In the final MotoGP race at the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa took victory in a dramatic race on Sunday that was marred by awkward conditions and crashes. Katsuyuki Nakasuga finished second and Casey Stoner completed the podium.
The race was declared wet by Race Direction despite a near dry line having formed, and only Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, his teammate Nakasuga, and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, chose the softer option slick tires, with all others on the hard wets.
However, in a twist unseen this season, Pedrosa, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista then decided to start from pit-lane after their sighting lap, with all of them switching to a bike with slick tires.
Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró led early, yet within three laps Lorenzo’s choice looked the better one as he started to lap significantly quicker than the rest. Pedrosa was carving his way through the pack, while many riders that were on wets started coming into the pits to switch to their bikes with slicks, among them Repsol Honda’s Stoner, Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá, and Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso.
On lap eight, Lorenzo was leading with Pedrosa in tow, while Bradl was running third with Nakasuga and Crutchlow behind. It was however not to be for the young German as he lost control of his bike in turn five and crashed out.
With 18 laps remaining Crutchlow’s efforts were rewarded by getting past Nakasuga, as Pedrosa had a moment and ran wide, putting him over three seconds back on Lorenzo.
Then there was huge drama as the World Champion was highsided off his bike as he was passing backmarkers, and was fortunate to walk away unhurt. This left Pedrosa in the lead.
On lap 19 the crashes continued as Barberá also took a tumble. Just as things looked to have settled down, Crutchlow was caught out by the conditions and dropped out of second place. This moved Bautista up into third, although Stoner was catching up quickly in fourth. And with three laps remaining Stoner was all over the rear wheel Bautista and caught him at the end of the lap down the home straight to move into third.
Pedrosa took the checkered flag to score his seventh win of the season. He crossed the finish line with gap of 37 seconds.
“It was very difficult at the start to make the decision with tires,” Pedrosa admitted. “I saw Jorge on slicks on the grid and I was pretty sure with my decision, but standing there the track was drying up very quickly and before the start I didn’t know if it would be better to forget about the pole and start from the pits or go out on wets and stop after four or five laps.
“In the last corner of the sighting lap, the instinct told me to get in immediately. I started from the pit lane and I managed to be fast from the beginning. I caught Jorge and then I made a mistake and lost three seconds again, but one lap later he also made a mistake and crashed out. From this point another race began for me. It was tough to maintain concentration with such conditions and a big advantage, so I planned the second half of the race like a practice session, taking the corners, the lines, lap by lap.”
Nakasuga, appearing in place of injured Ben Spies, moved from 16th to 11th on the first lap, and then jumping to fourth on lap four as riders came in to change rubber. The one-event wonder was looking safe for third on the podium when Crutchlow crashed out, leaving him to hold on and focus for the remaining eight laps to claim his incredible podium finish in second, over 20 seconds clear of Stoner.
The four-time All Japan Superbike Champion had double cause for celebration with his second son, Haruto, being born on Saturday evening. He is also the only Japanese rider to have stood on the podium this season in all three classes.
“I’m so very happy with this result; the conditions were very difficult today,” Nakasuga said. “It was a tough race but the team were amazing and I have to thank them for making the best choice for my set up for the race. It is like a dream or a miracle for me to be on the podium as the qualifying was not so good. I want to thank Yamaha for giving me this special opportunity to race here in MotoGP, it has been amazing.”
Stoner finishes the championship in third position, a place that he already secured with his win in Australia.
“Considering everything that happened today, we’re very happy with a podium,” Stoner said. “My motivation wasn’t particularly high today as I haven’t wanted to push in the wet and haven’t felt comfortable on the bike. I just didn’t want to take any risks of crashing and damaging my ankle again so I was very cautious and this isn’t how I like to ride. Even with the choice of going with the wets, not the slick tires at the beginning of the race, I took the easy option, which really isn’t me.
“When I saw the slicks had a big advantage, we came in and changed bikes and went back out and pushed as hard as we could, without taking unnecessary risks. In the end we were able to chase down Álvaro and take the last spot on the podium in our last race.”
The first non-podium finisher was Bautista, followed by his teammate Michele Pirro, Dovizioso, Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi.
Espargaró finished in 11th and secured himself the CRT title this season.
Amid the frantic happenings, Hayden, Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva, and Speed Master’s Roberto Rolfo crashed out of contention.
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez rode a phenomenal Moto2 race as he charged his way to victory from last on the grid ahead of Julián Simón and Nico Terol.
In a thrilling final Moto3 encounter in the wet Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent put in a stunning ride to take victory ahead of Sandro Cortese and Zulfahmi Khairuddin.