Monday, September 6


By Michael Esdaile
REPSOL Honda’s Dani Pedrosa has taken 14 points out of Jorge Lorenzo’s MotoGP World Championship lead following back-to-back wins at Indianapolis and Misano the past two Sundays.

The Misano win marked the first time Pedrosa has won successive MotoGP races and, perhaps as a pointer to the future, it was the first time a Honda has won at Misano since the start of the 800cc era. Not only that, in qualifying fastest, Pedrosa was also the first Honda man to start from pole at Misano in the 800cc era.

The firsts for Pedrosa actually started a week earlier when he won the race at Indianapolis – the first time he had won more than two races in a single season in the top class.

At Indianapolis, the Spaniard was trailed over the finish line by pole-sitter Ben Spies, the 2009 Superbike World Champion beating both the factory Yamahas on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1.

Spies’ Indy pole was the first for the MotoGP rookie and he made good use of it, jumping into the lead and staying out front for the first six laps while the usual protagonists jockeyed for position behind him.

Ducati’s Casey Stoner muffed the start and had to work his way up from ninth, passing San Carlos Gressini team-mates Marco Simoncelli and Marco Melandri on successive laps before closing on seven times MotoGP champ Valentiono Rossi. By the time he got close to Rossi, the wily Italian had put Ducati’s Nicky Hayden between himself and the Australian.

Hayden had been third at the end of the first lap after a brilliant start from the front row (he had qualified third fastest) but after a characteristic Ducati front-end tuck which saw the American almost crash, he rode to finish, drifting back as Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Rossi and finally Stoner gave him the go-by.

In his enthusiasm to pass Rossi as well, Stoner succumbed to the dreaded Ducati front-end tuck, sailing off onto the grass and unable to rejoin when he found one of the handlebars was broken.

By then, Pedrosa had used the revised Honda’s superior acceleration to get a huge drive off a corner and whistle past Spies to take the lead on the seventh of 28 laps.

To his great credit, Spies stuck to his task, running in a lonely second from there to the chequered flag with Lorenzo unable to bridge the gap. Rossi was fourth, also unable to make any inroads on the riders in front of him, finishing 12.6 seconds from Pedrosa while Andrea Dovizioso was fifth ahead of a detuned Nicky Hayden who struggled home sixth, a massive 35 seconds down on former Honda team-mate Pedrosa.

The bumpy nature of the Indianapolis in-field and the tarmac’s relative lack of grip drew criticism from many quarters, but at least the Indianapolis people knew the difference between the Spanish and Italian national anthems, unlike the Laguna Seca officials who greeted Spanish winner Lorenzo with the Italian anthem when he won there in late July.

To underscore the track’s deterioration, Pedrosa’s race time was 18 seconds slower than Lorenzo’s 2009 race record, while Lorenzo himself was 24.8 seconds slower than his previous best –almost a second per lap.

Full Indianapolis results here:

A week later Pedrosa was immediately on the pace at Misano, the new chassis HRC had supplied prior to Indy clearly a step forward. Fastest on Friday, Pedrosa had to give way to Lorenzo on Saturday morning, the Fiat Yamaha man topping the time sheets with a best of 1m 34.627s. Stoner was third, but unhappy with the handling of his Ducati, and switching back to the earlier Ohlins front suspension in his effort to find some front-end feel.

In a sizzling qualifying session, Pedrosa snatched pole right at the end with a 1m 33.948s effort, the only man to break the 1:34 mark. Rounding out the front row were Lorenzo and Stoner, the latter crashing from –you guessed it, a front-end lose – before grabbing his second bike and besting Rossi with a 1m 34.397s effort.

Once again, the pole record set by Stoner in 2008 –1m 33.378s – remained unbeaten. But it must be remembered that 2008 was the last year of open tyre competition in MotoGP. Since then, everyone has been on control tyres.

On Sunday, Pedrosa made good use of his pole position, streaking into the lead and never looking like being challenged as he stretched inexorably away from Lorenzo, Stoner and Rossi.

Ducati’s American hopes took a dive on the opening lap when Nicky Hayden and Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi collided and crashed. Capirossi trudged back to the pit but Hayden got back his Ducati going, rejoined the race, did three laps then called it a day.

Stoner’s decision to move to Honda in 2011 seems well and truly vindicated by Pedrosa’s form on the re-worked RC212V as the Spaniard lopped 0.406 of a second off Rossi’s year-old lap record as he motored away.

Stoner tried to stay with Lorenz, stuggling with a Ducati that was squatting badly at the rear on corner exits and looked unstable as the Australian braked deep into the corners.

Rossi seized on this, passing the Aussie on the eleventh lap. The two briefly traded places, then Rossi pulled away to leave Stoner under attack from Dovizioso on the second Repsol Honda. Eventually Stoner decided to settle for fifth place points rather than crash, and Dovizioso was past.

The Italian Honda man then closed on Rossi, but although he tailed the Fiat Yamaha looking for a way past, he found no opening.

So, in the end, Pedrosa was able to ease the pace – he had the lead out to six seconds at one point – and still win comfortably from Lorenzo, with Rossi getting onto the podium in third, much to the delight of his rapid yellow-shirted fans, who almost knocked him off his bike on the cool down lap. Track marshals had to get Rossi onto a service track to get him away from the mob and deliver him to the parc fermé.

So, with six rounds to go, the MotoGP Championship has been sparked back into life by Pedrosa on the rejuvenated Honda, which, it must be said, finally looks to be a serious force.

For full Misano results, click on: