MotoGP 2011 Mugello Results

Lorenzo conquers Stoner to tighten the 2011 race

On a perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon, Jorge Lorenzo put himself back in the 2011 championship conversation with a convincing come-from-behind win over Repsol Honda ace Casey Stoner. Stoner’s teammate and rising star Andrea Dovizioso helped Lorenzo’s cause himself with a picturesque pass of Stoner on the last lap of the day for his fourth podium in the last five rounds. The 83,000 mostly Italian race fans in attendance witnessed a great race, even without hometown hero Valentino Rossi in the mix.

Early on, it appeared to be another cakewalk for Stoner, who took the early lead and looked untouchable, doing a credible impression of Dani Pedrosa’s runaway 2010 Italian Grand Prix win. Lorenzo and Dovizioso settled in to a battle for second place, while Ben Spies and Marco Simoncelli squared off a little farther back. The top ten riders during the opening few laps included unfamiliar names like Toni Elias and Alvaro Bautista. Much the same way water obeys the laws of physics and seeks its own level, Elias and Bautista ultimately found their way to the back of the grid.

Up front, Jorge Lorenzo was a portrait of determination, concentration, and mental toughness. With Stoner apparently heading off into the wild blue yonder, Dovizioso went through on him easily on Lap 8. Many riders, at that moment, would have sensed that it wasn’t going to be their day, and settled for third place. Not Lorenzo. The 2010 world champion took second back from Dovizioso on Lap 12, around the same time Stoner appeared to begin experiencing tire problems. By Lap 18, Lorenzo went through on Stoner, and wasn’t challenged seriously over the remaining five laps. As they say at Wimbledon – game, set, and match.

Just Being Italian Isn’t Enough

Rossi, starting from the fourth row for the second consecutive race, had a productive day, but was again unable to overcome a miserable qualifying run. It was the weather on Saturday that put him and his GP11.1 behind the 8 ball and 11 competitors. Trying desperately to find the proper setup for his new machine in the changing weather conditions, as at Assen, Rossi’s race today was essentially over before it started. Although he passed five riders on his way to finishing sixth, today marked his seventh non-podium finish in eight starts this year. And it doesn’t get a lot easier from here.

Years ago, it was said that the only man capable of holding Michael Jordan under 30 points a game was Dean Smith, his coach at UNC. Today, it seems the only force capable of preventing Valentino Rossi from competing for the world championship is the Ducati Desmosedici. The iconic Italian bike has reduced Rossi from king of the motorcycle racing world to just another rider.

The results today speak for themselves. American Nicky Hayden was the top qualifying Ducati rider in 9th position; the GP11 occupied five of the last eight spots on the grid. Rossi was the top finisher, trailed by Hector Barbera, who finished a redemptive seventh after his disastrous outing in Assen a week ago. Hayden, Karel Abraham and Randy de Puniet were non-factors. And Pramac Racing’s Loris Capirossi, enduring a brutal season in MotoGP, was impaled badly enough in his practice crash at Assen to miss today’s race and at least the next two in Saxony and Monterey. His place will be taken by Sylvain Guintoli, apparently the only rider of any stature at all willing to risk life, limb and reputation climbing aboard The Big Red Machine.

Yankee Doodle Dandies

Although the American contingent of Ben Spies (Factory Yamaha), Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) and Hayden was unable to replicate its transcendent performances in Assen, all three managed to finish in the top ten. My favorite moment of the holiday weekend came on the final lap, when Spies apparently went through on Marco Simoncelli to snatch fourth place from the Italian Terror. I say “apparently” because the cameras completely failed to catch the moment, but Spies crossed the line before Simoncelli. Way to go, Ben – happy 4th of July!

Speaking of Simoncelli, my second-favorite moment of the Mugello round occurred during the interminable series of pre-race press briefings. Pedrosa, returning from his involuntary three-race sabbatical imposed by Simoncelli’s inastute attempt to pass at Le Mans, started the exchange by suggesting that Simoncelli should be suspended for a round or two for being clueless and dangerous, or words to that effect. Simoncelli’s response was to refer to Pedrosa and his manager Alberto Puig as “stupid.”

If I’m Marco Simoncelli, I’m going to be a little cautious dropping “S” bombs on other riders. I might accuse Pedrosa of being short, or swarthy, or not having a cool hair thing going on, but I’m going to stay far, far away from calling him, or anyone else, “stupid.”  With the year Simoncelli’s having, that’s just, well, stupid.

The Big Picture

Lorenzo now trails Stoner for the year by only 19 points and leads third-place Dovizioso by 14. (Last year at this point, Lorenzo led Pedrosa by 47!) Factory Ducati riders Rossi and Hayden occupy fourth and fifth places, respectively, with the resurgent Ben Spies now sixth, trailing Hayden by only three points. Pedrosa got off the schneid today with eight points but, at 69, is done for this year. Hiro Aoyama and Simoncelli round out the top ten.

Quick Hitters

Pedrosa made his return today. The good news is he didn’t break a collarbone. The bad news is he qualified and finished eighth. You knew he wasn’t 100% when he failed to make his customary rocket-launcher start. Once the race got going, the announcers didn’t call his name once. Give the man credit for climbing aboard his RC212V and making the effort. He’ll be back.

Cal Crutchlow gave a repeat performance of his race at Assen, retiring again today with some kind of major front tire problem. His season, which started with so much promise, is gradually giving way to the strain and peril of MotoGP racing.

For the third time this season, Pramac Racing’s Randy de Puniet actually finished a race. One wonders where he’ll be plying his trade next year … Toni Elias is at grave risk of losing his seat on the LCR Honda. Despite a great start today – he sat in 7th place at the end of the first lap – he was nowhere to be seen at the race’s end. It will be interesting to see if he returns to Moto2 next season and again becomes a regular on the podium … The paddock returns in two weeks to the historic Sachsenring. It may be historic, but none of the riders had anything nice to say about it in post-race interviews, instead using terms like “not very interesting” and “kind of slow.” Just goes to show that in MotoGP everything is, indeed, relative.

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