The first of two Moto GP events in the U.S., at Laguna Seca July 24, was a bit of a crashfest, with three riders down and out, plus wild card entry Ben Bostrom retiring after a couple of trips into the gravel.
It wasn’t a classic race by any means, barring a couple of spectacular passes by Repsol Honda ace Casey Stoner. The Australian got pole, found a “little something” for the bike in the morning warm-up, and won by more than five seconds. He trailed defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo and his own Repsol team-mate Dani Pedrosa for the first half of the race, then put a move on Pedrosa in the corkscrew, closed up on Lorenzo, passed the Yamaha at about ¾ distance, then quietly motored away.
It’s true that both Lorenzo and Pedrosa were hurting – Lorenzo from a huge high-side crash in Friday’s practice and Pedrosa still recovering from shoulder surgery – but once Stoner was clear it was obvious that he was in his own little world.
Fourth and fifth places went to Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, continuing their on-track rivalry. Spies got a bad start – he jokingly said he got a great start but the bike didn’t, hinting that the launch control system wasn’t set properly – and had to fight his way up the field for his fourth.
“It was a really good race for us, it just got spoiled in the first 500 feet.” he said. “I would have liked to have been on the podium as I think we had a package to fight with Dani (but) I guess that’s racing.”
Ducati team-mates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden were sixth and seventh, riding as hard as they could. Hayden, rather despondent at only managing seventh in a race at home that he’s won twice, said, “(Valentino) was on the absolute limit. It’s not real easy for us, by any means, for the team, me, him.”
Rossi seemed more resigned to the team’s position, joking, “I want to win one race also this year. But if don’t snow, maybe is difficult.”
There’s lots of frantic work back at the Ducati factory to try to figure out what the problems are with the bike’s chassis. Rossi is using a frame based on the planned 2012 1,000 cc machine while Hayden is still on the “standard” GP11 bike, but as their results showed – Rossi was only 6/10 of a second ahead of Hayden – there doesn’t seem to be much improvement.
Rossi seems to be resigned to being happy if they manage to get up to what he calls “the second group” by the end of the year, meaning Simoncelli, Dovizioso, and Spies, figuring there’s no chance they’ll be competitive with Stoner, Lorenzo, or Pedrosa.
There’s a three-week summer holiday on now, with the circus reconvening at Brno in the Czech republic in mid-August, followed by the second U.S. appearance at Indianapolis.
Series standings after 10 of 18 races
1. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 193 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 173
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 143
4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 110
5. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 108
6. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 98
7. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 94
8. Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Tech 3/Monster Yamaha, 67
9. Hiroshi Aoyama, Japan, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 63
10. Marco Simoncelli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 60.
Next race, Brno, Czech Republic, August 14.
Stoner wasn’t on pole. But he did run away once he passed Lorenzo. I was amazed Lorenzo got the pole as he could hardly get out of the chair at the press conference after his practice flight!