As expected, after dominating practice and qualifying, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo grabbed the early lead at the Moto GP at Laguna Seca in the U.S. and held off a charging Casey Stoner for 2/3 race distance.
Not quite as expected, then Stoner used his Repsol Honda’s power and a great drive off the last corner to get by the Spaniard on the front straight and that was all she wrote despite the Australian being the only rider on soft tires.
It wasn’t really much of a race, other than the Lorenzo/Stoner contest. Lorenzo, Stoner, and Stoner’s Repsol team-mate Dani Pedrosa broke away from the rest from the start; behind them Ben Spies on the other factory Yamaha and then the regular Tech 3 Yamaha inter-team battle between Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow.
Following them were Stefan Bradl of Germany on the LCR Honda and local hero Nicky Hayden on his Marlboro Ducati, Hayden celebrating a just-announced one-year extension of his Ducati contract.
Spies’ horrible year continued; after breaking “a couple of bones” in his heel in a qualifying high-side, he ran a strong fourth and was pulling away from the Tech 3 pair late in the race until his Yamaha’s swingarm collapsed, pitching him into the gravel. Fortunately, he didn’t suffer any further injury.
Hayden got by Bradl with a tough pass in the fast and bumpy downhill Rainey corner (named after multiple world champion Wayne Rainey, who lives just across the street from the track) to finish sixth, again the top Ducati rider. Both his team-mate Valentino Rossi and substitute satellite Pramac rider Toni Elias crashed out, while Karel Abraham, returning after three races missed with a hand injury, could only manage 10th. Hayden stopped on the cool-off lap to give his famous and rich team-mate a lift back to the pits.
The result extended Lorenzo’s series lead over Pedrosa, and while Stoner closed up a bit Lorenzo still has a race+ points advantage heading into the last half of the season.
The 2013 “silly season” is still running strong. So far, of the top riders Lorenzo has confirmed he’ll be staying at Yamaha, Spies is leaving Yamaha but hasn’t announced what’s up (strong rumours have him joining BMW’s WSB team), Stoner’s retiring, Pedrosa and Moto 2 racer Marc Marquez are confirmed at Repsol Honda, and Hayden has just been confirmed at Ducati.
Valentino Rossi is being coy; will he remain at Ducati or go to Yamaha to rejoin Lorenzo as a team-mate? And both Tech 3 riders are on the bubble; Moto 2 rider Bradley Smith has already been signed for 2013, so only one of Dovizioso or Crutchlow can stay.
Next event, Indianapolis Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 19.
World Championship Point Standings (after 10 of 18 races):
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 205 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 182
3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 173
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 121
5. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 106
6. TIE, Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda / Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 84
8. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 82
9. Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 81
10. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 66
mccormick taking spies spot? perhaps