No rain on race day, anyway. Just as at the Misano race in Italy, patchy damp conditions mixed with rain created havoc with practice and qualifying. Race day dawned clear and sunny, and from the lights world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo launched his Yamaha into the lead for the first seven laps.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa got by on the seventh lap and quietly motored off into the distance in an impressive performance that gave him hope that his chances at the title were still alive. He’s still a fair way back, 33 points down with four races (25 points for a win) left in the season.
Pedrosa said, “After a few laps I saw I could increase the pace and I passed [Lorenzo] and tried to find my own rhythm. I was concentrating so hard that I almost forgot that it was a race, then I realized there were only four laps to go!”
Lorenzo eased his bike into second after coming this close to a major high-side in the fast first corner while chasing Pedrosa; it was a great catch by the Majorcan rider. “I was thinking to try for the win at the beginning of the race and if that was not possible then second place was the best possible result … Dani had a better pace in the end, I was stronger at the start then little by little I was a bit slower, the tires were slipping a lot and I couldn’t follow him. I nearly crashed … and decided then to stay in second place.”
Even at that stage, the two were well ahead of the rest of the field. Just as in the last couple of races, the fight for third provided most of the entertainment, the Yamaha of Lorenzo’s team-mate Ben Spies, those of the Tech 3 team of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, and the LCR Honda of Stefan Bradl mixing it up. When Bradl crashed immediately after passing Spies, it left an all-Yamaha battle.
Spies dropped off slightly – “I struggled a bit with the front tire today at the beginning and then in the middle of the race. Once [Dovi and Cal] passed me I tried to hold onto the back of them in case they made a mistake. The bike was working well, we just didn’t have it working as exactly as we needed to stay with them …”
In the end, Dovizioso beat Crutchlow to the line by 1/10 of a second, after Crutchlow tried a desperation pass on both of the last laps, both times edging a bit wide and letting Dovizioso back under him. Great stuff.
The top 10 was completed by Alvaro Bautista (Gresini San Carlo Honda), Jonathon Rea (Repsol Honda), Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati), Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati), and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Aspar/ART), taking 10th and top CRT bike from his team-mate Randy de Puniet on the last lap.
It was a bad day for Ducati, with Rossi running off on the first lap after touching Jonathon Rea under braking. The multi-time world champion said, ““It’s a shame about the mistake on the first lap. I was a bit faster than Rea, and when we spread out on the straightaway, and he braked a bit earlier, I went to the right. He couldn’t see me and pushed me close to the curb, and I went straight to avoid him. I should have gone to the inside.”
Nicky Hayden got off a lot worse, catching a low-side and then unavoidably crashing heavily at the fast final corner and being pitched over the tire wall onto the service road. He didn’t move for quite some time and was taken first to circuit medical and then a nearby hospital to be checked out, but the prognosis is good. The calm American said later, “I’m sorry to tear up the bike, but I’m thankful for great safety equipment and to be okay.” He expects to be at the next race in Japan at Motegi in two weeks.
Pol Espargaró, second in the championship to Marc Márquez, won another thrilling Moto 2 race ahead of Marquez and Brit Scott Redding.
The top four or five were doing their usual bar-room brawl imitation; in the final two laps Espargaró pulled out a small lead, with Márquez and Andrea Iannone touching in every corner as they fought for second. The lanky Redding capitalised on their battle as he took Iannone for third on the final lap.
Márquez and Iannone are headed to Moto GP next season, and Redding possibly as well, which should add considerable excitement to the premier class grid.
Moto GP Championship Point Standings (after 14 of 18 races)
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 290 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 257
3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 186
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 179
5. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 135
6. TIE, Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati / Alvaro Bautista, Spain, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 128
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 115
9. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A, Marlboro Ducati, 93
10. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 88
Next race, Motegi, Japan, October 14.