Despite initial concerns over his bike setup Casey Stoner overcame a major hurdle at Brno by taking his sixth victory.
Casey Stoner stretched his MotoGP world championship lead to a comfortable 32-point cushion after he dominated yesterday’s Czech Republic round in Brno. Once he hit the front on Lap 3 after a mistake by Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, Stoner’s sixth win in 11 races never looked in any serious doubt.
With closest rival Jorge Lorenzo struggling with a botched soft front tire choice in fourth, Stoner capitalized superbly on the Spaniard’s error of judgment to strike a crucial blow in the title battle and he said: “The points are hugely important. The win was important but we just wanted to be competitive for the rest of the season. We’ve struggled these last few races to get our speed up quickly. It has taken a little too long and we need to understand what direction we need the bike to go because when things aren’t so comfortable it takes us a little too long to sort it out. This was a similar weekend to what we had in Laguna. I struggled to get that last bit of feeling and that last bit of edge grip from the rear. We were a little bit worried going into the race because we knew we had a set-up that was okay but not really capable enough of running at the front comfortably.
“We went into the race shooting in the dark to be honest and the team did a great job. I was sulking a little bit after the Warm-up because we couldn’t really find anything and we didn’t know why the bike wasn’t really giving us any feedback. We tried something for the race and it seemed to be better at the start, which is where we’ve been struggling. Most of the weekend on older tires we were competitive, but on new tires for the first half of the race we didn’t seem to have the pace. As soon as I got by Andrea at the beginning to catch Dani and Jorge I found it quite easy to do the pace I did and that gave me a lot more confidence.
“I was able to attack the corners a little bit harder on the exit because I had that little bit extra edge grip. I had a fantastic bike for the race. As soon as I got by Jorge, unfortunately Dani crashed and I think without that it would have been a hard
race. That gave me the opportunity to pull a small gap and I was able to take a big advantage and from then I stayed consistent.”
Stoner got a front row seat for Pedrosa’s third lap crash and he said: “It just looked like the front dropped really quickly. It just slammed him down like my crash in the wet on Saturday and there was nothing he could do. He was already banked over but it wasn’t slow motion and it went really quickly. It looked like he hit a bump but there are no real bumps there. It was a little bit strange.”
Stoner also denied that Pedrosa’s early exit had seen him change his strategy, adding: “I would have liked to follow Dani for a couple of laps because I thought we had the pace to pull away from Jorge. But in general I was going to run my own race anyway. It would have been interesting to see what pace I could hold compared to Dani but unfortunately he crashed. Maybe it would have been slightly different if he hadn’t crashed.”
As for Pedrosa, the Spaniard was at a loss to explain the cause of the crash that cost him the chance to notch his second MotoGP victory in the last three races. Pedrosa had just seized the lead from compatriot Jorge Lorenzo on the third lap when he lost the front-end of his factory Honda RC212V machine.
The Repsol Honda rider was able to walk away unscathed but said: “It was a shame. I lost the front and I crashed, that was it. I was not even pushing so hard, I just took the lead and, well I may have tilted the bike too much, maybe the tire was not warm enough, still I don’t know. The problem is that I’ve wasted an important race that we had prepared for very well. I’m sorry for the mistake. It hurts because we were well prepared and finally the race was quite slow compared to the pace we did in practice sessions, but we can’t do anything, just think towards the next one and try to get back on top.”
Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso posted a solid performance in second after capitalizing on Jorge Lorenzo’s poor tire choice.
Pedrosa had been in brilliant form all weekend and he claimed his first pole position of the season in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Repsol’s third rider, Andrea Dovizioso, survived intense pressure from bitter Italian rival Marco Simoncelli to keep his slender 2011 MotoGP world title hopes on track. Dovizioso claimed his fifth podium with second place in the Brno clash, though teammate Stoner’s commanding win leaves him 55-points adrift in the championship chase.
Dovizioso made up four places on the opening lap and moved into third on lap three when teammate Pedrosa crashed out of the lead. He needed just two more laps to dispose of Jorge Lorenzo.
“I am really happy because I started from seventh place on the grid and it looked like it was going to be difficult to fight for the podium,” said Dovizioso. “Maybe there was some small chance but I made a great start and I tried to follow Casey, especially when Dani crashed. I saw Lorenzo struggling a lot and I knew he’d decided to use the soft front, so I understood immediately which problem he had. I passed him and thought I could try and catch Casey but I made a big mistake and almost ran off the track. Then I tried to control Simoncelli and the last five laps he couldn’t pass me. I had a feeling he was on the limit, so I pushed a bit more and he couldn’t stay with me. It was nice to manage Marco and to have second for the championship is really important. I tried not to arrive on the last lap with Marco. I think it is difficult with all the riders to fight on the last lap, especially with Marco. I tried not to fight with him and I had the feeling to take some more risks and to be a few tenths faster.”
Marco Simoncelli: “I am very happy with this result and I needed it because many times this year I have been fast but for some reason I never got the result I should.”
Simoncelli scored his first MotoGP podium at the 29th attempt at Brno. After several near misses in 2011, the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider finished third in the Czech Republic race after passing reigning world champion Lorenzo on the 12th of 22-laps. Unable to hunt down and pass Italian rival Dovizioso to take second, the former 250GP world champion was still elated to end his premier class podium drought.
It was particularly gratifying given the scathing criticism aimed at Simoncelli for his aggressive riding tactics this season. He was involved in a controversial collision in Le Mans with Dani Pedrosa that ended the Spaniard’s world title hopes.
But in Brno he was making headlines for the right reasons and he said: “I am very happy with this result and I needed it because many times this year I was really fast but for some different reasons I never get the result I should. I am so happy and I need to say thanks to everybody who believed in me in the difficult moments, especially my team and Honda. It was a difficult race because I didn’t start very well. But I enjoyed it because I passed Valentino (Rossi) and (Ben) Spies and then I caught Lorenzo and Andrea. Around the half race I pushed to pass Jorge and I tried to catch Andrea but until the last five laps I believed I could beat him. But he started to push more and I prefer not to take big risks and save the podium.”