By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Championship leader extends his lead and takes fifth win of the season
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner stormed to victory under Californian sunshine in the Red Bull US Grand Prix at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ahead of championship rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha factory Racing). Lorenzo looked on target to claw back five more valuable points against the Australian, only to see victory ripped away by Stoner after leading two thirds of the race.
Stoner was happy to sit behind Lorenzo and teammate Pedrosa until the halfway point of the race when he went past Pedrosa and set his sights on Lorenzo, who put in a super-human effort to lead the race from pole, despite being in a lot of pain due to a severe highside in free practice yesterday morning. Stoner was unstoppable in the final third of the race and in the end he wheelied across the line to take his fifth win of the season ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa.
Lorenzo grabbed the holeshot with a perfect start as the Honda trio of Pedrosa, Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso followed in close pursuit. The Honda riders were in turn being chased by Marco Simoncelli (San Caro Gresini Honda) and seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, who got a good start from 7th on his Ducati Marlboro GP11.1 to slot into 6th ahead of Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies as he looked for a strong performance in front of his home support.
While the front four riders began to pull away followed closely by Simoncelli, Rossi was holding Spies up and it wasn’t long before the Texan found his way passed Rossi to set off in pursuit of Simoncelli, leaving Rossi to then fall into the clutches of teammate Hayden. Cal Crutchlow had a very short US GP for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team when he crashed out on lap 4 leading to his teammate Colin Edwards to be promoted to 8th ahead of Hector Barbera (Mafre Aspar), Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) and Toni Elias (LCR Honda) followed by his wildcard teammate Ben Bostrom, in his first ever MotoGP and in front of a home audience.
Pedrosa had reeled in Lorenzo for a short period before Lorenzo responded, leaving the top three positions remaining unchanged until the halfway point when Stoner made his move passed Pedrosa as Lorenzo lead the proceedings. Dovizioso was still ahead of Simoncelli who was riding strong to stay in pursuit of his countryman but his race was undone with nearly 25 laps to go when he crashed out, handing 5th position to Spies and 6th to Rossi who was still fighting hard to stay in front of Hayden.
Bostrom suffered a problem without completing half of the race distance and subsequently retired from the race and he was soon followed by Rizla Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista after a crash. Positions at the front had remained unchanged for some time and while Stoner continued to stalk Lorenzo with Pedrosa having accepted 3rd was the best he could achieve, Spies was still chasing Dovizioso down for 4th place with Rossi keeping in 6th ahead of Hayden.
The deciding moment in the race came with six laps to go when Stoner made a amazing move around the outside of Lorenzo on the straight to grab first place and the Australian never looked back to grab the victory with nearly a four second lead ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Spies performed brilliantly in the final third of the race to pass Dovizioso for 4th spot to the home crowd’s cheers. Rossi also did enough to stay ahead of Hayden who both crossed the line ahead of Edwards with Barbera and Aoyama making up the final top ten positions. Abraham finished the race ahead of Elias and final placed rider Capriossi.
It's really fantastic to come from such a difficult weekend and get a great win and I'm very thankful to all my team.
Speaking about his win Stoner was surprised at his pace throughout the race despite being hampered by set-up issues in free practice and qualifying. “All weekend we've been struggling a little so we weren't too confident that we could run with Jorge and Dani in the race,” said the race-winner while continuing, “However, this morning in warm up we found something I was a little happier with. Before the race I felt relaxed, confident and generally calm, we started a little slower to get the tyres warm gently but also with a full tank of fuel, the bike didn't feel that great. So I was patient and took my time, staying with Jorge and Dani to control the gap and make sure they didn't get too far away.
“I felt I had more speed but decided to wait and watch. I saw Dani struggling a bit and he started to drop back from Jorge so I had to attack at this point. Once I caught up to Jorge, I watched to see if he made a mistake and kept the pressure on him, then chose my moment to make the move and was able to slowly open up a gap and bring the race home. It's really fantastic to come from such a difficult weekend and get a great win and I'm very thankful to all my team,” Stoner added.
Lorenzo, who was in obvious pain, stated: “Well first of all I’m lucky to be in the second position, after the crash yesterday I thought it wasn’t possible to race for a little while. After qualifying I hoped I might be able to fight till the end for victory but sometimes expectations are not reality. Casey was faster today, I couldn’t match his pace at the end. My physical condition is not so perfect which makes us a bit slow as well. Second is ok, we are only 20 points behind Casey and we’ll try again next time.”
Pedrosa was happy with his podium finish despite falling off the pace near the end of the race with his energy being sapped by the relentless Laguna Seca circruit. “I'm very happy with another podium, the second after my come back from injury. I could have predicted this result before coming to Laguna because I knew it would be physically very tough for me and it has been great to keep up with the pace of Casey and Jorge in these past two races. Today, by the middle of the race, I was very tired, almost finished, I couldn't get my left arm strong enough and here at this track you don't rest for a moment, so I had to drop.
“It's been quite difficult to set up the bike this weekend, I had a lack of grip generally, but the team worked very well. Now we have some holidays and it will be good for me to have some days off to rest and relax my muscles and be back training to arrive fully fit in Brno,” Pedrosa said.
Stoner now leads the championship 20 points ahead of Lorenzo, who sits in front of Dovizioso by 30 points. MotoGP now heads into the summer break and returns with the Czech Grand Prix on 14th August.