MotoGP: Nail-Biter at the Australian GP

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Despite multiple showers, MotoGP managed to dodge having wet any sessions for the Australian GP. With the weather always unpredictable at Phillip Island, concern on what was above quickly turned to concern on the track, as Jorge Lorenzo suffered a weekend-ending finger injury after a violent tankslapper sent the Spaniard to the tarmac in Turn 12. Out of the Australian GP, the incident all but assures Casey Stoner of clinching the 2011 MotoGP Championship at his home GP, and on his birthday no less.

The bad news continued for Yamaha, as Ben Spies announced that he would not race at Phillip Island as well, too battered and concussed from yesterday’s 167 mph get-off. Also a scratch was Australia’s own Damian Cudlin, who was filling-in for the injured Hector Barbera in the Mapfire Aspar Ducati squad. Cudlin’s second chance at riding a Ducati in a MotoGP race, the Australian also had to sit this race out because of injuries sustained during a T4 high-side on Saturday morning.

With the grid down to just 14 riders, the new front row consisted of Casey Stoner, Marco Simoncelli, and Alvaro Baustista. Lorenzo’s misfortune is an obvious boon to the Rizla Suzuki squad, who have found a new intensity these past few races. With Spie’s, and subsequently Yamaha’s, withdrawal from the Australian GP, Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa also got a boost, moving from the middle of the third row, to the outside of the second row. Teammate, and rival for third in the Championship, Andrea Dovizioso certainly can’t be pleased with that circumstance of that situation.

With all eyes on the picturesque island track, MotoGP fans eagerly awaited to see if a new World Champion would be crowned today. Continue reading to find out more.

Right out of the gates, the Australian GP was the Casey Stoner show, as the Repsol Rider pulled a gap over the field within the first few turns. Following the Australian down the front straight and through Turn 1 were the closely-packed bikes of Nicky Hayden, Marco Simoncelli, Andrea Dovizioso, and Alvaro Bautista, while further off Valentino Rossi was trailed by Dani Pedrosa. Out for an early domination, and by the conclusion of the first lap, Stoner had already put himself a second in front of the second place Hayden, and continued to build steam.

While Stoner continued to do what he does best at Phillip Island, the battle for second heated up, as Simoncelli put pressure on Hayden. Passing the American going into Turn 12, SuperSic pulled out a gap on the Ducati going into the third lap, leaving behind the group now battling for third. Hayden would continue his slide backwards through the pack, suffering from a lack of rear grip, as Dovizioso would pass him a lap later, followed by Pedrosa a lap after that. Though Hayden would answer back, the Honda rider regained his position, and moved on to tackle teammate Dovi.

With Stoner comfortably in the lead by five seconds, Dovi and Pedrosa became the battle to watch, as the Repsol Honda riders had only a point separating them in the World Championship standings. However soon the specter of rain reared its head, and by the ninth lap the white flag allowing riders to switch bikes began to fly. That news didn’t stop the riders though, as battles continued to be fought on Philip Island.

Pedrosa, on his softer rear tire, was able to catch and pass Dovi, while Valentino Rossi also found his teammate Nicky Hayden in sixth place. Rossi would go on to pass Hayden in Turn 2, and make his way to Alvaro Bautista. However catching the Spaniard on the inside of the T10, Rossi pushed the front too hard into the turn, and crashed out of the race. Meanwhile, Pedrosa’s softer tires began to fade compared to his rival’s hards, and with seven laps remaining, Dovizioso was able to recapture the third place position.

With five laps remaining Pedrosa continued that pressure and showed that he was not going quietly into that good night, showing a wheel to Dovi going into Turn 1. That would be the last of his protest though, as Pedrosa soon gave up the fight, finishing 10 seconds behind Dovi. Still one of the fastest riders on the track, Stoner’s ride to victory and the World Championship seemed assured, but not before the Phillip Island weather had something to say about it.

The first to crash was Karel Abraham, who with four laps remaining found the gravel trap. The crash was a solo affair, and the Czech rider was thankfully able to re-join the race, though he likely would have preferred a 8th place finish instead of his 10th place result.

With three laps to go, the rain was affecting the rest of the field in force. With secondary bikes starting in pit lane, we saw multiple riders hit the tarmac as the rain came down in different parts of the track. The first was Alvaro Bautista, followed by Crutchlow and Aoyama. Meanwhile, Hayden and Capirossi entered the pits, swapping their bikes for ones shod in rain tires (Hayden would lose position to both Edwards and De Puniet, though the American admitted the Texas Tornado would have caught hi regardless of the pit entry). On the track, the action continued as Dovi took advantage of a tiptoeing Simoncelli, passing his rival through Turns 11 & 12.

SuperSic would return the favor a lap later at the bus stop that is Turn 4. Making a smart pass, Simoncelli rode to an eggshell finish, just ahead of Dovizioso. Keeping his slicks on, Stoner eased his way through traffic and the wet track to take a comfortable, yet nail-biting, first place finish at Phillip Island. Triumphantly winning the 2011 MotoGP World Championship, Stoner was greeted in pit lane to a rush of fans who jumped the fences to great the Australian on his birthday win.

Congratulation and Happy Birthday to Stoner and the Repsol Honda team. MotoGP comes to us next from Sepang next week for the Malaysian GP.

Race Results from the Australian GP at Phillip Island, Australia:

Pos. No. Rider Nation Team Bike Diff.
1 27 Casey STONER AUS Repsol Honda Team Honda
2 58 Marco SIMONCELLI ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda +2.210
3 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Repsol Honda Team Honda +2.454
4 26 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda +13.160
5 5 Colin EDWARDS USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha +30.886
6 14 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Pramac Racing Team Ducati +48.800
7 69 Nicky HAYDEN USA Ducati Team Ducati +1’16.314
8 24 Toni ELIAS SPA LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 1 Lap
9 65 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 1 Lap
10 17 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati 2 Laps
Not Classified
19 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki 4 Laps
7 Hiroshi AOYAMA JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda 4 Laps
35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 4 Laps
46 Valentino ROSSI ITA Ducati Team Ducati 14 Laps

Source: MotoGP; Photo: Honda