Despite the typically variable and sometimes awful weather all week at Phillip Island, the clouds seemed to understand that Sunday afternoon was to be Casey Stoner’s last race at the Australian track, and obliged the jam-packed Aussie crowd with warm rays of sunshine.
On form all week, despite his ankle injury, Stoner was a landslide favorite to win the Australian GP, and the 53,100 fans in attendance were treated to one more showing of Stoner’s unique understanding of the Phillip Island race circuit, which now has a corner bearing his name.
With Casey doing what he does best at PI, the attention as the race started was as to whether a second World Champion would be crowned this Sunday, as Marc Márquez had locked up the 2012 Moto2 World Championship just a few minutes before the MotoGP race. With Lorenzo needing to beat Pedrosa to claim his crown, the Australian GP got underway in earnest.
Through the first turns, it was clear what Lorenzo’s intentions were, as he lead Pedrosa and Stoner through the first sections. With it being do or die, Pedrosa made haste on getting Lorenzo under control, and put his Repsol Honda at the front of the pack. The battle between the Spaniards would have to take a backseat role though, as coming down the front straight, going into the second lap, Casey Stoner made his move on Pedrosa, and never looked back.
Riding a hard, but not extreme race, Stoner comfortably won his sixth-in-a-row Australian GP with a comfortable 9+ second lead. With the crowd expecting a close battle for second, as Pedrosa clung to hope in the MotoGP Championship, the unthinkable happened: Pedrosa crashed. Coming off the racing line in Turn 4, Pedrosa said after the race that he felt the front tire begin to chatter, before it finally tucked-in on him.
Crashing out on the second lap of the race, Pedrosa was visibly distraught about what had just transpired as he rode into the pits. Dismounting from the bike, Pedrosa’s only chance for redemption would be if Lorenzo joined him prematurely in the pit lane, and gained less than two points. That, however, did not happen. With no one to push him, Lorenzo rode a managed race to the end, and claimed his second MotoGP World Championship, and his fourth overall Grand Prix World Championship.
While Casey dazzled the crowd one last time with his riding ability at Phillip Island, the close-fought action was all in the battle for third, which became the battle for fourth once Cal Crutchlow broke away from the group. With Andrea Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl, and Alvaro Bautista all trailing behind Crutchlow, the three riders took turns leading the fourth-place moto-train.
Battling in just about every race all season, that scrap of a fight went to the more experienced Dovizioso, who didn’t have the same speed as Crutchlow to breakaway from the group, and instead had to bide his time until the end of the race.
For the Ducati riders, it was a race to forget. Talking to Nicky Hayden, the American remembered fondly of previous battles with Rossi at Phillip Island, though those were always for the race win. For 2012, it would be for 7th place. Destroying his front tire over the course of the 27 laps, a last turn bobble kept Hayden from putting further pressure on Rossi.
For the Italian, seventh place seemed the ultimate potential, and joked that the 37 second deficit at the checkered flag wasn’t a bad result, saying he was expecting it to be more like 54 seconds (2 seconds a lap behind Stoner).
For the CRT contingency however, Saturday’s qualifying promise turned out to be an empty one, though Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro managed a good intramural scrimmage throughout the race. For their efforts, they managed to embarrass Hector Barbera, who finished behind the CRT bikes with his satellite Ducati prototype machine.
MotoGP finishes up the 2012 season at Valencia, Spain in two weeks’ time, and will be immediately followed with the start of the post-season testing at the same venue.
Race Results from the Australian GP at Phillip Island, Australia:
|1||Casey STONER||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||41’01.324|
|2||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||+9.223|
|3||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+14.570|
|4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+23.303|
|5||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||+23.432|
|6||Stefan BRADL||GER||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||+23.467|
|7||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||+37.113|
|8||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Ducati Team||Ducati||+38.387|
|9||Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||Ducati||+52.613|
|10||Aleix ESPARGARO||SPA||Power Electronics Aspar||ART||+1’00.299|
|11||Randy DE PUNIET||FRA||Power Electronics Aspar||ART||+1’00.342|
|12||Hector BARBERA||SPA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||+1’21.951|
|13||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Came IodaRacing Project||Ioda-Suter||+1’27.857|
|14||Michele PIRRO||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||FTR||1 Lap|
|15||Ivan SILVA||SPA||Avintia Blusens||BQR||1 Lap|
|Roberto ROLFO||ITA||Speed Master||ART||9 Laps|
|Colin EDWARDS||USA||NGM Mobile Forward Racing||Suter||21 Laps|
|James ELLISON||GBR||Paul Bird Motorsport||ART||22 Laps|
|Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||26 Laps|
Source: MotoGP; Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved