MotoGP 2012 Brno Results
Pedrosa Captures Last Lap Thriller; Race Tightens Again
Last week we suggested that Brno is one of the Yamaha-friendly tracks on the MotoGP circuit, and that factory stud Jorge Lorenzo might well add to his lead in the 2012 championship this weekend. The top of the practice sheets during the run-up to the race reminded me of a bad 60’s rock-and-roll band – Dani and the Yamahas. In the end, Repsol Honda mighty mite Pedrosa held off Lorenzo in a stirring last lap to venture within 13 points of the lead for the 2012 title.
With teammate Casey Stoner missing in action due to the ankle injury he suffered at Indianapolis, Pedrosa carried the hopes and expectations of the entire Honda nation into the Czech Republic. In Free Practice 1, he recorded the fastest time, with the next four going to Yamahas. In FP2, it was pretty much the same story, with Ben Spies falling to eighth. FP3 virtually duplicated FP1. During qualifying, Pedrosa crashed early, and had to resort to his #2 bike to finish the session. Although he struggled somewhat, he eventually captured the last spot on the front row, wedged in between Yamaha stalwarts Lorenzo, Cal Crutchlow, Spies, and Andrea Dovizioso.
In 2010 and 2011 we watched week after week as Jorge Lorenzo would get double-teamed by Hondas – Pedrosa, Stoner, Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli all taking turns making life difficult for the Mallorcan. Though Lorenzo prevailed in 2010, the numbers last year were too much to overcome, as Stoner rode his RC213V to the title. As today’s race began, I was thinking it wasn’t going to be Pedrosa’s day, going one-on-four with Yamaha M1s well-suited to the flowing layout of Brno.
Brno 2012: One for the Pedrosa Family Scrapbook
The race started predictably enough, with Pedrosa sandwiched in between Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow’s Tech 3 Yamaha. Once everyone’s tires were warm, Lorenzo and Pedrosa went off alone to do their business, with Crutchlow and his teammate Dovizioso falling back to 3rd and 4th. Valentino Rossi, who had started from the six hole, his best start of a miserable year, materialized in fifth place, although his Ducati Desmosedici GP12 was smoking like a ’62 Rambler. Satellite Honda dudes Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl trailed Rossi, but not by much and not for long.
For the first half of the race, the only real action was the battle for 5th, as rookie Bradl went through Bautista on Lap 5 and Rossi on Lap 9. Pedrosa, who had spent 12 laps admiring his reflection in Lorenzo’s chrome, passed him cleanly on Lap 13 but was unable to get away, the hunter having become the hunted. Things would remain this way until the last lap of the race.
On Lap 22, Lorenzo, who had been hoping to pressure Pedrosa into a mistake for nine laps, took matters into his own hands and went through on Pedrosa with half a lap left in the race. Pedrosa, who in past years might have surrendered at this point, stiffened and, in an impressive display of mental strength, bike and balls, seized the lead back from Lorenzo in the last few turns to win by 2/10ths of a second, leaving the fans and the announcers gasping for air.
When Dani Pedrosa’s racing career is over, he will undoubtedly look back at this race as one of his finest hours. Severely outnumbered, on a track favoring his opponents, and with no room to fall farther back from the championship lead, he held his ground, ran an exceptionally smart race, and snatched victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat. He has now won three of the last five races after going oh-for-7 at the beginning of the season. And if he ends up winning the 2012 title, a prospect I find dubious, history may decide that he took the first, or perhaps second, step at Brno.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Cal Crutchlow, newly re-signed on a one-year deal with Herve Poncharal’s Tech 3 Yamaha team, spent the day by himself in 3rd place, capturing the first podium for a British rider since one Jeremy McWilliams at Donington in 2000. Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who, during the week, finally signed his two year contract with Ducati, celebrated by finishing off the podium for only the second time in the last six rounds. Riding for Ducati for the next two years, there’s no point in getting too used to the champagne celebrations, I guess.
Clearcut Rookie of the Year candidate Stefan Bradl finished the day in 5th place, another superb result for the young German, trailed by underachiever Alvaro Bautista on the San Carlo Gresini Honda. There is a lot of chatter these days regarding the prototype seat on Fausto Gresini’s team for next season, with Ben Spies among those riders rumored to be taking Bautista’s job. Were it not for Marc Marquez, Bradl might have been a contender to join Pedrosa on the Repsol factory team next season. As it is, he will have to wait another two years, at least.
Spots seven through ten were captured, in order, by Rossi, Randy de Puniet, Karel Abraham and Aleix Espargaro. Teammates RdP and Espargaro would, in a perfect world, be candidates for prototype bikes next year, as they are clearly the cream of the CRT crop. Alas, the Yamahas and Hondas are all pretty well allocated for 2013, with the possible exception of the San Carlo Honda. If given the choice between staying with their current team or saddling up a satellite Ducati next season, I’m not sure how they would go. Their ART bikes seem to give them an equal chance of finishing in the top ten, with far less chance of getting launched into a low Earth orbit by the demonic Desmosedici.
Three Final Thoughts
Without wishing to take anything away from Dani Pedrosa’s glittering 2012 season, we should not lose sight of the fact that, were it not for Alvaro Bautista’s boneheaded move at Assen, which removed Jorge Lorenzo from the proceedings, Pedrosa could easily trail Lorenzo by 33 points today, rather than 13. Yeah, I know, luck figures heavily in this sport, you gotta take the good with the bad, etc., etc. But Pedrosa has been pretty fortunate this year, perhaps a cosmic payback for some of the bad luck he’s had during his career, in the form of brake failures, Marco Simoncelli and more.
The six engine rule may play a part in the final third of the season. Lorenzo was racing his fifth engine today, while Pedrosa was still working his fourth. With a third of the season yet to come, and Lorenzo having blown one in the collision with Bautista in Holland, things could get a little tight for Lorenzo at the end of the season. It’s hard to imagine the governing body of any major motorsport agreeing to a completely arbitrary rule that could have a material outcome on one of their championships. Yet that’s exactly what we might have in store for in 2012.
Finally, the super slo-mo cameras that MotoGP is using this year, at 2500 frames per second, give a completely different view of this sport than that seen by fans at the track. Through these cameras, you can watch the frames of the bikes flexing, and see the rear tires turning faster than the front, constantly spinning. You also get the clear impression that the rider and the machine are bonded into a single unit, a completely different aspect from any form of auto racing. It’s a shame that motorcycle racing in the United States is a fringe sport, while auto racing is a big deal. At 2500 frames per second, there is no comparison.
MotoGP and other Professional Competition coverage