By Dan Moakes
September 22 2010
The momentum was with Dani Pedrosa, but still Jorge Lorenzo stayed comfortably in front in the 2010 FIM MotoGP World Championship, with a consistent run of podium results. Wins for Dani at Indianapolis and Misano had reduced the gap, but Jorge looked like the champion elect with his 2010-spec factory Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1 800cc.
Round thirteen would represent one of four home races for Spaniards Lorenzo and Pedrosa this season, with the first visit to the new MotorLand Aragón circuit. Jeréz has hosted Grands Prix since 1987, the first visit to the purpose-built Barcelona circuit was in 1992, and similarly Valencia was added to the calendar in 1999. The Aragón track has been designed by Hermann Tilke, and is essentially fast and challenging, with potentially a number of overtaking opportunities.
The practice and qualifying sessions were mostly held in cool conditions, and on the Friday it was also wet. It was dry on Saturday, and pole position went to Casey Stoner on the works Marlboro Ducati. It was his first since round one in Qatar, helped by some recent minor adjustments to his seating position on the Desmosedici. His 20th pole in the class saw him go one better than Australian countryman and former champion Wayne Gardner. Team-mate Nicky Hayden was also looking good, earning fourth place on the grid and on this occasion with a new fairing bubble to suit the track.
The two race-winning Spaniards were also up front as usual, with Lorenzo second and Pedrosa third on the Repsol Honda. Non-works riders joined Hayden on the second row of the grid, with Ben Spies fifth on the Tech 3 Yamaha, and Randy de Puniet sixth on the LCR Honda. All of which meant that 2009 champion Valentino Rossi was only seventh for Fiat Yamaha, which was equal to his lowest start position of the year. Despite his still healing serious leg injury, his difficulty here actually stemmed from the earlier motocross incident that affected his shoulder.
Rossi was the fifth of the works riders, and one of his fellows was next to him in eighth - Andrea Dovizioso for Repsol Honda. Ninth went to Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda), from Héctor Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati), and Colin Edwards in P11 on the other Tech 3 Yamaha. Next was the single Rizla Suzuki of Álvaro Bautistá, as team-mate Loris Capirossi was missing this race after sustaining a finger injury in San Marino. Then it was Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Ducati), Marco Melandri (Gresini), Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda) and Mika Kallio (Pramac).
Stoner suffered a crash in the warm-up session, with warmer conditions on race day. Edwards, Bautistá and Kallio opted for the softer compound Bridgestone front tyre, compared to everyone else. The start of the 23 laps saw Stoner lead into the braking zone for the 90° left-handed turn one, from Lorenzo and Hayden. Pedrosa briefly lost control of the rear in the corner, letting Spies move into fourth, although he wouldn’t be there for long. Rossi also went wide there and would not complete lap one in the top seven.
Turns two and three are reasonably fast right-handers, followed by a pair of turns to the left, the second one more acute. Turn four saw Lorenzo pass Stoner on the inside, but with the Australian then going back onto the inside for turn five, regaining the lead. Casey went on to put in a rapid first lap, to complete it in front of Lorenzo, Hayden, Pedrosa, Spies, Simoncelli, Dovizioso and Rossi. Edwards found himself behind several of the other Europeans, with Kallio behind him as their tyre gamble seemed not to be working initially.
One of the features of the Aragón circuit is the rapid sweep through turn ten, which goes into a dip as it becomes turn eleven, then climbs for a time as the power is wound on heading towards the penultimate corner. Although this long stretch is diverted infield with a left, turns twelve to fifteen then bring the racers back onto the same flat out blast, with a one-kilometre straight before the left at turn sixteen. Pedrosa’s Honda looked good here, and he used the slipstream effect to pass Hayden on the inside for the turn in.
Stoner was already heading into a lead of 1.5s as Pedrosa repeated the previous move to take second from Lorenzo. Hayden and Spies followed, with a gap opening to Simoncelli, Dovizioso and Rossi. Then it was Barberá from de Puniet, Bautistá, Melandri, Espargaró, Edwards, Kallio and Aoyama. In fact, Barberá got by Rossi for a short time as a close contest developed behind these two.
Pedrosa’s pace brought Stoner’s lead down by a couple of tenths. It went out to 1.7s, but was down to a single second at half-distance. Casey seemed to be fighting the bike to get the best from it, but nevertheless he responded to Dani’s efforts and increased his margin again, getting a couple of seconds clear. In the last few laps the Honda man seemed to have settled for second as the lead grew to more than four seconds by the finish.
In the meantime, Lorenzo had been unable to match the first two, and had soon been further back than was Pedrosa from Stoner. All the time, Hayden stayed in touch with the Yamaha man as they moved clear of Spies. Towards the end, Nicky looked to try and get past at the right-handed turn thirteen, without making it. On the final lap, he dived inside at the relatively slow left-handed turn fifteen to make the pass. Jorge could not respond in the last few hundred metres, which therefore meant he was fourth - his worst result so far this year, and the first time that Yamaha would be absent from the podium.
Dovizioso had got past Simoncelli and pulled clear, closing on fifth man Spies. He caught the Texan, trying for an overtaking move on the inside at turn sixteen. Second time round he had the slipstream and went to the inside, but Ben was later on the brakes. That left-hand bend leads into another left, the final corner at turn seventeen, and here Andrea got through on the inside. However, again he was fought off as Spies braked on the inside for turn one. The next lap was the last, and now Dovizioso managed to crash out at turn thirteen, giving Spies a clear run to fifth.
Rossi had passed Simoncelli at turn one, pulling clear and ultimately taking sixth, his friend seventh. Melandri had followed Bautistá past de Puniet, leaving the French rider as they engaged with Barberá. Espargaró also overtook Randy, who would soon crash out, and he closed on the trio ahead. From eighth, at the finish Barberá was shuffled back to eleventh, beaten home by Bautistá, Melandri and Espargaró, in that order. The final finishers were Edwards, Aoyama and Kallio, with only the P11 Suzuki rider apparently making the soft front work.
Casey Stoner therefore took the first victory of the season for Ducati, and his first since October 2009 in Malaysia. With Nicky Hayden also on the podium in third, it was the first time that both Marlboro Ducati riders had been there together since the Australian GP in 2007, when Loris Capirossi was second to Stoner. With his 40th podium result in the class, the Australian drew level with former world champion Barry Sheene, a 500cc podium man in the period 1974-84. Meanwhile, as mentioned, this was the first race of the year with Yamaha off the podium, after nineteen previous visits this season. You wouldn’t predict them not being there next time out.
More news on the rider line-up for 2011 was in the public domain by the time of Aragón. Dani Pedrosa had a new two-year deal with HRC, which suggested that Andrea Dovizioso, also due to run a works spec Honda, would be shifted into the Gresini squad to make way for new signing Casey Stoner. Marco Melandri was definitely going to join Yamaha in World Superbikes, from where 24-year-old Englishman Cal Crutchlow would be arriving as the new Tech 3 rider. For the Suzuki team, it seemed possible that there would be just the one bike on the grid, although it was also rumoured that Randy de Puniet was in the frame to join Álvaro Bautistá.
Standings after thirteen races: Lorenzo 284; Pedrosa 228; Stoner 155; Rossi 140; Dovizioso 139; Spies 131; Hayden 125; de Puniet 81; Melandri and Simoncelli 74; Edwards 70; Barberá 66.
Yamaha 293; Honda 265; Ducati 195; Suzuki 72.