A good day for Stoner, Hayden

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Pedrosa leads Lorenzo, Hayden, and Spies. Photo: MotoGP.com

Casey Stoner’s and Ducati’s first Moto GP victory of
2010 came from pole position on Sunday, as Stoner finally kicked one
big monkey off his back. "This win is a big relief, to be honest!"
said Stoner, who last started from pole in the season-opening race at
Losail in Qatar, a race he lost by crashing while leading.

There was also another monkey involved, as the guy he
beat, by more than five seconds, was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa,
who Stoner will be teamed with in 2011. The Honda has clearly
developed into the bike to beat as the 2010 season winds down, and no
doubt Pedrosa will be unable to stop thinking about Stoner on a
faster bike, on the same team, next season.

The
Italian team was doubly delighted, as Stoner’s popular team-mate
Nicky Hayden finally broke through and got his first podium of 2010.
The Kentucky Kid made it through sheer determination; he qualified
well and got a good start, and as the race wore on he latched onto
the back of championship leader Jorge Lorenzo and refused to let go.
Lorenzo said, "During
the race I struggled a lot with Nicky always behind me, very close!"
and Hayden finally pulled a do-or-die move on the last lap to get
past to take third.

It was in a place on the track where nobody else had made a pass that weekend, and
Hayden said, "I decided that fourth wasn’t good enough for me
today. I did a bit of a backyard move in the chicane over there and
managed to hold him off to the line."

Pedrosa, who’d been back and forth with Stoner for
pole, had an uncharacteristically bad start, nearly crashing as the
field funnelled into the first corner after the start — Aragon is a
new track to Moto GP and has a very short run from the start line to
the first corner, making it a dramatic first turn. He got knocked
back to fifth, quickly climbed back to second, then was all over
Stoner for the first half of the race before apparently deciding to
settle for second. "I started to have some rear-wheel slides and it
wasn’t possible for me to stay with him so I thought, okay, this is my
place today."

While
things got processional up front pretty quickly, there was some good
racing going on farther back. The Lorenzo-Hayden duel was fun, and
behind them Ben Spies (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Andrea Dovizioso had a
ding-dong battle, with Dovi crashing on the last lap in a desperate
attempt to get past the Texan "rookie." Spies is going to the
Yamaha factory team for 2011, and Dovi is still fighting Honda over a
contract dispute about his spot next year, so Spies did well out of
that one while the Italian may have set his cause back.

Valentino
Rossi could only qualify seventh and finish sixth, still troubled by
his injured shoulder. Also, the track was clearly not suited to the
Yamahas, as everyone on the tuning fork bikes was having a bad
weekend. Asked about his shoulder after the race, Rossi replied that
it wasn’t healing and that he was considering skipping the last two
races of the season to have corrective surgery done. This was no
doubt an attempt to supply some pressure to Yamaha, who have been
making noise about not allowing him to test the Ducati — for which
he’s signed for 2011 — in the season-ending tests after the last
GP. The implication clearly was, "if I can’t ride the Ducati at
Valencia, I’m not racing for you fackers at the last two rounds."

Lorenzo
still has a huge lead in the championship with five races left,
although Pedrosa has been inching closer the last few races.

Next
event, Motegi in Japan, October 3.

Championship
standings after 13 of 18 races

1.
Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 284 points; 2. Dani Pedrosa,
Spain, Repsol Honda, 228; 3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro
Ducati, 155; 4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 150; 5. Andrea
Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 139;

6.
Ben Spies, U.S.A., Tech 3 Yamaha, 131; 7. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A.,
Marlboro Ducati, 125; 8. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 81; 9.
TIE, Marco Melandri & Marco Simoncelli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini
Honda, 74.

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