Trying to pass 20 riders on the first lap, the seething Spaniard was unseated by Pramac Ducati hazard Hector Barbera, ending Pedrosa’s day and perhaps the 2012 championship contest in one fell swoop. It also cleared the way to the podium for Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati icon Valentino Rossi and home team Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista, who was joined on the rostrum by the ghost of Marco Simoncelli
Historians will look at the first few minutes of today’s race as the deciding moments of the 2012 championship, which is now Jorge Lorenzo’s to lose. As the riders waited for the red lights to go out, Karel Abraham, on row four, suddenly raised his hand, either asking for permission to use the restroom or signaling that he had stalled his satellite Ducati. This caused the start to be yellow-flagged and initiated the domino effect that ruined Pedrosa’s day and season.
As the riders and teams regrouped for the restart, the rear tire-warmer on Pedrosa’s RC213V got jammed, forcing the bike into pit lane, and making him late starting the second sighting lap. Once he made it on to the track, he stalled, then discovered a problem with his front brake, which caused him to trail the safety car back to the starting grid, making him start from the last position on the track. Everyone knows the back of the grid is a dangerous place, full of riders like Abraham, Barbera and CRT backmarkers who are hazards to themselves and those around them. And so it was that Pedrosa, who has had so many seasons ruined by injury and misfortune, saw 2012 come crashing to earth. (Not to mention that, on the initial start, he was stuck with a brolly GUY in Repsol team colors, as bad an omen as any I can think of for a MotoGP contender.)
With Pedrosa disposed of, Jorge Lorenzo ran away from the field. Had today’s race been televised by ABC’s once mighty Wide World of Sports, the tagline – The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat – would never have been more appropriate. Pedrosa’s story today could not have been written by Shakespeare, whose tragic heroes were always brought down by their own flaws. Dani Pedrosa was an innocent victim today, and one must feel sorry for him. True, he’s still only 27 years old, but at some point the “there’s always next year” line won’t be available. With his injury history, he’s an old 27.
Other than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How was the Play?
One man’s suffering is another man’s celebration. Today, those other men were Rossi and Bautista. Rossi, still King of the Universe in Italy, jumped into second place on the first turn of lap one and stayed there all day, looking fast, calm and collected. A new frame and swingarm seemed to help, unlike the myriad other changes Ducati Corse has produced over the past two seasons, trying to make The Doctor competitive on the Desmosedici. That his renaissance took place in Italy, a few miles from his home, is testimony to his sense of drama and uncanny ability to create moments that will live forever in the memories of his fans around the world. I suspect he will return to the Alien club next year on the factory Yamaha.
The other feel-good moment of the 2012 Misano GP saw the struggling Alvaro Bautista, hanging onto his prototype seat by a thread, achieve his first premier class podium at his team’s home crib, the one named for his predecessor on the Gresini Honda, the late Marco Simoncelli. Bautista may have saved his own skin today, at least for another year. There were hundreds of signs in the stands bearing Simoncelli’s number 58, but only a handful with Bautista’s 19. Fausto Gresini, as ruthless an owner as there is in MotoGP, may find it hard to discard Bautista after today’s performance. If he does, he will undoubtedly point out that Stoner and Pedrosa were absent, and that Bautista probably would have finished fifth on a normal day.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow’s crash on lap four meant that three of the top five riders in this year’s championship failed to score points today, and assured teammate Andrea Dovizioso of the Tech 3 Top Dog award for 2012. Both riders have had a great season and a number of riveting contests this year. That is likely to change next season, as Dovizioso is moving to the factory Ducati team, where top five finishes are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Crutchlow, returning to his team next year, will likely spend it with a large chip on his shoulder, having been passed over for a factory seat this year.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl seemed to be having a great race today, and appeared to have a podium within reach until he faded late in the day and eventually finished sixth. Had he held onto third, he would have been the first LCR pilot to stand on the podium since Randy de Puniet did so at Donington Park in 2009. Still, Bradl needs a sunglasses contract for next year, as bright as his future appears. (And I must observe that he received a radically upgraded brolly girl today, decked out in what appeared to be a green camisole that left nothing to the imagination. Wow.)
The three American riders skirted disaster today, but were not factors in the outcome. Ben Spies started his factory Yamaha from the eight hole and finished fifth, respectable but no big thing. For the first time since 2007, Nicky Hayden actually finished a race at Misano, nursing his still-broken right hand to a seventh place finish. Is Hayden tough? Absolutely. Is he competitive? Not for years. And Colin Edwards, slaving away in CRT land, started the day 20th and finished 11th, his best result of the season. A truly patriotic American wouldn’t point out that six of the guys that started in front of him recorded DNFs, meaning he actually picked up two spots for the day. Edwards recently announced that he would be returning next year for his 53rd grand prix season, though no one could explain why.
Brit Johnny Rea, riding Stoner’s Repsol Honda, started ninth and finished eighth, which is kind of amazing, given the lack of practice time brought on by the miserable weather on Friday and Saturday.
The MotoGP gods who, along with me, seem to like Jorge Lorenzo and dislike Karel Abraham, piled on the young Czech rider today. First, as previously described, they used him to eff up the start of the race. Then, after he had done their bidding, they rewarded him moments later by carelessly tossing him over his handlebars in a violent high side. Junior will be pedaling a CRT bike next season. I suspect he will join the Czech bar and practice law starting in 2014. Way less dangerous than this whole motoracing thing.
The Big Picture
The big picture got ugly today, as what had been a tight championship race got blown sky high. Lorenzo now leads Pedrosa by 38 points, giving him a significant cushion in the chase for the 2012 title. Dovizioso climbed to within 23 points of the idled Casey Stoner. Rossi and Bradl swapped spots, Rossi reclaiming sixth and Bradl falling to eighth, with Bautista remaining seventh. Rossi now trails fifth place Crutchlow by a mere two points, which gives us at least some reason to watch the next few rounds.
MotoGP returns to Aragon in two weeks. We’ll be there to bring you the story, the rumors, and the behind-the-scenes stuff you love.
MotoGP and other Professional Competition coverage