Three of the top four spots of the MotoGP at the Estoril circuit in Portugal went to the factory Repsol Hondas, but it wasn’t Casey Stoner topping the podium this time.
Instead, his Spanish teammate Dani Pedrosa, fresh from yet more surgery to cure his troublesome shoulder, grabbed his first win of the season.
“I’m very happy for today’s win, but more than the win … I’m just so happy to see that the surgery has worked,” said Pedrosa.
Pedrosa followed countryman and MotoGP series leader Jorge Lorenzo’s factory Honda for nearly the whole race, then made a clean pass with three laps left to go and cleared away to a three-second lead at the flag. The two were really the only ones in contention from the start of the race onwards.
Third-place Stoner was another four-seconds-plus behind and never looked threatening. Part of that was due to both Marco Simoncelli and Hector Barbera crashing in the first lap, breaking up the field early and letting the two leaders get away. Stoner later complained of tire problems, other riders, and that he had a sore back – he’s definitely getting a reputation as the whiny sissy of the paddock.
Another late pass gave Andrea Dovizioso, the third Repsol Honda rider, fourth by merely 0.025 second. He’d shadowed a surging Valentino Rossi and his Ducati for the whole race, timing a last-lap pass perfectly to push his fellow Italian down to fifth. It was still an excellent ride from Rossi and seems to indicate that the team has the bike development moving in the right direction.
Ben Spies had a horrible race, first finding his bike running poorly due to a tool having been left on the bike restricting fuel flow. He managed to get the piece off the bike, but that left a tube flapping in his face, which he found impossibly distracting. He ran off the track twice, hit Nicky Hayden and slowed him, and finally crashed.
The Tech 3 satellite Yamaha team had a good day, Colin Edwards finishing sixth and rookie Cal Crutchlow eighth. Both were happy, Edwards figuring he’d done all he could with the bike (first non-factory finisher), and Crutchlow because he’s still recovering from arm surgery and had never seen the track before. Good results for both.
Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista returned to action only a month and a half after breaking his left femur during practice for round one in Qatar. He rode a conservative race but finished for points. You’ve got to give him big credit for getting back on the bike so soon after such a serious injury.
After three of 18 races, defending series champ Lorenzo still leads, but Pedrosa is breathing down his neck. There’s a big drop back to the next riders, but there’s a lot of racing left in the season yet.
Next event: Le Mans, France, May 15.
Standings after three of 18 races
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 65
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 61
3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 41
4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 31
5. TIE, Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 30
7. Hiroshi Aoyama, Japan, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 28
8. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 21
9. Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 18
10. Hector Barbera, Spain, Mapfre Aspar Ducati, 14