Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner rediscovered his winning touch in stunning fashion at Laguna Seca yesterday to claim his fifth win of 2011.
Stoner bounced back from a difficult practice and qualifying to ease to a relatively comfortable victory after he’d been locked in a tense battle with title rival Jorge Lorenzo for the opening 26 laps of Sunday’s US Grand Prix.
The Australian pounced with a brave and audacious move at the first corner on lap 27. And with Lorenzo struggling to maintain his pace with rear grip issues and the pain from injuries he picked up in a huge practice crash, Stoner won by over 5.6s.
His first win since dominating a rain-lashed British Grand Prix at Silverstone in mid-June saw him open up a 20-point lead on factory Yamaha rival Lorenzo heading into the short summer break and Stoner said: “All weekend we hadn't really been on the pace of Dani (Pedrosa) and Jorge.
"They were consistently one or two tenths quicker a lap and we just weren't comfortable running that pace. The bike didn't feel good to consistently run that pace. We worked pretty hard on Saturday night and we came up with two completely different bikes for the Warm-up.
"Both of them fortunately felt better than what we had all weekend. We were a little bit more confident going into the race knowing that we had a bike reasonably good enough to run with these guys. We felt a little bit more calm, a little bit more patient and it didn't' really matter what happened at the start, just as long as we got the tyres warmed up and we didn't make any silly mistakes.
"The bike didn't feel good with a full tank of fuel, so we had to wait for it to start coming better and then once it started coming better we were able to really feel confident.
"We knew that Jorge and Dani weren't able to go away. And we just had to really be patient and wait for them to either make mistakes or start to struggle with rear grip.”
Explaining how he’d pulled off his overtake on Lorenzo at Turn One that caught the reigning world champion cold, Stoner said: “I came out of the last corner and got a reasonably good exit and Jorge, I think he had a small wheelie and had to short shift and we had some really good drive and we were able to carry the momentum.
"We were never able to get that close to him at that point until he made that small mistake, so we were able to just carry the momentum around the outside and on the brakes we were very strong and very confident.”
With his lead increased to 20-points, Stoner said he still wouldn’t let the prospect of the championship distract him in the coming weeks.
He added: “At this point we're not winning a world championship now. I think if we have a chance to win a world championship it's towards the end of the season or the last race. So as long as I stay close enough for that and we can keep these good results up, then I'm going to be happy.
"Jorge's going to be strong every race and I think now Dani's going to be consistently up there beating us and taking points away from us, so it's definitely going to be a tough end to the season.”
To hear more from Stoner on his amazing overtake on Lorenzo and for the trackside view of American legend Kevin Schwantz, see the July 27 issue of MCN.