MotoGP: Epic Racing in Catalunya

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With a tenth of a second separating Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in yesterday’s qualifying, the Catalan GP was shaping up to be a MotoGP race worth watching. Adding to the intrigue was a course that is especially demanding on tires, and a heat wave that was sure to make the rubber selection ever more critical. Bridgestone brought to the track an asymmetrical tire compound that was expected to help teams, but with so many factors going on, race day was bound to get interesting.

The fans at the Circuit de Catalunya were given a treat of a race, that saw two riders battling it out until the very last turn. The end result is a three-way tie in the MotoGP Championship standings, and a season that is really starting to brim with excitement.

With the 90,000 fans in the little town of Montmeló, just outside of Barcelona, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo gridded on the starting line, knowing that only .013 seconds had separated the pair the previous day. With 25 laps to determine who would be the victor, neither rider seemed content to let the other one by without a fight.

The pair was so evenly matched, the only a tenth of a second separated them at the end of the Catalan GP as well.

From the start of the race, it was clear that the front row of the grid would be the only contenders for the lead. For the first 9 laps, Rossi, Lorenzo, and Stoner broke away from the pack, and seemed evenly matched. However, on the tenth lap, Casey Stoner, who was suffering from stomach pain, was not be able to hold onto the Fiat Yamaha pair. Watching the duo slip away, Casey could only sit in third place as a battle to the finish unfolded before him.

With the pair practically next to each other the entire race, Rossi passed Lorenzo early on in the race. By lap 13, Lorenzo returned the favor, squeaking in on the inside of Rossi. Rossi waited until lap 23 to make his next move on Lorenzo, out braking the Spaniard down the front straight. Now in the lead again, Rossi tried to pull away from Lorenzo, but Jorge wasn’t having any of it. Slipping behind the Italian coming down the straight on the very next lap, Lorenzo got around Rossi, and entered into Turn 1 ahead of his teammate.

Neck-and-neck for the next two laps, Lorenzo slammed the door on Rossi in the last lap, but two turns later Rossi gave it another go around, but can’t seem to make the pass stick. With only a few more turns left, it seems Lorenzo might pull off a home town victory. But as the pair enter the last turn, Rossi made one final move around Lorenzo, and the pair drag race it to the finish line. Rossi having just the extra edge from the pass, crossed ahead of Jorge by a margin of only .095 seconds.

Photo Sequence of Rossi’s pass on Lorenzo in the last corner:

Commenting about his victory, Rossi only had this to say:

“In Italian you would just say about that race, ‘Mama Mia!’. This battle with Lorenzo was very, very close. Our two bikes are set-up very well and we had the same pace so I knew we would get to the end of the race like that so it was fantastic.

It was a great race and we know that Lorenzo is very strong, so to try and beat him in the future we have to be at 100%. I’m so happy about today and my 99th GP win. It was so important to take this victory here in Barcelona, more than just the 25 points, because for me, for my team and for the crowd it is just fantastic, so I think the show was unbelievable.”

This was the first time since Estorial in 2006 that a MotoGP race was decided on the last corner, and the 2009 Catalan GP might go down as the best race of the season, if not one of the more important ones standings-wise. Stoner would finish third, but having trouble with his health, would find Andrea Dovizioso trailing him by only .15 seconds.

Dani Pedrosa also finished the race, although in a disappointing 6th place. The fact the young Spaniard even raced today is a showing of his commitment to his fans and team, although it probably wasn’t the result he was looking for.

Today was Rossi’s 99th career victory. MotoGP will test in Catalunya tomorrow on Monday, and then prepare for the Dutch GP at Assen, where Rossi will look for his 100th career win.

Race Results for the 2009 MotoGP Catalan GP outside of Barcelona, Spain:

Pos. No. Rider Manufacturer Time Diff
1 46 Valentino ROSSI YAMAHA 43’11.897
2 99 Jorge LORENZO YAMAHA 43’11.992 0.095
3 27 Casey STONER DUCATI 43’20.781 8.884
4 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO HONDA 43’20.833 8.936
5 65 Loris CAPIROSSI SUZUKI 43’31.728 19.831
6 3 Dani PEDROSA HONDA 43’34.079 22.182
7 5 Colin EDWARDS YAMAHA 43’35.444 23.547
8 14 Randy DEPUNIET HONDA 43’37.162 25.265
9 36 Mika KALLIO DUCATI 43’43.694 31.797
10 69 Nicky HAYDEN DUCATI 43’45.490 33.593
11 7 Chris VERMEULEN SUZUKI 43’48.580 36.683
12 15 Alex DEANGELIS HONDA 43’48.771 36.874
13 52 James TOSELAND YAMAHA 43’51.330 39.433
14 33 Marco MELANDRI KAWASAKI 43’56.685 44.788
15 59 Sete GIBERNAU DUCATI 43’58.651 46.754
16 88 Niccolo CANEPA DUCATI 44’07.770 55.873
17 41 Gabor TALMACSI HONDA 44’39.537 1’27.640
Not Classified
24 Toni ELIAS HONDA 15’45.214 16 laps
Not finished first lap