Many tear-filled faces surrounded the Valencia paddock Sunday as massive tributes were paid to MotoGP’s fallen hero Marco Simoncelli.The biggest tribute of all was also a first in World Championship history – every motorcycle from across all classes (125cc, Moto2, MotoGP) participated in a tribute lap.With a giant flag donning Simoncelli’s image and number 58 hanging from the Valencia paddock tower, 500cc Champion Kevin Schwantz piloted the late Italian’s San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V around the Spanish circuit, leading all the racers.Once the tribute was completed, the 16-rider MotoGP lined up on the grid, with 2011 MotoGP Casey Stoner on the pole, his 12th of this season. The Aussie capitalized on this starting position, and went on to take a sneaky win over Yamaha Factory’s Ben Spies; the win was Stoner’s 10th this season.There was drama right from the outset, though, as Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista crashed amid the group in Turn 1. The Spaniard took out Pramac Racing Ducati’s Randy de Puniet, who qualified a season-best of third, and Ducati Team riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. This was Rossi’s third consecutive DNF due to crashes.This left a Repsol Honda 1-2 up front, with Stoner leading teammate Pedrosa. Spies was in third, followed by the third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso and Pramac Racing Ducati’s Loris Capirossi.As Stoner began gapping the field, Pedrosa passed Spies and began an intense battle with Dovi. But towards the end, Pedrosa began fading, leaving the battle between Spies and Dovizioso for second.With the threat of rain looming in the Spanish horizon, the grid began riding more cautiously. Showing much patience, Spies eventually took Dovi. The American began closing the gap on Stoner, who once held well over a 10-second lead, and passed him for the lead with three laps remaining.Spies was running in top form, but he knew Stoner was right on his tailpipe. Spies glanced back a few times, an action many of the top racers nod against, and looked to have beaten Stoner.But Stoner’s RC212V had that bit of extra power where it counted, and the Australian took Spies at the line, winning by 0.015 of a second. Dovizioso took the final podium position, crossing the line 5.936 seconds behind.Fourth went to Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, who until the final lap was battling intensely with Cardion AB Ducati’s Karel Abraham.The Czech was leading the Brit, and would have taken the 2011 MotoGP Rookie of the Year Award, but low-sided at the final corner. Due to finishing ahead of Abraham, Crutchlow earned the rookie award, also taking his best finish of the season. Abraham would get back on the Ducati, and finish the race in eighth.Pedrosa finished fifth after an early battle with teammate Dovizioso, followed by Jorge Lorenzo’s substitute on the Yamaha Factory Racing M1, Katsuyuki Nakasuga.American Superbike Champion Josh Hayes took sixth during his debut on MotoGP machinery. Hayes, 36, was riding the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha for Colin Edwards, who is recovering from injury sustained during the lap-two Sepang wreck that claimed Marco Simoncelli.Pramac Racing Ducati’s Loris Capirossi ended his 22-year GP career at Valencia with a ninth-place finish, followed by LCR Honda’s Toni Elias.The last two to finish were Mapfre Aspar Ducati’s Hector Barbera and Simoncelli’s teammate Hiroshi Aoyama.Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “All weekend the conditions have been atrocious as when it rained it wasn’t fully wet and when it was dry it wasn’t properly dry and the race was really difficult to deal with. It was different corner by corner and you didn’t know how hard to push into each corner.“Ben was looking really good and I didn’t think I’d get a chance to do anything, but we decided to take some risks on the last lap of the season and managed just to pip him on the line. Sorry to Ben, but I’m very happy to end the season like this.”And he ended the season well, finishing with a total of 350 points. Although he was forced to miss Valencia and the previous two rounds at Malaysia and Australia, 2010 MotoGP Champion Lorenzo still finished the championship in second. Due to taking the final podium position, Dovizioso took third in the championship. Pedrosa would end 2011 in fourth, with Spies taking fifth.2011 Valencia MotoGP Results:
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!