Honda wins crash-strewn MotoGP finale
There were only 14 finishers in a dramatic MotoGP season finale that saw nofewer than four riders – including the eventual winner - opting to startfrom pit lane after realising on the sighting lap that they'd made the wrong tyre choice.
Newly-crowned Moto2 champion Marc Marquez was penalised for overly aggressive riding in practice by being made to start from the back of the grid – and set a Grand Prix record by coming from 31st at the start to win his last Moto2 race before moving to the premier class.
The top four in the Moto3 race finished within half a second of each other – and in fourth, after the ride of his life in treacherous conditions, wasSouth African rider Brad Binder.
Race Direction declared the race wet despite a nearly-dry line having formed, and only Yamaha's new World champion Jorge Lorenzo, his team mate Nakasuga and Honda privateer Stefan Bradl chose the softer option slick tyres, with all the others on 'hard wets'.
But, after the sighting lap, top qualifier Dani Pedrosa (Honda), works Ducati rider Nicky Hayden, Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow and Honda privateer Álvaro Bautista elected to swap to bikers with slick tyres, although that meant starting from pit lane.
So, with pole position empty, it was ART rider Aleix Espargaró who got the hole shot, although Lorenzo's tyre choice was quickly shown to be the better one as be got into his stride after a poor start, lapping significantly quicker than anybody else.
Pedrosa, meanwhile was carving his way through the pack as rider after rider pitted to swop bikes, including Pedrosa's team mate Casey Stoner, riding in his last Grand Prix before retiring, Ducati privateer Héctor Barberá and Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso.
And while all this was going on Hayden, BQR hopeful Iván Silva, and veteran Roberto Rolfo (ART) crashed out.
By lap eight Lorenzo was leading with Pedrosa in tow, with Bradl third ahead of Nakasuga and Crutchlow – until Bradl lost it in Turn 5 and crashed out. Five laps later Crutchlow managed to get past Yamaha test rider Nakasuga, just as Pedrosa had a moment and ran wide, dropping more than three seconds behind the World champion.
But less than a lap later everything changed as Lorenzo got on to a wet patch passing some back markers and the M1 promptly spat him off in a huge highside, from which he was lucky to walk away unhurt.
That handed the final race of the 2012 season to Pedrosa on a platter; all the local hero had to do was stay aboard to be assured of victory – but he was also having problems getting safely past the slower riders.
The crashes continued on lap 19; Hector Barbera (Ducati), Espargaró’s team mate Randy de Puniet were the unlucky victims, followed a lap later by Inmotec rider Claudio Corti.
Just when things seemed to have settled down, Crutchlow was caught out by the conditions and crashed out of second, promoting Bautista to third, although Stoner was catching up quickly in fourth. With three laps to go Stoner was all over the Bautista's rear wheel and finally caught him at the end of the lap down the home straight to move into third.
So Pedrosa came home for his seventh win of the season, with Nakasuga taking the first Japanese podium of the year in his second wildcard entry and Stoner signing off his GP career with a final trip to the rostrum.
In a race that started on a wet track, Nicolas Terol (Suter) pulled a sensational start to take the lead in Turn 4, which was named after him earlier in the day, with Pol Espargaró (Kalex), Simone Corsi (Ioda) and Tom Luthi (Suter) in tow.
Márquez, who'd been penalised by being made to start last after an on-track altercation with Corsi in practice, was already up to 11th after just one lap, while Julián Simón (Suter) had also cut through the field and was closing in on the back of Espargaró’s Kalex.
Then, when Márquez was momentarily held up by Terol’s team mate Jordi Torres, Suter rider Gino Rea dived up the inside of both of them and quickly moved away to challenge and pass Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter (Suter).
Márquez found it tougher to pass the Swiss rider, and soon the group caught up to Lüthi, setting up an intense battle for sixth.
A few laps later Espargaró slid off after making contact with Corsi, but kept the bike running and re-joined in 18th, while Simón passed Terol to take the lead and Xavier Siméon (Tech 3) moved up into third.
Motobi rider held up Márquez’s progress un till lap nine, but Siméon’s race ended prematurely when he slid out of third, with Zarco soon following suit as conditions began to worsen.
That left Márquez and Rea to continue their race-long duel; at one point Marquez got some of his own medicine handed to him as he and Rea collided, forcing him to run wide.
But even that didn't slow him down as he passed Rea and Aegerter in a tough move down the straight – a move so aggressive that even tough-guy Marquez felt he had to raise a hand in apology.
Rea also soon got by Aegerter but crashed out while trying to reel in the flying Marquez.
With eight laps left Márquez was on a mission as he flew past Terol and started to hunt down Simón. Lapping significantly faster than the race leader, he closed the gap with three laps in hand, and grabbed the lead going into the penultimate lap.
After that it was all over bar the shouting as the newly crowned World Champion took the chequered flag in his final Moto2 race before moving up to the premier class - the first time in Grand Prix history that any rider had won a race from 31st on the grid.
British rider Danny Kent delivered a stunning ride in the wet to take the win ahead of his works KTM team mate, newly crowned World champion Sandro Cortese, and KTM privateer Zulfahmi Khairuddin.
Pole-position holder Jonas Folger picked up a mechanical problem on the sighting lap and had to start from pit lane, as Kalex KTM rider Luis Salom that led the early exchanges from Miguel Oliveira and Alex Márquez, each on a Suter Honda.
On lap three, however Márquez went into the lead, with Oliveira following him to relegate Salom to third – only for Márquez to lose the front and crash out less than a lap later.
In the pursuing group, Louis Rossi (FTR Honda) was putting on a strong show ahead of Efrén Vázquez (FTR Honda) and the works KTM duo of Cortese and Kent. Folger's day then got worse as he retired from the race, along with Adrián Martín (FTR Honda) and Ioda rider Luigi Morciano. KRP Honda rider John McPhee was also caught out by the wet and crashed out on lap eight, as Salom’s team mate, South African rider Brad Binder moved up to challenge the front-runners.
By half-distance Salom had dropped off the pace and was embroiled in an entertaining battle with Maverick Viñales' FTR Honda, while Binder and Kent were bashing fairings at the front.
On lap 15 there was huge drama as Vázquez lost the front, taking out Oliveira and handing Cortese a comfortable lead, but in the final two laps Cortese’s team mate Kent, Khairuddin and Binder were involved in a do-or-die battle for the three podium sports as Kent put in a stunning move to pass Cortese two bends from the line and take the win by 0.056sec – even Binder in fourth (his best Grand Prix result so far) was less than half a second in arrears.
RESULTS – MOTOGP
1 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda - 48min23.819
2 Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Japan) Yamaha +37.661sec
3 Casey Stoner (Australia) Honda +1min00.633
4 Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Honda +1min02 811
5 Michele Pirro (Italy) FTR +1min26.608
6 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Yamaha +1min30.423
7 Karel Abraham (Czech Republic) Ducati +1min31.789
8 Danilo Petrucchi (Italy) Ioda-Suter +1 lap
9 James Ellison (Britain) ART +1 lap
10 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Ducati +1 lap
11 Aleix Espargaro (Spain) ART +1 lap
12 Randy de Puniet (France) ART +2 laps
13 Hiroshi Aoyama (Japan) BQR +2 laps
14 Colin Edwards (United States) Suter +3 laps
1 Marc Marquez (Spain) Suter – 48min50.706
2 Julian Simon (Spain) Suter +1.256sec
3 Nicloas Terol (Spain) Suter +11.372
4 Thomas Luthi (Switzerland) Suter +13.006
5 Dominique Aegerter (Switzerland) Suter +13.825
6 Jordi Torres (Spain) Suter +27.911
7 Mika Kallio (Finland) Kalex +36.338
8 Pol Espargaro (Spain) Kalex +38.335
9 Toni Elias (Spain) Kalex +39.419
10 Esteve Rabat (Spain) Kalex +26.372
1 Danny Kent (Britain) KTM – 45min05.891
2 Sandro Cortese (Germany) KTM +0.056sec
3 Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Malaysia) KTM +0.114
4 Brad Binder (South Africa) Kalex KTM +0.431
5 Hector Faubel (Spain) FTR Honda +4.371
6 Louis Rossi (France) FTR Honda +7.605
7 Jakub Kornfeil (Czech Republic) FTR Honda +14.931
8 Maverick Vinales (Spain) FTR Honda +18.495
9 Niklas Ajo (Finland) KTM +23.180
10 Luis Salom (Spain) Kalex KTM +23.245