MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Casey Stoner dominates MotoGP race at Phillip Island, Jorge Lorenzo wins championship.

Casey Stoner

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Jorge Lorenzo became the 2012 MotoGP world champion at the penultimate round of the series this past weekend at Phillip Island in Australia. It is his second premier-class title.

At the start of the race, Lorenzo got away first, just as he has done in the last two events, but he was passed on Lap 2 by polesitter Casey Stoner and championship contender Dani Pedrosa. As the group entered Turn 4—the Honda Hairpin—Pedrosa crashed. "It was nothing strange," he said. "I just went wider on the corner. I had some chatter and lost the front. Maybe the tire was not warm enough, but it's like it is."

Pedrosa’s remark that he ran a bit wide and encountered chatter that cost him essential front grip suggests the active role riders play in controlling that bane of their existence: chatter. Here is the fast line, but over here is the chatter-free line. Here is how I would enter this turn if chatter were not a concern. But because it is a concern, I ride slightly differently. In machine setup during practice, it is often the case that what works against chatter may have undesired side effects, as well. Then, it is up to the rider to find a way.

Lorenzo needed only three points to overcome the maximum Pedrosa might earn by winning the final GP of the season at Valencia, Spain. He rode conservatively, finishing nine seconds behind winner Stoner and five seconds clear of the third-place finisher, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow.

Stoner led every practice session despite highsiding 20 minutes into qualifying. “I was on my out lap on a hard tire,” said the Repsol Honda rider, “and the thing just decided to flip me.”

Stoner adjusted himself, catlike, while in the air so as not to come down on his injured ankle. “I was very fortunate I didn’t come down on my foot,” he said. “If it was the other way, it would have been a different story.”

Stoner’s qualifying highside and Pedrosa’s Lap 2 lowside—both in the same turn, both in the first two minutes of operation—suggest a cold tire was involved. This emphasizes a central truth of racing in Phillip Island: Tire warmup is slow in cool conditions, and it’s easy to make a mistake.

After his highside, Stoner walked back to the pits, went out on his “B” bike and set pole.

QUALIFYING

1. Stoner 1:29.623

2. Lorenzo 1:30.140

3. Pedrosa 1:30.575

4. Crutchlow 1:30.763

5. Bradl 1:30.798

6. Dovizioso 1:31.200

7. Bautista 1:31.490

8. Rossi 1:31.661

9. de Puniet 1:31.667

10. Hayden 1:31.681

After qualifying, Lorenzo said, “Well, Casey is unbeatable this weekend if nothing strange happens, so for everybody, it’s our target to be as close as possible to him. But I’ll mainly try to win second place. We’ll try to keep calm and not make any mistakes.”

For the race, every rider chose the softer front option, and all but one, LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, chose the softer rear. Bridgestone’s Motorsport Tire Development Manager, Shinji Aoki, said, “The weather was better today but still quite cool, meaning that softer-compound slicks were preferred by almost every rider for the race. Morning warmup gave some riders the opportunity to test the harder slick options both front and rear, but it was still too cool for these options to work effectively.”

Speaking of the rapid weather and temperature changes that occur on Phillip Island, a TV commentator said, “You get all four seasons in a day in Melbourne, but on Phillip Island, you get all four in the space of an hour!”

Stoner made no mistakes in the race, sliding visibly in fast turns in a mysterious style others yearn to understand. He made his fastest-ever Phillip Island lap—a 1:28.665—back in 2008. He did that lap on an 800cc Ducati.

Crutchlow raced as part of the second group—Alvaro Bautista, Bradl and Andrea Dovizioso—until Lap 7. Then, evidently sure his tire was in prime condition, Crutchlow left the others behind at three-quarters of a second per lap. By Lap 12, the Brit was 3.5 seconds clear of them.

Jorge Lorenzo

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

“I am really happy with this result because it is a great way to finish this period of three races in a row,” said Crutchlow. “After the disappointment of running out of fuel while battling for the podium on the last lap in Japan and then crashing in Sepang, I really needed a positive result here, and that’s what we got.

“I was not going to push to follow Jorge because I think I would have been sacked if anything happened.”

Dovizioso, also on a Tech3 Yamaha, lacking the pace to break away, had to plan a Rossi-like, last-lap card trick. It was close: Dovizioso nipped Bautista by 0.129 of a second and Bradl by 0.164.

“Andrea was very smart on the final lap,” said team manager Herve Poncharal. “He showed his experience, cleverness and coolness to pass both of them. Fourth place is another incredibly strong result.”

“I knew that it was going to be a tough race because I didn’t have the same pace as Cal,” said Dovizioso. “All I could do was to try during the first laps to get in front of him or to put him under pressure, but it was not possible. He was riding very well, so I decided the best strategy was not to take too many risks. The battle with Bradl and Bautista was really exciting, and I had a lot of fun.”

Bradl had hoped that the weather might warm as it had done previously, possibly enabling him to break away at half-distance. But while men propose, tires dispose.

RACE RESULTS

1. Stoner

2. Lorenzo 9.223

3. Crutchlow 14.570

4. Dovizioso 23.303

5. Bautista 23.432

6. Bradl 23.467

7. Rossi 37.113

8. Hayden 38.387

9. Abraham 52.613

10. Espargaró 1:00.299

“What a day!” exclaimed Lorenzo. “I’m very happy. It was easier than I expected because Dani made a mistake in a corner and crashed. I wanted to keep with Casey, but he was so strong. Today, all I had to do was finish the race and I become world champion for the second time.

“ is the most talented rider I have ever seen. I have a lot of respect for Casey—pure talent, very quick. But he has decided to stay with his family and enjoy his life. And we will miss him.”

When Stoner was asked the inevitable question after his win, he said, “I’ve got no thoughts whatsoever at this time of ever even thinking of coming back.”

Of the win, his sixth in a row at this circuit, Stoner said, “It’s been a fantastic buildup. It was very important for me to win a race before I retire, and to do it at my home Grand Prix was just a fairytale.”

Stoner summed up the weekend by saying, “My biggest congratulations to Jorge. He’s ridden an almost perfect season finishing first or second where possible. I’m just disappointed not to be in the championship fight. But I made my own mistakes, and this is how things go. My condolences to Dani; I saw him crash out in front of me. But he had to push today to keep his championship hopes alive. It was a small mistake, easy to do in this corner, and I feel very sorry for him.”

Pedrosa has had his best-ever season, not only producing the lap times but also overcoming his previous preference to avoid hand-to-hand “fighting” for position. He has become calmer, more able and much more consistent. This is the third time Pedrosa has finished second in the MotoGP Championship (2007, 2010 and 2012).

A jubilant Lorenzo said, “I’m really, really happy with this championship because we know how difficult it is to fight with riders like Casey, like Dani, and to fight with a factory like Honda. It is very hard.

“You must be very consistent, never make a mistake, always try to finish the races and be very focused. So, today is a very special day.”

Consistent is the word for Lorenzo, a man who has learned to ride at the edge of his machine’s capability without making mistakes. He must know the signals his bike gives him in the greatest detail. Imagine walking confidently in total darkness right to the edge of a cliff, without faltering again and again. What information makes this possible?

One thing we know, it has been reliable.

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1. Lorenzo 350

2. Pedrosa 307

3. Stoner 238

4. Dovizioso 208

5. Bautista 165

Monster Energy girl

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

MotoGP air show #1

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

MotoGP air show #2

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Jorge Lorenzo

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Casey Stoner

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Jorge Lorenzo

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Jorge Lorenzo

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

MotoGP fans

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Umbrella girl

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Nicky Hayden

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Valentino Rossi

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Casey Stoner

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Casey Stoner

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Jorge Lorenzo

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

Jorge Lorenzo

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

MotoGP fans

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up

MotoGP fans

MotoGP Australian Grand Prix Post-Race Wrap-Up