MotoGP: Decisive Racing at the Czech GP

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The weather continued to shine on Brno for the Czech GP (we’ll see if it holds off for Monday’s 1,000 bike test), as the MotoGP riders geared-up for one of the paddock’s favorite circuits on the calendar. With MotoGP dodging a bullet on what’s been a rain-filled season, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Casey Stoner lead the 17 rider grid with their front-row qualifying lap times. While Pedrosa seemed to be uncatchable all week long, Lorenzo and Stoner seemed up to the task of at least being road blocks to the flying Spaniard, and in the process grasp some desperately needed strong finishes for the Championship title.

With precious Championship points on the line, Brno held the possibility for several riders to mount their assault on the leader board, including third-row starter Andrea Dovizioso. For Stoner on the other hand, the Czech GP was an opportunity to put some breathing room between himself and the competition, especially as the Australian considers whether he will forgo the Japanese GP round at Motegi later this October, surely losing position on the Championship in the process. With so much riding on their performance at Brno, MotoGP racing didn’t disappoint in this well-fought race.

Launching forward for their 22 laps around the Brno circuit, the Czech GP started with Dani Pedrosa unsurprisingly rocketing off the line and leading the pack into the first turns. Followed by Stoner, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and Spies through Turn 1, Pedrosa seemed firmly in control on the start of the bought. A few turns later though, Jorge Lorenzo would neatly get past Pedrosa for the race lead, putting some distance between himself and the other competitors jockeying for position. Though all three front-row qualifiers were in the mix, they were joined by Andrea Dovizioso who had a tremendous start from his seventh place qualifying position. With Pedrosa, Dovi, and Stoner all dicing things up for the first few laps, the front-runners finally settled into their spots as Lorenzo lead Pedrosa, Stoner, and Dovi.

Pedrosa wasn’t going to let Lorenzo out of hi sights though, and the pair created a small gap to the rest of the field. By the third lap, Lorenzo made a small mistake at Turn 1, and Pedrosa was past him for the race lead. The blunder cost Lorenzo second place as well, as Casey Stoner seized on the opportunity, and was past the reigning World Champion moments later. For Pedrosa, the race lead would be short-lived, as the Spaniard crashed in Turn 4. With Pedrosa crashing out almost as soon as Stoner got past Lorenzo, the Repsol Honda rider handed his teammate the race lead, and Stoner never looked back.

Taking his lead to eight seconds at one point during the race, Casey Stoner rode a confident and inspiring 22 laps. Putting more padding between him and Jorge Lorenzo in the Championship standings, Stoner also momentarily quieted the buzz around him, his position on Motegi, and his newly announced family. Stoner’s commanding race also added more pause to critics of the Australian, who have questioned his riding talent the past seasons on the Ducati Desmosedici.

Stoner’s strong ride to the finish line was strengthened perhaps by trouble in Lorenzo’s camp, as the Yamaha rider was one of the few who selected a soft-compound front tire for the race. Notably dropping off the pace as the race wore on, Lorenzo had to settle the day with a fourth place finish. Though Andrea Dovizioso passed Lorenzo early in the race, the Italian’s own bobble on his bike relinquished the second place position back to the Spaniard. It would take Dovi four more laps to regain his position.

During that process a very determined Marco Simoncelli entered the fray. The fastest man on the track for a number of laps, Super Sic put his pressure on whomever was in third place and in front of him. Trailing for the first 12 laps of the race, Simoncelli made his move on Lorenzo at the same time as Dovi did, keeping close tabs on his Honda rival. Hoping to take Dovizioso’s seat in the factory team next year, Super Sic would instead have to settle for a third place step for his first MotoGP podium. The result was not for a lack of trying, but after chasing Dovi, and having several looks at the Honda-from-a-different-mother, Simoncelli decided bringing the San Carlo Gresini Honda squad its first podium of the season was a wiser decision.

Another battle of note was that between Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista. The Rizla Suzuki has been looking in better shape lately, and with Ducati finding some ground this weekend at Brno, the close laps times between the Spanish and Italian riders created a battle for sixth place that no one would have predicted a season ago. The fun would be ended far too soon though, as with six laps to go in the race, Bautista would find the gravel trap.

Just one of several riders going off the circuit that day, Pedrosa and Bautista would be joined by Cal Crutchlow and Karel Abraham as riders who could not go the race distance. The second rider to crash in the day, Karel Abraham tried to salvage his home race by remounting his bike after his Turn 1 incident. The 2010-spec Ducati Desmosedici would only last for nine more laps though, finally grenading on the young Abraham, and ending what has been a dismal weekend for the Czech rider.

With today’s finish, Casey Stoner (218 pts.) now leads Jorge Lorenzo (186 pts.) by 32 points in the Championship, who in turn leads Andrea Dovizioso (163 pts.) by only 23 points. Valentino Rossi (118 pts.) also replaces Dani Pedrosa (110 pts.) as fourth in the Championship standings, the two riders now separated by only eight points. Ben Spies (109 pts.) lurks in sixth, one point behind Pedrosa. Nicky Hayden is in seventh with 103 points, making the bracket for fourth very tight.

MotoGP returns to action in two weeks’ time, making its next stop in the USA for the Indianapolis GP. Asphalt & Rubber will be bringing you live coverage yet again from the American round, stay tuned for that.

Race Results from the Czech GP at Brno:

Pos. No. Rider Nation Team Diff.
1 27 Casey STONER AUS Repsol Honda Team
2 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Repsol Honda Team +6.532
3 58 Marco SIMONCELLI ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini +7.792
4 1 Jorge LORENZO SPA Yamaha Factory Racing +8.513
5 11 Ben SPIES USA Yamaha Factory Racing +10.186
6 46 Valentino ROSSI ITA Ducati Team +12.632
7 69 Nicky HAYDEN USA Ducati Team +23.037
8 5 Colin EDWARDS USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +24.189
9 7 Hiroshi AOYAMA JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini +25.202
10 8 Hector BARBERA SPA Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP +36.566
11 24 Toni ELIAS SPA LCR Honda MotoGP +36.679
12 14 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Pramac Racing Team +37.109
13 65 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Pramac Racing Team +48.911
Not Classified
19 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 6 Laps
17 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Cardion AB Motoracing 10 Laps
35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 16 Laps
26 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team 20 Laps

Source: MotoGP; Photo: Honda