The Laguna Seca Moto GP race was Dani Pedrosa’s to lose, after he made a typical rocket start from the second row and looked comfortable heading off into a lead that soon looked unassailable.
He did, however, manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by binning his Repsol Honda on the 11th lap, leaving championship leader Jorge Lorenzo with a slight lead over Casey Stoner which he held to the end.
Lorenzo was picture-perfect, taking his Fiat Yamaha to his sixth win of the season and adding considerably to his championship lead at the halfway point.
The ride of the race, however, had to be that of Lorenzo’s team-mate Valentino Rossi. Only seven weeks after fracturing both bones in his lower right leg, and still suffering from a severe soft-tissue shoulder injury before that, the Italian fought hard the entire race to catch third place, the final few laps a serious struggle with Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso.
Rossi said, "The start of the race was very hard for me because I had a lot of pain and I was far from the podium. But then I saw Pedrosa on the gravel and I just had to try to catch Dovizioso!"
The fact that his car was rear-ended in Monterey the night before the race – by a police car, no less – is an amusing sidelight to his amazing “rehabilitation” ride.
The race was certainly without drama, but strewn with retirements and crashes, with only 12 finishing out of 17 starters. Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda), and Aleix Espargaro (Pramax Racing Ducati) all crashed, while Hector Barbera (Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati) retired early with a mechanical problem.
Second place, amazingly, was Stoner’s best result of the season for the Ducati team. To say the least, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares on one of the factory Hondas in 2011.
Behind Dovizioso, who held on for fourth, came Nicky Hayden on the second factory Ducati and Ben Spies on the first of the Tech 3 Yamahas. Spies was in third early on, dropped to sixth, chased back up to fourth and hounded Rossi until making a mistake and running wide. He rejoined and caught back up to Hayden – who was NOT a happy racer after the event – for a good sixth place, even though he’d obviously hoped for more.
A disappointed Hayden said, “We had a little problem with the bike when I did my practice start this morning and it happened again in the race but we put up a fight as best we could. The last five laps I was over my head, doing my fastest laps of the weekend almost because I thought there was a chance we might be able to get on the box if the guys in front made a mistake. I dug as deep as I could but it wasn’t enough today.”
Spies said, “… although it wasn’t the podium I wanted in front of my home crowd, I’m happy because I had the speed to come through the field and I had the speed to be on the podium. I couldn’t quite finish the job and that was down to me. But … I can’t ask for a lot more because I’m in the top six again, leading non-factory rider in the race again and putting up a strong fight, so I’m not too upset.”
Roger Lee Hayden, subbing on the LCR Honda for the injured Randy de Puniet, managed an 11th place, scoring some world championship points. Not a bad result for being tossed into the deep end of the pool at the last moment. It certainly indicates that his crappy results in the WSB series this year are down to the bike he’s on rather than any lack of riding talent.
Moto GP Standings after nine of 18 races:
Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 210 points; 2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 138; 3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 115; 4. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 103; 5. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 90; 6. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 89; 7. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Tech 3 Yamaha, 77; 8. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 69; 9. Marco Melandri, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 53; 10. Marco Simoncelli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 49.
Next race, Brno in the Czech Republic, August 15.