The pressure is off Jorge Lorenzo for the final contest of 2012 at Valencia since he secured the title in the previous round.
After enjoying a weekend off, MotoGP riders will take to the track one last time this season for the finale at Valencia. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo sealed the 2012 championship title during the previous round at Phillip Island with his second-place finish, thanks in large part to the disastrous fortune of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. Coming into the Australian round, Pedrosa still had a slim chance to move into the points lead but an early race crash put such hopes straight to bed.
Lorenzo is now the only Spaniard to solidify two premier-class championships and though the title pressure is off, he will be pushing hard for one last trip to the top-step this season since he will be performing in front of his home crowd. The Mallorcan missed out on Valencia in 2011 owing to an injury sustained during warm-up laps at Phillip Island but registered a win there in 2010 by four seconds ahead of then Ducati pilot Casey Stoner.
“This is the last round of the season, it’s a great feeling to be coming home to my Spanish fans as the world champion,” said Lorenzo. “It’s been a long, tough year and we have all worked so hard to get here, now this weekend will be one to enjoy for all of us with less pressure. I will of course still be pushing for the top step of the podium; it would be amazing to end the year with a victory.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies remains out with injuries incurred during the Malaysian Grand Prix and will be replaced by Japanese Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Nakasuga is no stranger to GP competition, placing ninth in 2012 as a wild-card at Motegi and taking sixth at Valencia in 2011. He’s the 2012 All Japan Superbike Championship winner, a title he also earned in 2011, and will likely be shaking things up somewhere within the top-10 come race day.
Even though Dani Pedrosa is no longer within reach of the 2012 title, this has been one of the best years of his career.
Like Lorenzo, Pedrosa will also have copious amounts of friends and family present at Valencia. Since he’s guaranteed second overall in this year’s championship, he’ll look to continue surpassing personal milestones in the final round of the year. The Honda ace has already earned more podiums this season than any other in his career, has amassed more race wins and set a personal high-mark with three of the victories coming consecutively. He also earned the first wet race win of his career at Sepang. What’s left is to surpass his single season points total, currently at 317 which he set in 2004 in his campaign to claim the 250cc championship title. Pedrosa is just 10 points shy of the mark coming into the round at Valencia, meaning a finish of fifth or better will make this one of his best seasons of all time. The Spaniard has proven that sometimes second-place isn’t always first loser.
His teammate, Stoner, will also mark the round at Valencia as one to remember as it’s set to be his final appearance as a professional racer. The Australian dominated the previous round at Phillip Island, taking a nine-plus second victory over Lorenzo, made all the more impressive considering he was still feeling the effects of an ankle injury that sidelined him for a number of rounds. The win in Australia solidified Stoner in third-place overall, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso just outside of reach at 30 points back. The Repsol rider will be pushing to end his professional career with a bang, and he’s optimistic that a top-tier finish may be within reach at Valencia.
“Valencia should be a little better for me again, not as good as Phillip Island, but I’ve always had great success there, many pole positions and race wins,” said Stoner. “I hope we can be competitive there and with the track going left it should suit our bike and me a little better at this point. It’s not going to be easy but it would be nice to get another good result on my final race in MotoGP.”
Andrea Dovizioso will try to add a seventh podium to his 2012 record before the season’s over at Valencia.
Dovi will also mark Valencia as an occasion to say goodbye, since it will be his final race with the satellite Yamaha squad before moving to replace Valentino Rossi on the factory Ducati team in 2013. At Phillip Island, Dovizioso held off pressure from San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista to finish fourth. He’s been remarkably consistent this season, finishing inside the top-five more often than not and earning six podiums. His teammate, Cal Crutchlow, has faced more difficulty this season than Dovi, but the British rider has been able to find his way to the top-three twice, most recently at Phillip Island. He currently sits seventh overall, but is only six points behind Rossi and could move up the tally sheet with a strong performance at Valencia.
Bautista duked it out with Dovi and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl at Phillip Island, where he finished fifth, and he currently sits fifth in overall standings as well. He’s got an eight point advantage on Rossi and will be looking to protect his standing with another solid showing. Bradl is eighth overall and comes from Phillip Island having finished sixth. While the German hasn’t reached the podium during his rookie effort in MotoGP, he has finished fifth or better four times this season and has been a regular presence within the top-10 when able to avoid mechanical issues or crashes.
No more Duc for Rossi after Valencia as he moves to Yamaha Factory Racing for the 2013 MotoGP season.
Rossi and his teammate Nicky Hayden come to Valencia with memories of a disappointing effort in 2011 when both were taken out by another rider in the opening lap. Rossi doesn’t like the circuit much anyway and, considering his difficulty with the Desmosedici this season, will likely be looking forward more to the post season testing with Yamaha than to attempting to eke out improved performance from the Duc.
“Valencia definitely isn’t one of my favorite circuits, apart from the fact that it’s in Spain, which always has a great atmosphere,” said Rossi. “It’s a ‘Micky Mouse’ track that’s small for MotoGP and therefore difficult and tricky. There are a bunch of left hand corners, and I normally prefer those that go to the right. Anyway, we’ll see. The asphalt was redone and that should have improved both the grip and the bumps. It will be a strange weekend that should be challenging for a few different reasons, but we’ll do our best.”
Hayden, on the other hand, is looking forward to the contest at the Spanish circuit and hopes to score a solid finish in the final round.
“Valencia is a track and a race that I like a lot. It’s the last round of the year, so the atmosphere is good and everyone always seems to have a little something extra,” said Hayden. “The track has been resurfaced since we were last there, and it was certainly due. We’ll have to see how it is with tires when we get there, as new surfaces can be hard on rubber. We’ll need something that has good endurance on the left but also retains enough heat on the right. Smoother tracks are normally better for our bike. One thing we need to do better than in recent races is to make bigger improvements with the bike over the course of the weekend. My team has been working so hard all year, and I really want to end the season with a solid race for them.”
Colin Edwards has had a difficult season but will try to post a big result in the final round at Valencia.
In the CRT field, Aleix Espargaro of Power Electronics Aspar currently leads among Claiming Rules riders in 12th overall and will be looking to retain the top spot among his peers. His teammate, Randy de Puniet, is within reach of the claim to fastest CRT on the grid, sitting 11 points back in 13th. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards is 18th overall and will end one of the most difficult seasons of his career after Valencia. The American rider was beset by wrecks and mechanical issues throughout the season and never achieved the results he’d hoped for, but if he can finish 13th or better he may have a shot at claiming fourth-place in the CRT standings.
The action starts Friday with practice sessions, followed by additional practice and qualifying on Saturday in preparation for the big show on Sunday.