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Lorenzo Takes MotoGP Points Lead With Win At Wet, Wild Spain

An unpredictable race in rainy conditions turned the standings and many superstars of MotoGP upside-down, as defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo won the thrilling Grand Prix of Spain on Sunday, April 3 at the Jerez Circuit.

Lorenzo’s Yamaha beat the Honda of fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa to the finish by 19.339 seconds, a margin of victory that belied the drama of the race. American Nicky Hayden finished third on his Ducati.

2009 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Lorenzo took the series lead by nine points over Pedrosa, and Yamaha tied previously dominant Honda atop the constructor standings.

“It has been one of my most patient races,” Lorenzo said. “It’s a great victory, which we needed, and I feel so good. This is also the first time I have won in wet conditions.”

Patience paid for Lorenzo on a track made greasy by light rain. Aggressive satellite Honda rider Marco Simoncelli passed pole sitter Casey Stoner and Lorenzo for the lead on Lap 6 of the 27-lap race. Simoncelli appeared to be running away with his first career MotoGP victory.

Meanwhile, seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi was slicing through the field on his Ducati. He caught and passed Lorenzo on Lap 7 and tried the same move on Stoner the next lap. Rossi lost the front end of his bike with his lunge under Stoner in Turn 1, eliminating Stoner from the race. Rossi picked up his bike and stormed back to finish fifth.

On Lap 12, Simoncelli cruised at the front when he also lost the front end of his San Carlo Honda Gresini in Turn 1.

Lorenzo inherited the lead, with Pedrosa closing in. But Pedrosa, weakened by a vascular problem in his injured shoulder that will require surgery April 4, lost ground when Lorenzo increased his pace.

The mayhem continued behind Lorenzo. American Ben Spies caught the tiring Pedrosa on Lap 23 for second place. But one lap later, Spies fell from his factory Yamaha and out of the race, the victim of badly worn tires.

That mishap elevated Hayden to an unlikely third on a Ducati that lacked pace during the preseason and at the first race of the season March 20 at Qatar. But fellow American Colin Edwards, whose smooth style always makes him a threat in the wet, caught Hayden and passed him, heading toward his first podium finish since a wet race in July 2009 in Great Britain.

But a mechanical problem caused Edwards’ Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine to stop in Turn 1 on the last lap. Hayden then held off the fast-charging Hiroshi Aoyama for third.

The next race is the Grand Prix of Portugal on May 1 at Estoril. The Red Bull Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 26-28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

***

RESULTS

JEREZ, Spain – Results of the 27-lap Grand Prix of Spain MotoGP race, with position, rider, country, motorcycle, time behind winner. All riders on Bridgestone tires:
1. Jorge Lorenzo Spain Yamaha
2. Dani Pedrosa Spain Honda +19.339
3. Nicky Hayden United States Ducati +29.085
4. Hiroshi Aoyama Japan Honda +29.551
5. Valentino Rossi Italy Ducati +1:02.227
6. Hector Barbera Spain Ducati +1:08.440
7. Karel Abraham Czech Republic Ducati +1:14.120
8. Cal Crutchlow Great Britain Yamaha +1:19.110
9. Toni Elias Spain Honda +1:42.906
10. John Hopkins United States Suzuki +1:48.395
11. Loris Capirossi Italy Ducati +1:51.876
12. Andrea Dovizioso Italy Honda +1 lap
NC Colin Edwards United States Yamaha +1 lap
NC Ben Spies United States Yamaha +3 laps
NC Randy de Puniet France Ducati +11 laps
NC Marco Simoncelli Italy Honda +16 laps
NC Casey Stoner Australia Ducati +20 laps
NC – Not classified
Fastest lap: Rossi, 1:48.753, Lap 4; Pole lap: Stoner, 1:38.757

***

POINTS

Riders: Lorenzo 45, Pedrosa 36, Stoner 25, Hayden 23, Rossi 20, Aoyama 19, Dovizioso 17, Barbera 14, Crutchlow 13, Abraham 12, Simoncelli 11, Spies 10, Edwards 8, Elias 7, Hopkins 6, Capirossi 5.

Manufacturers: Yamaha 45, Honda 45, Ducati 25, Suzuki 6.

***

PODIUM QUOTES

JORGE LORENZO (Yamaha Factory Racing, winner): “It has been one of my most patient races. It’s a great victory, which we needed, and I feel so good. This is also the first time I have won in wet conditions, the first time ever! Now we are working to improve our bike, taking as much points as possible on the way. The King of Spain said to me that he would bring me good luck after our meeting last February in Madrid. He was right! With the competition so high this year, I never imagined I would be leader after two races. I am so happy to have won this weekend, especially as my friends from Yamaha Indonesia came all the way here to support us. ‘Semakin di Depan’ means ‘One Step Ahead,’ which was true today.”

DANI PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team, second): “It’s been a very difficult race. At the start, many riders overtook me, and I thought, ‘That's it.’ Anyway, I knew there were 27 laps, and the situation was difficult for the tires. I was a little nervous after my bad start, but when I realized that in the first lap I was faster than in the warm-up, I calmed down and started to improve. I took a good pace and had to ride at maximum concentration in order not to not make any mistakes; it was very easy to crash. Some riders started falling down, and it was a matter of resisting there. I tried to catch Lorenzo when I saw that his gap was about a second, but at 10 laps to go, the tires were almost finished. I couldn't even open the throttle on the straight because the track was very slippery. When Spies crashed, my gap with Nicky was big enough to keep the second place, and I crossed the finish line very, very happy. It's been a tough weekend for the arm injury. Today I also had numbness and lack of strength, but to ride in wet has helped me because it's not as aggressive as in dry conditions. To leave Jerez with a second-place finish, after the third place in Qatar, is amazing.”

NICKY HAYDEN (Ducati Team, third): "That wasn’t necessarily a pretty win because my last laps were so slow when the tires were worn, but we're on the podium, and I'm pretty happy about it. In the beginning, our bike was really good because I had a lot of traction. After a while, it was all about focus, and there was no room for error. The track was changing every corner because there was rain in some parts and no rain in other parts. Also, the tires and the lines kept changing. It certainly hasn't been an easy start to the season, so we'll take success any way we can get it. Big thanks to the team. Hopefully we can try to build on this, and it will be the little shot in the arm to help get us going. I know Ducati's not sleeping. They've got some work to do, but I think our bike is better than we've been showing. We've just been missing a little bit, but I'm confident we can still recover and have a good season.”

***

OTHER AMERICAN RIDER QUOTES

JOHN HOPKINS (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 10th): “Well, I finished where I wanted to – I certainly wanted to get into the top 10! That was the goal for the whole weekend, but I did wonder if it was going to be a reality when I started on Friday. We pushed right from the start of practice and chipped away little-by-little to bring the lap time down and just went about the job as professionally as possible. My main target

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