MotoGP // STONER BREAKS WIN DROUGHT @ ARAGONAfter the terrible and depressing events of the last two MotoGP outings, all involved seemed to need a clean slate of some sort. The new circuit at Aragon promised that in a tangible sense because it is a brand new circuit for GP racing. In a more psychological sense, MotoGP used Aragon as the site to give Shoya Tomizawa a collective goodbye with a minute of silence held on the start/ finish straight between Sunday’s morning warm-up and the afternoon races. Shoya’s family laid him to rest in Japan this past Wednesday. Individual riders, almost without exception, rode with Tomizawa stickers on their bikes... [read more]

With Friday’s practices being a combination of acclimating to the track for FP1 and wet-weather damage control for FP2, Saturday was when the riders were really able to reconcile their bikes with the unfamiliar circuit. The usual suspects (Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner) hovered near the top during both sessions. Valentino Rossi was noticeably far down the time sheet after struggling with his settings. More importantly, he revealed that the shoulder he injured early in the season has been much more persistent a problem for him than previously revealed, so much so that Rossi is considering skipping the final two races of the season in order to have surgery and be properly sorted out for next year. Casey Stoner finally seemed his old self again as he took an impressive pole position, his first since the opening race at Qatar, which he crashed out of on lap 5. Jorge Lorenzo defied the big weakness of the Yamaha (he, Rossi and Spies posted 3 of the slowest 5 top-end speeds) by landing in second. Dani Pedrosa blew a very promising last qualifying lap by running too deep into turn ten, although he still ended up on the front row in third. Final QP order was: Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Hayden, Spies, DePuniet, Rossi, Dovizioso, Simoncelli, Barbera, Edwards, Bautista, Espargaro, Melandri, Aoyama and Kallio.

The first lap of the race provided some good action. Stoner got the holeshot but Lorenzo challenged him forcefully through the first few turns, getting ahead briefly before Casey stole the lead back from him, twice. Lorenzo knew he would have to get ahead from the start if he had any hope of staying at the front. Pedrosa, normally the early front runner, bobbled between turns one and two and was dropped to fifth. He would gain fourth place from Spies on the back straight. Here his Honda demonstrated how down on top speed the Yamaha was by blowing past Spies with almost no effort. The order at the end of lap one was: Stoner, Lorenzo, Hayden, Pedrosa, Spies, Simoncelli, Dovizioso, Rossi, Barbera, DePuniet, Bautista, Melandri, Espargaro, Edwards, Kallio and Aoyama.

Stoner immediately began a campaign to run away at the front as Pedrosa tried desperately to claw his way back up the order. He passed Hayden on the back straight in lap two exactly the same way he did to Spies on lap one. Lorenzo would suffer an identical fate one lap later. Pedrosa now tried valiantly to chase down the escaping Stoner but could never get any closer than around one second. Hayden now began hunting Lorenzo. Despite catching up quickly, he found passing near impossible. The race began to settle into a series of battles between pairs: Stoner/ Pedrosa, Lorenzo/ Hayden, Spies/ Dovizioso, Simoncelli/ Rossi, etc, etc. The action only really resumed on the last few laps when the Dovioso/ Spies heated up considerably. They swapped positions a few times, but instead of a battle to the end, the fight ended with Dovizioso crashing out near the end of the final lap. The Lorenzo/ Hayden battle came to a head simultaneously when Nicky made a brave overtaking move just before the back straight. Lorenzo was totally unable to match the Ducati’s top speed and Nicky secured the last podium spot. The final results were as follows:

MotoGP @ Aragon // Race Results:

1. Casey Stoner
2. Dani Pedrosa
3. Nicky Hayden
4. Jorge Lorenzo
5. Ben Spies
6. Valentino Rossi
7. Marco Simoncelli
8. Alvaro Bautista
9. Marco Melandri
10. Aleix Espargaro
11. Hector Barbera
12. Colin Edwards
13. Hiroshi Aoyama
14. Mika Kallio

Aragon marked Casey Stoner’s first win since Malaysia last year. He attributed his return to form to some very minor adjustments to the Ducati’s geometry, which he claimed made all the difference in his confidence in the bike. Aragon was also Nicky Hayden’s first podium of the season, this after a string of fourth places where he narrowly missed finishing one step higher. Conversely, it was Jorge Lorenzo’s first race of the season that he failed to finish on the podium. It was also Valentino Rossi’s worst finish of 2010 as well as the first race since Valencia in 2007 that a Yamaha factory rider failed to podium. Aragon’s clean slate was sort of a double-edged sword.

Lorenzo still sits 56 points into first place ahead of Pedrosa. Casey Stoner, in third now, is four points too far down to be able to win the championship, under any possible scenario. Lorenzo still seems to have a hand firmly on the trophy and a resurgent Stoner might further complicate Pedrosa’s miracle challenge. Hoping some action returns to the front in the remaining five races. Next race is in two weeks at Honda’s Motegi circuit, just outside Tokyo. It was originally going to be the third race of the season but was postponed after a volcano in Iceland decided to completely throw international travel into a tailspin.

Editorial: Jeff Winterberg
Photo: MotoGP

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