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2012 MotoGP Jerez Results
Stoner hits the Lottery in Jerez; Aliens Rule
The weather at the start of the 2012 Gran Prix bwin de Espana could not have been worse for the combatants; the term “sketchy” will give an idea of the condition of the skies and the track. That same term could easily apply to the practices leading up to the race, the qualifying cage match, race day set-up and tire selection, and, unfortunately, the overall performance of the Ducati contingent. In the end, the rich got richer, the poor poorer, and mythical membership in the Aliens modified, for now.
The Moto2 race held an hour earlier on Sunday was called after 17 laps due to rain. As the premier class race approached, garages were frantically trying to decide on set-up and tires, not knowing whether conditions would be dry, wet or both. Moto2 winner Pol Espargaro described it as a “lottery.” Race Direction simplified everything by declaring it a Dry Race, regardless of the conditions. Bottom line – Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa went out on soft front and rear slicks, while the white-hot Tech 3 Yamahas went out on harder compound. Gavin and Emmett were all a-twitter about tire conservation. The sun came out. The tires, it would turn out, had little to do with anything.
Almost forgot the “sketchy” events. In free practice, Ivan Silva, one of the CRT boys, led an abridged FP1. FP2 found Pedrosa in an unsurprising first, with Rossi – yes, Valentino Rossi – in second place, going on about how he and Nicky could compete in the wet. By FP3, Silva was back in his customary last place, and the three Aliens sat on top.
Qualifying was sketchy only for the convenience of the writer. A better word choice would perhaps be “riveting, for practice.” The provisional lead in the QP changed, like, 30 times, while Lorenzo and Pedrosa took swings at one another. (Too bad MotoGP doesn’t make Saturday’s free, as doing so would definitely increase crowds for Sunday.) Nicky Hayden qualified 3rd, which is totally sketchy. 103,000 people showed up here today, down from 143,000 when I was here in 2010 and before unemployment in Spain hit 24%. Not bad for a country facing Greece-like economic ruin.
Despite the iffy conditions, this was a noteworthy event for several riders. Crowd fave Dani Pedrosa made his 100th premier class start, while Valentino Rossi made an ignominious 200th start so far out of the conversation as to retain little more than his sentimental appeal. Lorenzo was on a two-race win streak in Andalusia, and was looking to become the first rider in the four-stroke era to win the first two races in a season. Stoner, oddly, remarked that he didn’t NEED to win in Jerez to keep his season on track, which was good for him, given his record here. Troubled Ben Spies, who must have read Wednesday’s article, had his game face on, qualified 6th, and looked ready to rumble, at least until the race got underway.
One the Tires Warmed Up – The Usual Suspects
Up front, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Hayden and Stoner got off to good starts. By midway through, it was Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Crutchlow and Dovizioso, which was how it ended. At this point, the questions had been reduced to three: Where the heck is Ben Spies? When does Lorenzo go after Stoner? And would the hard tire choices of the Tech 3 Yamahas prevail late in the race? The answers to those questions, respectively, were, “Somewhere farther back,” “Lap 26,” and “No.” The Bridgestone softer compound tires held up fine in cool, damp conditions. As to the other two questions …
Ben Spies continues to mystify. Take a survey today, and most fans would designate the 2012 Aliens as Lorenzo, Stoner, Pedrosa and Crutchlow. Cal, it seems, is well-suited to the 1000 bike, being all burly and British and such. Ben, in what needs to be a breakout year for him, records his second straight 5 point day and doesn’t appear to have a clue as to what’s up. Lots of contracts up at the end of this season is what’s up, Ben. World Superbike wasn’t that far back.
Lorenzo dogged Stoner steadily for most of the last ten laps of the race. Only once or twice, however, did he get close enough to attempt a pass, and each time Stoner blocked him. In 2009 Lorenzo would have crashed trying to pass the leader at Jerez. In 2012, he takes the 20 points, maintains his lead in the championship, and hopes for a faster bike in Estoril. It was clear, even to me, that the Yamaha gained ground on the brakes, but gave it back, with interest, to the Honda exiting the turns. Ultimately, this was the difference in today’s race. Not a big difference, but a difference nonetheless. Better corner exit beats better on the brakes, at least today.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Alvaro Bautista rode the Gresini Honda to a gratifying 6th place finish today, followed by rookie Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda, Hayden, Rossi and Barbera. Spies edged out CRT jockey Aleix Espargaro for 11th place, while Karel Abraham, the Cardion AB delegate, suffered the shame and ridicule of his counterparts as he became the first Ducati rider ever to finish behind a CRT entry. And not just one, but FIVE CRT entries, as poor Karel crashed slowly early in the race and was able to resume hostilities, so to speak. My editors don’t like it when I pick on young Karel.
Poor Yonny Hernandez, after doing so well in Qatar, stalled his bike at the start, had to start from pit lane, and quit with mechanical issues on Lap 5. From the penthouse to the outhouse … Hernandez was joined on the CRT-DNF sidelines by Randy de Puniet, James Ellison, and Michele Pirro … Tech 3 Yamaha repeating their 4-5 finish in Qatar today is impressive. I’m surprised that Dovizioso is not the Alpha Rider in that garage. Crutchlow is a beast on the 1000cc Yamaha M1.
The Big Picture
After two rounds, Lorenzo leads with 45 points, while Pedrosa and Stoner sit tied with 41. Crutchlow sits fourth with 26, teammate Dovizioso with 22. Bautista, Hayden and Bradl trail, with Barbera and Spies rounding out the top ten. To think that, as bad as Spies’ season has been so far, he still leads Rossi is a statement to how far Rossi has fallen. We no longer expect the Italian to dominate the weekend; we expect him to finish in the top ten. Rossi won here as recently as 2009, and today he is an afterthought. Remarkably little synergy emanating from Bologna.
Next Up: Estoril
One short week until Round 3, similar to Jerez in that Stoner has never won in Portugal, either. Doesn’t look like much of a problem after today. But Lorenzo has unbelievable history in Portugal, and Pedrosa won there last year. Crutchlow knows the track well, so all the pieces seem to be in place for another great weekend. Maybe it won’t be all, you know, sketchy.
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