorenzo had a moment going into Laguna Seca’s famous corkscrew, but Stoner was unable to capitalise. On lap 19, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo retired with a technical issue, while Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison crashed out on lap 20.
On lap 22, eleven laps from the end, Stoner caught Lorenzo and put on a move going into turn one, just as he did last year, to take the lead. Spies crashed out of the race on the same lap, whilst accelerating out of the corkscrew. The tumble was later attributed to a technical fault with his Yamaha’s swingarm.
For the final laps, Stoner and Lorenzo were in a league at their own. Aside from the trailing Pedrosa, the rest of the field were more than ten seconds adrift, and the leading pair were already starting to lap some of the back markers with nine laps left. Dovizioso and Crutchlow’s battle continued, but the Italian looked to have the measure of the Brit in the final laps. On lap 27 of 32, Hayden had caught Bradl, passed the German, and started to pursue Crutchlow.
For the final couple of laps, Stoner extended his margin over Lorenzo, as the Spaniard appeared to ease off and consolidate his championship lead, rather than risk a pass. Pedrosa was a further three seconds behind in third. There was drama in the penultimate lap as Rossi suffered a big crash heading into the corkscrew, for his first DNF of the season. Fortunately he was unhurt, yet heads into the summer break with further doubts about the Ducati’s competitiveness.
In the end it was Stoner’s soft tyre gamble that paid off as he took the chequered flag by a margin of over three seconds ahead of Lorenzo, with Pedrosa in third. Stoner said after the race that tyre management early in the race was key to him being able to continue his high pace until the end, whilst Lorenzo expressed surprise at its longevity, sighting that the harder option may have been the wrong choice.
Dovizioso finished in fourth, followed by Crutchlow, Hayden and Bradl. Eighth spot went to San Carlo Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, finishing ahead of top CRT performer Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar). Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham completed the top ten in his first race back from injury.
“At the beginning of the race I tried to move to the front but Dani and Jorge were riding very good lines and it was impossible to get past,” Stoner said. “I decided to slow the lap times a little and try to save the tyres until the end and then we could start to come back.
“I was confident for the entire race that I had enough pace for the win, we just needed to make sure the tyre would last until the end. When we got to the front we put in some good laps and pulled some small advantage and just continued from there. I'm very, very happy and a big thanks to all the team.”
For current championship leader, Lorenzo, the effort to fend off Stoner almost proved disastrous.
“I tried my best (from) the beginning to open a gap and I managed it, but then in the corkscrew I almost crashed. For Casey maybe that was a motivation and he caught me in one lap. After that I couldn’t keep the pace I had in the beginning, maybe the soft tyre was the best option for this race. Without a doubt Casey was riding in an excellent form today and it wasn’t possible to beat him.”
The second race of the American ‘double header’ will be at Indianapolis on August 17 – 18. While only the MotoGP class competed at Laguna Seca, all three championship classes will race at Indianapolis.
For full results and further details from this round of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship, go to www.motogp.com
2012 MOTOGP World Championship
Round 10 – Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix
July 29, 2012
1. Casey STONER Honda 43’45.961
2. Jorge LORENZO Yamaha +3.429
3. Dani PEDROSA Honda +7.633
4. Andrea DOVIZIOSO Yamaha +18.602
5. Cal CRUTCHLOW Yamaha +18.779
6. Nicky HAYDEN Ducati +26.902
7. Stefan BRADL Honda +28.393
8. Alvaro BAUTISTA Honda +50.246
9. Aleix ESPARGARO ART +1’18.993
10. Karel ABRAHAM Ducati +1’22.076
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS – after 10 of 18 rounds
1. LORENZO 205
2. PEDROSA 182
3. STONER 173
4. DOVIZOSO 121
5. CRUTCHLOW 106
6. BRADL 84
7. HAYDEN 84
8. ROSSI 82
9. BAUTISTA 81
10. SPIES 66