Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Yamaha Factory Racing rider extends Championship lead with home win
Jorge Lorenzo emerged victorious on front of his home fans at today’s Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya in a thrilling day that saw the Yamaha Factory Racing rider battling against Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa for the lead throughout the race with Andrea Dovizioso taking the last step on the rostrum for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.
Pedrosa took the holeshot on front of his home fans with a Ben Spies making a surprise move around the outside of the front men to move into second place in the early stages of the first lap. Lorenzo slotted into third place with Casey Stoner slipping from his pole position start into 4th as Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow battled for 5th place.
Thank you so much to Yamaha and my team for working hard to make a great bike for today’s victory.
Stefan Bradl got off to a great start on his LCR Honda ahead of Ducati Racing teammates Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi all battling for 7th place with San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista chasing them down. Back at the front Spies was right on Pedrosa’s rear wheel but disaster struck for the American when he made a move on the Spaniard on the third lap only to run wide and drop his machine in the gravel.
Following Spies’ mistake Lorenzo moved into second behind Pedrosa and both riders began to ease out a small gap on Dovizioso while Stoner and Crutchlow continued to follow close behind. Meanwhile Bautista began to make a move passed Rossi having being already dispatched of Hayden and it wasn’t to long before the Spaniard made his way past Bradl. The CRT machines were also close together early on in the 25-lap race with Yonny Hernandez (Avintia Blusens) nearly running into back of The Power Electronics Aspar machine of Aleix Espargaro.
The Frontrunners were in a comfortable position ahead of the rest of the field going into the second quarter of the race with Lorenzo now ahead of Pedrosa and Dovi placed in a comfortable 3rd position. Rossi also found some extra pace and moved passed Bradl into 7th and was chasing Bautista down for 6th position while Crutchlow was back right on the rear wheel of Stoner. Spies was fighting his way back through the field towards the middle point of the race and had made it up to 11th after rejoining in last place following his third lap crash.
Moving into the final ten laps the CRT machines were close together with Randy de Puniet leading the way for his Power Electronics Aspar team ahead of teammate Espargaro. San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro sat ahead of James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport), Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing), Mattia Pasini (Speed Master), Hernandez, Ivan Silva (Avintia Blusens), and Came IodaRacing’s Danilo Petrucci.
Back at the front Pedrosa and Lorenzo continued to swap the lead much to the partisan crowd’s delight while Dovizioso held station in third place with Stoner and Crutchlow holding 4th and 5th respectively. Lorenzo made his way passed Pedrosa in the final quarter of the race when the Repsol Honda man went wide and Lorenzo grabbing the opportunity to move ahead and build on his lead immediately.
The final five laps saw the majority of the field holding their positions with the exceptions of the CRT riders with Silva and Petrucci locked in a fierce battle at the rear of the field and Spies also continued to push through into the top 10 with the American finally making it passed Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera nearing the end of the race.
The Spanish crowd erupted into rapturous applause when Lorenzo crossed the line to chalk up his third win of the season with Pedrosa following closely behind into second with Dovizioso holding on for third position. Stoner stayed in fourth to the end of the race with Crutchlow recording another top five finish in only his second time racing at the Catalunya circuit.
Bautista crossed the line for a well-deserved 6th position while Rossi held station in 7th place. Bradl managed to stay ahead of Hayden for 8th while Spies rounded off the top ten. Barbera led Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham home in 11th and 12th respectively while the top CRT rider honor went to Espargaro with Pirro in 14th, De Puniet in 15th, Ellison 16th, Pasini finishing in 17th, Hernandez 18th and Petrucci winning the battle against Silva.
Lorenzo was thrilled with his third win of the year and securing another 25 pints towards his bid for the Championship. “I’m really happy with this victory as it was a very tough weekend,” said a delighted Lorenzo who continued, “We performed a lot better than yesterday as in qualifying it was very hot. The grip on the track after the rain this morning was also not so great. At the beginning of the race when I was following Ben and Dani it was very easy to make a mistake under braking and touch them so I waited calmly for my opportunity. When Ben made a mistake I moved up. I followed Dani and watched him, he slowed his pace and eventually made a mistake so I was able to pass him then give it full throttle. Thank you so much to Yamaha and my team for working hard to make a great bike for today’s victory.”
Not able to feel any other way than being disappointed, Pedrosa was somewhat downbeat in his post-race interview. He said, "A second place is always a second, but I really wanted to win today, I cannot feel happy. We've worked very hard during the practice sessions to be ready to win but finally we couldn't make it, so it's a little bit disappointing. I pushed as much as I could but in the final laps I had some issues to stay on the racing line. I pushed my best in the middle of the race, I tried to attack but with 10 laps remaining I couldn't keep the pace, it was hard to control the bike on braking and in the exit of the corners, so I was defensive because I knew my corner speed was not so good.
I made a mistake and I had a big wheelie, so Jorge got past me and I couldn't follow him. We cannot be happy today, but I have to congratulate my team because they worked very hard this weekend and we have to keep pushing for the next races to start winning soon,” Pedrosa added.
Meanwhile Dovizioso was feeling the exact opposite of his Honda rival after taking his first ever podium for his satellite Yamaha squad saying, “I am really happy to get my first podium for Yamaha and this is a fantastic reward for all the effort my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew has put in since I came to this Team. We have been building up to this result for a while now, but it is great to be battling at the front in MotoGP on a satellite machine and I'm sure nobody expected us to be doing this so early. It was a very hard race because there wasn't a lot of grip but I am really happy because I was able to fight very close to Pedrosa and Lorenzo, who are so strong on this track.
I was only losing one or two tenths and this is very positive. Maybe I could have stayed with them and fought for the win but I made a small mistake and that cost me a lot of time. I found my pace again but in the final laps Casey and Cal caught me, but I was determined to finish on the podium. I could hear Casey's bike and knew he was looking to attack, but I tried to give my maximum while not making a mistake and to finish third is great for the whole Team. Now we can go to Silverstone with a lot of confidence,” Dovizioso added.
MotoGP now moves to the Silverstone in 2 weeks’ time for the British Grand Prix where Stoner will look to reduce the gap to championship leader Lorenzo who now has a 20 point lead.