After his victory in Indianapolis last week, Dani Pedrosa went from third place on the grid to finish first again in Round 12 at Brno, Czech Republic, for his third win of the season. The race for first place quickly became a battle between Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), starting in pole position. Lorenzo led throughout the first half of the race, Pedrosa through the second. In the final lap Lorenzo recovered his lead, but on the last corner of the race Pedrosa stormed past once again to snatch a thrilling victory. The result leaves Pedrosa still at second place in the points ranking, but with Lorenzo's lead reduced from 18 points to 13 Pedrosa is now well positioned for a title attempt. Just before the race, Casey Stoner announced that he would not be competing due to surgery to fix a right ankle injury sustained at Indianapolis. Even though their reigning champion is side-lined for the moment, this second consecutive win for Pedrosa has morale riding high in the Repsol Honda Team.
When Lorenzo took him in the last lap, to tell the truth I thought we had lost. But then Dani drew level on the final bend and blasted through to win. It's the first time I've seen Dani race like this and it makes me very happy indeed. He did very well. With Casey out of this race because of his operation, we expected it would be a fight between these two. Casey won here last year, but Brno has often been a lucky circuit for Yamaha and I reckoned this would be the toughest race we'd face in the second half of the season, so I'm very pleased with this result. Jorge set a fast pace in the first half, but he couldn't open a gap. Dani realized he would need a faster pace than Jorge once he took the lead, but he couldn't manage to get away from his pursuer either. It all came down to the final lap. Dani commented that Jorge was quicker in the middle section, but he had the advantage on the rest of the circuit. He used this insight to plan his winning strategy. In this race Dani has revealed strengths we've never seen in him before.
When Dani has his bike set up exactly as he wants, no one can beat him for speed. In contrast, if he feels at all insecure he finds it hard to up his pace. His fall was on a slow corner so I thought it wouldn't affect him too much, but he never managed to reproduce his best time in practice. Why? Dani told us he couldn't make good time on the replacement bike because of chatter, although we thought we had got both bikes set up exactly the same. There wasn't much difference, but apparently it was enough. Dani has been riding our new machines since Round 10 at Laguna Seca. The weather at that race was very unstable and we made a mistake in our setup, and Dani only managed third place. Learning from that, we revised the setting for Indianapolis, and Dani came first. After three races we've accumulated a lot of experience in getting the new bike set up right. I still think we have a lot of details still to work out, though.
We adjusted that bike throughout the remaining part of the session and got rid of virtually all problems. Of course you can never get rid of all problems, and the Brno circuit is certainly the worst of the season for chatter. Looking at Dani's riding up to that point, including a win over Jorge, I had a lot of confidence he would do well. So far, he's only ridden three races since we introduced the new machine. I'm sure new problems will crop up, but we have the base set up right and I think we can cope with them using some fine tuning.
Jorge is a very strong rider, and beating him is never going to be a simple matter. Dani has been champion in both 125 and 250, but this is the first time he's been in a serious fight for the MotoGP title. Until now, he's always been behind, chasing the leaders, and I don't think he's really felt the pressure yet. To become champion, you have to first catch up and then get in front. So for Dani, the real fight is just about to start. In the rounds to come, many of the circuits are favorites of Dani's but I'm sure Jorge is determined to win. If Dani keeps racing the way he did today, I think we can look forward to some close fights.
It was only on Thursday morning, the day before the start of the Czech GP, that Casey announced he needed this operation. After Indianapolis he sent the results of his MRI scans to his specialist in Australia, and his doctor's judgment was that this injury was so severe that without emergency surgery Casey might lose the use of his foot. I told him to go do it immediately. Of course we can't tell how long he will need to recover until we see the results of the operation, but I hope he comes back to us soon. Just in case he doesn't recover in time, we have Superbike rider Jonathan Rea taking part in the tests to be ready as substitute if needed. I hope to see Casey back and well soon, though.