2012 MotoGP Catalunya Results

A highly edited version of this article appeared today on Motorcycle.com.  Here is the original piece.

Lorenzo Outduels Pedrosa, Extends 2012 Lead

On a humid gray Sunday on the Spanish Riviera, Jorge Lorenzo, Team Yamaha’s Man from Mallorca, asserted his will on the competition to win the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya in front of 100,000 delirious fans.  For much of the race it appeared that Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa would enjoy his first win of the season.  But a tiny error—the result of a wheelie at speed on the main straight—allowed Lorenzo through, and probably cost Pedrosa the win.  Qué vergüenza, Dani.

During practice this weekend, it appeared that Repsol’s defending world champion Casey Stoner was preparing to enjoy his fifth consecutive premier class win on Spanish soil.  Other than FP2, which he mailed in, he was quick all weekend, and qualified on the pole for the second time this year.  At the start, he and teammate Pedrosa essentially traded spots, Dani rocketing from fifth to first while Stoner got caught in traffic and fell back to sixth.  Had this occurred last season, we might have spent the day watching the Australian eventually claw his way back up into the lead.  But the 2012 lame duck only made it back as far as fourth place, finishing off the podium for the first time since having been unseated by Ducati’s Valentino Rossi last year in Jerez.

Taking Stoner’s usual place on the podium today, instead, was Tech 3 Yamaha pilot Andrea Dovizioso, for his first rostrum with Yamaha and the first by a satellite rider since Marco Simoncelli’s second place finish last year at Phillip Island.  Dovi’s teammate Cal Crutchlow worked hard all day, dogging Stoner for most of it, but was unable to go through into fourth, and now trails Dovizioso for the season by four points.  Today’s ride, it would seem, elevates Dovizioso to the top spot in the race to take over a Honda or Yamaha factory ride for 2013.  At least for the moment.

Ben Spies Shows Brief Signs of Life.  Very Brief.

As most everyone knows, Lorenzo’s Yamaha teammate Ben Spies is in the midst of a dreadful season, one that could eventually lead him to the unemployment lines, further burdening the social safety net in cash-strapped Britain.  As has become his custom this year, he assured everyone interviewing him this week that Catalunya was the place he would turn it all around.  Sure enough, he qualified fourth, jumped into second place at the start, and went through on Pedrosa to take the lead on Lap 3.  He enjoyed this lofty position for roughly half a second, immediately running wide and ending up in the gravel on his way to another dismal 10th place finish.

In hindsight, we must consider the possibility that Team Yamaha jumped the gun in promoting the likeable Spies to the factory team last year after his impressive 2010 campaign with Tech 3.  2011 was a Tale of Two Seasons for the Texan—a terrible first half followed by a much improved second.  This year, he was expected to assume Alien status; instead, he has gone from good to bad to worse.  Several of Yamaha’s Japanese executives were at today’s race, probably to examine Ben’s performance from up close.  If so, he may have impressed them with his courage and determination, likely to no avail.  The brass want results for their money, not character recommendations.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Not too many surprises out there today, as the race final matches up closely with the season’s standings.  Check it out.

2012 Catalunya Finishing Order

2012 Standings after Five Rounds

1

Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo

2

Dani Pedrosa

Casey Stoner

3

Andrea Dovizioso

Dani Pedrosa

4

Casey Stoner

Andrea Dovizioso

5

Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow

6

Alvaro Bautista

Valentino Rossi

7

Valentino Rossi

Alvaro Bautista

8

Stefan Bradl

Stefan Bradl

9

Nicky Hayden

Nicky Hayden

10

Ben Spies

Hector Barbera

11

Hector Barbera

Ben Spies

In Division II, Aleix Espargaro was again the top finisher, putting him alone at the top of the junior league.  Not THE Junior League, the ladies with the little white gloves and watercress sandwiches. And yes, I do have a Junior League joke:

Q:  Why don’t Junior League members engage in group sex?

A:  Too many thank-you notes to write.

It may be worth noting that Cardion AB jetsetter Karel Abraham scored his first points of the season today with a scintillating 12th place finish, roughly 20 seconds behind Hector Barbera and only 12 seconds ahead of Espargaro.  If Karel’s dad, Karel Sr., who owns the Czech Republic, also owns a soccer team, expect to see Junior at center mid next season.  Seems as if this whole 200 mph on two wheels thing has lost its luster for the young playboy.

I’m Just Sayin’…

In what is becoming my usual Casey Stoner segment, it appears that his retirement announcement has dulled his competitive edge.  Notice how, prior to the announcement, Stoner had a fluke third in Qatar and two wins.  Since then, a third in the rain in France followed by today’s head-scratcher.  Clearly, it’s a little early to be drawing meaningful conclusions from any of this.  But when was the last time you can recall Stoner loafing through a practice session the way he did FP2 on Friday?  And when can you recall a performance like today, in which a perfect setup and conditions resulted in a finish off the podium?

The Big Picture

Jorge Lorenzo now enjoys a 20 point margin over Stoner for the 2012 championship, while Pedrosa now trails the Australian by only 10.  Many of us presumed Stoner would have an easy time repeating his 2011 title, but such is not the case.  It may be safe to say, after only five rounds, that the 2012 title is now Lorenzo’s to lose.  What is certain is that Yamaha has adapted to the 1000cc standard more readily than has Honda, this despite the travails of Ben Spies.

Dovizioso and Crutchlow continue their cage match for fourth place, a battle that must warm the heart of team owner Herve Poncharal while simultaneously giving him nightmares.  Congratulations to the Monster Tech 3 team on an immensely successful 2012 campaign thus far, as they continue to show their pipes to the factory Ducati team of Rossi and Nicky Hayden.  Along with Gresini Honda’s Bautista and consensus rookie of the year Stefan Bradl, these four will fight all year over the scraps of finishing sixth for the season.  And of the four, only Bradl can feel very good about sharing such company.

Looking Ahead

The grid returns to Silverstone in two weeks for the British Grand Prix, at which it will probably be cold and wet.  Lorenzo can approach this one without much pressure, not needing a win to maintain his lead in the 2012 race.  And Stoner, apparently, doesn’t feel much pressure to dominate the proceedings ANYWHERE, if his performance today was any indication.  Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Crutchlow will be feeling it, however, especially CC, who will be racing in front of his homeboys.  So will James Ellison, for that matter, although with much less at stake.

I’ll be reporting on the race from the picturesque San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State, where it will be shown at 5 am local time.  Hopefully, I’ll have the race results posted on Motorcycle.com in time for you West Coast fans to enjoy the story with your Sunday morning cornflakes.


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