2011 MotoGP Laguna Seca Results

Casey Stoner triumphs in the Great California Crashout


Australian Casey Stoner, the new kid in town on the formidable Repsol Honda factory team, flexed his muscles today in a convincing win at the picturesque Laguna Seca circuit. In a race that looked like it belonged to 2010 champion Lorenzo, Stoner reminded everyone that he leads the 2011 championship, and is disinclined to give it up without a fight. And with only 13 riders finishing the race, the Great California Crashout again lived up to its name.

Comparing today’s U.S. Grand Prix to last week’s race in Germany, the results were surprising only insofar as they arrived out of sequence. Last week, most people expected Stoner to win, Lorenzo to place, and Pedrosa to show, maybe. This week, the smart money had Pedrosa and Lorenzo duking it out, with Stoner or Ben Spies following. The reasoning went something like this:

  • Last week in practice it was Stoner who looked invincible, while Pedrosa was just back from injury. But Pedrosa battled doggedly from third place, and went through on both Stoner and Lorenzo on his way to the upset win, with Stoner eventually fading to third.
  • This weekend, it was Lorenzo qualifying on the pole, joined on the front row by the two Repsol pilots. It was Stoner singing the blues on Saturday about how he wasn’t as fast as the other two. It was Pedrosa, coming off a big win and returning to a track he loves. In the end, though, both Pedrosa and Lorenzo faded and Stoner won going away.

Casey Stoner made a late pass on Lap 28 to take the lead and win by about 5.6 seconds.

Stoner’s win today is certainly not much of a surprise. True, he hadn’t won here since his 2007 championship season. True, Pedrosa won here in 2009 and might have repeated last year had not Lorenzo pressured him into crashing out of the lead on Lap 20. True, Lorenzo had taken the last three poles here and won it in 2010.

But Pedrosa, whom I’ve presented my Titanium Award for having the most metal in his body, is still recovering from his latest collarbone injury. And Lorenzo, immediately after securing the pole yesterday, suffered a gruesome high side crash on his cool-down lap, as his traction control reportedly crapped out, and had to be helped off his bike all day Sunday. I suspect it was pain and suffering that caught up with both riders late today and contributed to Stoner’s win.

Jorge Lorenzo had a chance to take a bite out of Casey Stoner's championship points lead but instead now trails the Aussie by 20 points.

Stoner, the deep thinker of the premier class, may have also lulled Lorenzo to sleep with some creative sandbagging. He spoke to the press on Saturday, saying, in essence, that he had no real chance of winning the race. He suggested that the duel would be between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, while he would have to pedal as hard as he could to stay within 10 seconds of the leaders. After 10 laps, it appeared he was right, as Pedrosa was dogging Lorenzo, while Stoner was toiling in third. Lorenzo may have relaxed somewhat in mid-race, only to discover Stoner, not Pedrosa, on his rear tire with eight laps left. Stoner went through on Lorenzo on Lap 26 and broke him on Lap 28. So much for not being fast.

Plenty of Riders Taking Early Exits

Ben Bostrom made his MotoGP debut as a wild card with LCR Honda.Despite the perfect conditions today, a number of riders elected not to stick around for the podium celebration. Randy de Puniet, soon-to-be-former Pramac Racing employee, crashed hard in qualifying on Saturday and was unable to answer the bell today. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Brit Cal Crutchlow’s season continued downhill, as he crashed out on Lap 3. San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli – remember him? – made it 10 for 10 today, qualifying fifth before exiting the premises on Lap 7. And Alvaro Bautista, The Great Blue Hope of Rizla Suzuki, slid out of the points on Lap 15.

37-year-old rookie Ben Bostrom was awarded a wildcard on the hapless LCR Honda team this weekend, scheduled to compete in both the MotoGP race and the AMA Superbike race later in the day. After running off track twice in the early going, Ben decided that discretion was the better part of valor and retired after Lap 10, while he was still physically capable of climbing aboard Michael Jordan’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 later in the day. In so doing, he was spared the humiliation of his short-term teammate Toni Elias, who finished the race a lap behind the leaders. Two down, one to go, Toni – don’t suppose I’ll get to see you in Indianapolis.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Ben Spies leads Ducati's Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden through The Corkscrew.Yamaha factory stud Ben Spies had another poor start today, and spent the day trying to get back into fourth place, from whence he began the race. He did so very late in the day, snatching points from Repsol #3 rider Andrea Dovizioso, who had spent his day chasing a podium, again to no avail. Spies is a closer.

The factory Ducati team of Rossi & Hayden had a busy day jousting with themselves. After starting together on the third row, they finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Rossi started the day from the seven hole, tying his best start of the year back in Catalunya.

Unfortunately, it also tied his worst start of the 2010 season, a measure of the extent to which his fortunes have fallen. How the Desmosedici gained a reputation as a career-killer I’ll never know.

Colin Edwards went through on Hector Barbera on his way to a leisurely eighth place finish. Still, it was three Americans in the top eight once again.

The Big Picture

While Lorenzo sat in the lead today, and Stoner was back in third, Jorge had visions of trailing the Aussie by only six points heading into his summer vacation. Instead, Stoner’s comeback stretched his lead over Lorenzo back to 20 points. Dovizioso, fading into the sunset, now trails Lorenzo by 30, and really needs to get rid of that hat.

Racing legends and former World Champions Kenny Roberts and Eddie Lawson showed them how it's done, riding parade laps on Yamaha R1s.

Pedrosa went through on Rossi today into fourth place for the season. Ben Spies now trails Rossi by only 10 points in the battle for fifth, which Spies should absolutely win. Nicky Hayden’s 94 points put him in seventh, with Colin Edwards now sitting in eighth, having passed the errant Simoncelli. The nondescript Hiro Aoyama rounds out the top ten.

On to Brno, the City That Needs to Buy a Vowel

MotoGP enters into its mid-summer break, not returning to action until August 12 for the Cardion ab Grand Prix Ceské republiky. In addition to obvious capitalization issues, the race is sponsored by Karel Abraham’s dad. The track is owned, in part, by Karel Abraham’s dad, as is his Ducati racing team. I’m pretty sure Karel Sr. owns a substantial part of the country and finances most of its national debt. In a startling departure from racing convention, Karel Abraham, Jr. has already been declared the winner of this year’s Czech Grand Prix, and the race is being run only in order to sell some beer and those famous Czech hotdogs, both of whose manufacturers are owned by Karel Sr. As Tom Petty once observed, “It’s good to be king.”

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