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As the MotoGP™ grid heads into the summer break, motogp.com takes a look an in-depth look at how the premier class has fared this season so far.
Qatar saw the new 1000cc machines take to the track competitively for the first ever time, and it was Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner who once again looked like he would rule with the kind of dominance that saw him snatch the crown last year. However, serious chatter issues and a strong bout of arm-pump for the Australian saw Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo ultimately take the win ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Stoner, prompting a surprising hug between the once bitter Spanish rivals after the race. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was however one of the main talking points of the opening race, having qualified on the front row and having taken fourth spot.
It was also the first time the new CRT bikes got a competitive run out. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, then seen by many as the experienced veteran tasked to spearhead the new class, finished as top CRT in 12th place. What was slightly disconcerting was a top speed deficit of over 40km/h between fastest Ducati of Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá and Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci.
Jerez beckoned three weeks later, and it was once again the "aliens" that dominated the day. Mixed weather conditions all weekend had threatened a flag to flag race, yet the track dried out sufficiently for the race to be staged as normal. Stoner showed no ill affects this time out as he romped to his first win of the season, with Lorenzo closely in tow. It was however Crutchlow who once again stole the show, as he kept Pedrosa honest all race, yet was not quite able to find the extra tenth for his first ever podium. In the CRT class it was a Spanish delight, as Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró took top honours in 12th, whilst Edwards’s Suter-BMW had appeared out of sorts all weekend.
With just a one week break the MotoGP™ grid made its way to Portugal to contest the Estoril track, where the podium line-up was Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa once more. Lorenzo again looked unable to find that extra something to pass the Australian, while an early error cost Pedrosa the chance to challenge the pair. The Tech 3 team, who had received much attention in the first three rounds thanks to its charging Brit, provided the bulk of the entertainment, as well as an anxious race for team manager Hervé Poncharal, with Crutchlow and teammate Andrea Dovizioso entwined in a race long battle for fourth. This time around it was the Italian that prevailed. And further back down the field Espargaró made it two out of two as he once again came in as top CRT in 12th. Edwards did not take part in the race as he suffered a broken left collarbone in qualifying, after being taken out by Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet
Not many people will remember a race wetter than Le Mans, or a more entertaining one. Before the race got underway however, came the shock announcement that Casey Stoner would be retiring at the end of the season, much to the surprise of many fans, riders and colleagues. Come race day however, the focus had returned solely to the track, as he skies had opened for the French round, with the circuit practically emerged in water throughout. At the start there was drama already as home favourite De Puniet dropped his bike on the starting grid with a launch control issue. At the front, Lorenzo had made his way into the lead in under a lap, and put in a rain master-class to take a dominant win. It was however Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi who stole the show, as he overcame a battle for third with the Tech 3 riders, to then hunt down old rival Stoner, who lay in second. In trademark Rossi fashion, he made his move on the final lap to take his best ever Ducati result in second, with the Australian finishing third. LCR Honda MotoGP’s German rookie Stefan Bradl also put in a tremendous performance to finish fifth behind Pedrosa in only his fourth MotoGP appearance. Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison rode a very controlled race and benefited from a few fallers to take the best CRT spot of the season at that point in 11th. Australian Chris Vermeulen, a once winner at the track with Suzuki in 2007, substituted for the still injured Edwards.
In Catalunya it was a battle of the Spaniards under warm and sunny skies, as Lorenzo and Pedrosa were neck and neck almost until the end. It was Lorenzo who took victory ahead of his compatriot, with Dovizioso ending Stoner’s long podium run, and getting the first satellite bike podium of the season. At the start of the race it had looked as if Yamaha’s Ben Spies’ rough start to the season had ended, as he led the opening stages. Yet a costly mistake saw him drop his bike, bringing yet further disappointment to himself and the team. The most local of the riders, Espargaró, made it three out of five as he once again entered park fermé as highest finishing CRT in 13th. Following the race, a one day test was held at the circuit, with a further test held at the Aragón circuit the following Wednesday.
Part 2 of the half season review to follow tomorrow.
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