by Tracy Hagen
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo took his third win of the year at Catalunya on Sunday, round 5 of the 2012 MotoGP championship. Unlike the previous race where Lorenzo ran away from the start, this time the 2010 champion had to chase down Honda’s Dani Pedrosa twice over the course of the race: first after Pedrosa cannoned away from the second row into the lead at the start, and the second time when Lorenzo ran wide at a turn and had to drastically slow down to save himself from crashing.
Lorenzo’s margin of victory over Pedrosa in the race was 5.003 seconds and his margin in the championship over Honda’s Casey Stoner, who finished fourth, increased from 8 to 20 points.
The Monster Yamaha team bounced back from double crashes at Le Mans two weeks ago with Andrea Dovisioso finishing third and Cal Crutchlow finishing fifth after a race-long battle with world champion Stoner.
The riders qualified in a familiar order, with Stoner on pole position and joined by Lorenzo and Crutchlow, the Brit’s third time on the front row this year. When the lights went green Pedrosa leapt straight away from the second row to the front and held even with Stoner as they hurried into Turn 1. Stoner was the first to grab the brake lever and in a blink both factory Yamahas went around the Australian’s Honda.
By now the race had a definitely unfamiliar look with Pedrosa in the lead and Ben Spies pulling up alongside as the pair went through the first fast right-hand turn. Dovizioso passed Stoner at the first fast left-hand turn, demoting the enigmatic Australian to fifth place and right into the hands of Crutchlow. When Stoner overshot a left-turn at the end of one of the short straights on the second lap Crutchlow sailed ahead.
With just 1.2 seconds covering the top 6, Pedrosa pushed his braking to the limit at Turn 1 on lap 3, with his Honda bucking and weaving under deceleration. As the race progressed through a seemingly never ending set of right-hand turns, Ben Spies finally made his move on Pedrosa and took the lead. But by the next right-hand turn Spies hit the white line and disappeared into a brown dust cloud. He re-joined the race, unhurt physically yet needing an immediate turn of fortune.
Lorenzo inched up to Pedrosa over the following laps and were dead even on the front straight at the end of lap 6. Lorenzo flew through Turn 1 and away from Pedrosa. On this round of the circuit Stoner took back a position from Crutchlow.
Over the next four laps the tide turned towards Pedrosa’s favor. On lap 11 Pedrosa drafted Lorenzo on the hilly front straight. As the race was nearing the half-distance point the outcome was still much in doubt between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, with Dovizioso just a second behind in third.
However, Lorenzo made a rare error on lap 13, running wide at Turn 1. Pedrosa’s advantage was now a full second, a fact he must have been aware of due to his pit sign holder jumping up and down as if his pants were on fire. Dovizioso also made a small error during the lap and his race changed from a chance of winning to a chance of losing the podium to Stoner.
Lorenzo made up little ground on Pedrosa over the following three laps. But over laps 16 to 19 Lorenzo steadily pulled in Pedrosa. With just over five laps to go the two Spaniards were once again running alongside each other front of a huge Spanish crowd.
Lorenzo passed Pedrosa in the long left-hand turn at the end of the circuit on lap 20 to re-take the lead for the second time. The race looked like it would go down to the final lap, final corner, just as it had down in 2009 between then teammates Valentino Rossi and Lorenzo.
However, a repeat was not in the making. Lorenzo rode the blue Yamaha into the blue yonder, five seconds ahead of Pedrosa.
Next race: Silverstone, June 17.