Assen MotoGP: Stoner Leads Repsol 1-2

July 2, 2012
Scott Mathews
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There are few people worthy of getting an audience with Mathews but he makes himself available on occasion to the racers of the Grand Prix paddock. If they’re lucky, he might even mention their name. He’s Scott Mathews, and he’s bringing you the inside scoop on MotoGP.

Casey Stoner took home his third win of the season at Assen.
Casey Stoner is now tied for the lead in points with Jorge Lorenzo after the Yamaha rider crashed out of the Assen TT.

Casey Stoner hauled himself right back into contention to retire from MotoGP at the end of 2012 as world champion after he triumphed in a controversial Dutch TT at Assen. With Jorge Lorenzo taken out of the race by Alvaro Bautista’s awful braking mistake at the first corner, Stoner romped to his third win of the season to move level on points with his factory Yamaha rival. The Australian shadowed Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa until he hit the front on Lap 17 and the 26-year-old never looked in danger of surrendering the advantage.

The double MotoGP world champion said: “The start of the race wasn’t as I planned. I wanted to get out in front and see what I could do but it didn’t feel like I was going to have enough energy for the race. When Dani came past I was planning on getting through the first couple of laps but he was riding well, braking late and there was no way past for me. We were dropping off the group behind so I decided to stay behind Dani and save some energy. We had a strategy to save the tires on the left side and we made sure we were gentle on them the whole race. Everything ended perfect. With six laps to go the opportunity arose to make the pass and pull a gap before the end because my energy was going down. Dani was struggling and we pulled a gap and held it to the end.”

It wasn’t an easy race for Stoner by any means after a heavy practice crash on Friday morning left him battered and bruised, but he was grateful to have secured a precious victory to pounce on Lorenzo’s misfortune. Stoner said he had not wanted to claw back the deficit in such circumstances but he said the pendulum had swung against him before this season.

“I think luck has swung his way couple of times this season,” Stoner added. “In Qatar if I didn’t have arm pump I had the pace over everybody and I was confident to win that race. In Le Mans I had fantastic pace but unfortunately it was wet and so things swung in his direction and he made big gap in a small time. In Barcelona I didn’t ride well enough and didn’t have the pace and he showed he was competitive. Things can look very, very different if results haven’t gone the way they had. But I still had to go out and do the job and it felt very nice.”

Repsol riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa took the 1 and 2 positions on the podium at Assen.
Dani Pedrosa blamed fatigue for his losing position to Stoner. The Spaniard remains winless this season.

Teammate Pedrosa’s winless streak though continues and it is now nine races since he last topped the podium in Japan last October. The Spaniard blamed fatigue for failing to keep Stoner at bay as he notched his sixth podium in seven races.

“I didn’t realize until maybe ten laps to go that I had used all my energy,” said Pedrosa. “I was so concentrated in riding that towards the end I couldn’t really change direction. The bike suddenly became very, very heavy. I believe Casey saw in my riding that I start to be a little bit lazy on the bike but maybe he saves a little more energy than me and tried to use it in the last laps. I tried to follow him but when he just passed me and in one change of direction I couldn’t really change the bike to the left into the two corners at the end of the lap. I almost ran out of the track and I made a couple of mistakes and lost a lot of ground.”

Stoner Critical of Bridgestone

Despite his eventual win, Stoner’s frustration with the performance of Bridgestone’s 2012 tires continued on the opening day of the Dutch TT at Assen. The Australian was languishing down in seventh position on the timesheets. Stoner once again blamed a chatter issue for his struggles on track that has come from new softer front and rear tires introduced in 2012.

Honda has struggled to dial out a rear chatter issue that Stoner and Pedrosa encountered on the factory RC213V machine during testing of the new 1000cc machine last year. Progress has been made to improve the rear chatter, but HRC has been hit hardest by the introduction of a new softer construction front tire, which is now the standard option available in MotoGP.

Casey Stoner has struggled with chatter all season and he cited frustration with Bridgestone after the Assen TT.
Casey Stoner has struggled with chatter all season and he cited frustration with Bridgestone after the Assen TT.

The new front has created a severe front chatter for Stoner and Pedrosa have both heavily criticized the decision to introduce the new front during the season. Stoner’s unease with Bridgestone grew during the recent British Grand Prix when he blamed a severe deterioration in rear grip for his failure to defeat title rival Jorge Lorenzo.

And today the reigning world champion said after Thursday’s troublesome practice sessions: “Unfortunately nothing we did this afternoon was in the right direction. We were trying so many things to reduce the chatter. We thought we would get a bit more stability out of the rear tire but in fact it made our bike extremely nervous and we head no rear grip. We have to change the stiffness of the chassis and other things to try upset the balance of the chatter to reduce it in some way. But it is taking a lot of our time away from race set-up, so that is difficult. We’ve got another chassis that we have been trying and I haven’t found too many positives with it yet. This morning it seemed like we had slightly less chatter in the front but it was a little bit more nervous. This afternoon we didn’t find any benefit with it whatsoever, it was worse than the standard bike. The standard bike has a completely different geometry on it trying to change the weight distribution and balance of the bike but we are getting very similar results. I’m not really happy with the way it is. We are wasting time trying to get a race set-up but we have to reduce the chatter and get the bike feeling better. The chatter is mainly at the front, we still have rear chatter but we have reduced it quite a lot. We have complained about this new front tire since we first tested it but it didn’t matter because they put it on our bikes anyway. Compared to the tires at the end of last year with this new tire the chatter is beyond anything we have had before. It has made this extra, extra difficult.”

Stoner went onto say that changes to the performance of the current generation tires meant lap times on the more powerful and faster 1000s are not as fast as anticipated.

“All year we’ve been on 1000s and we should have been smashing lap records but in my opinion the tire level has come down so far it is crazy. There doesn’t seem to any traction point in the rear tires any more. They are the same grip level from edge to traction, there is no point where you can find more grip. The tire levels have come down so far we are just getting worse and worse and people are doing the tests and saying it feels so much better with this new front but we are still going slower and slower. The performance isn’t there and we are going in the wrong direction with tires. It is really disappointing. The tires we are riding now, it’s a joke. They are not even close to the level they were at a couple of years ago. It is getting tougher.”

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