2011 MotoGP Misano Results
Lorenzo gets back in the game
Heading into lucky Round 13 at Misano, Jorge Lorenzo found himself staring into the abyss. Trailing Repsol Honda tough guy Casey Stoner by 44 points with but six races remaining in the 2011 season, it was time to do or die trying. Looking very much like a defending world champion, Lorenzo fought off an early challenge from the Australian for a much-needed win. And although his chances of repeating are not well, they are at least alive.
As usual this year, the Aliens dominated the practice sessions and claimed their typical top six positions in qualifying. The top three – Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa – got away quickly, with Lorenzo taking the early lead. The only real surprise in the early running was Valentino Rossi, who, by Lap 2, had coaxed his Ducati from the 11 hole to fifth position. Although the local hero would ultimately fade to seventh, his fans, who numbered in the thousands trackside, had at least a glimmer of hope, both for today and tomorrow.
Once things got sorted out, it was Lorenzo running smooth and looking surprisingly relaxed, given the fact that his nemesis Stoner was glued to his rear tire. The Spaniard has, in his relatively brief time in the premier class, become very hard to pass when his bike is properly set up, as it was today. For the first ten laps, Lorenzo blocked Stoner’s every attempt to go through. The Yamaha M1 appeared glued to the track, while Stoner’s Honda RC212V was jumping and hopping all over the place, noticeably in the rear. As Pedrosa pedaled by himself in third place, it gradually became apparent that Lorenzo might actually win the race.
Keep in mind that Stoner had won the last three rounds, while Lorenzo had not spent any quality time in the center of the podium since Round 8 in Mugello. During this time, Stoner’s lead in the championship had grown from 19 points to 44, with the end of the season drawing into sight. At Brno and again last week in Indianapolis, Lorenzo had a look of resignation about him, as though it was clearly Stoner’s year, and there wasn’t much he could do about it. Today, however, in the heat and humidity of Misano, Jorge Lorenzo got his mojo back.
By mid-race, Stoner looked ready to settle for second place. Which would have been fine, had it not been for two small details. The first was that he had developed a tire problem, and his lap times were steadily climbing. The second was teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was holding up just fine in third place, thank you, and under no team orders to concede second place to Stoner. On Lap 23, Pedrosa easily went through on the Australian, to the delight of his crew and Team Yamaha. By that point, the podium had been settled, but the best racing of the day was yet to come.
A Great Battle for Fourth
As we have observed here on many occasions, some of the best racing in the premier class of MotoGP takes place farther back in the field. Today, it was a three-way scrum for fourth place that had people on their feet hollering. For a good part of the day, the second group was the Italian trio of Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso on Hondas, with Valentino Rossi valiantly trying to keep up on his GP11.1. American Ben Spies, who had gotten off to another of his increasingly frequent and disturbing poor starts, went through on Rossi into sixth place on Lap 16. While Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa slugged it out for the podium, these three then began a wonderful battle of their own.
This fight came down to the last lap with Simoncelli, Dovi and Spies running wheel to wheel. On the last lap, there were two or three lead changes among the group, with all three leading at various points. Watching it in real time, it was impossible to keep track of who was where when. And while I fully expected either Dovi or Spies to go through on Simoncelli, at the end it was Sideshow Bob crossing the line a fraction in front of his compatriot, with Spies another highly unsatisfying fraction behind. Simoncelli, who grew up just down the road from Misano, must feel he is making progress professionally, in addition to the joy of punking his rival Dovizioso, who had done the same to him twice previously this year. Come ti piacciono le mele, Andrea?
Elsewhere on the Grid
Farther back in the pack, it was pretty much business as usual. Nicky Hayden capped off a miserable weekend on his own GP11.1 by crashing out early. Loris Capirossi, who announced his Capital R Retirement earlier in the week, ended the Italian portion of his professional racing career by retiring with a mechanical issue on Lap 9; there’s something sadly poetic in that.
Colin Edwards, who came out publicly early in the weekend announcing he would be riding for one of the CRT teams next year, managed a 13th place finish after qualifying seventh. His fade allowed Monster Tech 3 Yamaha FNG Cal Crutchlow to beat his teammate for the second time this season on his way to a decent 10th place finish.
Alvaro Bautista completed a credible weekend for his Rizla Suzuki team by starting and finishing 8th on a GSV-R that sported more chrome than a ’59 Cadillac. Randy de Puniet and Toni Elias completed another stroll in the park together and finished last once again. While RDP reportedly has two offers on the table to remain in the premier class, one hears no such thing about Elias, who looks destined to return to Moto2. The name mentioned to take Edwards’ place on the satellite Yamaha next season is Brit Bradley Smith, currently sitting, along with his boyish good looks, in fifth place over at Moto2.
The Big Picture, Heading Back to Spain
Unlike last week, there was little change in the top ten for the 2011 season. Marco Simoncelli went past Colin Edwards into eighth place on the strength of his 13 points today. Stoner’s lead over Lorenzo was reduced from 44 to 35 points and still looks very safe for the title, barring a crash during the last five rounds. Dovizioso, the forgotten man at Repsol Honda, maintained his grip on third, while Pedrosa put 15 points between himself and number five rider Ben Spies.
In two weeks the flying circus returns to the wide open spaces of Motorland Aragon, the Ducati-friendly layout where Stoner won last year wearing red and Lorenzo settled for a leisurely fourth. One expects Lorenzo, with his re-discovered mojo, to be at the top of his game. The abyss still beckons.
Breaking News from Indianapolis
Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced an agreement with Dorna to continue the Indianapolis Grand Prix for the next three years. The announcement was met with great hooting and celebration by the author, who now gets to enjoy a free lunch twice a year through 2014. Seriously, this is good news for MotoGP in America, as the Indiana race is accessible to more licensed riders then either of the other two venues. Congratulations to the IMS for a successful negotiation.
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