Stoner rounds off 2011 title with Valencia victory
Casey Stoner closed the 800cc era with his tenth victory of his title-winning season, edging Ben Spies across the finish line by just 0.015s as Andrea Dovizioso claimed the final podium spot and with it third place in the final Championship standings. The race was declared dry at the start but light rain fell for much of the 30 lap duration, making conditions difficult for the riders.
Repsol Honda rider Stoner launched from pole position and into the lead off the start of the Gran Premio Gernerali de la Comunitat Valenciana, the final race of the season. Although the race was declared wet, the field all sported slick tyres in the difficult conditions that claimed the first casualties in the very first corner.
In the rush for the first corner Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), Pramac Racing’s Randy de Puniet and both Ducati Team riders, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi were all involved in a crash, ending the races of all four prematurely and bringing a disappointing end to the season for each.
Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa managed to avoid the incident, and with Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) – the Spaniard again absent due to injury – already holding first and second in the Championship, the scrap for third between the team-mates remained to be decided this weekend. Neither of the Repsol Honda riders showed any sign of giving way to the other as the two fought for the second spot on the podium, as well as the final Championship position, until the final laps of the race when the Spaniard slowed slightly as the slight rain fall picked up.
Ben Spies rode behind the Honda men as they battled, and on lap 23 the Texan made his move on Pedrosa for third, then put on the afterburners and closed in on Stoner, passing Dovizioso on the way to the front.
With three laps left, Stoner ran wide, letting the American through to take over the head of the race and Spies then pulled an immediate one-second gap at the front. The Yamaha man looked set to take the win, until in the very last corner of the race when the World Champion rocketed out of the final turn and passed the line just in front to claim his tenth win of the season.
The chase for the Rookie of the Year award between Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) also went down to the very last lap, with the Czech rider poised to take the honour until he fell, handing Crutchlow the title and also fourth place in the race. Abraham was able to rejoin the race to finish in eighth, ahead of Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing), who concluded the final race of his career with a ninth place having carried Marco Simoncelli’s number 58 in honour of the late Italian rider.
Fifth place went to Pedrosa, with Lorenzo’s replacement Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha Factory Racing) claiming sixth ahead of Colin Edwards’ substitute on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, Josh Hayes. Toni Elías (LCR Honda) completed the top ten, with Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) the final race riders to complete the race.
Earlier in the day, after the MotoGP warm-up session, riders from all three categories completed a lap of honour of the circuit and then congregated on the grid for two minutes as a tribute was made to Marco Simoncelli, who lost his life in the Malaysian GP two weeks previously.
Members of the MotoGP paddock also amassed on the grid, as the 24 year-old Italian was remembered fittingly at the final round of the 2011 World Championship by a Valencian Mesclatà (firecracker) display and huge banner.