Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow (35) got past Katsuyuki Nakasuga (21) and was on his way to his best MotoGP finish when he crashed out on lap 23.
Dani Pedrosa took his seventh win of the 2012 season, putting him on top of the win list this year.
Katsuyuki Nakasuga's second place was the only podium finish by a Japanese rider in any Grand Prix class this season.
Casey Stoner finished third in his final race before retiring at Valencia.
With overnight and morning rains soaking the Valencia circuit, the final MotoGP race of the year was declared wet by Race Direction, even though a dry line was clearly forming on the pavement. A few riders such as newly crowned World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, his erstwhile substitute teammate on the Yamaha Factory Racing squad Katsuyuki Nakasuga, and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl gambled by starting off on soft option slick tires, while the rest of the field began on hard compound rain tires. A handful of riders, however, changed their mind after the sighting lap; this forced Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow, and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista to start the race from pitlane per the rules of not lining up on the start grid.
The tricky conditions turned the Valencia MotoGP race into a crashfest, with Hayden the first rider to fall prey to the half-wet/half-dry racing surface. The Ducati rider was quickly followed by Avintia Blusens Kawasaki rider Ivan Silva, and Speed Master Aprilia’s Roberto Rolfo in the opening laps. Bradl looked to be moving quickly up the order as he settled into third behind Lorenzo and Pedrosa, until he too was taken out of the running when he crashed out in Turn Five on lap eight.
Unfortunately for Lorenzo, a move to lap James Ellison turned bad when the Yamaha rider had to venture a bit off the main racing line to make the pass. His rear tire spun up on wet patch, resulting in a number of gyrations before Lorenzo was eventually spit off his M1 in a spectacular highside that he was lucky to walk away from.
“I had a lot of hopes to win today, I chose a really risky tire strategy and I was making a really good race,” said Lorenzo after the premature end to his Valencia MotoGP. “Dani (Pedrosa) was catching me a little bit but then I managed to have a four-second lead. I came up to the slower riders and I’m not sure what happened, maybe the marshals didn’t put up the blue flags quickly enough but I was losing some time stuck behind them. I was behind Ellison and he stayed on the racing line, I couldn’t wait for another corner to overtake him as I was losing time. I overtook and made a mistake, outside the dry line and I had a big highside.”
With Pedrosa inheriting the race lead, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow was on the move, slicing past Nakasuga to take second and quickly pull away. Just when it appeared that Crutchlow was in line for his best MotoGP finish ever, the Brit was also caught out by the tricky conditions at Valencia as he hit a wet patch heading into the last corner, his Yamaha going into a set of gyrations that spit him off the side, luckily avoiding getting tangled up with the bike as it tumbled off the track.
“I wasn't sure whether to start on wet tires but I saw Dani pit and just followed him,” lamented Crutchlow after crashing out of the Valencia MotoGP race. “Going to slicks was obviously the right choice but although there was a dry line, in some places it was so narrow that you couldn't go off line to overtake because it was way too risky. I had a comfortable lead over third and it was looking good for me to get my best MotoGP result when I hit the smallest wet patch going into the final corner. It just flicked the bike enough to throw me off the left side and I was actually lucky not to get tangled up with the bike. It is a shame because I wasn't pushing that hard, but in those conditions we saw loads of people getting caught out.”
From that point on the Valencia MotoGP race was fairly processional, other than Casey Stoner catching and passing Alvaro Bautista for third in the closing laps.
“It was very difficult at the start to make the decision with tires,” said Pedrosa after his seventh win of the season. “I saw Jorge on slicks on the grid and I was pretty sure with my decision, but standing there the track was drying up very quickly and before the start I didn't know if it would be better to forget about the pole and start from the pits or go out on wets and stop after four or five laps. In the last corner of the sighting lap, my instinct told me to get in immediately. I started from the pit lane and I managed to be fast from the beginning, I caught Jorge and then I made a mistake and lost three seconds again, but one lap later he also made a mistake and crashed out. From this point another race began for me. It was tough to maintain concentration with such conditions and a big advantage, so I planned the second half of the race like a practice session, taking the corners, the lines, lap by lap.”
Nakasuga’s second place at Valencia was the only podium finish by a Japanese rider in all of Grand Prix racing this season. “I’m so very happy with this result, the conditions were very difficult today. It was a tough race but the team were amazing and I have to thank them for making the best choice for my set up for the race. It is like a dream or a miracle for me to be on the podium as the qualifying was not so good. I want to thank Yamaha for giving me this special opportunity to race here in MotoGP, it has been amazing.”
Stoner was frustrated with his last race before retiring, although a small consolation was that the Australian was selected as the 20th “MotoGP Legend”, joining the ranks of heralded riders such as Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, et al. “My motivation wasn't particularly high today as I haven't wanted to push in the wet and haven't felt comfortable on the bike,” admitted Stoner after the Valencia MotoGP race. “I just didn't want to take any risks of crashing and damaging my ankle again so I was very cautious and this isn't how I like to ride. Even with the choice of going with the wets, not the slick tires at the beginning of the race, I took the easy option which really isn't me. When I saw the slicks had a big advantage, we came in and changed bikes and went back out and pushed as hard as we could, without taking unnecessary risks. In the end we were able to chase down Alvaro and take the last spot on the podium in our last race. My team are like my second family, we've been through a lot of ups and downs together and it's going to be difficult not to see them every week. I'm sorry for them and for everyone who has supported me for so long but this is the way it is and it's time to say goodbye.”
MotoGP Valencia race results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda
2. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (JPN) Yamaha
3. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda
4. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda
5. Michele Pirro (ITA) FTR/Honda
6. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Yamaha
7. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati
8. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda-Suter
9. James Ellison (GBR) ART/Aprilia
10. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati
11. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia
12. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia
13. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) FTR/Kawasaki
14. Colin Edwards (USA) Suter/BMW
DNF Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha
DNF Claudio Corti (ITA) Inmotec
DNF Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati
DNF Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha
DNF Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda
DNF Roberto Rolfo (ITA) ART/Aprilia
DNF Ivan Silva (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki
DNF Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati