MotoGP 2012 Rider Review #2 – Casey Stoner & Dani Pedrosa
In third and second place are two of the quickest men in MotoGP, both on a Repsol Honda RC213V and both narrowly avoiding the Championship by unmitigating circumstances.
It was a closely fought season between the pair with this being the first ever season in MotoGP that Stoner was beaten by a teammate, but Pedrosa was aided by Stoner missing three races, however, Pedrosa was already 21 points clear at the time of Stoner’s injury.
The season’s aim for Honda was to beat the two Yamaha’s in the Championship, but that didn’t go to place in the first race at Qatar when it was Lorenzo that took pole position with Stoner two tenths behind, looking like a threat. Spies, fourth, was ahead of Pedrosa who was in seventh, and 1.2 seconds off the leaders pace. Off the line, Pedrosa got a lightning start from seventh and was up to second, getting ahead of Stoner, relegating him to third.
The pair continued their battle as with 20 laps remaining, Stoner got down the inside of Pedrosa and then Lorenzo a lap later. Making sure that he didn’t get too far away, Pedrosa passed Lorenzo and closed in, but the pair was passed by Lorenzo and they then battled for second and third, culminating with Pedrosa getting past and staying there with Stoner in third. In Jerez, the qualifying fortunes were reversed with Pedrosa taking second and Stoner down in fifth but not winning at Jerez before didn’t stop Stoner as he stormed through the field to take his first win of the season while Pedrosa got his second podium of the season in third.
This result was repeated in Estoril, another track were Stoner hadn’t won at but he took pole position there and went on to win it, leaving him top of the standings with Pedrosa, who finished third, up in third. In Le Mans, Stoner shocked the paddock by announcing that it would be his last season in MotoGP as he was retiring at the end of the season, but on a racing front it was a Honda one-two on the grid with Pedrosa leading by three tenths , but come race day it was Stoner who triumphed out of the pair finishing in third after an unexpected late battle with Valentino Rossi. Pedrosa didn’t capitalise on his pole and slumped to his first and only race off the podium this season. Still without a win all season, he could only take fifth in qualifying come Catalunya while Stoner was three tenths ahead of him and on pole. But Stoner had a poor start and dropped back to fifth and spent the remainder of the race looking at the back of Andrea Dovizioso’s overalls. At the front, Lorenzo led but on lap 11, Pedrosa got past and must have been sensing victory, but it wasn’t to be this race as back came Lorenzo to relegate Pedrosa into his finishing position of second. In Silverstone it was a rain affected qualifying meaning Stoner was third and Pedrosa fifth. Stoner was looking like he might have had a chance of a win, but Lorenzo was too strong on the day leaving him in second while Pedrosa took the final podium position.
The Championship standings saw Stoner 14 points clear of Pedrosa but 25 points off the Championship leader. It was all to change in Assen though as in turn one, Lorenzo was knocked off his bike and the two Honda boys had no trouble from anyone other than each other. It seemed that Pedrosa may just have had the pace on Stoner, but Stoner was just lurking behind and on lap 16, pounced on the top spot and didn’t look back, leaving him 19 points clear of Pedrosa and joint on points with Lorenzo. Could a farewell Championship be on the cards?
In Germany, a circuit where Pedrosa had won at in the last three seasons, it was Stoner that again took pole, but unlike in Assen, it was Pedrosa on the back of Stoner and he passed him on lap 18, another Honda 1-2 was on the cards until on the last lap, Stoner fell off, gifting the win Pedrosa and the World Championship position. It was even worse for Stoner in Mugello as he qualified fifth and finished in eighth, while Pedrosa got a fortunate pole as Lorenzo didn’t finish his final lap when he was going quicker, but came back to take the win leaving Pedrosa in second.
After winning in Laguna Seca last year, Stoner came back strong this year and took another win from Lorenzo leaving him nine points adrift of Pedrosa in the Championship. But Stoner’s Championship charge was about to come to a sudden end as in qualifying for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, he suffered a massive highside which resulted in a serious ankle injury. Unbeknown to him, he raced on and took fourth, but it was Pedrosa who took a comfortable win 10 seconds clear of Lorenzo, stating his Championship intent. The highside from Stoner left him out for the next three races where he would be replaced by Jonathan Rea for the latter two races, but Honda’s focus for the Championship was now solely on Pedrosa. It was a fantastic race from Pedrosa in Brno as he and Lorenzo had a last lap duel to decide the top stop on the podium with Pedrosa eventually coming out on top.
His Championship challenge was all but over in San Marino though, as the day just didn’t go right for him. An aborted start saw him discover a problem with a locked front brake, he had to start from the back and as he was making his way through, he was clipped by Barbera knocking him off and out of the race. This gave Lorenzo a 38 point gap atop of the standings and it was hardly losable. He took a home win in Aragon before following that up with wins in Motegi and Sepang, but the big news in Motegi was the return of Stoner but he finished an uncompetitive fifth there. In the soaked Sepang, he managed a return to the podium but it was Stoner who dominated in Philip Island, and Pedrosa’s Championship challenge was truly over after he pushed too hard too early and was out of the race. At the curtain call in Valencia, it wasn’t another on the line win from Stoner, but instead Pedrosa walked it, over half a minute ahead of second place Nakasuga while Stoner finished third in his final ever MotoGP race.
1. 2012 Australian Grand Prix
After an injury kept him out for three races, he had only been back for two and success was limited, but where better to prove you still have it than your home Grand Prix in front of thousands of adoring fans, and the track you have won at for the past five years? No pressure then. But Stoner came out charging, and delivered for his fans. He was competitive right from the word go, first in FP1 by nine tenths, FP2 by eight tenths, FP3 by a second, qualifying by half a second, and warm up practice by four tenths. Throughout the weekend he didn’t look beatable and it was only the traditional lightning start from Pedrosa that prevented him from leading every lap. Of the 27, he led 26 but was, unfortunately, a tenth shy of the lap record set by Nicky Hayden in 2008. He finished nine seconds ahead of Lorenzo and at no point looked to be on the limit of the bike. A sensational six for Stoner and thoroughly well deserved.
2. 2012 Spanish Grand Prix
At a track where you have never won at before, it must be frustrating having to go back every year knowing that you’re jinxed, but Stoner showed great resilience to go on, starting fifth, to race hard and take his first ever win at Jerez. Especially as he had two highly motivated and hard charging Spaniards ahead of him off the line, both looking to take a win in front of the home fans, but by nine tenths, it wasn’t to be for Lorenzo as he had to give best to Stoner, while his teammate, Pedrosa, was two seconds off the lead also giving best especially after having looked so strong after a second place grid position. A valiant effort from Stoner and a hard fought win.
3. 2012 Portuguese Grand Prix
In the final race of the season, Stoner complained about the four races in Spain and the one in Estoril making it five race in close proximity, but he wouldn’t have minded too much as he took a win in both of the first two of the Spain/Portugal races. It was another track he had never won at in MotoGP with his last Estoril was in 2005 on a 250cc bike, but he put all the misery of previous years behind him to take a first pole ever at Estoril and a first MotoGP win in a slightly more comfortable race, 1.4 clear of Lorenzo this time and 3.6 clear of Pedrosa. Despite the increased gap, it was just as hard fought as Stoner will know there is no such thing as an easy win in MotoGP.
This season was nearly the World Championship season for Pedrosa, but the only person he can blame is really himself after his fall in Phillip Island. There were many positives in his season though and here are his top three:
1. 2012 German Grand Prix
After winning here for the past three years, Pedrosa must have been getting used to seeing the chequered flag first here, but this time he was obstructed by Stoner on pole. The two Hondas were the class of the field and this was confirmed by his 15 second gap to Lorenzo behind in second. Pedrosa fought his way past Stoner on lap 18 and kept that position throughout, whether or not Stoner had a last lap lunge planned on Pedrosa we will never know as he fell on the last lap, gifting the position to Lorenzo and having his lead over Pedrosa vaporised. It was Pedrosa’s first win of the season and it would turn out to be the first of many.
2. 2012 Czech Republic Grand Prix
Had this been a successful Championship year, Pedrosa would have looked back on this as a turning point in the season as it was one of the first times he had a proper, wheel to wheel battle with Lorenzo. It all came down to the last lap and the two couldn’t have been closer. With the gap at two tenths entering the last lap, the pair entered an almighty battle for the lead with constant position changes at almost every corner. It came down to the last one and it was Pedrosa who managed to take the win by a tenth from Lorenzo. A big result for a little guy.
3. 2012 Valencian Grand Prix
It’s never easy to predict the conditions and it was Pedrosa who did it second best come the moment. He chose to pit at the end of the reconnaissance lap for dry tyres but Lorenzo had chosen to start on them. Pedrosa’s decision paid off handsomely in the end as he ended up finding himself fighting with Lorenzo for first and it was only after the highside from Lorenzo did he inherit the lead. But once he did take the lead, he just pulled away from anyone who was in second, whether it was Crutchlow or Nakasuga, he was never challenged despite the tricky conditions, but he ended up finishing 37 seconds clear of second placed man Nakasuga. A perfect way to end the season.
It was a season of highs and lows for the retiring Dad Stoner, he has no ride for next season due to his retirement meaning no targets apart from enjoying himself and hopefully being competitive in whatever form of motorsport he may pursue next, or just to keep fishing.
Win the World Championship. This season has been a reminder to us all of the talent that Pedrosa has, and nobody would want to see him go down in the history books as the Stirling Moss of MotoGP; the best man to never win a Championship. If the bike is competitive next season, he has every chance to win it, especially as a challenge from his rookie teammate will more than likely formulate at the latter stages of the season. He has the form, the talent and skill to take a World Championship next year, but can he deliver in what will be a hugely competitive season at the front.
Finish on the podium in every Grand Prix he finishes. It won’t be as easy to do that next season but he managed all but one race this season. With the two Hondas and the Yamaha of Lorenzo being the class of the field, it was very rare that an outside intervention came and halted the status quo, so a podium finish was almost expected for every Grand Prix. Only in Le Mans did he miss out when a resurgent Rossi showed his wet weather prowess and shoved him off the podium, but even still he was only in fourth due to the two Tech 3 riders’ falls. But next season, he can guarantee both Yamaha’s to be competitive and once his teammate gets up to speed, he could be in for a surprise as Marquez has proved in Moto2 that he is very quick if also aggressive as well. It’s all to see but if he can do this, he will be in a good position for a Championship.
Casey Stoner- 9/10
It would surely have been another Championship for him if he hadn’t had had that injury, many expert pundits seem to think so but regardless, he’ll be greatly missed.
Steve Parrish says, “Fastest bloke on a bike I have ever seen, missing him already.”
Kevin Schwantz says, “Consistent. Indy mishap stopped him from winning the championship. Great champion.”
Dani Pedrosa- 9½/10
Minor mistakes cost him the Championship, but many find it hard to look past him for next season.
Steve Parrish says, “Most improved rider in 2012, a real contender, my tip for 2013.”
Kevin Schwantz, “Would have been Champion if it weren’t for a couple mistakes. By far the most dominant rider, especially the second half of the season.”
By Daniel Takyi - MotoGP correspondent for RTR Sports Marketing In the pictures: Casey Stoner and Daniel Pedrosa Pictures from the web