Stoner Wins a Classic in Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix

Henny Ray Abrams | July 24, 2011

MONTEREY, CA, JULY 24 – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner rode a tactically brilliant race to win the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and extend his championship lead heading into the summer break.On a warm, sunny day in front of a crowd of nearly 53,000, Stoner ran down first his teammate Dani Pedrosa, then Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, who he made a brilliant pass of in an unexpected spot.Stoner took advantage of a slight bobble by Lorenzo out of the final turn 11 ending the 26th lap to pull next to him on acceleration. As the pair crested the elevated turn one, actually a kink in the front straight taken in sixth gear, Stoner made a bold move on the outside of the world champion, who clearly wasn’t expecting it. Then Stoner pulled in tight in the turn two hairpin left and sped away. Lorenzo couldn’t hope to match Stoner, who would later say he had more in reserve.The margin of victory was 5.634 secs., with Pedrosa third another three seconds later.The win was Stoner’s fifth of the season and first since the rain-lashed British Grand Prix at Silverstone in mid-June. That was the last of three in a row and Stoner hadn’t won any of the last three races. But he’s been on the podium in every race he’s finished, which is why he has a 20 point championship lead on Lorenzo.With 10 of 18 races completed, Stoner leads Lorenzo 193 to 173 heading into the summer break.”To be honest, it was the most relaxed I’ve been for a race in a long time,” Stoner said. “We’ve had a really difficult weekend, but this morning warm-up we found something we thought we could run with these guys. You know, I think yesterday we would’ve been pushing really, really hard just to stay there, but at the same time we’re not sure if our pace that we had yesterday would have been enough at the end of the race, as well; maybe we already had the package to do that. Because at the start of the race I really struggled. I was patient, I was quiet. I knew they weren’t going to pull away. I still had something left.”But at the beginning of the race I was really struggling to get the bike turned, to get the drive that I needed and lap by lap when the fuel went out it just got better and better and towards of the end of the race there I sat back just a little bit, just enough to watch what’s going on, but as soon as I needed to go, we knew we had the pace to up and catch him. So I saw Dani (Pedrosa) struggle a little bit and decided to go past him because we were losing time to Jorge. Then once I caught Jorge (Lorenzo) , I wanted to stay behind to see what was going on. And then we knew we had some more pace that what Jorge was able to run and we decided to go to the front and see what happened. We felt good, really good at the end of the race and I think people have forgotten about us a little bit. The last few weeks we definitely struggled, for some reasons that we know why, but it’s really good to come back with a race like this and show everybody we can still win.”That Lorenzo led most of the race was something of a surprise. The Majorcan had a massive high-side following Saturday morning practice, landing hard on his back and right leg. Afterwards, he wasn’t sure he could race. But later on Saturday afternoon he qualified on the pole with a disheartening lap for the others and a consistency that was unmatchable.Lorenzo started Sunday’s 32-lap strongly and held on as long as he could, but he didn’t’t fight back once Stoner went past.”Well, first of all, I’m lucky to be in the second position this weekend, because after the crash yesterday morning I thought it wasn’t possible to take part in the race in the first minutes,” he said. “So after qualifying I really hoped to fight till the end for a victory, but sometimes expectations are not the reality and today Casey (Stoner) was faster than us, especially at the end. He has something more that we didn’t have.”Also my physical (condition) was not so perfect, so everything together makes us quite slow at the end. So second position is OK. Twenty points behind Casey (Stoner) in the championship. We’ll try next time.”Pedrosa was also struggling physically on a track where there’s no rest. He’d won at the Sachsenring on another physical track, predominantly left-handed like Laguna Seca, but this track is harder work. Once Stoner went by, Pedrosa settled into a comfortable third. It was a strong finish, and his second podium in a row, following his eighth in his comeback race in Italy.”At the beginning the pace was so, so high with Jorge leading the race,” Pedrosa said. “I tried to stick with him, but by the middle of the race I was really tired.”Yamaha’s Ben Spies was the victim of a mistake on the start that put him well behind the leaders and out of the fight even for the podium. The problem was his engine management setting was wrong and  it killed his power on the first lap, which sent him tumbling down the order. When the first lap ended he was seventh and on the comeback trail. The comeback would be complete when he passed Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso on the 30th of 32 laps.There was a gap behind the fifth-placed Dovizioso to Ducati Marlboro teammates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Rossi was on the GP11.1 and Hayden on the GP11 and there was little between them. Officially it was .680 sec., with Rossi sixth and Hayden seventh.”He was on the limit…and we got beat by 30 seconds,” Hayden said. He added, “Everybody’s working hard but sometimes it don’t…hard work alone in the long run pays off, but at the moment we’re not getting what we deserve and it’s pretty tough. I mean this is the worst finish I’ve had a Laguna by a long way, I think.”Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards was seventh; teammate Cal Crutchlow crashed in his first visit to Laguna Seca. As did Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli, for the second year in a row.The rest of the finishers were processional. Mapfre Aspar Team’s Hector Barbera was alone in ninth, same for Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) in tenth. Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham (Ducati) was the last rider on the lead lap. Pramac Ducati’s Loris Capirossi and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Toni Elias were both lapped.Elias’s teammate for the weekend, Ben Bostrom, never got the hang of the carbon brakes and after running on in turn two twice, called it a day.MotoGP Results:1. Casey Stoner (Honda)

2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)

4. Ben Spies (Yamaha)

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)

6. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)

7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)

8. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)

9. Hector Barbera (Ducati)

10. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)

11. Karel Abraham (Ducati)

12. Loris Capirossi (Ducati)

13. Toni Elias (Honda)

DNF Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki)

DNF Marco Simoncelli (Honda)

DNF Ben Bostrom (Honda)

DNF Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.