2011 MotoGP Aragon Results
Stoner and Pedrosa lead Honda rout in Spain
Executives at Honda Racing Corporation must be feeling pretty good right about now, as Casey Stoner all but clinched the 2011 MotoGP championship with a dominating performance at Motorland Aragon. Stoner and Dani Pedrosa took their fancy Repsol colors out for a Sunday ride in the country and ran away from the field. Though defending champion Jorge Lorenzo gave it everything he had for a third place finish, the bells now toll for his chances to repeat.
The windy, cold, leaden skies at Alcañiz today resembled the mid-October Normandy coast more than the usually sunny Spain in late summer. The factory Hondas, including Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli, dominated practice all weekend, with the exception of Friday afternoon, which was scrubbed due to a power failure. Factory Yamaha pilots Lorenzo and Ben Spies had tried everything they could, but simply were not as fast as the Hondas. As the bikes lined up on the grid Sunday, Lorenzo was hoping simply to podium, as winning appeared out of the question.
The race started out largely as expected, although Spies, coming out of the three hole, led briefly. Lap one featured a nasty highside crash from rookie Karel Abraham and a careless slideoff from Dovizioso. Meanwhile, both Stoner and Pedrosa went through on Spies, and the die was cast. Once things got sorted out, they were trailed, respectively, by Spies, Simoncelli (looking froggy again today) and Lorenzo. Simoncelli had gone through on Lorenzo on lap four and appeared headed for an all-Honda podium.
On lap nine Simoncelli went through easily on Spies. But, as we’ve seen all season, the Italian is, in the words of the late Warren Zevon, an excitable boy. On lap 12, perhaps thinking about tomorrow’s headlines in the Italian racing press crowning him The New Valentino Rossi, he went hot into turn 12, left the track for a few moments, woke up, and found himself back in fifth position, trailing both Yamaha riders. He would come back on lap 19 to pass Spies, whose lap times deteriorated steadily after mid-race, to finish fourth, adding Aragon to his collection of missed 2011 opportunities.
Lorenzo’s inability to answer the bell today sets the stage for the second coronation of Casey Stoner, who may be salivating over the prospect of clinching the 2011 title at his home race at Philip Island. Mathematically, he can’t clinch in two weeks at Motegi. With a 44 point lead and four races left, the best he can hope for is to exit Japan in two weeks with a 69 point lead. Far more likely is a scenario in which he finishes the Australian Grand Prix with a lead of more than 50 points, thus turning out the lights on the remote prospect of any late season collapse. Lorenzo will look back at Silverstone and Assen, where he earned a total of 10 points, as the “scene of the crime” that deprived him of any chance for consecutive world championships.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Despite the parade up front, there were plenty of stories coming out of Aragon today. Foremost among them was Valentino Rossi becoming the first rider in history to fall victim to the “six engine rule” when he started today’s race from pit lane. This was a side effect of the quietly revolutionary installation of an aluminum front frame on his Ducati, a tacit admission from Bologna that the carbon fiber chassis, upon which they’ve staked their reputation, isn’t getting it done for The Doctor. The new frame necessitated a seventh engine, hence the penalty. Thus, too, the no-longer-deniable fact that Rossi & Co. have washed their hands on the 2011 season and are now testing for 2012. [See the chart below for confirmation.]
Rossi himself worked his magic today, climbing from the pit lane outhouse to finish 10th, although he got punked late in the day by rookie Cal Crutchlow, who someday will show the video of that pass to his grandkids.
Alvaro Bautista had a successful outing today, starting from 11th and finishing sixth, leading to increased speculation about Suzuki’s intentions regarding the 2012 season. I’d like to see what Bautista could do on the Tech 3 Yamaha next season, which may be in the cards
Hector Barbera made a valiant attempt to become the top Ducati finisher today, narrowly losing that distinction to Nicky Hayden. Barbera is another one whose future would be brighter on a Japanese bike.
Loris Capirossi ran up on the rear tire of Toni Elias late in the day, causing both riders to crash out of the race, and adding to Elias’ already monumental woes. Expect Toni in WSBK next year, perhaps taking the newly-retired James Toseland’s place with the BMW Italia squad. Of the four riders who crashed today, it appeared that Abraham was the most seriously hurt, with what looked like a possible broken arm.
What a Difference a Year Makes
The following chart illustrates the changes in fortune of the various manufacturers, comparing the Aragon rounds in 2010 and 2011:
|Manufacturer||# Bikes 2010||# Bikes 2011||Top 2010 Finish||Top 2011 Finish||Overall 2010||Overall 2011|
|Honda||6||6||2nd||1st||2 of top 8||3 of top 4|
|Yamaha||4||4||4th||3rd||3 of top 6||2 of top 8|
|Ducati||5||6||1st||7th||2 of top 3||2 of top 8|
Bottom Line: Honda has elevated its game this year, while Yamaha has stood still. Ducati’s fortunes have plummeted despite having arguably one of the best riders in history wearing their colors, while Suzuki is showing signs of improvement.
On to Motegi
So now, after all the pronouncements, adamant stands, and idle threats, we’re off to Motegi. Everyone, that is, with the exception of Adrianna Stoner, whose husband is forbidding her to set foot in the potentially toxic Japanese countryside in her delicate condition. With his commanding lead in the standings, the only real question surrounding the Japanese Grand Prix is who, then, will be his brolly girl?
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