Jorge Lorenzo reeled in long-time leader Casey Stoner to give Yamaha the perfect start to their 2012 MotoGP campaign. The Spaniard started from pole but trailed Stoner until the final four laps when he dived past his fatigued rival.
Dani Pedrosa is famed for his electrifying starts but precious few expected him to challenge for the lead at the first corner given his seventh place grid slot. Dani delivered though and stormed up the order to second, pushing Lorenzo all the way. Normal order was resumed at Repsol Honda on lap three as Stoner reclaimed second but Pedrosa was matching the front two lap by lap, and the leading trio had dropped the rest of the field.
Andrea Dovizioso was leading the second group in fourth with teammate Cal Crutchlow right behind him while Stefan Bradl held a superb sixth in front of Ben Spies, Nicky Hayden, Alvaro Bautista and Valentino Rossi.
The Ducati star was making steady progress through the field from his lowly grid slot and was actually coming under pressure from Hector Barbera behind. The Pramac rider forced his way through on lap five with a move that ran Rossi onto the tarmac run-off area, leaving him detached from the midfield in 11th.
Stoner built up a lead of 2.1 seconds by half distance but he couldn’t shake off Lorenzo and the Yamaha slowly began to creep back towards the Honda. With five laps remaining, the gap had halved and Lorenzo wiped out the remaining distance on the next tour, putting him right on Stoner’s at the end of lap 18.
Jorge hadn’t bargained for a resilient Pedrosa though and while the Yamaha rider lined up one Honda, the other breezed past him on the start/finish straight. Lorenzo responded almost instantly with a brave move into turn six and within a matter of corners, was all over the back of Stoner again. At the final corner of lap 19, Jorge dived past Casey to grab the lead and with the world champion suffering from arm pump, there was nothing by way of a response.
Stoner’s struggles saw him lose his grip on second with Pedrosa breezing past at the start of the penultimate lap, meaning the Australian had to settle for third at a circuit he has dominated on in recent years.
The all-Tech 3 fight for fourth was resolved in favour of Cal Crutchlow after the Briton overtook Andrea Dovizioso five laps from home, matching his best ever Grand Prix result in the process. Stefan Bradl couldn’t maintain his early pace and slipped behind Nicky Hayden, Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera but the Pramac rider speared off the road while trying to overtake Hayden on the last lap, handing the rookie eighth place.
Bradl’s plight was nothing compared to Ben Spies’ fall down the order as two accidents in two days caught up with the American. He fell behind Valentino Rossi to finish 11th and only beat leading CRT rider Colin Edwards by a second. Randy de Puniet will be disappointed to have been beaten by the Forward Racing Suter but he did score points for 13th, as did teammate Aleix Espargaro in 15th. Yonny Hernandez did brilliantly to split them on his MotoGP debut while James Ellison marked Paul Bird’s first race by making it to the chequered flag in 18th.