MotoGP: Mid-Season Report

MotoGP Report

The 2010 MotoGP Championship begins the second-half of the 18-race season at Brno for the Czech Republic Grand Prix on Aug 15.

The season so far has been filled with not much action on different race winners, but much drama regarding accidents, the most notably being the famous FP2 crash at Mugello that sidelined the reigning champ, Valentino Rossi.

But Rossi made a speedy recovery, and only missed four rounds of action, including the one where he crashed, Mugello (Round 4). As he’s been in the news more and more concerning his crash and 2011 contract talks, his teammate Jorge Lorenzo began pulling away from the field, winning six out of nine races.

As for the remaining three races, the Spaniard placed his Fiat Yamaha M1 in second for each one. At the midway point, the 23-year old now leads the championship with 210 points, 72 ahead of Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa’s teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, sits in third with 115, followed by Ducati Team rider Casey Stoner with 103. Rossi sits in fifth with 90 points.

Here’s a recap of the first nine races:

Round 1, Qatar

The nine-time world champion Rossi began the season off by winning at Qatar. It wasn’t a runaway race for the Italian, though.

Front row qualifiers Stoner, Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo all had good starts, but it was Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda who led the field into the first turn, after a lightning start from the third row of the grid.

Pedrosa and Rossi swapped the lead, but it would be Stoner who would get past both leaders. But Stoner’s reign was short; the Australian actually was posting the quickest lap times while leading, but lost his front of his motorcycle on the fifth lap, crashing out.

Rossi took the lead, and only lost it briefly to Dovizioso on lap 16. But once the 31-year-old regained the lead, he held it to the line.

Top Five at Qatar:
1. V. Rossi
2. J. Lorenzo
3. A. Dovizioso
4. N. Hayden
5. B. Spies

Round 2, Jerez

Lorenzo won his first race of the season at his home track, taking Jerez after only leading one lap, the last one. Lorenzo was engaged in a fierce battle with his fellow countryman Pedrosa, but took the lead on the last lap, and held it to the checkered flag.

Lorenzo started from second on the grid and was in fifth by the second lap. Lorenzo said he was struggling with “getting a rhythm” due to having a full tank of gas. As expected, Pedrosa, who had pole position, got the holeshot and begin a dominating performance, leading every lap until the final one.

Taking third was Rossi, who struggled at Jerez with set-up and the shoulder he injured during a motocross training accident in Italy just days before.

Top Five at Jerez:
1. J. Lorenzo
2. D. Pedrosa
3. V. Rossi
4. N. Hayden
5. C. Stoner

Round 3, Le Mans

Lorenzo took his second win of the season at the Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, beating out Rossi for the victory.

Rossi started from pole, and got out front quickly, with Pedrosa and Lorenzo in tow. Lorenzo took care of Pedrosa, and by lap seven he began battling with Rossi, swapping the lead. But when he took the lead on lap 10, he had nothing but clear track ahead and behind, gapping the field by over five seconds within a few laps.

Meanwhile, Pedrosa looked like he’d deliver the Honda RC212V on the podium for 27 or 28 laps, but on the final one he was passed by teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who would take third and his second podium of the 2010 MotoGP season.

Stoner had no luck at Le Mans. He passed Hayden for fourth on the second lap, but during the next lap the Australian slid out, crashing his Ducati GP10. This was the second crash and DNF of the season for Stoner, who was fastest during that day’s warm-up session.

The second racer to go down was Loris Capirossi, who went down on lap six. The Rizla Suzuki rider damaged his throttle, and wasn’t able to restart the race. Seconds later Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 rider Ben Spies crashed.

Top Five at Le Mans:
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Valentino Rossi
3. Andrea Dovizioso
4. Nicky Hayden
5. Dani Pedrosa

Round 4, Mugello

The Gran Premio d’Italia at Mugello was a day of firsts – it was first win of the 2010 MotoGP season for Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, and the first time in 2010 that a pole sitter took a victory.

But it was also a sad day for Italian fans as their hero Valentino Rossi was unable to compete at his home circuit due to breaking his shin in a highside crash during FP2 that Saturday. If he started, it would have been his 230 consecutive GP start since he began in the 125cc class in 1996. VR 46 underwent successful surgery a few hours after the wreck.

Pedrosa showed dominance from the grid, getting out before the 16-rider field first, and lead all 23 laps. Lorenzo came in second, and tge final spot on the podium was filled by Dovizioso. Pedrosa’s victory from the pole was his first since winning in Valencia in 2007.

Up to Round 4, Hayden had three consecutive fourth-place finishes, didn’t have much luck at Mugello. The Ducati Marlboro rider tucked in the front of his GP10 on turn 12 with 18 laps to go, and crashed out.

Top Five at Mugello:
1. D. Pedrosa
2. J. Lorenzo
3. A. Dovizioso
4. C. Stoner
5. M. Melandri

Round 5, Silverstone

For the third time of the 2010 MotoGP season, Lorenzo tasted victory, winning the British GP at Silverstone by 6.743 seconds. Joining the Spaniard on the podium were Dovizioso and Spies, respectively.

During his victory race, Lorenzo set the new circuit record lap of 2:03.526 on lap 4; this blistering fast lap will now be the standard on the 3.66-mile Silverstone circuit, a track that didn’t see any MotoGP action since 1986.

After Silverstone, Lorenzo had further extended his championship lead to 115 points out of a perfect 125. Adding to this headway is the absence of Rossi. Besides the absence of Rossi, the only other rider to not start was Interwetten Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama, who was getting examined following a crash during Sunday’s warm-up session.

Top Five at Silverstone
1. J. Lorenzo
2. A. Dovizioso
3. B. Spies
4. N. Hayden
5. C Stoner

Round 6, Assen

The TIM TT Assen, the second in a grueling period of three back-to-back races, became another stomping ground for Lorenzo, as the Spaniard took the win, his fourth of the season.

Lorenzo finished 2.935 seconds ahead of his fellow countrymen, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. Taking the final spot on the podium at the 80th Anniversary of the Dutch TT was Stoner, whose third-place finish was his best this season.

Lorenzo’s win in the Netherlands was similar to his victory at Silverstone during the previous round, him taking both races after placing his M1 on the pole. After Round 6, Lorenzo had 140 out of 150 perfect points, extending his lead to 47 points over Pedrosa.

After his win, Lorenzo also entered motorcycle racing history books by becoming on the seventh rider to have won in three or more classes at Assen, his MotoGP win added to his wins in the 125 and 250 classes.

Besides Rossi, Honda Gresisni rider Marco Melandri missed the race, the Italian dislocating his shoulder during a crash at turn 7 in FP2.

Top Five at Assen
1. J. Lorenzo
2. D. Pedrosa
3. C. Stoner
4. B. Spies
5. A. Dovizioso

Round 7, Catalunya

Starting from pole for the third consecutive race, Jorge Lorenzo on the Yamaha M1 lost ground to Dani Pedrosa going into turn one, but his fellow Spaniard ran wide, leaving Lorenzo in the lead.

The next few laps saw Lorenzo at the head of a tight trio, as Andrea Dovizioso and Casey Stoner pushed hard to stay with him. With ten laps to go Dovizioso crashed out, leaving Lorenzo nearly six seconds ahead of Pedrosa in second.

Lorenzo went on to win by 4.754 seconds ahead of Pedrosa, with Stoner taking third. Catalunya was the fourth race that Rossi missed. Spanish rider Aleix Espargar crashed out during the fifth lap, when he was in 11th position.

Top Five at Catalunya
1. J. Lorenzo
2. D. Pedrosa
3. C. Stoner
4. R. de Puniet
5. A. Bautista

Round 8, Sachsenring

Pedrosa took his second win of the season at the German GP in Sachsenring, a race that
was shortened due to a horrific crash in which Randy de Puniet broke his leg. But after the red-flagged race got underway, Pedrosa won after battling with Lorenzo, Stoner and the returning Rossi.

The race was red flagged on lap 9 when LCR Honda rider de Puniet crashed at turn 4, bringing down two motorcycles. De Puniet, who started on the third row for the 30-lap race, highsided while he was in ninth position. The wreck brought down both Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Racing), and apparently Pramac racing Ducati rider Mika Kallio ran over the Frenchman’s leg while passing by.

De Puniet underwent surgery that night. When the race resumed 25-minutes later, Kallio went done at turn one, ending his race. Lorenzo quickly took the lead, followed in the same order as it was before the red flag: Pedrosa, Stoner and Dovizioso.

Rossi soon overtook Dovizioso. Lorenzo and Pedrosa began swapping the lead up front, and on lap 10 Pedrosa set a new circuit lap record on lap 10 and again on 12, which broke his previous record.

Top Five at Sachsenring
1. D. Pedrosa
2. J. Lorenzo
3. C. Stoner
4. V. Rossi
5. A. Dovizioso

Round 9, Laguna Seca

The last round of MotoGP action before the second half of the season was Laguna Seca, a race that Lorenzo again won from pole position. Lorenzo was followed to the checkered flag 3.517 seconds later by Stoner and the still-healing Rossi.

Lorenzo didn’t get a strong start, but with 24 to go he made it into second after Stoner went wide, letting the Spaniard through with ease. Lorenzo began chasing down Pedrosa, and two laps later he had the gap down to 0.782 of a second.

But Lorenzo wouldn’t have to worry about decreasing that gap much longer. With 21 laps to go, Pedrosa crashed out at Turn 5; the Spaniard tipped it going into the turn, one that requires heavy braking at speeds around 170 mph. This gave Lorenzo the lead with 20 laps to go, and he wasn’t challenged for the remainder of the race. The top five at this point was Lorenzo, Stoner, Dovizioso, Rossi and Hayden.

Hayden, who was the last American to win at Laguna in 2006, wouldn’t remain in fifth for long, though. With 12 to go, Spies’ experience at the track began showing, and he blew past Hayden. He then set out after reigning champ VR 46.

But the wounded “Doctor” fought hard, not allowing Spies to pass. On lap 26, Spies fight for the podium was over, the American running wide and dropping back to sixth.

Rossi suddenly didn’t appear wounded, and with five laps remaining, he chased down Dovizioso, passing his fellow Italian in the Andretti Hairpin.

And as the field battled for a better finish, the leader Lorenzo was in complete control, his nearest challenger Stoner almost four seconds behind.

When he crossed the finish line, Lorenzo took his sixth win of the season, extending his lead in a possibly his first MotoGP championship season. Following him to the line was Stoner in second, Rossi in third, Dovizioso in fourth and Hayden in fifth.

Top Five at Laguna Seca
1. J. Lorenzo
2. C. Stoner
3. V. Rossi
4. A. Dovizioso
5. N. Hayden