MotoGP Race Report: Grand Prix of Valencia
Just moments before rolling to the starting grid for the Grand Prix of Valencia, Dani Pedrosa was one of four riders to dive into the pits to change from grooved rain tires to slick tires as he noticed a dry line was forming on the damp track surface during the warm-up lap.
The move was risky, as Pedrosa surrendered his pole position and instead had to start from the pit lane, per the rules for tire changes after the formation lap.The move also was brilliant.
Pedrosa emerged from a chaotic start and race to win the final event of the 2012 MotoGP season at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, his season-high seventh victory. His Repsol Honda flashed across the finish line 37.661 seconds ahead of the Yamaha Factory Racing bike of surprise runner-up Katsuyuki Nakasuga in perhaps the most deceiving margin of victory of the season.
This race was far from a blowout. Anything but routine.
Oddities began even before the start when Pedrosa, Nicky Hayden, Cal Crutchlow and Alvaro Bautista started from pit lane after switching from grooved to slick tires after the warm-up lap.
“It was very difficult at the start to make the decision with tires,” Pedrosa said. “I saw Jorge (Lorenzo) on slicks on the grid and I was pretty sure with my decision (initially to race on wet tires). 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 four or five laps. In the last corner of the sighting lap, the instinct told me to get in immediately.”
Aleix Espargaro led the first two laps on grooved rain tires on his Power Electronics ART, becoming the first rider on production-based Claiming Rules Team machinery to lead a lap in a MotoGP race.
Andrea Dovizioso, who also started on rain tires, passed Espargaro for the lead on Lap 3 on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. But the track was drying quickly despite leaden skies, and Lorenzo – who made a bold decision to start the race with dry tires on his Yamaha Factory Racing bike – burst into the lead on Lap 4.
Pedrosa started to inhale slower riders in the next two laps, as the drying track surface started to chew up their softer wet-weather tires. Pedrosa climbed to second behind Lorenzo on Lap 6 as nearly all of the riders who started on rain tires started to pit to switch to bikes equipped with slick tires.
Lorenzo led Pedrosa by 4.519 seconds after Lap 13 when another seismic spike hit the race on the next lap. Lorenzo was attempting to lap the Paul Bird Motorsport ART CRT bike of James Ellison, who apparently didn’t realize the race leader was trying to slice past him. Lorenzo was forced to slow quickly to avoid a collision, and the front end of his Yamaha began to wobble.
Reigning World Champion Lorenzo tried to control his sashaying bike before it flicked him into orbit in a violent, high-side crash. Lorenzo and his bike slid into the gravel. The machine suffered heavy damage; Lorenzo was unhurt.
From there, Pedrosa rode away from Crutchlow, whose tire gambit also was paying off. But Crutchlow slid off his Yamaha on Lap 23 of the 30-lap event, allowing Nakasuga – replacing the injured Ben Spies – to inherit second.
Two-time MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner overhauled Bautista for third place with two laps remaining to stand on the podium in his final MotoGP start.
Bautista ended up fourth on Gresini Honda’s satellite bike. Teammate Michele Pirro finished fifth on an FTR-Honda CRT bike, the best result ever for the new production-based machines.
American Colin Edwards finished 14th on his NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter-BMW CRT machine. 2006 MotoGP World Champion Hayden crashed out of the race on Lap 3 on his Ducati while gobbling large chunks of time on the field after deciding to switch to dry tires after the warm-up lap. He was unhurt.
The 2013 MotoGP season starts March 31 with the Grand Prix of Qatar. The sixth Red Bull Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
PODIUM FINISHER QUOTES
DANI PEDROSA (Winner, Repsol Honda Team): “After (Marc) Marquez’s (Moto2) race, I thought I should do something similar! But seriously, I'm really happy with this win. It was very difficult at the start to make the decision with tires. 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 four or five 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.”
KATSUYUKI NAKASUGA (Second, Yamaha Factory Racing): “I’m so very happy with this result. The conditions were very difficult today. It was a tough race, but the team was amazing, and I have to thank them for making the best choice for my setup for the race. It is like a dream or a miracle for me to be on the podium as the qualifying was not so good. I want to thank Yamaha for giving me this special opportunity to race here in MotoGP. It has been amazing.”
CASEY STONER (Third, Repsol Honda Team): “Considering everything that happened today, we’re very happy with a podium. My motivation wasn't particularly high today, as I haven’t wanted to push in the wet and haven’t felt comfortable on the bike. I just didn't want to take any risks of crashing and damaging my ankle again, so I was very cautious, and this isn’t how I like to ride. Even with the choice of going with the wets, not the slick tires at the beginning of the race, I took the easy option, which really isn't me. When I saw the slicks had a big advantage, we came in and changed bikes and went back out and pushed as hard as we could without taking unnecessary risks. In the end, we were able to chase down Alvaro (Bautista) and take the last spot on the podium in our last race. My team are like my second family. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together, and it’s going to be difficult not to see them every week. I’m sorry for them and for everyone who has supported me for so long, but this is the way it is, and it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you to all the people who have supported us over the years and all our sponsors, and to everyone in the Repsol Honda Team.”
AMERICAN RIDER QUOTES
COLIN EDWARDS (14th, NGM Mobile Forward Racing): “The conditions for the race were half wet, half dry. You were both gambling if you went with dry, and you were gambling if you went with wet. With this particular bike, I felt the safest option was to go with wet. Went out and our rain setting, we must have changed something from this morning, and when I got in the corner and opened full gas, it just wouldn’t go anywhere. I came in, changed bikes and just went out, and it stopped downshifting. At that point, I was just kind of surviving and waiting to see what happened and finally finished the race and got a few points. The season is over, and in a few days we start testing, and I am looking forward to it.”
NICKY HAYDEN (Not classified, Ducati Team): “It’s a shame to end a difficult season in a bad way, but at least I’m 100 percent OK from the crash. On the grid, it was a really close call between slick tires and rain tires. If the track had been warm, it would clearly have been better to start on slicks, but the cold surface temperature made it close. On the warm-up lap, Lorenzo was going faster than us on slicks, so in my opinion, it was the right decision to come in and switch bikes and start from pit lane. After that, it was OK on the dry line. But to make passes, you had to go out where it was treacherous. I got behind (Danilo) Petrucci and couldn’t find a way past. I was waiting to go by him on the front straightaway, but I got a little bit wide in the last corner and hit a patch. I went down so quickly that there was no way to save it. Next season starts now, so hopefully things will be better.”
Riders: Jorge Lorenzo 350, Dani Pedrosa 332, Casey Stoner 254, Andrea Dovizioso 218, Alvaro Bautista 178, Valentino Rossi 163, Cal Crutchlow 151, Stefan Bradl 135, Nicky Hayden 122, Ben Spies 88, Hector Barbera 83, Aleix Espargaro 74, Randy de Puniet 62, Karel Abraham 59, Michele Pirro 43, James Ellison 35, Yonny Hernandez 28, Katsuyuki Nakasuga 27, Danilo Petrucci 27, Colin Edwards 27, Jonathan Rea 17, Mattia Pasini 13, Ivan Silva 12, Toni Elias 10, Steve Rapp 2, David Salom 1.
Manufacturers: Honda 412, Yamaha 386, Ducati 192, ART 100, FTR 43, BQR 35, Suter 27, Ioda-Suter 18, Ioda 9, APR 2, BQR-FTR 2.
MotoGP SUPPORT CLASS WINNERS
Moto2: Marc Marquez, Spain, Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol Suter-Honda.
Moto3: Danny Kent, Great Britain, Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM.
2013 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2013 Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP event. Visit www.imstix.com, call (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700 or visit the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.
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