Casey Stoner victorious at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca - Racing

Dramatic Late-Race Pass Wins Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.

Stoner wheelies to victory

Stoner wheelies to victory

Casey Stoner showed exceptional patience on Sunday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Second-quickest in qualifying, the 25-year-old Repsol Honda rider waited until the closing laps of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix before driving hard out of Turn 11 and up the short front straightaway to pull alongside race leader Jorge Lorenzo as they crested Turn 1—the fastest section of the rolling, 2.238-mile racetrack. Stoner completed the pass on the reigning world champion going into Turn 2 and then took command of the race. Margin of victory was 5.6 seconds.

I asked Stoner if blind, fast Turn 1 was an ideal place to pass Lorenzo. “Yeah, it’s a scary corner,” the Australian admitted. “But I don’t find it as scary as other people. I’ve never had a ‘moment’ there. It’s not a corner where you’re on the limit. I’ve always felt pretty confident going over there, and that’s why I’ve had the top speed all weekend.”

On that particular lap, Stoner was clocked at 262.7 kph—the equivalent of 163.2 mph. “I’m the only one who holds it flat with a longer sixth gear,” he added. “It feels comfortable to me. I feel like Turn 2 is Turn 1, you know? Turn 1 for me is just a kink.”

In the process of catching, passing and leaving Lorenzo, Stoner ripped off three consecutive laps at 1:21.8, impressively just .6 seconds slower than his qualifying time. “I wasn’t pushing at all,” he said. “One of them would have been faster, but I came out of the last corner, ran onto the grass and lost a bit of time. The next two were just keeping my lines, keeping my markers, not taking any risks.”

After struggling earlier in the weekend with the setup of his Honda, Stoner said his RC212V’s handling had actually improved as the fuel load dropped. “We still had more in the bank,” he said. “After I saw a big gap, I said, ‘Okay, let’s keep up the pace but don’t push it any harder.’ And then, it just grew again, grew again. So, I just left it at that. The bike was working well, and we could have been quicker; that wasn’t necessary.”

Lorenzo had expected the challenge to come from Stoner's Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, the race winner one week earlier at the Sachsenring in Germany. "To be honest, after qualifying, I saw Dani stronger than Casey," said Lorenzo. Pedrosa was quick; he ran second most of the afternoon and finished third. Factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies was the highest-placing American in fourth.

Stoner's pass was closer than Lorenzo would have preferred. "When Casey overtook me, he closed the 'door' quite a bit," he said. "I was in sixth gear, and we were so close. Also, with the wind, the bike moves a lot. I felt very scared, you know? If we were to crash there…

“I said to Casey, ‘This movement was very scary for me.’ He thought he was quite far . I don’t give so much importance because Casey is a ‘fair-play’ rider. So, okay. He was very brave but, obviously, there is some advantage of the Honda.”

Lorenzo’s second-place finish provided insight into his desire to earn a second consecutive top-class world title. The Spaniard suffered a horrific highside crash on Saturday after performing a practice start. On Sunday, he was slow to get off his Yamaha and walk to the podium after the race. Alpinestars, the Italian company that manufactures Lorenzo’s airbag-equipped leather suit, said the crash registered a massive, 25_g_ impact.

“This is a lot, I think,” Lorenzo said. “When I was flying, I didn’t have pain. But I was thinking, ‘When I hit the ground, I will have a lot of pain.’ Immediately after the crash, Lorenzo briefly thought he’d been paralyzed. “For one second, yes,” he said. “It is hard to have this conversation. Yes, for half a second or one second, I thought this.”

I asked if he had trouble just getting out of bed that morning. “Yes, it was quite difficult,” he said. “Luckily, I have a masseuse. He makes a very good job. But even after that, I was in pain. I was hurting.

“I have pain in my back and my right leg—the injured parts of the crash. I also have so much pain on the arms. I use so much force on my legs to move around, so I use more force on the arms to change direction and go into the corners.

“Before Casey overtook me, I really, really tired, but I was leading, so I say, ‘one more lap, one more lap.’ But when I see that Casey has something more today, I just gave up. I thought about the championship. I felt that second position was the best place we could manage for today.”

With eight races remaining in the season, Stoner has a 20-point advantage over Lorenzo in the championship chase. After a three-week break, the series moves to Brno in the Czech Republic. That race will be followed by the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, August 26-28.