Considering that pretty much everyone – yours truly included – expected Casey Stoner to run away with the 2011 MotoGP title (Honda’s last chance to finally take the 800 cc crown, a category that the company basically created), with the season at its halfway point there have been more than a few surprises.
Stoner’s won more races than anyone else on his factory Repsol Honda this year, but is still only a few points ahead of defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo and his factory Yamaha. Lorenzo rode a brilliant race July 17 at the Sachsenring in eastern Germany to finish second ahead of Stoner, while the surprise winner was Stoner’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, in his second race back after missing three races due to collar-bone surgery.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be back and win a race so early,” said Pedrosa. “I didn’t expect it, but this circuit has been always very good for me and I made it happen.”
The race was probably the most entertaining of the year to watch. First, up front Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo hammered on each other for the entire 30 laps. Just behind them for the first half of the race were Andrea Dovizioso on the third Repsol Honda and Marco Simoncelli on the Gresini factory Honda doing likewise.
Behind them was Ben Spies on the second factory Yamaha, who had a lonely race until near the end when he caught the other two up, eventually getting by Simoncelli at the end to catch fifth, as Simoncelli made a slight error trying to get past Dovi.
Behind them was another ding-dong battle between Marlboro Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista. At about 3/4 distance Bautista and Hayden were caught up by Hayden’s team-mate Valentino Rossi, who had a great ride through the pack after a horrible qualifying – he was dead last except for last-minute fill-in Sylvain Guintoli subbing for the injured Loris Capirossi – and although he says that the new chassis he’s using was “a mistake” he rode like the world champion he is to finish ninth.
Bautista passed both Ducatis on the last lap—Hayden on the last corner—to collect seventh, by far his best dry-weather result of the season.
As usual, the Moto2 and 125GP grids provided a lot of entertainment as well, the 125 race ending with a dead heat that neither the cameras nor the timing system resolved. Finally Hector Faubel of Spain on his Aprilia was given the win over France’s Johann Zarco’s Derbi (same bike, different name) due to having the fastest race lap. Gets no closer than that.
World Championship Point Standings (after nine of 18 races)
1. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 168 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 153
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 132
4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 98
5. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 94
6. TIE, Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing / Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 85
8. Marco Simoncelli, Italy, Gresini San Carlo Honda, 60
9. Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Tech 3 / Monster Yamaha, 59
10. Hiroshi Aoyama, Japan, Gresini San Carlo Honda, 57
Next race, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, California, July 24.