Stoner took the lead from fast starter Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) in the second turn and was never headed. Pedrosa stuck around and kept the lead under a second until the seventh of 30 laps when Stoner eased away. The lead would continue to grow to over five seconds and ended at 3.39 seconds, as Stoner celebrated the end of the season with a wheelie.
“Yeah, I mean we couldn’t ask for much more to finish the season like this,” Stoner said. “It’s been a very difficult season for us. A lot of ups, a lot of downs. I’m looking forward to testing the new bike.”
Stoner will join new teammate Nicky Hayden in testing the new carbon fiber chassis GP9 on Monday, after which Stoner will fly to Italy for a bone graft to correct his injured left scaphoid. He expects to be out of action for a number of months.
Pedrosa was never challenged for second. Third place changed hands early in the race and by the time Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi slotted into the final podium spot, on the sixth lap, Pedrosa was too far gone.
Pedrosa said he’d been behind Stoner throughout the weekend, “then in the race, he was just lap by lap a little bit faster.” The Spaniard had hoped to put on a better show for Honda and the home fans, but was encouraged that his late season rebound had erased the memories of a disappointing mid-season.
Rossi had started from 10th on the grid and was aiming for a podium, which he got, but no more. And he wouldn’t win his 10th race of the season for the fourth time, a feat that only Giacomo Agostini has accomplished.
“Yes, we completely messed up the only dry practice of the weekend and I have to start from the fourth row,” Rossi said. “We modify the setting. I had a great start and in the first laps I was able to overtake quite quickly the guys in front.”
Then he came up on Pedrosa, who he couldn’t put a dent in.
“Anyway, we are not at 100 percent today. We are always struggling in this track. But, anyway, I’m happy to close the season with a podium. Is a good gift for all the guys that work with me.”
Rossi was seventh for the first two laps, then sixth. Next would come a pass of JiR Team Scot MotoGP’ Andrea Dovizioso, and a lap later he would pass both Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards and Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden for third.
When the sixth lap ended the order was Stoner, Pedrosa, Rossi, Dovizioso, Hayden, and Edwards. The order wouldn’t change, though the gaps would. Rossi finished 8.8 seconds behind Pedrosa with nearly 12 on Dovizioso. Hayden, in his last ride for Honda and with “Unforgettable Years” on the seat of his Alpinestars leathers, came along two seconds later. Edwards followed at six seconds.
Dovizioso would be the first of the Michelin riders in the French tire company’s last MotoGP race. Their 36-year involvement in MotoGP racing, which included 360 wins, came to an end when Bridgestone became the control tire in 2009.
Shinya Nakano ended his career with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team by finishing seventh. Next year he’ll partner with Max Biaggi on the Aprilia World Superbike squad.
Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo ended his rookie season with a late push that netted him eighth place.
Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi slipped down to ninth, one better than San Carlo Honda Gresiniâ€™s Alex de Angelis.
The battle for 11th went to another MotoGP rookie, Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland. The Englishman was in front of four riders, the five covered by 1.3 secs. Fast behind Toseland came Alice Team’s Sylvain Guintoli (Duc); the Frenchman who’s headed to British Superbike, Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, Kawasaki’s John Hopkins, and LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet.
Marco Melandri finished 16th in his last ride for the Ducati Marlboro team. Next year he’ll take the place of Anthony West, the 17th place finisher, on the second Kawasaki.
Toni Elias, who will move from the Alice Team back to Gresini Honda, finished last.
Rossi finished the season with 373 points, 93 more than Stoner. Pedrosa finished third, another 31 points back and with 59 on fellow Spaniard Lorenzo, the leading rookie. Another rookie, Dovizioso, was fifth, 16 points back with 19 on Hayden. Colin Edwards finished seventh with 144 points. John Hopkins finished his injury-riddled season 16th in points.
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
5. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
7. Shinya Nakano (Honda)
8. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
9. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
10. Alex de Angelis (Honda)
11. James Toseland (Yamaha)
12. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
13. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
14. John Hopkins (Kawasaki)
15. Randy de Puniet (Honda)
16. Marco Melandri (Ducati)
17. Anthony West (Kawasaki)
18. Toni Elias (Ducati)