MotoGP 2012 Valencia Results

An edited version of this article, complete with hi-rez photos, will appear on today or tomorrow.  Until then, enjoy the raw version here.

Dani Pedrosa wins for the seventh time to close out 2012 

The Gran Premio Generali de la Communitat Valenciana got underway today in the worst weather conditions possible for MotoGP racing—half wet and half dry.  20 minutes before the start, the 22 crews were going completely mental, trying to decide whether to send their guys out on slicks, rain tires, or perhaps one of each.  The resulting demolition derby left eight riders licking their wounds in garages and provided perhaps the strangest podium of the year. 

Valencia was the fourth race of the season in which the rostrum featured the two Repsol Honda pilots, Pedrosa and the retiring Casey Stoner, flanking a factory Yamaha rider.  In each of the previous three—Jerez, Estroril and Laguna Seca—that rider was Jorge Lorenzo, who was today gunning for his 17th podium of the season.  Having clinched the 2012 championship last time out in Australia, it was the only goal left for him today, but it was a biggie, an all-timer that might have stood for years.  Today, however, the man in second place was Katsuyuki Nakasuga, the factory test rider assigned to take the injured Ben Spies’ seat for the finale.

To understand how this came to pass, we direct your attention to the fourth sentence of our preview article of Round One in Qatar back in April:

For the first time ever, the high fliers of MotoGP will be overtaking slower CRT bikes in the turns during the second half of races.  Courting disaster, if you ask me.

On Lap 14 today, race leader Lorenzo came up on the rear of the Paul Byrd Motorsports nag beneath James Ellison who, heading into the race, held 28 points, a complete non-factor all season, having already lost his seat for 2013 to “rider unknown, just not James Ellison.”  It appeared that Ellison was unaware of the major presence behind him, as he failed to yield and held his line in the turn, forcing Lorenzo to brake hard, move off the dry line, wobble furiously, and go airborne in a violent high side that ended his day and hopes of securing a spot in MotoGP history.  With Lorenzo in the gravel, Ellison plodded on, apparently unaware of the disaster he had just been involved in, only to come this close to repeating it two laps later with the new race leader, Pedrosa, who somehow managed to save his bike and day. 

 Cluster at the Start 

If you look up “mass confusion” in the dictionary, you’ll likely find a picture of the grid of today’s race, with the caption, “Pandemonium reigns at the start of a grand prix motorcycle race.”  Most of the riders chose rain tires for the start, with the notable exceptions of factory Yamaha riders Lorenzo and Nakasuga and rookie Stefan Bradl.  Four riders—Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Nicky Hayden and Alvaro Bautista—entered pit lane after the sighting lap to change bikes, preferring to start from there on slicks rather than from the grid on wets.  To illustrate the scale of disorder, the race leaders at the end of lap one, all on wet tires, were:

  1. CRT champ Aleix Espargaro
  2. Yamaha Tech 3 refugee Andrea Dovizioso
  3. Casey Stoner
  4. Lame duck Ducati icon Valentino Rossi, and
  5. Bradl, on the LCR Honda

The riders electing slicks gambled and won; the track dried fairly quickly, and the downpour forecast for later in the afternoon held off until the race had ended.   One by one, riders entered pit lane to ditch their wets in favor of slicks, with all losing at least 25 seconds and some as much as 40 in the process.  As these issues were getting sorted out, the crashing began:

  • Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, lap 3.
  • Avintia Blusens’ Ivan Silva, lap 3.
  • CRT back bencher Roberto Rolfo, lap 7.
  • Stefan Bradl, lap 10, making it six Valencia GPs in a row that he has failed to finish.
  • Lorenzo on lap 14
  • Pramac Ducati’s Hectic Hector Barbera, lap 17.
  • Claudio Corti, slated for a full time ride in 2013 for NGM Forward Racing, lap 18; and, finally,
  • Crutchlow, who crashed out of second place, lap 23.  Seems like Cal is most likely to crash out of races when he’s in the top three spots; guy needs to learn how to handle success a little better.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Nakasuga, visibly overwhelmed at the podium celebration and post-race press conference, had qualified in 16th place, about as expected, but followed teammate Lorenzo’s example at the start by choosing slicks.  Despite instructions from the brass not to trash the bike, he found himself somehow running in the top three, and keeping up nicely, by lap five.  Once Lorenzo and Crutchlow had left the building, he had second place pretty much to himself, providing the feel-good moment of the year.

Stoner, who fell to 16th place changing bikes, got his rhythm and began overtaking the field, eventually going through on Bautista’s San Carlo Honda on lap 29 for a fitting podium finish in his last outing.  Being Stoner, he had been quoted earlier in the weekend as “not being happy with the new tarmac.”  We will all miss his racing; I, for one, will not miss his incessant whining and complaining.  At the end of the race, we saw his pit board, which read “GONE FISHING.”  If the fish aren’t biting, I fully expect to see Casey quoted in the New South Wales paper complaining about his tackle and bait.

Michele Pirro, on his way to being evicted from the #2 seat at San Carlo Gresini, enjoyed a bit of paying forward by finishing sixth today, the best ever finish for a CRT bike.  Take THAT, Fausto.  Andrea Dovizioso, on his Tech 3 Yamaha for the last time, and Karel Abraham, likewise on his satellite Ducati for the last time, were the only other riders to finish on the lead lap.

Valentino Rossi, riding as the #1 factory Ducati rider for the last time, described the Circuit Ricardo Tormo this week as a “Mickey Mouse circuit.”  After qualifying in 11th place and finishing today’s race tenth, more than a lap down, I would have to describe his as a Minnie Mouse effort.  It’s hard to conclude that Rossi didn’t quit on his team today, and it appears he has also helped Filippo Preziosi lose his job as technical director at Ducati.

And So It Goes

MotoGP underwent a great deal of change this year, with more in store going forward, in the way of rules, riders, teams, and circuits.  The Next Great Rider, teenager Marc Marquez, moves up to take Casey Stoner’s seat on the Repsol Honda team starting Tuesday.  Marquez has millions of fans and almost as many critics of his aggressive riding style.  He won today’s Moto2 race after starting from the back of the grid, thanks to a close encounter with Simone Corsi on Friday.

Marquez will inject new life into the premier class, and appears ready to challenge for Alien status sooner rather than later.  To his critics, and to bring our coverage of MotoGP to a close for another year, we offer up a bit of Rudyard Kipling, from his poem entitled “If”:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”

                             — Rudyard Kipling

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