By Gordon Hatch - MotoGP correspondent
- Wet race at MotoGP Round 2 at Jerez, Spain plays havoc with riders
- Hayden grabs third!
- Championship leader Casey Stoner taken out by Valentino Rossi
Reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo seized the initiative and stormed to his first victory of the 2011 season after a rain-soaked Jerez circuit played havoc with the rest of the field including early race leader Casey Stoner who was taken out of the race by an over-adventurous Valentino Rossi. Later sensational Marco ‘Super Sic’ Simoncelli unluckily highsided out of a two second lead, leaving Lorenzo to race to the chequered flag ahead of Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa.
Lorenzo was a picture of stability on his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 and for the final two thirds of the race - after Rossi took out Stoner at turn one when he lost the front end of his Marlboro Ducati GP11 in the ultra-slippy conditions – he gave the remainder of the field a lesson in wet-weather riding and crossed the finish line ahead of fellow countryman Pedrosa who saved some pride for his Repsol Honda team. Along with losing Stoner, the Honda team also watched early third-place man Andrea Dovizioso run off track and pull into the pits after his Bridgestone tyres went off, only to re-join and eventually finish in 12th and last position.
This is also the first time I have won in wet conditions, the first time ever!
Speaking after the race a delighted Lorenzo said, “It has been one of my most patience races. It’s a great victory, which we needed and I feel so good. This is also the first time I have won in wet conditions, the first time ever!” Lorenzo exclaimed, “Now we are working to improve our bike, taking as much points as possible on the way. The King of Spain said to me that he would bring me good luck after our meeting last February in Madrid, he was right!
“With the competition so high this year I never imagined I would be leader after two races. I am so happy to have won this weekend, especially as my friends from Yamaha Indonesia came all the way here to support us; ‘Semakin di Depan’ means ‘One Step Ahead’ which was true today!” he added.
Pedrosa worked hard throughout and looked to be more comfortable in the wet conditions that put less pressure on his left shoulder, which caused him numbness and loss of power at this year’s first round in Qatar. The Spaniard closed in on Lorenzo at one stage but was not able to cross the final gap and began to fall back in the latter stages with what appeared to be his shoulder injury holding him back again. Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies was also going strong following a slow start and overtook Pedrosa into what looked like a Yamaha one, two finish but it wasn’t to be when Spies crashed on lap 25.
“It’s been a very difficult race. At the start, many riders overtook me and I thought ‘that’s it’. Anyway, I knew there were 27 laps and the situation was difficult for the tyres. I was a little nervous after my bad start, but when I realised that in the first lap I was faster than in the warm-up, I calmed down and started to improve,” Pedrosa said.
“I took a good pace and had to ride at maximum concentration in order not to not make any mistakes; it was very easy to crash. Some riders started falling down and it was a matter of resisting. I tried to catch Lorenzo when I saw that his gap was about a second, but at ten laps to go the tyres were almost finished; I couldn’t even open the throttle on the straight because the track was very slippery.
“When Spies crashed, my gap with Nicky was big enough to keep the second place and I crossed the finish line very, very happy. It’s been a tough weekend for the arm injury, today I also had numbness and lack of strength, but to ride in the wet helped me because it’s not as aggressive as in dry conditions. To leave Jerez with a second place finish, after the third place in Qatar, is amazing. We are nine points behind the Championship leader and it’s a good gap to resume the Championship again in Estoril,” he said.
Pedrosa also spoke about his pending surgery on his shoulder this week to solve a problem affecting the power in his left shoulder and arm, “On Friday we considered whether it was worth racing here or better to pull out thinking about the operation. So this second place is amazing. We’ve been doing great, but now comes the hard time, the surgery. Nobody likes to undergo surgery, but this time I almost wish for it because I want to end the pain and problems and start competing fully fit.”
Third place went to a delighted Nicky Hayden who was handed the final spot on the podium by the horribly unlucky Colin Edwards, whose Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike stopped on the second last lap with an apparent technical fault. The Marboro Ducati team will be very happy after a resurgent Rossi re-mounted to fight through the field and also pick up a lot of places after a large amount of crashes to finish in fifth place and pick up valuable championship points.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy start to the season, so we’ll take success any way we can get it.
“That wasn’t necessarily a pretty win because my last laps were so slow when the tires were worn, but we’re on the podium, and I’m pretty happy about it!” Hayden exclaimed while continuing, “In the beginning, our bike was really good because I had a lot of traction. After a while, it was all about focus, and there was no room for error. The track was changing every corner, because there was rain in some parts and no rain in other parts. Also, the tyres and the lines kept changing.
“It certainly hasn’t been an easy start to the season, so we’ll take success any way we can get it. Big thanks to the team. Hopefully we can try to build on this, and it will be the little shot in the arm to help get us going. I know Ducati’s not sleeping. They’ve got some work to do, but I think our bike is better than we’ve been showing. We’ve just been missing a little bit, but I’m confident we can still recover and have a good season,” said a delighted Hayden.
Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama took a sensational fourth place for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team after he showed steely determination and smooth riding throughout to stay on board his RC212V and take his best ever MotoGP finish while ahead of the hard pressing Rossi. Following ‘The Doctor’ was the Mapfre Aspar Ducati of Hector Barbera who also looked to his former 250cc Grand Prix days to work his way quietly into sixth position ahead of Czech Republic rider Karel Abraham. The Czech finished seventh in only his second ever MotoGP race despite an early crash, leaving his Cardion AB Motoracing team ecstatic and his critics silenced.
Following Abraham into eigth place was fellow MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Crutchlow was fearless throughout the accident-packed race and looked to be coping well with the conditions until he also succumed to the slippy surface when it began to rain again near the end of the race. But the Englishman was able to re-mount and grab a top ten spot in his second ever MotoGP race.
The two rookies were followed by LCR Honda rider Toni Elias who also benefitted from the wet conditions and from other riders’ misfortunes to take a top ten finish despite not getting to grips with his RC212V at all this season. ‘Tiger Tony’ was tracked into tenth spot by former full-time and now substitute Rizla Suzuki rider, John Hopkins who made a great start to fall back into the lower positions. While battling it out mid-pack throughout ‘Hopper’ was able to keep his cool and take the final top ten position. Hopkins was deputising for Alvaro Bautista who broke his left leg during qualifying practice at round one in Qatar.
MotoGP veteran Loris Capirossi finished his race in 11th as the sole Pramac Racing team rider after teammate Randy de Puniet crashed and wasn’t able t get his GP11 re-started. ‘Capirex’ was then followed by last place man Andrea Dovizioso who was notable to make any gains despite re-joining the race after his early pit stop.
Following the race and generating great interest thoughout the MotoGP paddock came the intriguing encounter between seven-times MotoGP champion Rossi and 2007 champion Stoner after the Italian made a point to enter the Honda garage to seek-out Stoner and apologise for his turn 1move that took Stoner out of the race. Rossi was humble in his approach and the Australian, while managing to keep his cool, nevertheless cynically enquired about Rossi’s shoulder and then questioned the Italian’s move by stating his opinion that he thought the Italian rider’s talents weren’t as big as his ambitions.
Speaking after the race about the accident Rossi said, “I was advancing really well, and I’m sorry to have made that mistake and thrown away such an opportunity. While braking for the first corner, I entered a bit long, and although I tried to stay to the inside, I lost the front and couldn’t stay up. I’m sorry, because I also took out Stoner, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. I apologized to him, and I’m truly sorry; it was a mistake.
“Today in the wet we had a great chance for me to make my first podium with Ducati, or even to get my first win. I felt good, both with the bike and my shoulder, because I could brake where I wanted to rather than where I’m forced to in the dry, since I still don’t have the necessary strength. The bike is very fast in the wet. It’s a shame because we really could have gotten some satisfaction, but we’ll keep trying. We’re still not so fast in the dry, but we’re working hard. Anyway today’s fifth place gave us eleven points that are very important in the championship,” Rossi added.
This is the second time Rossi has tangled with a Honda at Jerez and came out the better for it when he dived under then Movistar Honda rider Sete Gibernau in 2005 at the last corner to take the win, leaving Gibernau with second.
I’m sorry, because I also took out Stoner, and I certainly didn’t want to do that.
The face-to-face with Rossi and Stoner was then followed by the Australian admitting that while he was prepared to accept the crash as a racing incident, he was very angry with the racing marshalls who while seeing Stoner remount, helped Rossi back onto his bike but appeared not to offer Stoner any assitance at all. The Australian lost out in his chance to bump-start his bike and ultimately retired from the race. Simoncelli was also critical in his comments about the marshalls after he crahsed out of the lead.
“With the accident, I heard Valentino arriving and I wasn’t worried about anyone passing me at that point in the race so I gave him plenty of room,” said Stoner when asked about the incident, “It was a racing incident and there’s not much we can do, what is more frustrating is the reaction of the stewards and their assistance for Valentino and not for me, it was unbelievable. I want to just get to the next race now in Estoril, where I’m sure we can be competitive again.
“We made a good start to the race and the bike felt good for the first few laps, then the tyres seemed to move a little so we tried to conserve them in case it rained again. I really wanted the chance to fight the Spanish riders here in a dry race, so it was disappointing for me that that it was wet,” Stoner added
The topsy turvy race now puts a diferent look to the 2011 championship standings with Loenzo now leading on 45 points while Pedrosa stands in second with 36 points. Stoner now sits in third on 2 points after his DNF with Nicky Hayden placed in fourth with 23 points and his teammate Rossi fifth on 20 points. The MotoGP circus now moves to Estoril in Portugal from 29th April – 1st May after the Japanese GP was moved after the tragic natural disasters that hit the country earlier last month.