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GP Week : Issue 148
R ivetting. No other word for the first race of the latest new era of motorbike racing. There was much to be established – would the new 1000s change the landscape? Had Yamaha really closed the gap on Honda? Would Rossi and the Ducati finally gel? Would the new ‘safety’ tyres last the distance? The biggest answer came from Jorge Lorenzo. The 2010 champion had been quietly confident in his Yamaha through testing, even as Casey Stoner took the top of the time sheets every time. When it came to the long run, it was justified. He started from pole, led briefly, then shadowed Stoner’s Repsol Honda until there were four laps to go – then pulled the pin to take a clear win by almost a second. There were three in the leading group, and defending champion Stoner had to accept third in the end, as team-mate Dani Pedrosa followed Lorenzo past with two laps to go. “What a race,” said Lorenzo. “In the middle I thought it was impossible. This win is because I never give up. Also because Casey lost a little bit of pace.” Pedrosa confirmed the Australian’s problems even before his own explanation. Dani had qualified only on row three, but his usual jack-rabbit start made up for it. “Then I was in third all the race trying not to give anything away ... then Casey had some problem. I think Jorge was smarter when he passed Casey earlier than me. The win was there for me.” Some problem? A worrying one for the champion: “To be honest, it started early on, before I took the lead. I felt my right arm tightening up, then started to get the problem with arm pump, I lost grip on the bars and brake pressure. I tried to smooth it out, ride less aggressively than usual, and I was able to keep the lead, so I was very happy with our pace. It was just myself and my right arm that couldn’t do the job: I felt like a backmarker getting in everyone’s way ...” The first three had drawn well clear in a somewhat stretched race. But there were battles and high interest all the way down to the new CRT bikes at the back. More than 15 seconds down, satellite Tech 3 Yamaha riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso were barely ever more than inches apart. Dovi led until lap 17 when the Englishman reversed the order, staying ahead to equal his career-best fourth by three-tenths. Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) earned mighty respect in his first MotoGP race. The Moto2 champion qualified an impressive ninth, but found himself in a lone sixth for much of the race and keeping the pace well. Only at the end did a battling group catch him. By the finish it was Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) sixth by inches from Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda), then Bradl, with Hector Barbera (Pramac Ducati) a couple of seconds down, after running wide on the final lap. Barbera played a role in Rossi’s dreadful afternoon, but it would have been bad anyway. He’d lost direction again in qualifying to place 12th and last prototype, and after battling through to 10th he’d run off after tangling with the Spaniard. He was two seconds adrift at the end, and still 10th. But not last prototype. That fell to a battered Ben Spies (Yamaha), victim of two heavy falls in practice and plainly in trouble from the start, later blaming the sudden onset of serious chatter that came out of the blue on the warm-up lap. He dropped back rapidly, and came within 1.2 seconds of the ignominy of being passed by a CRT bike – the Suter BMW of Colin Edwards surpassed all expectations to win the race-within-a-race from Randy de Puniet (ART) by 12 seconds. Monster Yamaha Tech3 riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow battle it out. Hector Barbera heads what turned out to be a hectic mid-field battle 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> QATAR