Nancy Knapp Schilke
Casey Stoner scores another MotoGP victory at the U.S. Grand Prix held on the 2.243 mile Laguna Seca circuit after a hard fought battle with his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in the early stages, before taking on current points leader Jorge Lorenzo. It was the reigning champion’s back-to-back win, and his third at the venue.
“When we got to the front we put in some good laps and pulled some small advantage and just continued from there. I'm very, very happy and a big thanks to all the team,” Stoner said.
The podium was an exact repeat of the 2011 race: Stoner, Lorenzo, and Pedrosa.
Stoner notched his 37th MotoGP career victory on the California circuit. It was not an easy task as Stoner started second but he was nipped by his own teammate before they entered the first turn; whilst Lorenzo had a great start when the lights went out from his pole position.
The Australian’s first task was to safely overtake his own Repsol Honda teammate before chasing Yamaha Factory Team’s Lorenzo.
“I tried my best the beginning to open a gap and I managed it but then in the corkscrew I almost crashed. For Casey maybe that was a motivation and he caught me in one lap. After that I couldn’t keep the pace I had in the beginning, maybe the soft tyre was the best option for this race. Without a doubt Casey was riding in an excellent form today and it wasn’t possible to beat him,” Lorenzo said.
Stoner made the move with 11 laps remaining at the exact same place he made the same move in 2011; except this time the move was not as dramatic. In 2011, the Australian made took a the outside move at turn 1; this year he safely took the inside line. The Spaniard was not giving him too much leeway, and at times the gap was so close that one mistake could have taken both riders down. Not long after Stoner made his move into second, Pedrosa lost ground on the 13th lap when he nearly lost his bike.
“At the beginning of the race I tried to move to the front but Dani and Jorge were riding very good lines and it was impossible to get past. I decided to slow the lap times a little and try to save the tyres until the end and then we could start to come back. I was confident for the entire race that I had enough pace for the win, we just needed to make sure the tyre would last until the end,” said Stoner.
Pedrosa commented, "I tried my best in this race and third place was the maximum I could get this time. At the beginning, I was quite confident and calm when Casey passed me because I knew he was on the soft rear tyre and this was the most risky choice for the race, but finally it worked out perfectly for him.”
Ben Spies had a great start with a move into fourth and the Yamaha Factory Team rider was trading the position with the two Tech 3 Yamaha teammates: Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. Not far behind was LCR Honda‘s Stefan Bradl.
However on the same lap that Stoner took the lead, Spies crashed out of his homeland race when he was accelerating out of the corkscrew. “We started to stretch out a lead over Dovi then all of a sudden at the bottom of the corkscrew the bike went out from underneath me. I had no control, it didn’t slide or anything just completely went. At first I thought I’d hit a bump but there isn’t one there. It’s nobody’s fault but it’s more bad luck,” said Spies.
Now it was Nicky Hayden who was focused on grabbing points for the home fans. Following close behind his American Ducati teammate was Valentino Rossi, and the American was the first to overtake Bradl. Hayden than set his sights on Crutchlow but the two Tech 3 riders were ere focused on their own battle; which has been typical this year.
Hayden commented: “The day got off to a rough start, as I crashed in the warm-up session when I didn’t have enough heat in the brakes. For the race, my bike was the best it’s been this weekend, and I got a good start, but then Bautista and I touched.
“I got to Bradl, but the other guys were already gone, although I didn’t have the pace to run with them anyway. I was fighting the bike and running wide in the turns, but I pushed until the end. It’s frustrating to struggle so much all weekend at Laguna, and it’s not the way I wanted to go into the two-week break, but I think we can put up a better fight at Indy,” added the American.
Both Dovizioso and Crutchlow are each hoping to land with the Yamaha Factory Team next year after Spies announced he was departing from the team at the end of this year – rumor has it that he will end up with the new BMW entry.
On the penultimate lap, the unthinkable happened when Rossi had a heavy crash at the famous corkscrew turn. The Italian did several flips before hitting the safety barrier. The rider walked away under his own power but will be checked out at the MotoGP clinic.
Rossi was uninjured and spoke about the crash: “I wasn’t fighting for the podium, but a crash like that at the end of the race is still disappointing because I had done the whole race like the first lap and my rhythm wasn’t fast at that moment. Still, I lost the front when I was approaching the Corkscrew, when the bike was vertical, right when I touched the brake, a bit like happened at Silverstone. We have a real problem: again today, we had a hard time getting the front tyre to work, and it was like new after thirty laps. Fortunately I’m fine, although it was a pretty hard crash. It wasn’t a great weekend. Now we have a short break, two important weeks, and then we’ll see how it goes at Indy.”
Dovizioso ended fourth followed by his teammate Crutchlow. Hayden placed sixth, and Bradl was seventh.
The teams will head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their next adventure in the United States. Lorenzo holds the points lead at 205 to Pedrosa’s 182. With his win today, Stoner has 173.