Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Reigning MotoGP Champion wins after race-long battle with teammate Pedrosa
Casey Stoner stormed to his third win of the 2012 MotoGP Championship at the Iveco TT at Assen following a battle with his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa that lasted the length of the 26 lap action-packed race that started at the first corner when Stoner’s main rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) was taken out by San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista.
To take pole position and now the win is really incredible, a big thanks to my whole team who never gave up.
While Lorenzo was dumped out of the race unceremoniously when Bautista lost the front of his machine, Pedrosa grabbed the holeshot and Stoner followed the Spaniard into second while Ben Spies moved into third for the Yamaha Factory Racing team. The front three were followed by Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Andrea Dovizioso and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl.
Both Ducati Racing riders Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi got good starts and they were closely followed by Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Rossi had quickly moved up into 5th place after Hayden ran on at the end of the first lap but the American was able to re-join in 8th. Meanwhile, Stefan Bradl lost the front end of his machine and crashed out of the race but the rookie was unhurt.
Back at the front Pedrosa and Stoner now had built up an early lead back to Spies and Dovizioso who both had pulled out an equal advantage to Rossi, Barbera, Hayden and Crutchlow who then ran on while trying to pass the American. CRT rider Yonny Hernandez crashed on lap 6 with the Avintia Blusens rider lucky to walk away unhurt. Hayden was starting to improve his pace and moved past Rossi into 5th place while further down the field NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards retired from the race with apparent mechanical problems while leading the CRT battle was Power Electronics Aspar rider Aleix Espargaro ahead of his teammate Randy de Puniet.
With Pedrosa and Stoner remaining in flying formation at the front, Spies and Dovizioso were locked in a battle for 3rd with both riders passing each other a number of times. Hayden continued to lead Rossi and it wasn’t long before Crutchlow had passed Barbera and then the seven-time MotoGP World Champion and while Rossi began to lose large chunks of time, Crutchlow was moving into 5th after passing Hayden but the front men had streaked away at this stage.
The decisive move at the front came when Stoner passed Pedrosa with just 10 laps left with Spies leading Dovizioso in the battle for third. Stoner didn’t take too long to start pulling away from Pedrosa with the Spaniard not able to match his teammate’s pace. Hayden was trying his best to move passed Barbera and had done so moving into the final 5 laps with Crutchlow on his own in 5th. Rossi entered the pits on lap 16 with tire problems and after a change to new rubber; he re-joined to pick up any available points. Espargaro also retired from the race moving into the last ten laps.
While Stoner crossed the line to take his third win of the year after stretching out a healthy lead moving into the final few laps with Pedrosa remaining in second, Dovizioso passed Spies into 3rd place after a strong battle with the American. Hayden held onto 6th position with Barbera in 7th and the first CRT machine across the line coming in the form of De Puniet who was followed by San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro in 9th while Mattia Pasini claimed 10th for the Speedmaster team. Avintia Blusens rider Ivan Silva finished ahead of Danilo Petrucci and his Came IodaRacing machine with both men crossing the line ahead of Rossi and Paul Bird Motorsports man James Ellison taking 15th and final position.
Speaking after the race Stoner was very happy to have snatched another win saying, “To take pole position and now the win is really incredible, a big thanks to my whole team who never gave up. My plan was to get a better start than I actually did, take some advantage and use the energy I had to try and make a gap and try to hold on to the end. We also knew that whatever position we were in, we had to preserve the rear tire. Choosing the softer tire, there was a big chance that we would destroy it and have nothing left for the end of the race.
When I saw Dani was running at a reasonable pace and we were pulling away from the others, I decided to stay there and watch him to save the tyres and my energy as much as I could. With a few laps remaining, I knew we wouldn't suffer a big drop in tire performance, I still felt good so I decided to pass him and see if I could pull a gap. It was a tough race, I had a lot of arm pump as I had to compensate for my injuries from the crash yesterday, but my fitness was good and the bike was working well in general. I'm sorry for Jorge, nobody wants to take points over a competitor in this manner, but as we can see, one race can change everything,” Stoner added.
Pedrosa tipped his hat to his teammate’s tactics while speaking about his race. He said, “Looking at the lap times we did during the weekend, I knew I had better rhythm than Casey, so I made a good start and tried to pull away from the first laps. Casey stayed behind me all the time and by the second half of the race, I believe he took profit of extra energy he saved during the first part of the race to overtake me. Our pace was very good in the race, the bike worked very well but maybe I just chose the wrong strategy this time. At the end of the race, the bike felt heavy with change of direction due to tiredness and it was enough to slow me down from 1'35 to 1'36 for just two laps, and I lost ground, but this is racing. I hope to do a better strategy next week in Germany.”
Dovizioso was delighted with his podium finish after encountering problems with his bike’s set up during the weekend. Dovizioso explained, “Scoring a podium for us feels like a victory and today is another great day for me and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team. This podium is great because I have never had a very good feeling at this track but with the Yamaha YZR-M1 I felt much more comfortable. I was only seventh on the grid but I knew all weekend my race pace was very fast and I always felt a podium was a realistic goal. I got a good start and it was a beautiful battle with Spies for the whole race. It was a really strong battle and the pace was very high and when I passed Spies for the first time I tried not to abuse the tyres too much because I knew the first two were already too far ahead.
I dropped my pace and it really paid off because at the end of the race I was much stronger than him and it seems he apparently had some issue with the rear tire. I want to say a huge thanks to my crew because onc e again they have done a fantastic job. We work a lot to be competitive for the race and this strategy is really paying off because in the last four races now I have been fighting for the podium. I also want to thank Yamaha for the great support they are offering us. Now I'm really looking forward to the next two races, particularly my home race at Mugello, because after fighting for the podium consistently I am confident that I will be able to repeat this performance another time,” he added.
Stoner has now leveled the championship following his victory today with both Lorenzo and himself on 140 points each while Pedrosa sits in third with 121 points. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) did not start today’s race with the Czech rider still suffering from hand injuries he sustained testing in Aragon.