The 2012 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix was ultimately conquered with a perfect combination of clever strategic maneuvering and flawless execution, the end result being a virtual repeat of the 2011 edition. Red Bull rider Casey Stoner again stalked the same prey -- title leader Jorge Lorenzo and Red Bull teammate Dani Pedrosa -- before striking late to walk away with a third-career USGP triumph.
The untouchable combination of Stoner (pictured at top), Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who once again separated themselves from the remainder of an otherwise world-class pack, openly admitted the difficult tire-option decision they faced ahead of the race.
However, while his rivals ultimately went with the safer option of the hard tire that promised less grip but greater consistency, Stoner went the other way. Confident in his ability to baby the softer rubber, the Australian outfoxed his rivals and left them without an answer once he powered by into first position.
Stoner's resounding victory was his 37th in the premier class -- equaling the legendary Mike Hailwood for fourth all-time. His win, combined with the third-place result of Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa (pictured below), marked Honda's 300th podium in the premier class.
The brilliant performance reenergizes the title aspirations of the retiring reigning champion. Following a pair of disappointing outings, Stoner was in need of a strong ride in California and delivered with his clutch Laguna Seca ride as he seeks to end his career on top with a third MotoGP World Championship.
While still 32 points out of first, Stoner now has history on his side as five of the last seven USGP winners went on to claim the MotoGP World Championship, Stoner included -- twice.
Stoner spoke of his decision to go with the soft Bridgestone tire option, saying, "It wasn't a gamble but we had to be careful on it as well. We knew if we went out there and tried to burn it up right at the beginning we'd struggle with it later in the race.
"Jorge and Dani were riding good fast lines, especially Jorge, and I was using up my tires a little too much trying to overtake. So I decided to back off a little bit and try to ease my tires up, slow everything down and run my own pace. Toward the end of the race we decided to get going again and ease the pace back up and get the bike moving again.
"We calculated everything right. It was against the grain. No one else really took that option and it really paid off for us. I was confident it would work all along."
While MotoGP's latest incarnation of 'the big three' basically distanced themselves from the pack as early as the race's opening lap, there was plenty of drama down the order for the fan favorites.
American Ben Spies appeared solid in fourth, pulling slightly ahead of fellow Yamaha runners Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, before disaster once again struck the luckless former World Superbike champ. A rear swingarm failure saw the Texan dumped to the ground exiting the Corkscrew on lap 21 of 32.
Dovizioso gladly accepted the position, which he narrowly defended from teammate Crutchlow at the flag by a slim 0.177s margin.
Ducati Team's Nicky Hayden finished next in sixth, winning out in an exciting duel with Red Bull’s Stefan Bradl.
As with the case with Spies, the vastly popular Valentino Rossi wasn't able to deliver on the hopes of his legions of fans, as he crashed out of eighth late in the race while entering the famed Corkscrew.
Stoner will be presented with an opportunity to further close on title rivals Lorenzo and Pedrosa in front of another huge American crowd soon enough; the 2012 MotoGP World Championship will resume in just three weeks for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on August 17-19.
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