Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner romps home to victory in Catalunya
Casey Stoner chalked up his third victory of the 2011 MotoGP season at today’s Grand Premi Aperol de Catalunya in Spain, where he led the race virtually from start to finish and has now shortened the gap to championship leader and reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo by just seven points.
Stoner led the race from lap two to the chequered flag after making the perfect start at the Montmélo circuit where he got the jump on his rivals and immediately started to build his lead on board his RC212V. Lorenzo also made a good start but despite doing his best to hang on to Stoner who passed him on lap two, he was forced to concede defeat at what is considered his home race.
“We got a reasonably good start, but not as good as Jorge," explained Stoner. "I wanted to try to pass him early on, but had to wait until the end of the first lap. From this point I just tried to put in the consistent laps as we did in the practice sessions to see if he could stay with me. Fortunately I was able to open up an advantage without pushing too hard or feeling too much pressure. I was really happy, the bike was feeling fantastic and then it started to rain. There was enough rain there to make you think that it will affect the bike, and in the last corner there was enough rain to make the track slippery.
"I’m just happy I kept the bike upright at this stage and I want to thank all my team at Repsol Honda for all the hard work this weekend. We now head to Silverstone next week where we’ll also be looking to fight for victory. I just hope Dani can make a return there also and I wish him a fast recovery," added the Australian.
While Stoner won the race comfortably over Lorenzo, the Spaniard himself also had a large gap to his teammate Ben Spies who worked his way into a solid third position following some aggressive riding at the beginning of the race and that was enough to seal the final spot on the rostrum.
Lorenzo was thrilled with his second place finish after being somewhat down in the mouth yesterday when asked about his prospects in today’s race. “I’m really happy with the result, I gave it the maximum!” Said the Spaniard with a large smile while adding, “I overtook Casey on the start but I knew he could overtake me. I tried to stay with him and not to lose his back wheel for as long as possible. At the end it started to rain a little and it was tough to keep concentration in the last sector but we managed it. We are still leading the championship so let’s see what happens in Silverstone.”
Spies was as happy if not more with his rostrum finish and said he rode at his maximum to deliver his third place. “We just kept pushing and pushing and we were slowly catching up to Jorge, not necessarily to try and catch and pass him but to stay away from Andrea. The bike was great and I felt good on it and just needed a good result. After the first couple of laps I realised we had a shot at a podium so I rode as hard as I could. The tyre was a good choice for us today; we did what we came here to accomplish and that’s good enough. Big thanks to the team who worked hard to deliver a great package this weekend, bring on Silverstone!”
Stoner’s and Lorenzo’s performaces were nothing to be surprised by, the one big surprise arising from today’s race was Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) finishing the race in sixth position despite being lightening fast in all practice sessions and starting today from pole position. Simoncelli seemed to get off the line well but got swallowed up at the start and by turn three he was fighting to hold onto seventh.
Stoner’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso managed to grab fourth place in today’s race and once again the Italian got the better of his fellow countryman and seven time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro) who also had a steady race and after making a good start would go on to finish in the same position that he held at the end of the first lap.
Today’s race was run in unpredictable conditions and even saw drizzle falling intermittently, that in turn saw Race Direction deciding upon putting the white flag out early on the in the race. Meaning that the riders could come in a change to a wet setting bike if they wanted, but the weather didn’t deteriorate any further to prompt a switch.
There was also an incident early on in the race that saw Pramac Racing’s Randy de Puniet and second of the San Carlo Honda Gresini riders, Hiroshi Aoyama, tangling and both crashing out of the race and forcing Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) to take evasive action on his Ducati GP 11.
While the race stretched out at the front, the fight for seventh and eight was fierce between Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Ducati Marlboro rider Nicky Hayden. Both riders swapped positions a number of times throughout the race but eventually it was the British rookie Crutchlow who gained the upper hand on the American.
Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) won a brilliant battle to finish in ninth place ahead of Abraham with both riders locked in a hard fought battle that saw experience win out over youth in the end. The Italian and Czech riders were followed home into 11th place by Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar Team) as he was chased into 12th by Alvaro Bautista for the Rizla Suzuki Team with both the Spanish riders fightin for ninth place at one stage.
The final and 13th position went to Toni Elias for his LCR Honda team who continues to lag behind the rest of the MotoGP field this year. The field was cut short to just 15 starters for today’s race after Dani Pedrosa was ruled out because of a broken collarbone that he sustained at the previous round in Le Mans. Coin Edwards then broke his collarbone during practice for this weekend’s race, however Edwards did return to the circuit this morning with all the best intentions to start the race but Race Direction thought the better of the situation after the Texan failed his medical.
The MotoGP paddock now moves to Silverstone for the AirAsia British Grand Prix next weekend where Stoner will look to make more ground on Jorge Lorenzo who remains in first place in the World Championship standings on 98 points while the Australian is in second with 91 points and Andrea Dovizioso is now in third position on 63 points.