MOTOGP: Round 12 – Misano, San Marino – Sep 5

With the benefit of pole position and a clearly superior bike, Dani Pedrosa barely needed one of his trademark flying starts to take the lead and check out at San Marino, never to be threatened for the entire race.

His main rival and current runaway championship leader Jorge Lorenzo seemed content to fight off Casey Stoner’s initial challenge for second and then settled into the runners-up position, slowly but surely eking out a comfortable gap over the rest of the field during the opening laps.

In fourth place, Valentino Rossi struggled to getaway at the start and was responsible for bunching up the rest of the field into the first turn. The traffic jam badly affected Ben Spies, who was shuffled back some six spots before stabilising the situation; and it may also have contributed to Nicky Hayden running wide out of turn 2 and collecting Loris Capirossi. Hayden was able to remount and limp round for a few more laps before retiring with damage to the gear lever, but Loris had injured his hand in the fall and headed for medical attention: a bad 200th MotoGP outing for Loris not unlike the 300th outing for Rubens Barrichello a week previously in Formula 1, and exactly the same early exit for Nicky as he’d experienced here in 2009.

With Pedrosa and Lorenzo locked into first and second, the main focus in the opening laps was on third place. Initially Casey looked to have a firm grip, but by lap 9 Rossi had wiped out the Ducati’s lead, and a move down the inside of a fast left hander on lap 10 seemed to catch both Stoner and Rossi by surprise, Rossi running wide allowing Stoner to retain the position. No such problems for Vale the next lap around, with a more considered move easily allowing him to claim the last podium position. Things went from bad to worse for Stoner next lap around, as his pace deteriorated fast and left him easy pickings for Andrea Dovizioso.

By this point, the leaders were so strung out that there were no further battles left – even Stoner, very much off the pace in the latter half of the race, had more than enough of a gap over the rest of the riders to bring it home safely in fourth place. Behind him, there was much entertainment to be had from Ben Spies’ fightback from his dreadful start, managing to reclaim fifth place by the chequered flag; and there were spirited fights down the field involving Marco Malandri, Randy de Puniet, Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera in particular. Mika Kallio struggled from early on and finally parked up in pit lane and stalked off after 11 laps.

As the race ended, the riders celebrated on their cool-down lap – Pedrosa ecstatic about his first ever MotoGP back-to-back victories – and the crowd surged onto the track as is the tradition. But there was horrible news awaiting everyone as they returned to the pit lane, which would overshadow the race and the result.

In the earlier Moto 2 race there had been a devastatingly serious accident triggered when Japanese rider Shoya Tomizawa crashed right in front of Scott Redding and Alex de Angelis on lap 12; they had no where to go but plough right into the fallen rider and bike in the middle of the track and there was carnage for all concerned. De Angelis was able to walk away, clearly shaken, while Redding was left writhing in pain in the run-off area and needed to be stretchered away: he was later released from the medical centre with stitches but miraculously no broken bones.

Clearly the worst injured of all was Tomizawa, obviously unconscious from the moment of impact and as he was collected by the marshalls. Initial word was that no one had suffered life-threatening injuries, but then further reports suggested Tomizawa was in a coma as he was airlifted to hospital in Riccione; and midway through the MotoGP race it was confirmed that he had died. He was just 19.

The MotoGP riders were told as they returned to pit lane, and a very muted podium ceremony went ahead with the flags at half mast, no champagne, and a moment’s silence. Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Rossi struggled to speak to post-race reporters, cutting short talk of the race in order to pay tribute to Tomizawa, all three of them looking visibly shaken by the news. It comes just a week after 13-year-old Peter Lenz fell on the warm-up lap of a MD250H support race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was also hit by another bike and subsequently died of his injuries; Lenz had been something of a protégé of Colin Edwards, who later pulled out of the MotoGP race partly as a result of Lenz’ death.

“I think everybody today is sad,” Pedrosa said. “We feel a big hole here [in our hearts] and we are all empty.” Recalling Lenz’ accident at Indianapolis, he added: “It’s two riders in one week, so it’s not a good feeling. I hope we don’t have any more [fatalities] for the rest of our lives and we can still enjoy this sport and keep on going.”

It’s a tragic and difficult day for everyone who loves and is involved in motorsport, whether drivers and riders, teams, or fans and spectators. It’s a reminder that for all the safety measures and improvements in motor racing, it remains still at heart a dangerous and potentially deadly sport, and it seems very poor consolation that Shoya Tomizawa died doing something that he loved so much.

Race result

Pos. Rider             Team                      Time/Gap
1.   Dani Pedrosa      Repsol Honda Team         44:22.059
2.   Jorge Lorenzo     Fiat Yamaha Team          +   1.900
3.   Valentino Rossi   Fiat Yamaha Team          +   3.183
4.   Andrea Dovizioso  Repsol Honda Team         +   6.454
5.   Casey Stoner      Ducati Team               +  18.479
6.   Ben Spies         Monster Yamaha Tech 3     +  28.385
7.   Colin Edwards     Monster Yamaha Tech 3     +  34.934
8.   Alvaro Bautista   Rizla Suzuki MotoGP       +  38.157
9.   Hector Barbera    Paginas Amarillas Aspar   +  40.943
10.  Marco Melandri    San Carlo Honda Gresini   +  42.377
11.  Aleix Espargaro   Pramac Racing Team        +  45.906
12.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Interwetten Honda MotoGP  +  46.394
13.  Randy De Puniet   LCR Honda MotoGP          +  50.481
14.  Marco Simoncelli  San Carlo Honda Gresini   +1:23.143

Not Classified

    Mika Kallio       Pramac Racing Team        11 Laps
    Nicky Hayden      Ducati                    25 Laps
    Loris Capirossi   Rizla Suzuki MotoGP        0 Lap

MotoGP championship standings

Pos Rider             Pts   Constructors   
1.  Jorge Lorenzo     271   Pos Constructor            Pts
2.  Dani Pedrosa      208   1.  Yamaha                 280
3.  Andrea Dovizioso  139   2.  Honda                  245
4.  Valentino Rossi   130   3.  Ducati                 170
5.  Casey Stoner      130   4.  Suzuki                 64
6.  Ben Spies         120   
7.  Nicky Hayden      109   
8.  Randy De Puniet   81    Teams
9.  Marco Melandri    67    Pos Team                   Pts
10. Colin Edwards     66    1  Fiat Yamaha Team        402 
11. Marco Simoncelli  65    2  Repsol Honda Team       347 
12. Hector Barbera    61    3  Ducati Team             239 
13. Aleix Espargaro   44    4  Monster Yamaha Tech 3   186 
14. Alvaro Bautista   41    5  San Carlo Honda Gresini 132 
15. Loris Capirossi   41    6  LCR Honda Motogp        86 
16. Mika Kallio       31    7  Rizla Suzuki Motogp     82 
17. Hiroshi Aoyama    26    8  Pramac Racing Team      75 
18. Alex De Angelis   11    9  Paginas Amarillas Aspar 61 
19. Roger Lee Hayden  5     10 Interwetten Honda Moto  41 
20. Kousuke Akiyoshi  4      
21. Wataru Yoshikawa  1      
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