Roughly one minute into Round 13 at Misano, the 2012 MotoGP championship contest seems to have ended with a bang. A comedy of errors at the start resulted in Repsol Honda ace Dani Pedrosa having to initiate hostilities from the last row, which he did with his usual vengeance. Slicing through the field like a hot knife through butter, his title hopes came to an inglorious end when he was unseated by Hectic Hector Barbera in Turn Six. As they say at Wimbledon, game, set and match.
Factory Yamaha smooth operator Jorge Lorenzo needs do little more than finish the remaining five races in an upright position to claim his second world championship in three years. Doing the math, Pedrosa needs to make up roughly eight points per round. Assume, for the sake of argument, that Pedrosa wins four of the last five races, a superhuman feat made even more unlikely by the fact that teammate Casey Stoner wins in Australia every year. Four firsts and a second would add 120 points to Pedrosa’s current 232, for a career-best season total of 352.
Lorenzo currently stands at 270. For him to reach 353, he would need four thirds and a second. Other than the debacle at Assen, in which he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista, Lorenzo hasn’t finished lower than second all season, and has six wins to boot. Pedrosa’s only hope is that Lorenzo fails to finish a race or two, which is possible, but unlikely.
Of the top three riders in MotoGP’s premier class – Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner – Lorenzo is by far the smoothest, most consistent, most tucked-in of the bunch. If someone were crazy enough to try to calculate the variance in lap times of the three, by round, I’d be willing to wager your next paycheck that Lorenzo’s is the smallest, that the difference each week between his fastest and slowest laps is less than that of the two Honda riders. And from here on in, consistency is the ticket to victory. Jorge Lorenzo, regular as a piston on his M1, can churn out quick laps one after another better than anyone in the game.
Recent History at Aragon
All the history at Aragon is recent, as it has only been hosting MotoGP since 2010. That year, Round 13 was originally planned for the Balatonring in Savoly, Hungary, but cost overruns and construction delays caused Dorna to pull the plug and schedule a fourth Spanish round. Casey Stoner won easily that year on his Ducati, and was joined on the podium by Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden, who punked Lorenzo on the penultimate turn of the race for his annual podium. There were two Ducatis on the podium that day, something unlikely to be seen any time in the foreseeable future. Andrea Dovizioso crashed on the final lap in a futile attempt to reel in Ben Spies, back when Spies was still relevant.
Last year, it was Stoner again, this time on the Repsol Honda. Pedrosa claimed a distant second, followed by Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli. That was the day it became obvious to all concerned that Lorenzo was not going to repeat as world champion. Dovizioso crashed out again, but on Lap 1, saving all that unnecessary wear and tear on his engine. And Valentino Rossi, befouled by the new six engine rule, became the first rider ever forced to start from pit lane for going over budget on his engines. That he would eventually finish tenth had little to do with where he started the race.
Motorland Aragon is mostly long and fast, the type of track the 2012 Yamaha generally does well on. In 2010 I characterized it as being “Ducati-friendly”, which may still be true, if Valentino Rossi can maintain the form he showed in his wonderful run at Misano. Regardless, both Lorenzo and Pedrosa should be at the top of the timesheets this week, and Rossi may be in the mix, too. Dovizioso, who has one or two rounds left before Casey Stoner returns, needs to finish this race and do well at Motegi if he hopes to claim his second consecutive third-place finish for the year.
Things Are Looking Up for Alvaro Bautista
It was announced this week that Johnny Rea, pinch-hitting for Stoner on the Repsol Honda for the second round in a row, has re-upped with his Ten Kate Honda World Superbike team for 2013, taking him out of contention for the San Carlo Gresini Honda. Not many candidates are left to replace Bautista, who has apparently recovered from the mid-season slump occasioned by his takedown of Lorenzo in Holland.
Fausto Gresini would likely prefer an Italian rider to soothe his snack-jacking sponsor, but no obvious names come to mind. Bautista may keep his seat, sure to be a one year contract, by default. Should he achieve a couple of podiums and a bunch of top five finishes next year, the seat could be his to keep for another year or two, until The Next Great Rider emerges from Moto2. Or Dovizioso bails from the factory Ducati program in 2015.
The Provisional 2013 MotoGP Calendar
Every year, Dorna releases its calendar for the next year with the tag “provisional” attached to it. This time, it is even more provisional than usual. It projects 19 rounds, of which only 17 are presently identified. Much has been said and written about it already, so what follows may be considered piling on.
Your Weekend Weather Forecast
Conditions look to be cloudy with temps mostly in the 70’s for the weekend. The best chance of rain right now appears to be on Saturday. In short, perfect conditions for Lorenzo and Pedrosa to go at each other again. SpeedTV will have the race live Sunday at 8 am Eastern, and we will post our race coverage for you later that day.
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