Casey Stoner, despite his still-damaged right ankle, fulfilled a dream by utterly dominating his last Moto GP race before retirement at his home track of Philip Island.
The tough Aussie led every practice and qualifying session by huge amounts, and in spite of a practice high-side continued that performance right through to the chequered flag. That makes six victories on the trot at the Australian track, surpassing Valentino Rossi’s earlier record of five straight.
Stoner said, “It was very important for me to win a race before the end of the season, and I’m really happy to do it here, at home … My biggest worry was to be fit again and competitive for this race, but we managed it … this was the perfect way to say goodbye here … Everything went perfectly.”
Meanwhile, two world championships were decided, Jorge Lorenzo clinching his second Moto GP title for Yamaha after Dani Pedrosa folded the front end on his Repsol Honda and crashed out of the lead on the second lap, while Marc Márquez grabbed his first Moto 2 title with a third.
As in most recent Moto GP events, the racing itself wasn’t really all that exciting. In the first couple of laps Lorenzo and Pedrosa briefly led, then Pedrosa fell, Stoner passed Lorenzo on the long front straight, then motored off into the distance. Lorenzo held station in second, and Cal Crutchlow quickly broke away into third, where he stayed to the end, collecting his second podium of the season. His performance was all the more impressive considering that he’d been suffering all week from a bout of bronchitis that at one point looked bad enough that he’d end up in hospital.
Pedrosa’s only chance to keep his faint title hopes alive were to win the last two races and hope that something would happen to Lorenzo. In the event, it didn’t work out, and the three-time Moto GP runner-up said philosophically, “I pushed as hard as I could; I did what I had to do and I have no regrets for my riding … I just went wider on the corner, I had some chatter and lost the front; maybe the tyre was not warm enough as well, but it’s like it is. Congratulations to Casey [Stoner] for his sixth win at his home Grand Prix and to Lorenzo because he deserved the championship, as well as Marc Márquez in Moto2.”
The new world champion, taking his second title (the first was in 2010), exulted, “What a day! I’m very happy, it was easier than I expected because Dani made a mistake in a corner and crashed. I wanted to keep with Casey but he was so strong. Today all I had to do was finish the race and I have become world champion for the second time. It’s such a sweet feeling!”
Out of 17 races (with only Valencia in Spain left), Lorenzo has a remarkable score of six victories, 10 seconds, and one DNF (caused when Alvaro Bautista torpedoed him out of the Dutch race).
Behind Crutchlow, the battle for fourth was highly entertaining for the whole race, Andrea Dovizioso (Tech 3 / Monster Yamaha) battling Stefan Bradl and Bautista on the two satellite Hondas.
They were swapping positions almost constantly, with Dovi executing two excellent passes on the last laps to grab fourth, followed by Bautista and Bradl. Seventh through ninth went to Ducatis, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden ahead of Karel Abraham’s satellite bike, while 10th went to the top CRT finisher of Aleix Espargaró, who as usual had a good racelong battle with his team-mate Randy de Puniet.
That makes it almost certain that Espargaró will take the second-division CRT “title” in its first year of existence.
Third place was all it took for Spaniard Marc Márquez to wrap up the Moto 2 world championship at Philip Island. Márquez really wanted this one under his belt, as he’s leaving the class in 2013 to join Dani Pedrosa in the Repsol Honda Moto GP team. It was a hard-fought race; he might have taken it easy and finished farther down and still taken the title, but fought to the last lap.
The only challenger with a mathematical chance for the crown was fellow Spaniard Pol Espargaró, who did what he had to – win the race, which he did in dominating fashion – but it wasn’t enough. Espargaró was in a world of his own all weekend, just as Casey Stoner was in the Moto GP class, his final margin of victory being 16.8 seconds, a gap unheard of in the close and cut-throat racing of Moto 2. That was despite a poor start that relegated him from the pole to fourth, yet after two laps he was in front and pulling away.
The other podium finisher was crowd favourite Anthony West, the Aussie finishing on the box for the second consecutive race with a dramatic last-lap pass. The talented West has had a hard career – in fact, he didn’t even have a ride at the start of the season – but once again is showing that he’s a top contender with decent equipment.
Moto GP point standings after 17 of 18 races
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 350 points (secures World Championship)
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 307
3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 238
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 / Monster Yamaha, 208
5. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 165
6. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 157
7. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 / Monster Yamaha, 151
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 135
9. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 12
10. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 88