Casey Stoner hauled himself right back into contention to retire from MotoGP at the end of 2012 as world champion after he triumphed in a controversial Dutch TT at Assen yesterday.
With Jorge Lorenzo taken out of the race by Alvaro Bautista’s awful braking mistake at the first corner, Stoner romped to his third win of the season to move level on points with his factory Yamaha rival.
The Australian shadowed Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa until he hit the front on lap 17 and the 26-year-old never looked in danger of surrendering the advantage.
The double MotoGP world champion said: “The start of the race wasn't as I planned. I wanted to get out in front and see what I could do but it didn't feel like I was going to have enough energy for the race. When Dani came past I was planning on getting through the first couple of laps but he was riding well, braking late and there was no way past for me. We were dropping off the group behind so I decided to stay behind Dani and save some energy. We had a strategy to save the tyres on the left side and we made sure we were gentle on them the whole race. Everything ended perfect. With six laps to go the opportunity arose to make the pass and pull a gap before the end because my energy was going down. Dani was struggling and we pulled a gap and held it to the end."
It wasn’t an easy race for Stoner by any means after a heavy practice crash on Friday morning left him battered and bruised, but he was grateful to have secured a precious victory to pounce on Lorenzo’s misfortune.
Stoner said he had not wanted to claw back the deficit in such circumstances but he said the pendulum had swung against him before this season.
He added: “I think luck has swung his way couple of times this season. In Qatar if I didn't have arm pump I had the pace over everybody and I was confident to win that race. In Le Mans I had fantastic pace but unfortunately it was wet and so things swung in his direction and he made big gap in a small time. In Barcelona I didn't ride well enough and didn't have the pace and he showed he was competitive. Things can look very, very different if results haven't gone the way they had. But I still had to go out and do the job and it felt very nice."
Team-mate Pedrosa’s winless streak though continues and it is now nine races since he last topped the podium in Japan last October.
The Spaniard blamed fatigue for failing to keep Stoner at bay as he notched his sixth podium in seven races.
He said: “I didn’t realise until maybe ten laps to go that I had used all my energy. I was so concentrated in riding that towards the end I couldn’t really change direction. The bike suddenly became very, very heavy. I believe Casey saw in my riding that I start to be a little bit lazy on the bike but maybe he saves a little more energy than me and tried to use it in the last laps. I tried to follow him but when he just passed me and in one change of direction I couldn’t really change the bike to the left into the two corners at the end of the lap. I almost ran out of the track and I made a couple of mistakes and lost a lot of ground.”