After tense Laguna finale
The Fiat Yamaha pairing of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo shared the MotoGP podium for the sixth time this season at the US Grand Prix today, finishing second and third at Laguna Seca.
Rossi closed down a gap of over three seconds to
eventual winner Dani Pedrosa but fell just short of making another final-corner pass, whilst a brave Lorenzo battled through the pain of his injured shoulder to rally after a poor start and finish a strong third.
Rossi dropped one place to third at the start but Lorenzo, starting from pole, slipped right back through the field to eighth after the first corner. Both riders quickly began to make up ground however, the Italian passing Casey Stoner into the corkscrew and the Spaniard overtaking three riders to cross the line in fifth first time around. It was a short lived stint in second for Rossi as Stoner passed him back into t urn one on the third lap while Pedrosa began to open up a big gap at the front of the field.
There was no change for several laps until Andrea Dovizioso crashed on lap seven, elevating Lorenzo to fourth and giving the youngster clear air in front just as he began to find his rhythm. On lap twelve Rossi made his decisive pass on Casey Stoner and re-took second place and he immediately set about trying to close a gap of nearly three seconds to Pedrosa.
Over the next few laps however it was Lorenzo who was the man on the move and the brave Mallorcan gradually began to move closer to Stoner until he was able to make a brilliant pass on the brakes into the final corner to move into third. With Rossi unable to make much headway into Pedrosa's lead at that point, another Fiat Yamaha showdown began to brew as lap-by-lap Lorenzo edged closer to his team-mate.
With four laps to go the 22-year-old saw his chance and tried to pass the World Champion at the final corner, but he suffered a big slide in the process and ran wide, letting Rossi back through and dropping back over a second. The drama wasn't over yet however as on the final lap Rossi suddenly found himself within striking distance of Pedrosa and a final-corner overtake looked to be on the cards, but in the end he was just a couple of tenths too far off and crossed the line 0.344 seconds adrift, with Lorenzo 1.926 seconds behind him.
“The first half of the race was quite difficult because we weren't at 100% today. I didn't expect Dani to be so fast but he was very strong and there wasn't much I could do to go with him!”, said Rossi. “The last ten laps were very exciting because Lorenzo was pushing me so hard that I had to really make another step and then Dani slowed down and suddenly he was right in front of me! I thought there was a chance to pass on the final corner but unfortunately I was just too far off and it was too much of a risk.
Second is good today because we were not in perfect shape here, we missed something in the setting and this is always a hard track anyway, so we have to be happy with these twenty points. We have extended the championship lead so it's a good result for us and we have shown that we are still strong this year even when things are not perfect. This consistency is the most important thing for the championship. Now I am happy that we have some time to rest because these have been a hard two weeks and the next two races are very important because we are all so close!”
“I always try to do my best and I think that is what I have done today, considering my physical condition. I am really proud and I think that this was one of my best races”, said Lorenzo. “My foot was okay but I had a lot of pain in my right shoulder, which meant I wasn't strong in my right hand and I had to over-compensate with my left; I am really tired now! I want to thank the Clinica Mobile because they made it possible for me to finish the race. After a while I started to forget about the pain a bit and I just wanted to do my best and I knew that it was possible to pass Valentino. Unfortunately I hit some bumps when I braked deep and my rear tyre moved a lot and I was lucky not to crash – maybe without this mistake, if I had been able to pass him, it would have been possible to win but anyway third is good in the circumstances an d we have taken good points. Now we have some time to recover; I am fit and strong so I hope that by Sachsenring I will be back to my best.”
Rossi extends his lead at the top of the championship to nine points over Lorenzo, who in turn stretches the gap from Stoner to seven points. There is a now a two week break before the MotoGP paddock returns to Europe for another double-header at the Sachsenring in Germany followed by Donington in the UK.