Casey Stoner claimed his second win in 7 days to move into the lead of the 2012 MotoGP world championship for the first time after holding off a determined charge from Jorge Lorenzo to win at the Estoril track in Portugal.
The Australian did just enough to keep his lead from the start, and was then able to stretch away rapidly over the opening laps. Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo found himself 1.4 seconds down after just three laps, but as his tyres began to warm he gradually closed the gap – breaking the lap record in the process – until he was right on Stoner’s tail with 16 laps still to go.
At that point it seemed the Spaniard would be a real victory threat, but Stoner managed to pick up his pace, build a gap and control it; to ultimately seal his second straight win. Lorenzo followed him home, just a couple of bike-lengths behind, with the second works Honda of Dani Pedrosa a similarly small margin back in third.
Pedrosa had taken the lead momentarily at the start, but a big wobble and a strong defensive move from Stoner allowed Stoner and Lorenzo to slip by on the run down to the second turn. From there the Spaniard never was too far away from the lead battle but was equally never able to assert himself as a serious threat.
Fourth place seems to be reserved for a Tech 3 Yamaha these days and today was no different. Andrea Dovizioso took the spoils following a race-long battle with team-mate Cal Crutchlow on the other privateer Yamaha.
The Briton had closely followed Dovizioso for most of the race, but ran wide four laps from the end he was never able to get back in touch and on his way to taking 5th place. After his qualifying heroics it’s safe to say that Crutchlow was a little disappointed with his performance.
Behind the Tech 3 bikes was Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista who was the leading privateer Honda rider in 6th. Valentino Rossi showed some improved form to finish 7th. He was also the leading Ducati for the first time this season. Rossi has been noticeably happier with the performance of his Ducati as they continue to work on finding a set-up that the Italian feels comfortable with. Both riders were originally part of the pack fighting for fourth in the early stages, but as the race drew on and the field separated they found themselves in increasingly comfortable positions. Amazingly this is only the second time in the last nine months that Rossi has finished inside the top eight.
There was no such joy for Rossi’s Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden, who came home 11th. Having been overshadowed by his team-mate all weekend this was Hayden’s worst performance of the year so far. Yamaha’s Ben Spies was another struggling on factory machinery. After being involved in the fight for pole; he ran as high as fourth but slipped back at a staggering rate and ended up prevailing in a battle with LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl for eighth.
Karel Abraham made it three retirements from three races on his privateer Ducati. The Czech Rider has had a torrid season so far despite flashes of pace. Aleix Espargaro once again was the best of the CRT bikes on his Aspar Aprilia in 12th. The Spaniard leading team-mate Randy De Puniet home by just under 3 seconds.
With Stoner now in the lead of the championship it will be interesting to see if Lorenzo can fight back at the next race at the Le Mans circuit in France. Either way it looks like a three horse race at the top of the world championship this season between Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa.