US MotoGP: Casey Stoner equals Mike Hailwood’s victory tally

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Casey Stoner equalled British legend Mike Hailwood’s tally of 37 MotoGP victories after he stormed to a second successive victory in the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca yesterday.

The Australian swept to his fourth win of the campaign after passing title rival Jorge Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha on the fast uphill approach to the first corner on lap 22.

Stoner’s decision to run the soft compound Bridgestone rear tyre paid off, despite fears that he would struggle to match Lorenzo’s pace in the second half of the 32-lap race.

The Spaniard chose the harder option thinking he’d have greater endurance in the latter stages. But Stoner’s soft rear selection didn’t significantly lose performance and he was able to comfortably fend off Lorenzo for the final 10 laps to secure his first win since the Dutch TT at Assen at the end of June.

The 26-year-old, who now needs just one more win to become the fourth most successful MotoGP rider in history, said: “It wasn’t a gamble to run the soft tyre but we had to be careful with it as well. We knew that if we went out there and tried to burn it up right at the beginning we’d struggle with it a lot later in the race. My plan was to try and get a good start and use the extra grip at the beginning and try and pull a gap and let everybody else sort of burn their tyres up. But the plan didn’t work. I was fourth going into the first corner and had to try and pick my way back through. But Jorge and Dani (Pedrosa) were riding good fast lines and I wasn’t able to get through and so I was using up my tyres a little bit too much to try and overtake. Then towards the end of the race we decided to start going again, slowly ease the pace back up and get the bike moving again. We calculated everything right. Nobody else really sort of took that soft tyre option. And it really paid off for us. I was confident it’d work all along, but we had to do everything right. We had to make sure we didn’t use up those tyres too much.”

Stoner said he had agonised over the decision whether to run the soft or hard option rear tyre and he added: “We were discussing it a lot for most of the day. To be honest it’s all to do with weather. And looking at the weather reports it was going to be a lot hotter than what it ended up. So we decided to go with the soft. I think even if the track was hotter we still would’ve been able to just make it last and we probably would’ve gone with it anyway. We had to ride its major flaw, which was tire degradation, with it dropping down. And looking at the tyres at the end, we had quite a bit more degradation than anyone, but somehow we managed to make it last.”

Stoner’s 44th Grand Prix victory cut his deficit to Lorenzo to 32-points but he admitted his recent mistakes when crashing out of second place on the last lap in Germany and running off in Mugello could return to haunt him at the end of the season.

He said: “I need to do more than just chip away at the gap, especially with these guys. Every week you’re not going to be able to keep winning and keep chipping away at it. It’s bloody hard work against these guys. We have to do something a little bit extra and you know a little mistake in Sachsenring really cost us. But at the same time that was basically just giving Jorge back the points we took off him from his unfortunate accident in Assen. My biggest mistake was the last time out in Mugello, That lost us the main chunk of points and that was the one I’m most disappointed in.”

For nine pages of coverage from the US Grand Prix, see the August 1 issue of MCN.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt