Casey Stoner ended the 800cc MotoGP era in Valencia yesterday just as he started it in 2007 – blasting past a factory Yamaha to take another impressive victory.
The awesome Aussie won the first race of the 800cc era five years ago in Qatar when he crushed Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha YZR-M1 on board Ducati’s rocketship Desmosedici GP7.
And he won the final race in a rain-hit Valencia race after a thrilling finale, the 26-year-old winning a drag race to the finish line to beat the factory Yamaha of American Ben Spies by just 0.015s.
Stoner had run away at the front in damp conditions to open up a commanding lead that seemed to comfortably secure him his 10th victory of a dominant campaign.
But when the rain started to fall heavily in the final laps, Spies quickly reeled him in.
Stoner started the final lap over 0.3s behind the 2009 World Superbike champion but rather than settle for a safe second, he pushed to try and move his victory tally into double figure for 2011.
Spies led out of the final corner but Stoner got fantastic drive and after pulling out of the slipstream just metres from the line, he snatched a brilliant last gasp victory.
Stoner, who had started from pole position for a record 12th time, said: "There’s been too many of these races where its been spitting with rain and I’ve been at the front of them when it starts to happen. It is not a nice feeling to be the first one to hit the weather and Valencia was no different. In the first part of the race I was more confident than the other riders and my pace was a fair bit higher. I was comfortable doing the pace and unless we had a big disaster I knew we should be able to keep that advantage.
"A disaster happened and it started to rain and I wasn’t willing to push. Everybody else wanted to take more risks or felt more comfortable in those conditions. Everyone caught me and I went into the corner before the back straight and went into neutral and locked the rear wheel up and went back into first. From there I just decided to follow Ben to see how much grip there was and he was riding really well and smooth and there didn’t seem to be anyway I could get close enough.
"Coming out of the last corner on the second to last lap I noticed I was quite a bit faster than him with a different line and I knew I could accelerate really hard out of there. I was using first gear to get a good punch out of that turn. I was also a little better at keeping the front wheel down and keeping it driving forward as hard as possible. I thought if I’m close enough going into that last turn we might be able to do something and the first half of the last lap Ben pulled a big advantage and I thought well let’s just get home.
"Then I thought there’s only half a lap to go of the last race of the season and I haven’t taken a risk all season. So I thought I’ll go and take one right now and it didn’t feel too good. I felt it might slip from underneath me but going into the last corner I let the brakes off, ran straight in as close as possible to Ben and then got the best drive I possibly could out of the last turn and I don’t think I could have done it much better. Fortunately I just got him at the line. I feel sorry for Ben because he rode a great race but leading 95 per cent of it, I think I deserved that win.”
See the November 9 issue of MCN for more exclusive news from the Valencia MotoGP round.