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Stoner conquers Estoril for MotoGP lead

6 May 2012

Casey Stoner moved to the top of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship standings after claiming his first premier-class win at the Estoril circuit in Portugal on Sunday.

Stoner lost out to fast-starting Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa into turn one, but clung on around the outside, forcing the Spaniard into a tighter line on the exit.

Perhaps for that reason, Pedrosa's RCV kicked as he applied the power, allowing both Stoner and fourth-on-the-grid Jorge Lorenzo to blast past.

The world champion bolted to a one-second advantage by the end of the first lap and looked in danger of disappearing, after beating his own pole time in morning warm-up.

But Lorenzo and Pedrosa were able to stabilise and then eat into the Australian's lead, with the trio covered by less than a second after ten of the 28 laps.

Hopes of a three-way thriller morphed into a tense stand-off as each held their ground through the middle stages - Lorenzo almost close enough to strike and Pedrosa poised to exploit any errors.

Stoner soaked up the pressure, then dished out some of his own, pulling a few tenths further ahead with six laps to go. Stoner then effectively put victory out of reach of his rivals by taking a one-second lead into the penultimate lap and went on to win by 1.421sec.

Stoner, winner last Sunday at Jerez, has now taken MotoGP wins at all 18 rounds on the present calendar.

Qatar winner Lorenzo, who had taken three wins and a second place from his previous Estoril MotoGP starts, kept countryman Pedrosa at bay by 2.2sec, meaning Stoner leads the 2012 championship for the first time by just a single point from the Yamaha rider.

Behind the podium places, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow disputed fourth for much of the race.

Beaten by Crutchlow at the previous events, seventh on the grid Dovizioso passed the Englishman on the brakes into turn one on lap 5 and edged several seconds clear by the closing stages of his third M1 race.

Alvaro Bautista enjoyed his best ride for San Carlo Honda Gresini, repeating his sixth on the grid at the finish, as the Spaniard held off Valentino Rossi by almost five seconds.

Seventh place, from ninth on the grid, made Rossi the top Ducati and - despite finishing 26sec from Stoner - it was the Italian's best race performance of the year so far.

By contrast, Lorenzo's Yamaha team-mate Ben Spies went backwards for the third race in succession, sinking from fifth on the grid to a low of ninth, having run wide early in the race.

The Texan regained a place for eighth at the flag, which is still his best result of the year after eleventh places in the previous events.

Honda LCR rookie Stefan Bradl was ninth, after swapping places with Spies in the second half of the race, while Pramac Ducati's Hector Barbera took tenth and Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden a disappointing eleventh.

15 of the 20 riders starters reached the flag, with Aleix Espargaro beating sore Aspar team-mate Randy de Puniet by almost three-seconds to be the top CRT in twelfth.

Michele Pirro (Gresini) and Danilo Petrucci (Ioda) completed the finishers, all of whom were rewarded with at least a point.

Forward Racing's Colin Edwards broke his collarbone in an incident involving de Puniet on Saturday and is due to undergo surgery in Barcelona on Monday.

Estoril is rumoured to be dropping off the MotoGP calendar after this year's event and Sunday's race took place in front of a packed crowd of just under 50,000 - many attracted by rock-bottom ticket prices.

A test session will be held back at Estoril on Monday, with the French MotoGP at Le Mans then taking place on May 18-20.

Portuguese Grand Prix:

1. Casey Stoner
2. Jorge Lorenzo
3. Dani Pedrosa
4. Andrea Dovizioso
5. Cal Crutchlow
6. Alvaro Bautista
7. Valentino Rossi
8. Ben Spies
9. Stefan Bradl
10. Hector Barbera
11. Nicky Hayden
12. Aleix Espargaro
13. Randy De Puniet
14. Michele Pirro
15. Danilo Petrucci


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