Motorsports Update – October 15, 2012
American Le Mans Series
Next race: Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta, October 17-20
AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan
In an exciting MotoGP race at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi it was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who closed the gap in the title fight further with a strong win ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Álvaro Bautista.
It was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo started from the pole, yet had to be bold in turn one to hold off Pedrosa. Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet crashed on the first lap but re-joined, while Yamaha’s Ben Spies crashed out going into lap two, citing afterwards that he suffered a brake failure. It was a crash-laden early stage as Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez also dropped his bike in the gravel, suffering a left top-shoulder-joint dislocation and a contusion to the left foot.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner had made a good start running fourth behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow in third. Yet three laps in Stoner was taken by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl was stalking Stoner closely, while fending off Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso in seventh.
With 17 laps remaining Lorenzo and Pedrosa had pulled out a lead at the front with Crutchlow running a lonely third. Stoner was desperately looking for a way past Bautista, yet the Spaniard was battling hard to keep the Australian at bay. Meanwhile Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi was in eighth struggling to keep up with Dovizioso’s pace in front. It was then two laps later that Dovizioso forced his way past Bradl to hunt down Stoner in fifth.
With 13 laps remaining Pedrosa got better drive out of turn four and made his way past Lorenzo on the straight into the lead, looking instantly quicker on the Honda. As Lorenzo tried to keep up, it was Bautista who was slowly closing in on Crutchlow, who did well to save a near fall. The same lap also saw Dovizioso make his way past Stoner into fifth.
With six laps left Pedrosa had built up a commanding lead over Lorenzo, while as a lap later Bautista muscled his way past Crutchlow into the final podium spot, and the pair provided a thrilling battle on track. The Brit fought almost straight back with a move up the inside, yet Bautista retook him in the next turn where the two touched. And it was heartbreak for Crutchlow on the last lap as he pulled over having run out of fuel, while looking to fight to the line.
It was ultimately Pedrosa who kept his nerve to take the checkered flag, with Lorenzo and Bautista completing the podium, making it the second ever premier-class podium for the San Carlo rider. This now cuts Pedrosa’s deficit to Lorenzo to 28 points with three races remaining. The first non-podium finisher in fourth was Dovizioso followed by Stoner, Bradl, Rossi, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, Yamaha YSP Racing Team’s wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá.
Korean Grand Prix
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel scored his third victory in a row moved him into the lead of the world championship fight by six points from Fernando Alonso.
Alonso brought his Ferrari home third behind Vettel and his team mate Mark Webber. It was the first time that any team has finished one-two this season.
Vettel sped down the inside into the first corner, just as Alonso was likewise depriving Lewis Hamilton of third place. Further back, Sergio Perez hit Jenson Button’s McLaren before his Sauber team mate Kamui Kobayashi did the job properly, hitting it twice and sending it into immediate retirement with right-front suspension damage.
Nico Rosberg also sustained a cut left-rear tire in the incident which accounted for his Mercedes a lap later. As he parked on the run down to Turn Three, the DRS zone was effectively negated for several laps until the silver car could be removed. Later Kobayashi was given a drive-through penalty for causing a collision, and retired as a result of damage his C31 incurred.
Vettel owned the race, controlling Webber easily. Further back, Alonso kept them honest but no more than that, and was lucky that it was team mate Felipe Massa who rode shotgun all the way to the flag after another good race for the Brazilian in which he had greater pace than the Spaniard. Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen was a lonely fifth, while a great drive by Nico Hulkenberg realised sixth place for Force India after a gritty battle with Romain Grosjean in the other Lotus.
McLaren’s disastrous day saw Hamilton troubled early on with tire wear and he was the first pit stopper on the 13th lap as he switched from Pirelli’s super-soft rubber to the softs. He had battles with Raikkonen and then Hulkenberg and Grosjean, but that set lasted only until Lap 26. The third set was worn out by Lap 42, which dropped him from contention for sixth place to a fight for eighth with the Toro Rossos.
He pushed Jean-Eric Vergne as hard as he could, but after the Frenchman had reacted by catching and passing team mate Daniel Ricciardo to take an excellent eighth, Hamilton picked up a chunk of astro-turf on his right-hand sidepod. As that affected his MP4-27’s aerodynamics he dropped away and was lucky to resist Perez at the flag by a scant 0.3s.
The result puts Ferrari ahead of McLaren in the constructors’ stakes, 290 points to 284, as Red Bull’s great day brought their score to 367.
Bank of America 500, Charlotte Motor Speedway
Clint Bowyer picked up his first win in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Saturday night, winning a fuel-mileage race that ended in disaster for points leader Brad Kieslowski.
Keselowski dominated Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway but ran out of gas with 58 laps remaining to blow his chance at the victory. He fell a lap down and finished 11th, and had his lead in the standings sliced in half over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Keselowski, who has a seven-point lead over Johnson at the halfway point of the 10-race Chase, immediately gave his Penske Racing team a pep talk over the radio.
Keselowski, who also ran out of gas Friday night in the Nationwide Series race because of a fueling error, then asked his crew if he led the most laps Saturday night. Indeed – he led 139 of the 334 – but had little to show for his effort.
Denny Hamlin finished second and is third in the Chase, 15 points back, and Johnson finished third.
Next race: Big O Tire NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas, NV, October 25-28
Sources: series websites, press releases and various independent motorsports websites