Spain’s Dani Pedrosa took a last-turn victory over MotoGP title leader Jorge Lorenzo during a finish to the Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno at the weekend in a thrilling race that also saw Cal Crutchlow claim his first podium in third.
Lorenzo had dived under Pedrosa to retake the lead through the stadium section on the final lap, only for Pedrosa to draw back alongside on the uphill run to the last chicane at this 12th round of 18 in the series.
Both hit the brakes at the last possible moment, with Lorenzo trying to hold on around the outside. But Pedrosa had the better line and clung on to claim surely his best ever MotoGP victory by just 0.178s.
Crutchlow held third place from the first lap to last, crossing the line 12 seconds from victory, but a safe six seconds clear of Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda), Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Honda), Valentino Rossi (Ducati) and Randy de Puniet (ART) completed the top eight, while Lorenzo’s team-mate Ben Spies suffered yet another DNF.
The race took place in cool but dry conditions after heavy overnight rain, with pole sitter Lorenzo holding the lead until just after the halfway point of the 22 laps, when Pedrosa out-braked him into turn three.
But Lorenzo had offered little resistance, suggesting he may have allowed the Honda rider past.
Either way, Pedrosa – quickest throughout practice, but third on the grid after a crash in qualifying – was unable to escape and a prowling Lorenzo inevitably launched a last lap attack. But it wasn’t enough to prevent Pedrosa emerging with his third victory of the season.
Lorenzo will now take a reduced 13-point advantage over Pedrosa into the Misano round on September 16, the first of six remaining events.
Pedrosa’s team-mate and reigning champion Casey Stoner has returned to Australia for surgery on his injured ankle, removing him from what is now an all-Spanish title battle.
Stoner’s absence effectively opened up a place on the podium and, starting from a MotoGP best of second on the grid, Crutchlow made the position his own throughout.
Team-mate and future factory Ducati rider Dovizioso – seeking his sixth podium of the year – kept Crutchlow in sight for much of the race, but the Briton held his nerve and pulled away in the closing stages.
Crutchlow’s podium ended a twelve-year drought for British riders.
Spies had yet another disastrous race, dropping back to 14th after a technical problem on the opening lap, later diagnosed as a slipping clutch.
The Texan then regained pace and began moving up the order, until he crashed out with ten laps to go, marking his third non-score in a row.
Honda LCR rookie Stefan Bradl, whose father won the 1991 250cc Brno race, rose from seventh on the grid to fifth, after getting the better of Bautista and then Rossi.
Rossi, the lone factory Ducati rider due to Nicky Hayden’s Indianapolis injuries, began the race from a season-best sixth on the grid.
Despite his Desmosedici spewing out smoke in the early laps, Rossi briefly got ahead of Dovizioso, but Rossi couldn’t keep pace and finished 34.5s from Pedrosa.
A further 30s behind, Randy de Puniet claimed top CRT honours with a creditable eighth, having finished almost four-seconds clear of home hero Karel Abraham on the Cardion AB Ducati.
The second all-Spanish last lap battle was between de Puniet’s team-mate Aleix Espargaro and Toni Elias for tenth. Espargaro got the upper hand by less than 0.1s after a late pass.
Former Brno MotoGP podium finisher Elias was standing-in for the injured Hector Barbera at Pramac Ducati for the third race in a row.
CRT riders Yonny Hernandez (Avintia), Colin Edwards (Forward), Michele Pirro (Gresini) and James Ellison (PBM) took the final points. Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) and Danilo Petrucci (Ioda) completed the 17 classified finishers.
Ivan Silva (Avintia) joined Spies on the DNF list.
A one day official test will be held back at Brno on Monday, when World Superbike star Jonathan Rea will be testing Stoner’s Repsol Honda.
Czech Republic Grand Prix result:
1. Dani Pedrosa
2. Jorge Lorenzo
3. Cal Crutchlow
4. Andrea Dovizioso
5. Stefan Bradl
6. Alvaro Bautista
7. Valentino Rossi
8. Randy De Puniet
9. Karel Abraham
10. Aleix Espargaro
11. Toni Elias
12. Yonny Hernandez
13. Colin Edwards
14. Michele Pirro
15. James Ellison
16. Mattia Pasini
17. Danilo Petrucci
MotoGP world championship standings (after 12 of 18 rounds):
1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 245
2 Dani Pedrosa Honda 232
3 Casey Stoner Honda 186
4 Andrea Dovizioso Yamaha 150
5 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 122
6 Stefan Bradl Honda 105
7 Álvaro Bautista Honda 102
8 Valentino Rossi Ducati 100
9 Nicky Hayden Ducati 84
10 Ben Spies Yamaha 66
11 Héctor Barberá Ducati 60
12 Aleix Espargaró ART 45
13 Randy de Puniet ART 41
14 Karel Abraham Ducati 25
15 Yonny Hernández BQR-FTR 21
16 Michele Pirro FTR 18
17 Colin Edwards Suter 17
18 James Ellison ART 14
19 Mattia Pasini ART 13
20 Iván Silva BQR-FTR 11
21 Toni Elias Ducati 10
22 Danilo Petrucci Ioda 9
23 Steve Rapp APR 2