MotoGP™ 2012 Season Review
Qatar on April 7 – the first race of 2013 – seems a long way off, but we can console ourselves with a look back at a momentous 2012 season. It was dominated on-track by one man, Jorge Lorenzo, but the newshounds knew the real story lay elsewhere – with a bloke by the name of Stoner.
DATES WITH DESTINY
The season revolved around three crucial dates. One was May 20, the day of the French Grand Prix. It was only the fourth race of 2012 – but before they went to the grid Casey Stoner had produced the story of the year.
“I thought last year I might be able to get my passion back,” the outgoing World Champion had said, “but it didn’t happen.” So at the age of 27 Stoner announced he was quitting at the end of the year. The second red-letter day came in Indianapolis, where a huge shunt left Stoner with a severely damaged ankle. He bravely rode to fourth, but missed the next three rounds. His title hopes were shot.
But the third date was the one with the good news. It was, of course, October 28. At Phillip Island that day Stoner rode into history with his sixth straight home victory, from pole position, and with fastest race lap to boot. It would turn out to be his last, but on a glorious Australian day – home riders on every podium – it was a fitting finale to Stoner’s wonderful career.
A TALE OF TWO SPANIARDS
Those would be Señor Lorenzo and Señor Pedrosa, the riders who finished first and second in the MotoGP™ class. Yamaha star Lorenzo became the first Spaniard to win the senior title more than once, a task made easier by a brilliant opening to the season which saw the 25-year-old Mallorcan claim four wins and two second places in the first six races.
The first victory was his maiden win in Qatar, “maybe the greatest race of my whole career”, as he put it. While Stoner, with his own first-ever success at Jerez, was the early leader, the wheels fell off for Casey at Indianapolis, leaving his Honda teammate Pedrosa to take up the cudgels instead.
Dani did just that: he stayed injury-free, he claimed seven victories – his best return in MotoGP™ – and was 18 points adrift at season’s end. Would he have bridged the gap if Barbera hadn’t clean-bowled him at Misano? Maybe – but then Jorge could say the same after he was taken out by a wayward Bautista at Assen.
That’s not meant unkindly, but when you consider that Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner accounted for all 18 race wins, 15 second places and eight thirds, there wasn’t a lot left for anyone else to pick up. The man who picked up most was Andrea Dovizioso with six podium finishes on his satellite Yamaha, which fought a season-long duel with its sister machine ridden by the combative Cal Crutchlow. Like Stoner, the Englishman gritted his teeth and rode through the pain barrier at Silverstone with a badly damaged ankle but gave best to “Dovi” in the latter part of the year. One is off to Ducati, the other (Crutchlow) has a new contract with his current Yamaha outfit.
Alvaro Bautista deserves a mention, not for his part in Lorenzo’s first non-finish of a brilliant year, but because he claimed pole position at Silverstone and two podiums at Misano and Motegi, a decent effort on a Honda Gresini machine. The Spaniard finished the year in a fine fifth place overall.
For MotoGP™, we mean, in the absence of Stoner. Is Marc Marquez The Next Big Thing? He joins compatriot Pedrosa in an all-Spanish Honda works effort... while Valentino Rossi heads back to Yamaha to pair up with Lorenzo once more.
Vale enjoyed a brief moment in the Ducati sun with an unlikely second place at Misano, “in the name of Marco”, after whom the circuit had been renamed. That and a similar result in the wet at Le Mans (“I want to race at places where it rains a lot!”) were the highlights of another season of earnest toil: can he rekindle past glories on the big Y?
MARK MARCHES ON
Like the top division, the second tier was dominated by two Spaniards by the name of Marquez and Espargaro with an Italian called Iannone in brave but ultimately vain pursuit.
Marc Marquez’s final season in the division ended with the title, the fruit of nine race wins including the first and last of the 17 races. As usual, however, the youngster courted controversy with some muscular on-track behaviour – something he might find not going down too well when he steps up to MotoGP™.
Marquez, who was also on the podium another five times, finished with a comfortable 56-point margin over Pol Espargaro, who took four wins of his own and was superbly consistent through the second half of the year.
“Crazy Joe” Iannone claimed two wins, leaving two singleton successes for Tom Lüthi (in another exasperating year) in France and Alex de Angelis in Malaysia.
SANDRO SEES THEM OFF
If Marquez had a comfortable margin, Sandro Cortese’s was positively luxurious. Five wins, five seconds and five thirds left the brilliantly consistent German with a 111-point advantage over Luis Salom, yet another Spaniard doing his country proud with two wins en route to second place overall.
It should really have been another rider from south of the Pyrenees who carried the fight to Cortese, but Maverick Viñales lived up to his name with an erratic finish to a year he had started in superb fashion.
The teenage tearaway won five times in the first half of the year but visited the podium just once after Mugello and finished in the fiasco of walking out on his team.
Four other men – Danny Kent (twice), Romano Fenati, Jonas Folger and Rossi (Louis, not Vale) were race winners, but an honourable mention must go to Aussie Arthur Sissis. The Adelaide youngster produced the ride of his life to be on the Phillip Island podium, one of no fewer than 12 points-scoring results in 2012. No wonder the adoring Australian public felt they had seen the baton being handed over...