Dani Pedrosa closed out the 2012 season with a sixth victory in eight races despite starting a dramatic Valencia Grand Prix from the pit lane. The race was run under flag-to-flag rules but another Spanish shootout ensued before Jorge Lorenzo crashed spectacularly out of the lead.
The preceding Moto2 and Moto3 races took place on a damp track but a dry line had emerged in time for the MotoGP race, making tyre choice tricky. Lorenzo was one of those to gamble on slicks and several riders, including polesitter Pedrosa, realised he may have made a smart call and pitted for a change of motorcycles at the end of the warm-up lap, joined by Cal Crutchlow, Alvaro Bautista and Nicky Hayden.
In the opening laps, the conditions were clearly favouring the riders on wet tyres and history was made within two corners as Aleix Espargaro became the first man to lead a Grand Prix on a CRT machine. The Aspar rider’s astonishing performance wasn’t totally down to tyres though as Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, the men immediately behind him, were also on the treaded rubber.
Espargaro’s joy was short lived as Lorenzo’s dry tyres started to come into their own, helping him through into the lead on lap four, while Pedrosa had stormed up to second thanks to a combination of brave overtaking and bike changes ahead of him. The net-result of the pit-stops was a massively strung out field with the top two way ahead of Stefan Bradl, Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Cal Crutchlow, the big winners of the place-swapping in the pitlane. Bradl would throw away a debut rostrum though with a crash at turn five but the next retirement was even more dramatic.
Due to the pit stops, Lorenzo was already lapping riders before half distance but as he came up behind James Ellison, the world champion put a wheel on the damp track and highsided at turn ten, catapulting him into the air. Lorenzo landed on his head but fortunately escaped injury although his race was unquestionably over, handing victory on a plate to Pedrosa.
Lorenzo’s exit promoted Crutchlow to a career-high of second but the Briton would also crash out. His retirement was self-inflicted though with the Tech 3 Yamaha giving away on the brakes into turn 14, just seven laps from the finish. That lifted Yamaha test rider Nakasuga into a scarcely believable second place, a result that left him in tears when he arrived in parc ferme.
The final podium spot would fittingly go to Casey Stoner who signed off his MotoGP career in third place. The Australian chased down Alvaro Bautista before breezing past on the pit straight three laps from the end. Gresini still had plenty to celebrate as Michele Pirro took CRT victory and fifth outright, a quite sensational result.
Andrea Dovizioso and Karel Abraham were the last unlapped runners in sixth and seventh ahead of Danilo Petrucci and James Ellison, two more riders who shone on CRT machinery. Valentino Rossi was a sorry tenth, ending his Ducati career in rather ignominious fashion.