Reigning world champion Casey Stoner fought off pre-race favourite Jorge Lorenzo to claim his second successive victory in the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca earlier today.
Factory Yamaha rider and world championship leader Lorenzo had threatened to runaway with a sixth win in the opening 10 races of the new 1000cc era when he held off intense early pressure from Repsol Honda duo Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
But using a new RC213V motor designed for smoother power delivery and mid-range torque, Aussie Stoner started his victory charge on lap 19 when he cut Lorenzo’s advantage to 0.291s.
He then stalked the Spaniard’s YZR-M1 before making his decisive attack for victory at the start of lap 22 in front of a crowd of nearly 53,000 sun drenched fans in California.
Stoner’s victory pass came as he crested the hill flat-out in sixth gear approaching Turn 1 in what was almost a replica of the pass he pulled on Lorenzo to win last year’s Laguna Seca clash.
Once in front the 26-year-old comfortably controlled the race and with Lorenzo unable to mount a late counter attack, Stoner won for the fourth time in 2012 and the 44th time in his Grand Prix career.
It was still a decent outcome for Lorenzo, who had started the 32-lap race with high hopes after he’d stormed to a fourth success pole at Laguna Seca.
With Pedrosa fading badly off the pace in the second half of the race, Lorenzo moved 23-points clear of his compatriot in the title hunt.
Stoner’s win fired some life back into his challenge after nightmare performances in Sachsenring and Mugello and his 37th MotoGP win moved him to within 32-points of Lorenzo with eight races remaining.
Pedrosa had a lonely third comfortably secured and he has now only finished off the podium once in the first 10 races.
Andrea Dovizioso came out on top of another race long duel with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Cal Crutchlow.
The British rider was tagged to the back of Dovizioso’s YZR-M1 from the moment the Italian snatched fifth at the first corner after he got off the line faster than Crutchlow.
But despite putting intense pressure on Dovizioso, Crutchlow was unable to find a way by and he had to settle for fifth.
Home favourite Nicky Hayden was a distant sixth on the factory Ducati but it was another disaster for team-mate Valentino Rossi.
The Italian was a massive 1.9s off the best pace in qualifying yesterday and he was having a lonely ride in eighth place when he crashed at high speed on the approach to the Corkscrew section on lap 30.
Rossi walked away unhurt but his GP12 was badly damaged after rolling through the gravel and slamming into a trackside air fence.
It was also another day to forget for luckless Ben Spies. The Texan had hobbled to his factory Yamaha on crutches after damaging his left heel in a fast qualifying crash yesterday afternoon.
The 2009 World Superbike champion was running in fourth position and he’d broken the challenge of Dovizioso and Crutchlow when he crashed out exiting the Corkscrew on lap 22.
British rider James Ellison was on course for a fifth successive top 15 finish on the Paul Bird Motorsport Aprilia ART machine when he fell heavily but uninjured on lap 20.
He was running in 15th and holding off fellow CRT riders Ivan Silva and Colin Edwards when he lost the front at Turn 3.