MOTOGP: Round 13 – Aragon, Spain – Sep 19

Ducati emerged victorious from an exciting inaugural MotoGP at the new Aragon circuit, as battles raged up and down the field.

Surprisingly, Dani Pedrosa failed to get his trademark flying start, seemed set for third but then had a scary moment with his rear wheel that forced him to lift off through the first corners and drop to fifth behind Nicky Hayden in 3rd and Ben Spies in 4th.

Up front, Jorge Lorenzo – wearing a Shoya Tomizawa tribute replica helmet – briefly looked set to enter the first corner in the lead but then Casey Stoner has swept round on the outside line and taken the top spot for his own. Lorenzo tried to come back on him a couple of corners later into turn 5, his Yahama’s neater and tighter lines briefly appearing to triumph over the Ducati’s wider, more flamboyant moves. But Stoner’s sweeping lines put him in the better position for the exit and Casey was quickly back past and in front, and while Jorge had a couple of little attempts through the next corners the matter was effectively settled.

While Stoner was starting to pull out a big lead over Lorenzo, further back Dani Pedrosa was back on song. His Honda was delivering superior straight line speed, which meant that his favourite hunting ground would prove to be the huge long backstraight between turns 15 and 16, passing Spies for fourth on lap 1, slipstreaming Hayden before taking third on lap 2, and then finally wresting second place from Lorenzo at exactly the same spot next time around.

Pedrosa still had a lot to do if he was going to chase down Stoner, and he gave it a real go over the next few laps, finally brining Stoner’s lead down to less than a second before midrace distance. But that was as far as he could push it: Pedrosa’s tyres were starting to wear, while Stoner had been advised of the danger and was responding by piling on the speed. It worked: Pedrosa backed off, Stoner’s lead was soon unassailable, and neither man made a mistake from there to the end of the race.

The real interest in the race was in a series of duels further back, starting with Jorge Lorenzo’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep Nicky Hayden behind him and hold on to third for those all-important championship points. For lap after lap, Nicky tried using the Ducati’s superior straight line speed together with its wide, expansive lines to challenge Lorenzo, who was controlled and tight into corners to block off all the lines of attack. It almost worked, Lorenzo still ahead on the final lap, but then Hayden decided he’d had enough. After scoring string of fourths earlier in the season but never making the podium, he was desperate not to be denied again and tried a near-straight line between turns 14 and 15 than ended up running wide and delivering an effective block pass on Lorenzo who had to check up in the exit onto the backstraight. Hayden was away to the finish line, and a furious Lorenzo finished off the podium for the first time all season. He was not happy.

The intensity of this battle was replicated just a couple of dozen yards back down the track, with Ben Spies and Andrea Dovizioso dicing over fifth place for much of the race. Dovizioso finally seemed to have pulled off a pass on the final corner of the penultimate only for Spies to out-brake him into turn 1, and a few seconds later the tangle ended up with Dovizioso running off and falling. Dovizioso was the only non-finisher other than Randy de Puniet, who crashed early on while tangling with Marco Melandri.

Among those having less than stellar days was Valentino Rossi, who never looked comfortable with the power of his Yamaha and who seemed to struggled with the heavy braking demands of this high speed circuit because of his ongoing shoulder injury. To see him making heavy weather of tangling with Marco Simoncelli over seventh place was certainly surprising, and quite possibly a concern for his new masters at Ducati who will be expecting great things from the Doctor in 2011.

Colin Edwards was another significantly off form, the choice of a soft front tyre apparently a disastrous error putting him well off the pace and at the back of the field amongst those who had made a similar miscalculation such as Hiroshi Aoyama. Up the road from him, old 250cc rivals Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera had an entertaining battle, Bautista the sole Suzuki driver this weekend with Loris Capirossi absent after needing surgery on his finger following his fall at Misano.

Ducati were thrilled by their double podium presence and first win of the 2010 season – and how shocking is that, that it should have taken so long to record a victory in 2010? Dani Pedrosa meanwhile can rest happy knowing he did all that was possible and that it’s cut Lorenzo’s championship lead by 7pts to 56pts – still a mountain to climb, but it’s at times like this that every little can help – both psychologically, and literally should the championship go down to the wire and be settled by a mistake or accident in the final remaining five races of the year.

Race result

Pos Rider            Team             Time
 1. Casey Stoner     Ducati           42m16.530s
 2. Dani Pedrosa     Honda             +  5.148s
 3. Nicky Hayden     Ducati            +  9.496s
 4. Jorge Lorenzo    Yamaha            +  9.580s
 5. Ben Spies        Tech 3 Yamaha     + 13.771s
 6. Valentino Rossi  Yamaha            + 27.330s
 7. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda     + 28.511s
 8. Alvaro Bautista  Suzuki            + 35.254s
 9. Marco Melandri   Gresini Honda     + 35.393s
10. Aleix Espargaro  Pramac Ducati     + 35.467s
11. Hector Barbera   Aspar Ducati      + 35.522s
12. Colin Edwards    Tech 3 Yamaha     + 45.360s
13. Hiroshi Aoyama   Interwetten Honda + 48.319s
14. Mika Kallio      Pramac Ducati     + 58.047s


Andrea Dovizioso  Honda      22 laps
Randy de Puniet   LCR Honda  15 laps

MotoGP championship

Pos Driver            Pts    Pos Constructor       Pts
1   Jorge Lorenzo     284    1   Yamaha            293
2   Daniel Pedrosa    228    2   Honda             265
3   Casey Stoner      155    3   Ducati            195
4   Valentino Rossi   140    4   Suzuki            72
5   Andrea Dovizioso  139
6   Ben Spies         131
7   Nicky Hayden      125
8   Randy de Puniet   81
9   Marco Melandri    74
10  Marco Simoncelli  74
11  Colin Edwards     70
12  Hector Barbera    66
13  Aleix Espargaro   50
14  Alvaro Bautista   49
15  Loris Capirossi   41
16  Mika Kallio       33
17  Hiroshi Aoyama    29
18  Alex de Angelis   11
19  Roger Lee Hayden  5
20  Kousuke Akiyoshi  4
21  Wataru Yoshikawa  1

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