by Tracy Hagen
Casey Stoner made MotoGP racing look easy today with a comfortable victory at the Czech Grand Prix. It was Stoner’s sixth victory of the year and it increased his lead in the world championship from 20 to 32 points over the defending champion Jorge Lorenzo.
In the post-race televised interviews Stoner said that it was not as easy as it looked, as he never found the right set-up for his Repsol Honda in practice and qualifying, and his team made a gamble for the race. The set-up still was not right, but Stoner adapted to it and pushed ahead.
Stoner’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, was the odds-on favorite to win by dominating the dry practice sessions and earning pole position. But on the third lap, right after he passed Lorenzo to take the lead, the front wheel slipped away on Pedrosa’s Honda, causing the race win to slip through Pedrosa’s hands.
The three-way battle in qualifying between Pedrosa, Lorenzo, and Stoner for pole position did not materialize into a three-way battle in the race, as Yamaha’s Lorenzo opted for a soft front tire for the race. Lorenzo’s contrarian strategy worked for the first two laps but not for the remaining twenty laps, and he finished off the podium in fourth.
With Pedrosa and Lorenzo out of the picture, Andrea Dovisioso and Marco Simoncelli made good use of their factory Hondas to finish second and third, respectively. Simoncelli came right up on Dovisioso’s rear tire several times, but the highly-amped Italian did not make a pass on his rival.
Just behind Lorenzo at the finish was his teammate, Ben Spies. The Texan was unable to challenge the factory Hondas today, again. Reportedly, Spies has a pinched nerve that causes him to lose feeling in his left arm after a few laps.
After Spies came the factory Ducatis of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Rossi was not too far behind Spies for most of the race, while Hayden trailed way behind. Rossi credited new handlebars as the reason why the Ducati is a little closer to the factory Hondas and Yamahas.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha) chased Hayden for most of the race but never caught the Ducati. Meanwhile, Edwards was chased by Simoncelli’s teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama.
After another interval came another trio of riders, Hector Barbera (Ducati), Toni Elias (Honda), and Randy De Puniet (Ducati). Loris Capirossi was the last rider to take the checkered flag, all alone in last place.
The four non-finishers were all desperate for a good race. Besides Pedrosa, who needed a win to have any hope to catch Stoner in the points chase, the other non-finishers included Alvaro Bautista, Cal Crutchlow, and Karel Abraham. Alvaro Bautista crashed out while being oh-so close to Valentino Rossi, and beating the factory Ducatis, especially Rossi’s, is a source of energy for the Suzuki squad. Cal Crutchlow’s race started off good enough, but Crutchlow crashed low while riding behind teammate Edwards. If Crutchlow doesn’t find a way to stop low-siding his Yamaha his MotoGP career will be short. Abraham, son of the owner of the Brno race circuit, had an early off-track excursion. Later Abraham’s Ducati stopped after white clouds of smoke erupted from the exhaust pipes.
Next race: Indianapolis, August 28.