Jorge Lorenzo took a giant stride towards his first MotoGP world title in Laguna Seca after closest rival Dani Pedrosa crashed out of the lead in a sun-soaked American Grand Prix.
The Fiat Yamaha rider was able to cruise to his sixth win in nine races after Pedrosa’s hopes of registering back-to-back victories for the first time in his career ended in a pile of dust at turn five on lap 12.
The Repsol Honda rider had just started to come under intense pressure from fellow Spaniard Lorenzo, who had got a sluggish start after claiming his fifth consecutive pole position in qualifying.
Pedrosa had got his customary blistering start from the second row to claim the holeshot and by the end of lap four he’d opened up a lead of 0.826s with Casey Stoner leading the chase in second.
Stoner looked in ominous form as he quickly began to reel in Pedrosa, who had won the German MotoGP at the Sachsenring in fine style seven days ago.
The Aussie cut the deficit to just 0.484s at the end of lap five but his own hopes of adding to his 2007 Laguna Seca success were effectively ended a lap later when he ran wide to let Lorenzo through into second.
Stoner lost 0.9s with that mistake alone and he was never able to drag himself back in contention for the victory.
Pedrosa looked like capitalising as he stretched his advantage over Lorenzo to a healthy 1.104s on lap eight. But it was on lap nine when Lorenzo began to up his own pace and mount a serious threat.
He cut the gap to 0.865s on lap nine and as his confidence grew rapidly with his factory Yamaha YZR-M1, he dropped the deficit to 0.782s on lap ten.
Lorenzo was now heaping pressure on Pedrosa with the gap down to 0.620s on lap 11 and less than two minutes later, the 24-year-old’s hopes of reducing Lorenzo’s series lead ended in disaster.
Entering turn five, the front end of his factory RC212V suddenly washed out and Pedrosa was flying through the gravel trap.
He walked away unhurt but his title hopes suffered a crushing blow with Lorenzo’s 11th premier class victory moving Lorenzo a convincing 72-points clear in the overall rankings.
With Pedrosa out of the equation, double world 250GP champion Lorenzo cruised to victory to add Laguna Seca to his success in Indianapolis last August. He celebrated by dressing up as an astronaut at the Corkscrew.
Stoner was able to ease to an easy second place for his best result of the 2010 campaign with Valentino Rossi producing a magnificent ride to claim third.
The Italian was a massive 2.509s adrift of fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso shortly before the halfway stage as he was locked in an intense battle with American duo Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies for fourth.
The 31-year-old though, riding just 50 days after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg in Mugello, produced a heroic fightback.
By the end of lap 26, Rossi had guided his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 to Dovizioso’s back wheel and he pounced with a clinical overtake at the final corner on lap 27.
Dovizioso, who had claimed his first ever MotoGP front row yesterday, was unable to retaliate as Rossi claimed his first rostrum since the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Home favourite Nicky Hayden claimed his best result since Silverstone with a hard earned fifth.
It looked like he would have to settle for a top six, as he was unable to match Rossi’s impressive pace.
He’d actually lost fifth spot on lap 21 when Spies dived underneath him at turn five.
But the Texan, who was sitting in a menacing position behind Rossi, blew his podium hopes when he ran momentarily off track at the final corner on lap 25.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider finished sixth ahead of team-mate Colin Edwards, who had early got the better of an exciting mid-pack tussle with San Carlo Gresini Honda duo Marco Melandri and Marco Simoncelli.
Former world 250GP champion Simoncelli escaped injury when he crashed at turn five on lap 19 while holding ninth.
Alvaro Bautista crashed his factory Suzuki GSV-R out of 14th on lap three while Aleix Espargaro also tumbled out at turn five while he was looking to pull away from Pramac Ducati team-mate Mika Kallio.
1 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team Yamaha
2 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Team Ducati
3 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team Yamaha
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Repsol Honda Team Honda
5 Nicky HAYDEN USA Ducati Team Ducati
6 Ben SPIES USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
7 Colin EDWARDS USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
8 Marco MELANDRI ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda
9 Mika KALLIO FIN Pramac Racing Team Ducati
10 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki
11 Roger Lee HAYDEN USA LCR Honda MotoGP Honda
12 Alex DE ANGELIS RSM Interwetten Honda MotoGP Honda
41 Aleix ESPARGARO SPA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 154.7 4 Laps
58 Marco SIMONCELLI ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda 155.4 14 Laps
26 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 157.6 21 Laps
40 Hector BARBERA SPA Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati 147.3 29 Laps
19 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki 146.0 30 Laps