Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo’s championship lead was stretched to 72 points at Laguna Seca as the title favourite won the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix ahead of Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi, in a round nine race that saw Dani Pedrosa crash out while leading.
A trademark lightning start from Pedrosa saw him lead into turn one of the first lap and the Spaniard appeared to be making a similar break for victory as he had done last time out at Sachsenring, as he set a fierce pace at the front of the race.
However, on lap 11 and with Lorenzo pressuring him for the lead the Repsol Honda rider crashed out at turn five, leaving his fellow Spaniard to take his M1 to a sixth win of the season as he tasted victory at the Californian circuit for the first time.
In second place, 3.517s behind Lorenzo’s Fiat Yamaha, Ducati’s Casey Stoner scored his best result of the season so far – his fourth podium in a row – and a comfortable finish with a distance of almost ten seconds back to third place. That was taken by Valentino Rossi, the reigning World Champion achieving a superb podium finish in only his second race back from injury and one in which he worked hard throughout the race.
There were early ends to the race for Spanish rookies Álvaro Bautista and Héctor Barberá, the former crashing whilst the latter retired, with neither making it past the fourth lap. By that stage Pedrosa was already away at the front with Stoner matching him for pace, but on lap five Lorenzo – who had dropped to fourth at the start – managed to pass the Australian who ran wide at turn three.
Then the drama really kicked in as Pedrosa crashed, leaving Lorenzo first with Stoner not far behind, and Andrea Dovizioso in third with a two-second margin over his pursuers. However, Rossi quickly closed the gap on his compatriot, eventually passing the Repsol Honda rider for third place with five laps to go.
As the tyres started to go off towards the end there were changes further down the order, as Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden fought for the honour of finishing as the highest placed American, a duel that presented plenty of enthralling moments of its own.
Lorenzo eventually crossed the line with a comfortable margin over his pursuers, to take his sixth win of the season.
“This track has been a painful one for me in the past, which was why it was important to come here, finish the race and win,” said Lorenzo. “I was sat in third place after the start and I said ‘okay, we’re here and it’s time to push now’. Casey made a mistake and I got past him and I could see that Dani was riding at 110 percent and could crash. And he did.”
“Now I can go on my holiday and relax, throw away all the tension and pressure and comeback ready to continue the season at Brno,” added the championship leader.
Stoner brought his Ducati Desmosedici home in second place to secure the best result of his 2010 campaign thus far.
“Everything seemed to be working perfectly at the start,” explained Stoner. “I wanted to close on Dani to put in a pass, but I lost the front a couple of times trying to reduce the gap. The third time the front closed on me Jorge came past. I was lucky to keep the bike on two wheels today.
“With a bit more confidence in the front I might have been able to close the gap on Jorge, and I did try, but today I had to settle for second place. Jorge is riding well – he’s very fast, very consistent and, at this point, he’s a worthy champion.”
Rossi managed to hold off a late charge from Dovizioso, retaining third place at the chequered flag and finishing on the podium just seven weeks after breaking his leg in practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
“It was a good result for us and very important to come back on the podium so soon after the crash,” declared Rossi. “It’s been a difficult weekend for us, with problems in every session, but this morning we found a good set-up for the race. It took me a few laps to find my rhythm and I had a great battle with Dovizioso at the end.
“After Casey beat me last week I was determined not to make the same mistake and I rode a very good last lap.”
Hayden edged out Spies for fifth place, with the latter’s teammate, Colin Edwards, seventh. The top ten was completed by Marco Melandri, Mika Kallio and Loris Capirossi.
The remaining two riders to finish the race in 11th and 12th were Roger Lee Hayden, a temporary replacement for the injured Randy de Puniet on the LCR Honda and Alex de Angelis, who was standing in for Hiroshi Aoyama on the Interwetten Honda for the second time.
Marco Simoncelli suffered the disappointment of crashing out two-thirds of the way through the race when battling with teammate Melandri for eighth, whilst Aleix Espargaró fell three laps from the end when in a top ten position.
Lorenzo now has 210 points, with Pedrosa remaining second in the standings on 138 and Dovizioso third on 115.