Stoner and Dovizioso Score Honda One-Two at the 2011 Le Mans MotoGP

Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) scored his second MotoGP victory on a Honda in the French Grand Prix to move into second place in the World Championship point standings.

motogp, motorcycle gp, moto gp, 2011 motogp, honda, honda motogp, casey stonerTeam-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) scored a fine second-place finish to secure a brilliant one-two for Repsol Honda.

But what could have been a perfect day for the team was spoiled by a mid-race incident, which saw the luckless Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) crash and break a collarbone after tangling with Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V).

Simoncelli was subsequently punished with a ride-through penalty that demoted him from second place to fifth.

Stoner dominated this weekend just as he ruled the season-opening Qatar GP in March, topping free practice, qualifying and the race.

And yet the race wasn’t without its moments for the Australian who overheated his clutch on the grid and therefore didn’t make his usual fast getaway. Nevertheless Stoner didn’t lose his cool and had muscled his way back into second by the end of the first lap, right behind Pedrosa. The following lap he moved into the lead and the two Honda riders quickly pulled clear of the pack, once again demonstrating the remarkable performance of the 2011 RC212V.

Stoner, however, couldn’t make the break. Whenever he upped his pace, his team-mate responded with impressive speed, establishing a new lap record on lap nine. Just before half-distance Stoner did finally open a small gap, leaving Pedrosa to deal with the advancing Simoncelli.

Simoncelli passed Pedrosa at Garage Vert on lap 18, ran wide, putting the pair side by side as they sped towards the Chemin aux Boeuf left/right chicane. The Italian was later on the brakes and rode round the outside into the left-hander, leaving his Spanish rival with nowhere to go, which caused the pair to collide. Simoncelli stayed on, Pedrosa fell, fracturing his right collarbone, another unlucky blow for the former 250 and 125 World Champion.

The controversial collision left Simoncelli clear in second place, but Race Direction decided to impose a ride-through penalty, which he took with four laps remaining. The punishment dropped the former 250 World Champion to seventh, but during the final few laps he fought back to fifth, ten seconds behind reigning MotoGP World Champion and current points leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) who finished off the podium for the first time this year.

With Simoncelli knocked down the order, the duel for second was fought out between Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi (Ducati), all the way to the finish. Earlier in the race Dovizioso had survived a scare when Lorenzo ran into him at turn two, but he came back strongly to get the better of Lorenzo. Later in the race Rossi got past his fellow Italian, but Dovizioso had a plan for the final lap and used some superb late-braking moves to keep Rossi behind him. The result gave a delighted Dovizioso his first podium appearance of the year.

Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) spent much of the race alone, lapping at a consistent pace that put him eighth at the end of the 28 laps.

Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) had a very different race, battling back and forth with Hector Barbera (Ducati), Karel Abrahams (Ducati), Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati). On lap 15 Elias was leading the group when he had a big moment, which lost him crucial positions. He took the chequered flag in 11th place, in the wheel tracks of Barbera and Abrahams.

There were five crashes: Pedrosa, Capirossi, Colin Edwards (Yamaha), Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) and Randy de Puniet (Ducati).

The MotoGP circus now enjoys two weekends off before commencing a busy period with four races over five weekends, commencing with the Catalan Grand Prix outside Barcelona on June 5.

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: race winner

“The whole weekend has gone so well for us, arriving here from the Portugal test with the bike almost the same and we have improved small things here and there and only needed to adjust the set-up for this circuit. We went into the race confident. At the beginning of the race Dani was very fast and he was difficult to pass as he as being cautious. When I overtook him I thought I might be able to take some advantage, but he was able to match my times and follow me for some laps, so I continued to push more than I prefer and eventually I put a gap between us. From this point the race came to me and I was able to focus on my consistency and win. A big thanks to the team and everyone for all their hard work, but my thoughts are with Dani at this moment. I hope he can recover soon as he is a very strong contender for this championship.”

Team HondaAndrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 2nd

“I’m really happy with the second position today, it’s so important for the championship and it arrives after a start of the season where we didn’t get the results we expected.

We did a very good job with the team since the beginning of the weekend and I knew I could fight for the podium, but I didn’t expect second place. I had a great battle with Valentino and to beat him always has a special taste, and it’s good fun to get the podium after a hard fight.

I was losing a lot in two areas, but I was strong in braking, so I made a good strategy and once I overtook him, I pushed 100 percent not to have him too close especially in turns 10 and 11, where he was faster.

Concerning the race, I had a good start, Lorenzo’s strong overtaking slowed me down a little, but then I pushed to recover the gap. We had good pace, but we need to be faster. We have to keep on working to reduce the gap to stay with the front riders. Dani today was very unlucky and I hope he can recover soon.”

Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 5th

“I am unhappy because a result that was within my reach was denied and, above all, because of the fact that Pedrosa is hurt. In my opinion the incident went like this: Pedrosa was having a bit of difficulty – I had pulled alongside him and passed him. When he passed me back I was not intentionally trying to resist, and my telemetry shows that I got on the brakes at the same point as on previous laps. I think that he had hit the brakes well before the corner, and I found myself on the outside of him and in front on the entry to the corner. I didn’t want to back off, so I left him with a metre between myself and the kerb in order to go in. I saw that it was tight, so I tried to adjust my position. That was when he touched my back wheel and went down. I repeat that I am unhappy about it, and I want to avoid any controversy regarding penalisation, but I believe that my ride-through was a result of all the talk over the past few days. Now I have to focus on Barcelona.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 8th

“I am fairly satisfied, because I was feeling good on the bike. Despite this, the lap times were slightly slower than we were expecting. I have taken more points in the standings, and I am confident about Barcelona.”

Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP: 11th

“We have been afraid about the warm-up of the tyres because the track temperature was colder compared to practice, but at the end it was not so bad. Our rear traction problem is not solved yet but now I can see progressive improvements and I want to thank the team for their good work. When I was leading the small group in the back I thought that I could catch Aoyama, but suddenly I suffered a ‘bike shaking’ and I banged my feet on the fairing. My leather security airbag activated and I could not ride properly for a couple of laps until it went down. After that I pushed to catch the group again but could not finish in the top ten. Anyway it has been a positive week end and I hope to see further improvements at my home GP at Catalunya.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: DNF

“I was having a good race. The goal was to ensure another podium and I had it in my grasp. But it counts for nothing. Simoncelli overtook me, I passed him back and I had the better line, he just came into me releasing the brakes and I could do nothing. I leave here with a broken collarbone and he with a ride-through penalty, good for him! Yet again I come out worse off. We only just recovered from the nightmare of the last operation and now I’m hurt again. It is very unfair, I don’t deserve it.”

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