The half-dry, halt-wet track conditions at Valencia made the 2012 MotoGP finale one of the most memorable, and most dangerous, rounds of the year. Everyone struggled to keep steady in the thin dry-line that had formed around the circuit because going wide or attempting a pass meant moving onto a wet portion and risking a crash, a fact eight riders can attest to, first hand. In the end it was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who came out on top, beating Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga by over 37 seconds. Nakasuga replaced the injured Ben Spies, and marks the finish as his first GP podium. Pedrosa’s teammate Casey Stoner ended the day, and his final professional race, in third.
Riders had hardly arrived back to the grid from the sighting lap when it became apparent that this would be an unusual race. Pedrosa, who was sitting in pole position, had to run into the pits and exchange his wet-tire bike for one equipped with slicks, foregoing his starting place out front and coming out behind the field from pit lane once the race started. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden joined the Repsol rider after getting a taste of conditions on track.
Off the start, Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro had a clear line ahead, owing to the absence of the riders who pitted, and quickly moved into first-place. He led the opening laps with Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi keeping close in second and third, briefly. Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Stoner were able to push ahead and claim the number two and three spots before the end of the first lap, and by Lap 3 Dovi had taken the lead. The Italian rider’s stint out front was short lived though as Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo continued his charge from eighth-place after Lap 1 to claim the lead by Lap 4. Lorenzo was able to hold steady for the rest of the first half of competition, until an attempt to get around backmarker James Ellison of Paul Bird Motorsports saw Lorenzo move just a bit too wide and hit a damp patch. The 2012 championship winner flipped off his bike in a dramatic high-side crash that left him shaken, but unharmed.
“I chose a really risky tire strategy and I was making a really good race,” said Lorenzo. “Dani was catching me a little bit but then I managed to have a four second lead. I came up to the slower riders and I’m not sure what happened, maybe the marshals didn’t put up the blue flags quickly enough but I was losing some time stuck behind them. I was behind Ellison and he stayed on the racing line, I couldn’t wait for another corner to overtake him as I was losing time. I overtook and made a mistake, outside the dry line and I had a big high side.”
While attempting a pass on backmarker James Ellison, Jorge Lorenzo high-sided and flipped off his bike.
Prior to Lorenzo’s crash, Pedrosa had weaved through the pack from 20th to second in the span of six laps. Once the Yamaha ace was out, Pedrosa moved into the lead and was uncatchable.
“I’m really happy with this win, it was very difficult at the start to make the decision with tires,” said Pedrosa. “I saw Jorge [Lorenzo] on slicks on the grid and I was pretty sure with my decision, but standing there the track was drying up very quickly and before the start I didn’t know if it would be better to forget about the pole and start from the pits or go out on wets and stop after 4 or 5 laps. In the last corner of the sighting lap, the instinct told me to get in immediately. I started from the pit lane and I managed to be fast from the beginning, I caught Jorge and then I made a mistake and lost three seconds again, but one lap later he also made a mistake and crashed out.
“From this point another race began for me. It was tough to maintain concentration with such conditions and a big advantage, so I planned the second half of the race like a practice session, taking the corners, the lines, lap by lap. It’s a great end of the season and I’d like to thank all the Repsol Honda Team.”
Behind, Crutchlow, Nakasuga, Bautista and San Carlo’s CRT rider Michele Pirrro were fighting for podium position. Crutchlow and Nakasuga were fixed in second and third until the final laps when the British rider had a dramatic high-side of his own, his body skipping across the track like a rag doll, after having lost grip on the still drying track. He too was uninjured, but fell out of competition while pushing for a personal and team-best finishing position.
“Obviously I am very disappointed to finish the season like that,” said Crutchlow. “I wasn’t sure whether to start on wet tires but I saw Dani pit and just followed him. Going to slicks was obviously the right choice but although there was a dry line, in some places it was so narrow that you couldn’t go off line to overtake because it was way too risky. Dani got through the pack quicker than me but once I got into a fast rhythm I felt really at ease. I had a comfortable lead over third and it was looking good for me to get my best MotoGP result when I hit the smallest wet patch going into the final corner. It just flicked the bike enough to throw me off the left side and I was actually lucky not to get tangled up with the bike.”
Nakasuga slipped into the runner-up position and held to the checkers while Bautista moved up to third. Bautista faced a fast approaching Stoner and, with two laps remaining, fell to fourth as the Australian moved into podium position. Pirro held steady in fifth and notched the best CRT placement among all Claiming Rules riders across the entire season.
Dovi avoided major incident and finished in sixth, followed by Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham in seventh and CameIoda Racing Project’s Danilo Petrucci in eighth. Ellison held to ninth while Rossi rounded out the top-10. Espargaro, despite his valiant push early on, slipped to 11th by the checkers with his teammate Randy de Puniet claiming 12th. Yonny Hernandez’s replacement on Avintia Blusens, Hiroshi Aoyama, claimed 13th and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards came in as the last upright rider in 14th.
Hayden crashed out of competition early in the race, and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl also fell out early in a low-side slide into the gravel. Barbera also retired after a wreck, as did Aoyama’s Blusens teammates Ivan Silva and Claudio Corti.
Lorenzo sealed up the title in the previous round at Phillip Island and there were no other major shifts in points standings after the final round. Espargaro ends with the season with top CRT honors in 12th.
MotoGP Valencia podium with Dani Pedrosa (center) in first, Katasuyuki Nakasuga (left) in second and Casey Stoner (right) in third.
MotoGP Valencia Results 2012:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
2. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha)
3. Casey Stoner (Honda)
4. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
5. Michele Pirro (FTR)
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha)
7. Karel Abraham (Ducati)
8. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter)
9. James Ellison (ART)
10. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)
11. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
12. Randy de Puniet (ART)
13. Hiroshi Aoyama (BQR)
14. Colin Edwards (Suter)
MotoGP Championship Points 2012:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, 350
2. Dani Pedrosa, 332
3. Casey Stoner, 254
4. Andrea Dovizioso, 218
5. Alvaro Bautista, 178
6. Valentino Rossi, 163
7. Cal Crutchlow, 151
8. Stefan Bradl, 135
9. Nicky Hayden, 122
10. Ben Spies, 88