Gordon Hatch, MotoGP correspondent
Reigning World Champion wins in typical fashion ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner took his very first win of the new 1000cc MotoGP class at the bwin.com Grand Prix of Spain at Jerez today with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo in a close second place and Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa taking the final position on the podium making the Spanish fans very happy.
Pedrosa was first to lead the race after taking the holeshot at turn one with Nicky Hayden starting well from third position for the Ducati Racing team while Monster Yamaha riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso were both in close contention with Lorenzo. The first number of laps on the cool and drying Spanish track saw a number of changes at the front with Stoner making his charge into the lead on the second lap.
To win here is something very special for me.
By the start of the third lap Stoner was in the lead after overtaking Pedrosa who was also overhauled by Lorenzo and Hayden and was now being chased by Dovizioso, Crutchlow and MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda in the battle for 4th place. Further down the field the pack of riders were close together with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini), factory Ducati rider Valentino Rossi, Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing), Karel Abraham on his Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati GP12, Ben Spies on the factory Yamaha YZR-M1 and CRT rider Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) all jostling for position early on.
The rest of the CRT machines were spread out early on with James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar), Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Danillo Petrucci (Came IodaRacing team), Mattia Pasini (Speed Master), Ivan Silva (Avintia Blusens) and Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing) at the back of the field while the second Avintia Blusens CRT rider Yonny Hernandez had a nightmare start from the pitlane after his bike stalled on the grid.
Back at the front Bradl started to fall off the battle for third place with Hayden now being reeled in by Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Pedrosa before the Spaniard passed the American into third with 7 of the 27 laps completed. Hayden began to drop back after falling into the grips of the Monster Yamaha tech 3 riders Rossi continued his fight with Barbera and they were being followed by Spies, Espargaro, Petrucci, Pasini, Silva and Edwards.
Stoner and Lorenzo continued to build a gap to third place man Pedrosa and with nearly half race distance completed the front two riders had over a 3 second gap to third place. Meanwhile, Crutchlow was intent on doing everything he could to try and get passed Pedrosa with Dovizioso close behind and waiting for an opportunity to leapfrog passed both riders. Rossi and Barbera continued to swap positions while Spies and Abraham were locked in battle behind.
With ten laps left Stoner was still leading Lorenzo but his advantage was being eaten into by the Spaniard who showed dogged determination to try and close down the Australian much to the admiration of the partisan crowd. Pedrosa was still in third but Crutchlow was closer than ever and trying his best to gain an advantage in the corners with pint-sized Pedrosa being able to stretch out his lead on the straights.
Tire degradation began to set in within the final ten laps as the riders struggled to keep their machines in a straight line. Lorenzo was now right behind Stoner and both riders were having a hard time with their Bridgestone rubber as was Pedrosa and Crutchlow behind. Pirro retired with just a short distance to go in his race with an engine fault while Abraham crashed out.
The last five laps saw Stoner continue to lead Lorenzo and the Spaniard was beginning to experience more trouble with his tires than that of Stoner who didn’t put a wheel wrong at the front of the race. Crutchlow continued to chase Pedrosa but to no avail. The final lap saw Stoner pull away and crossing the line to claim his first 1000cc victory for himself and his Repsol Honda team with Lorenzo in third and Pedrosa hanging on for third.
Crutchlow put in another competent and fast performance that secured him 4th place and one place ahead of teammate Dovizioso who in turn finished ahead of Bautista and Bradl who scored another top ten finish in just his second ever MotoGP race. Hayden secured 8th place and one place in front of teammate Rossi who did enough to keep Barbera at bay. Spies had a race to forget finishing outside the top ten and he was followed home by, Espargaro, Petrucci, Pasini, Silva and Colin Edwards. Randy De Puniet was cruelly denied the title of best CRT machine after his bike appeared to cut out on the final lap while Ellison also retired with just one lap to go.
Speaking after the race, Stoner, who had never won at the Jerez circuit until today said, "We didn't get a great start so I tried to stay out of trouble, there were people out braking each other, touching and it was important just to keep out of the way! Then I managed to gain a lot of positions in a short space of time and reached the front. I didn't try to pull a gap, as I knew Jorge and Dani were very fast, but I just wanted to stay in front with them and pull away from the others. Then I saw that Jorge and I had slightly better pace and we could make a gap.
I was focusing on where I wanted to go as there were a lot of wet patches and it was easy to make a mistake. We managed the race for the conditions of the circuit and as they improved I pushed a little more, the bike on a whole felt much better than in qualifying. I did get some arm pump again but thankfully not to the extent I had it in Qatar. Considering the weekend in general and how fast Dani and Jorge are at this track, to win here is something very special for me,” Stoner added.
Taking 20 Championship points leading the Championship by four points Lorenzo said, "Today I knew it would be a very important decision on the grid to choose the right front tyre. Finally we chose the soft one, unfortunately we were wrong and had a lot of problems during the race, I wasn’t as confident as in practice. Without good feelings to finish second is not so bad, we are still leading the Championship and have good motivation for Estoril."
Pedrosa was happy with his third position as he was under intense pressure at the end from Cruthclow. "We didn't get a great start so I tried to stay out of trouble,” said the Spaniard who continued, "there were people out braking each other, touching and it was important just to keep out of the way! Then I managed to gain a lot of positions in a short space of time and reached the front. I didn't try to pull a gap, as I knew Jorge and Dani were very fast, but I just wanted to stay in front with them and pull away from the others. Then I saw that Jorge and I had slightly better pace and we could make a gap. I was focusing on where I wanted to go as there were a lot of wet patches and it was easy to make a mistake.
We managed the race for the conditions of the circuit and as they improved I pushed a little more, the bike on a whole felt much better than in qualifying. I did get some arm pump again but thankfully not to the extent I had it in Qatar. Considering the weekend in general and how fast Dani and Jorge are at this track, to win here is something very special for me,” Pedrosa added.
Round 3 of the 2012 MotoGP Championship takes place next weekend at the Portugese Grand Prix at Estoril on 6th May.