Yamaha’s main man Jorge Lorenzo made things look easy at a scorching hot race on Italy’s Mugello circuit.
After dominating practice and qualifying – only missing out on pole because of what the team’s calling an “electronic malfunction” on his last fast lap – the Majorcan jammed his way past pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa at the first corner and simply rode away from the field. He was so comfortable he was waving to the crowd and marshalls on his last lap even before taking the chequered flag.
That gives Lorenzo a 19 point lead at the half-way point of the series, almost back to where he was two races ago before being torpedoed by Alvaro Bautista in Holland.
Pedrosa was also surprised early by Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso, who made a demon start from seventh and got past the Repsol Honda rider on the second lap. Pedrosa followed him for a bit, then sliced by and slid away, although he never challenged Lorenzo.
The battle for third kept the race alive until the last lap. German Moto GP rookie Stefan Bradl came out of nowhere on his LCR Honda to hound Dovi, then got by the Tech 3 veteran. Dovi hung on to Bradl’s tail, and repassed with only three laps left to gather up his third successive podium, his fourth in the last five races.
During all this, where was reigning world champ Casey Stoner? After never finding a comfortable setup for his bike, Stoner chose the ultra-safe Bridgestone rear with extra rubber for heat dissipation, the only rider to pick it. He looked lost early as the tire slowly warmed up, then when he found his rhythm and got up to sixth he missed a braking point and ran off.
Luckily he didn’t crash but rejoined in 10th, and was only able to get back to eighth at the finish. On his way to the end he put a nasty pass on Alvaro Bautista, jamming his bike under the Spaniard’s San Carlo Gresini Honda and hitting him, giving Bautista a very bad moment. Although he “apologized” later, his apology still blamed Bautista for getting in his way. For all his amazing talent, Stoner simply can’t stop complaining.
Behind the battle for third was Nicky Hayden, once again the best Ducati rider on the circuit. As things wound down he started catching up to Dovizioso and Bradl, while behind him his team-mate Valentino Rossi was sparring with Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow, both also closing on the group.
Hayden tried a Hail Mary pass on Bradl on the last lap with an eye on doing the same to Dovi for a podium finish, but the German retaliated and pushed the Ducati wide, forcing Hayden to slow and letting Rossi and Crutchlow get by before the flag.
The popular American was hardly pleased with going from a possible third to seventh in one lap, but said, “Those last seven, eight laps, I really gave it everything; I wasn’t sure I was going to finish, but I was sure I was going to go for it. On the last lap, after I went by Bradl for fourth, I was only thinking about trying to pass Dovi and get the Ducati on the podium, so I don’t regret the fact that I tried … we really had a shot at the podium today.”
The other factory Yamaha rider, Ben Spies, had a horrible day, struggling with an illness suspected as food poisoning. “I was struggling to put three laps together at a time in the race and fighting waves of dizziness and trying not be physically sick in my helmet.” Not a great way to try racing a Moto GP bike. At least the points he gained kept him in the top 10 in the championship.
The teams will all be testing at Mugello today (July 16), including some significant alterations to both the factory Hondas and Ducatis.
The next two races are in the U.S., at Laguna Seca’s Mazda Raceway and at the Indianapolis Speedway, the first at Laguna July 29.
World Championship standing after 9 of 18 races:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 185 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 166
3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 148
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 Yamaha, 108
5. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Yamaha, 95
6. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 82
7. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 75
8. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 74
9. Alvaro Bautista, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 73
10. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 66