MotoGP 2012 Motegi Results
Pedrosa wins fifth of 2012 in uphill chase of Lorenzo
At the start of the 2012 AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan, the grid was in a world of worry. All 22 riders were concerned about their brakes, fuel consumption and the threatening look of the weather. Repsol Honda’s wounded warrior Casey Stoner was concerned about how his surgically-repaired ankle would hold up. Teammate tiger Dani Pedrosa was concerned about how he could be coming off a string of four wins and seven podiums in eight rounds and STILL trail Yamaha polesitter Jorge Lorenzo by 33 points going into Motegi.
After today’s race, Pedrosa had relatively little to celebrate. Sure, he stuck like glue to Lorenzo at the start, refusing to fold when the Yamaha chieftain attempted to abscond with the race in the early going. Sure, he went through on Lorenzo mid-way through the race and ended up winning comfortably. Sure, he was sufficiently composed during the post-race press conference to discuss “how to control the gap” over Lorenzo once he had gone through. This is a man near the top of his trade. Excruciatingly near.
Five wins in eight rounds, including four of the last five and two in a row at Motegi for one of the hottest streaks in recent history. Pedrosa scored his first win of the season at Sachsenring, which narrowed Lorenzo’s lead to 14 points. And yet, despite Pedrosa’s recent run, the deficit has doubled to 28 points, thanks in large part to Pedrosa’s DNF at Misano.
Dani Pedrosa, then, shares the misfortune of numerous athletes whose signature year occurs during someone else’s signature year, and who generally become footnotes to history. Fortunately for him, MotoGP doesn’t have thousands of great former riders, and Pedrosa will undoubtedly end up as one of the top 10 or 15 of all time. All of which he would, I’m sure, trade for a single world title in the premier class. One that, again, doesn’t appear likely to happen in 2012.
What About the Race?
If all you did was to look at a chart of the qualifying grid and compare it to the finishing order of the riders, you would think today’s race was pretty much a parade. Lorenzo and Pedrosa traded spots at the top. Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies left the party early by entirely different routes. The next eight riders finished in the order they started. There was the usual carnage at the bottom of the food chain, with four CRT riders biting the dust, Yonny Hernandez apparently the most seriously. Put it all together and, on paper, it was a dull affair.
Watching it, though, there was plenty of race-in-race action. Lorenzo and Pedrosa jousting at the top was fun. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso, Casey Stoner, LCR Honda rookie Stefan Bradl and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi tussled over fourth place, once Dovizioso and Stoner had lost the fight for third to San Carlo Gresini Honda heartthrob Alvaro Bautista, sporting his shiny new contract for 2013. Behind Rossi came teammate Nicky Hayden, whose broken right hand must have been a mess with all the hard braking. Finishing a highly respectable ninth was Yamaha test rider and fan fave KatMan Nakasuga, who schooled Pramac Ducati’s Hectic Hector Barbera and the CRT bikes that made it to the flag.
“Mario’s Slowing Down…”
Part of the lore of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is known as The Andretti’s Lament. It developed its identity back in the 80’s, when Andretti patriarch Mario was racing Indy Cars and not winning races. Invariably, Mario would be doing well in the race, when he would suddenly, inexplicably slow down, move to the outside of the track, wave his hand, and signal that his day was probably over. Race announcer Tom Carnegie would gravely intone, “Mario’s slowing down…” to which the crowd would give a collective groan.
Cal Crutchlow became an honorary Andretti today. It occurred on the last lap of the race, after he had been worked out of third place by Bautista in some pretty aggressive riding by the Spaniard several laps earlier. Crutchlow, who had spoken about fuel concerns immediately prior to the start, was plotting his revenge on Bautista, chasing hard when the bad news arrived, that the tank was dry. The race announcers assumed he had crashed, and were devastated when the cameras picked up the Brit coasting around the back of the track. Oh, the humanity …
Yamahas Qualify; Hondas Finish
In qualifying on Saturday, the four Yamahas placed in the top six spots, which is great. But it’s true that riders and teams will conserve RPMs and energies until the last five minutes of the session. The four Hondas finished the race in the top six spots, illustrating what is arguably superior brake performance at high temps. That the difference would be more obvious this year than in recent years is probably due to the increased engine size this season.
While Crutchlow put in 23½ grueling, ultimately futile laps, fellow Yamaha dude Ben Spies went walkabout on the first lap and never made it back to the track, having experienced brake issues all weekend. One of the reasons the Hondas are so good on the brakes is because they test them at Motegi which, by design, is brutal on brakes. Everyone’s brakes were glowing from the heat today, but the look isn’t as cool as at Qatar, when they emit light at night. Ironically, one of the best MotoGP photos of all time shows Ben Spies in a turn at Qatar this year, with this ring of white-hot metal lighting up his front wheel.
Pretty sure Ben’s brakes didn’t get very hot today.
Random Thoughts on the Road to Sepang
Today’s race was emblematic of this sport, as it featured three Spanish riders and three Japanese motorcycles on the podium. In an attempt to maintain fan interest in the 2012 championship, one of the race announcers wondered “whether there is a sting in the tail of this championship.” Can’t decide whether I like that phrase or not .
Lorenzo and Pedrosa are both fully healthy heading to Malaysia, Stoner not so much. Regardless of where things stand in the championship later this month, I can’t imagine anyone not pulling for Stoner in his last appearance at Phillip Island. Stoner needs to decide whether to defend his third position in the 2012 standings at all costs or perhaps focus exclusively on Phillip Island and concede third to Dovizioso, who trails him by five. Stoner isn’t much the type to concede much of anything, anywhere, ever. He would want to whip your ass in tiddlywinks.
Later this week, MotoGP arrives in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian GP, where it will be haunted by the ghost of Marco Simoncelli, who lost his life in last year’s aborted race. Probably best that the series get into Malaysia and get out, so that folks don’t dwell on last year’s tragic outcome. This, I believe, is why these guys usually appear happy at the finish of a race, even if they end up 16th.
Any day you don’t have The Big Crash is a good day.
|MotoGP Championship Top Ten Standings After 15 Rounds|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||282|
|3||Casey Stoner||Repsol Honda||197|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Tech3 Yamaha||192|
|5||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||144|
|7||Cal Crutchlow||Tech3 Yamaha||135|
|8||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||125|
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