Alcaniz: Former world champion Casey Stoner held off local favourite Dani Pedrosa to win the Aragon MotoGP on Sunday and record his first victory of the season.
Spanish Honda pilot Pedrosa recovered from a poor start and began to reel the Australian Ducati rider in during the middle stages of the race at the new Motorland circuit in Alcaniz to the north east of Madrid.
But 2007 champion Stoner, who started from pole having recovered from a minor crash during the warmup, pulled away to win by a comfortable margin of more than five seconds.
Stoner’s team mate Nicky Hayden of the United States pipped championship leader Jorge Lorenzo for third, just over nine seconds off the pace, after overtaking the Spaniard on an exciting final lap.
With five races remaining and 25 points awarded for a win, Pedrosa is the only rider who can catch Lorenzo in the overall standings. The Yamaha rider leads his compatriot by 56 points and Stoner is 129 points back in third.
“It was a difficult race today and I was very nervous for the first few laps after the crash this morning,” Stoner said in an interview with Spanish television.
“I was lucky not to make too big a mistake and tried to put in some smooth, consitent laps and pull away for the win,” the 24-year-old added.
Current world champion Valentino Rossi, who is struggling with a shoulder injury, finished sixth.
The sport is still reeling from the death of Shoya Tomizawa at the San Marino Grand Prix two weeks ago and riders had earlier gathered in bright sunshine in the paddock to pay tribute to the Japanese Moto2 pilot.
Members of his team placed his bike on the starting grid and a minute’s silence was held for the 19-year-old, whose number 48 has been retired from the championship.
Andrea Iannone of Italy won the Moto2 race and Spaniard Pol Espargaro was victorious in the 125cc category.