Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Casey Stoner takes his second MotoGP Championship title on his 26th birthday
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner has secured his second ever MotoGP World Championship following his home victory at today’s Iveco Grand Prix of Australia. The now double World Champion takes his 2011 title in the most perfect of circumstances, on his 26th birthday and in front of his home fans.
Stoner has now won the last five races at Philip Island and also holds the record of being the first and last rider to win a title within the 800cc MotoGP era (2007 with Ducati and 2011 with Honda). The Australian was delighted when arriving in Parc Fermé where he donned his 2011 Word Champion’s celebratory t-shirt like his family members and the rest of his crew.
Maybe it was just meant to be, but it’s something unbelievable.
“I don’t think I could fit more things in today!" smiled Stoner. "To win like this is really something special; words can’t describe it. It’s been pretty much a perfect season for us, and a big thank you to the team and to everyone. This weekend’s been great for us, but the race threw a few curve balls. They were very, very tricky conditions and there were a few heart-in-mouth moments! I wanted to win this one. Not too many people have so many things align in one day and it’s hard to get a hold of it. Maybe it was just meant to be, but it’s something unbelievable.”
“I don't think anyone could plan things to happen better than they have today!" smiled Stoner. "The race was incredibly difficult, the conditions we're very tough. I built up an early lead as I saw the rain coming in, but I wasn't sure if it would hit us. I basically ran into a wall of rain, there wasn't any warning at the back part of the circuit and I came into the last turn and the rain started hard. I nearly lost control and thought for sure I was going to end up in the gravel. I managed to control it and maintain the gap to everyone and thankfully bring it home for the win, but it was a little bit nerve-racking for sure.
“I'm really sorry that Jorge had the accident this morning, he's great competitor and I think if he'd been here racing today things might not have turned out the way they have, I hope his operation goes well and he's back racing as soon as he feels fit. I can't thank everyone enough, my team, Repsol, all our sponsors, everyone that has worked so hard all year, thank you!” added the newly-crowned Champion.
While Stoner was celebrating his second MotoGP title, Marco Simoncelli and the San Carlo Honda Gresini team were celebrating the Italian rider’s best ever finish of second in a MotoGP race after he held off a late onslaught from Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso who crossed the line in third place. Dovi looked like making it a Repsol Honda one-two across the line but for Simoncelli’s determination in the closing stages.
Simoncelli was over the moon with his best ever result in a MotoGP race. “I am delighted! It was a really tough race with changeable conditions throughout and every time I saw raindrops on my visor I was unsure whether I could push or not. I managed to put a little gap on Dovizioso and Pedrosa but when the rain came Dovizioso was able to catch me and make a pass,” said the Italian while adding, “I managed to stay with him and follow his lines so when the track was dry again on the last lap I was able to throw everything at him and make the pass. I had been second for the whole race and I didn't want to give up on it until the end. It was nice to finish directly behind the new World Champion. I feel sorry for Lorenzo and I hope he is fit and back on track again soon.”
Dovizioso was very happy wit third position and the valuable points that keps him in the chase for third position overall in this year’s championship. "It was a difficult race as we expected, this track is very tricky, as are the weather conditions. To return on the podium and arrive in front of Dani here at Phillip Island is a very good result for us and it was our target before getting here. I think we could have even finished in second position but when Dani overtook me in the middle of the race we lost contact with Simoncelli, then I retook the position when the rain came, but on the final lap I didn't have enough grip to push hard in the last few corners.
“Anyway we are still fighting for the third place in the Championship and I'm sure Dani will be strong in the last two races, but we will try to do our best until the end. Casey has had an amazing season, he is the fastest rider at the moment, so congratulations to him for the title,” Dovi added.
Some of the pressure on Stoner was removed following his main rival Yamaha Factory Racing rider Jorge Lorenzo’s withdrawal from today’s race. The Spaniard crashed at high speed in this morning’s warm up where he damaged one of his fingers. The factory Yamaha team’s fortunes were even more devastated when the decision was also taken not to run Ben Spies in the race as the American was still not feeling 100% following a high speed crash at yesterday’s qualifying session.
Stoner grabbed the holeshot at the start of the race and never looked back. By the second lap he had already nearly a two second gap to Simoncelli who was trying his hardest to catch the Australian. Stoner continued to build on his lead and with ominous grey clouds surrounding the circuit near Melbourne; his lead would come into play at the latter stages of the race.
While Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista got a bad start from 4th position on the grid, Ducati Marlboro rider Nicky Hayden made his way up to second position within the first few corners and set about trying to chase down Stoner while Hayden’s teammate Valentino Rossi got a great start from 13th to 7th place.
Hayden’s position wasn’t safe for long when Simoncelli came sailing passed within a number of laps and with the American’s Ducati falling into the grips of Dovizioso and his teammate Dani Pedrosa. Dovizioso quickly found a way passed Hayden and Pedrosa, although having to make more than one attempt, also got passed Hayden within a short number of laps.
The first ten laps saw the field stretch out a little with Stoner now nearly 5 seconds in the lead to Simoncelli with Dovizioso and Pedrosa chasing each other down. Hayden was being perused by Bautista. Rossi was trying his best to catch those in front while Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards was sitting in a lonely 8th place. Hiroshi Aoyama was also somewhat lonely in 9th but the battle for the last position in the top ten was raging between Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) and at the back of the group was Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) while Toni Elias brought up the rear of the field.
White flags began to be waved with 19 laps to go after some small showers of rain around the track but this wasn’t enough to make the riders come in and change bikes with Stoner still clearing away at the front. Pedrosa got passed Dovizioso and looked to be in control while Rossi was also making moves where he first passed teammate Hayden into 6th position and then set his sights on Bautista. Yet Rossi looked to push the front too hard while making a pass on the Spaniard and crashed out of the race making it two races in a row that the Italian hasn’t finished.
Stoner continued at a steady pace at the front and Simoncelli was holding station in second with Dovzioso and Pedrosa still battling for third place. Race positions seemed to be safe but on the fifth last lap the rain began to fall more heavier than before. That persuaded Nicky Hayden to come in and change bikes. However, although Bautista, Crutchlow, Abraham and Aoyama all crashed out in the tricky conditions, the front of the field remained the same except for Dovizioso who dispatched Pedrosa to catch up on Simoncelli and to pass him into second. Simoncelli wasn’t going to allow Dovizioso to steal his best ever finish and the satellite Honda rider took the Repsol Honda rider back and to cross the line in second.
HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto was thrilled with Stoner securing another MotoGP World Championship World title for Honda and thanked everyone who made it possible. However Mr Nakamoto also revealed that Honda isn’t resting on its laurels.
Speaking after the race he said, "The feeling is of course very happy, today I can relax little bit, because almost every night I wake up thinking about something, doing some memo to remember to check or do something... this is my first feeling after the race! I want to say to all Honda fans and sponsors, thank you very much for your support and especially to all Honda people and in particular to everyone at HRC and in Honda R&D centre. Then I'd like to thank the Repsol Honda Team crew, all of them! A big thanks to all our Honda riders that push each other during this season and achieved great results. Then of course I want to thank Casey Stoner. He did a great job since the first day he rode the RC212V and he brings great enthusiasm to everybody in HRC.
“Tonight we will celebrate, but starting from tomorrow morning we will start working again to finish this season at top, win the Team Championship and to prepare the 2012 new challenge with the 1000cc," Mr Nakamoto added.
Stoner crossed the line in emphatic form with his crew celebrating immediately, the Australian securing the 2011 MotoGP Championship with two races to go this year. Theoretically Dovizioso could finish second in the championship but this would take two wins from the Italian and for Jorge Lorenzo not to start with Dovi currently on 212 points with Lorenzo on 260. The real battle in the championship now is between Dovizioso and Pedrosa who has 208 points.