It looked like a gamble on the starting grid and it turned out to be anything but. In fact, it proved to be an inspired choice. Casey Stoner's decision to go with the soft rear tyre as opposed to the harder medium compound chosen by fellow front-row starters Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa ended up being the perfect one at the Red Bull US Grand Prix.
“It wasn’t a gamble but we had to be careful… We knew that if we went out there and tried to burn it up right at the beginning then we'd struggle with it a little later in the race. We calculated everything right, it was against the grain, nobody else really took that option and it really paid off for us.” - Casey Stoner
Concerns that the softer tyres would drop off in performance in the latter stages of the 32-lap race proved unfounded, and allowed the Repsol Honda rider and defending champion to track current championship leader Lorenzo for the opening 21 laps before passing on the 22nd and holding out for victory.
“I was confident it would work all along, but we had to do everything right to make sure we didn't use up those tyres too much.” – Stoner
Lorenzo acknowledged that the combination of Stoner's consistent pace and his own tyre choice contributed to the Australian coming out on top at Laguna Seca.
“Today the rear tyre was not really helping us a lot to keep a constant pace. In theory the hard one gives better feeling from the beginning of the race to the end, but this time the theory didn't work.” – Jorge Lorenzo
Dani Pedrosa kept in touch with Stoner for the first half of the race.
“They were riding superbly today. I tried my best, of course. At the beginning I was quite confident and I wasn’t pushing at the maximum. I lost a little ground in some laps, and I was catching Casey up and getting closer. In one corner I opened the throttle too fast because I wanted to close up on him and overtake, but I almost crashed on the rear, and I lost a lot of ground there.” – Dani Pedrosa
By mid-distance Stoner and Lorenzo had built an insurmountable gap over Pedrosa, who continued to push hard to try to close the gap.
“I tried to pick up the bike and I started to close the front because I was trying to brake late. The bike was almost on the floor a few times! Despite that I didn’t slow down, I tried to keep pushing, because I didn’t want to finish third.” - Pedrosa
With victory Stoner shaved five points off Lorenzo's advantage over him to move within 32 of the Spaniard, but he said the level at which both the Yamaha man and his Honda team-mate Pedrosa – who finished third – are riding requires even more if he is to retain his title.
“Casey was riding at such a constant pace. Maybe I could have tried to force it a little bit and taken some risks to win, try to overtake him, but sometimes you must think about the championship and today second place is a good result for us.” – Lorenzo
The win was a big boost for Stoner, but the Aussie kept his feet planted firmly on the ground when it came to assessing his championship chances.
“I could say I need to keep chipping away at it, but I need to do more than that, especially with these guys every week. You're not going to be able to just keep winning, just keep chipping away at it. It's bloody hard work against these guys! We have to do something a little bit extra.” - Stoner
Pedrosa stays second in the championship and optimistic about his chances at Indianapolis where he was a winner in 2010.
“Today this was it for me, I had no more left, they were a little faster and this was it. Anyway, I have to thank the team as they did a good job. Sure we can improve some things for the next race, and I'm looking forward to that.” – Pedrosa