World champion Casey Stoner scored his third Grand Prix win of the season after a lengthy battle with fellow Red Bull athlete Dani Pedrosa. The Honda team mates were in a class of their own at the Dutch TT and just as significantly the complexion of the 2012 title chase changed completely as points leader Jorge Lorenzo was knocked out at the first corner. He and Stoner now stand on top of the table, equal on points.
Pedrosa made his customary lightning start and charged into the first corner ahead of pole man Stoner. Behind them Alvaro Bautista was making up ground from eighth on the grid. He was up the inside but too deep on the brakes, the front wheel folded and he slid out taking Lorenzo with him. A huge cloud of smoke from the factory Yamaha indicated that it was going nowhere and Lorenzo's points lead disappeared.
The two Hondas raced away in the lead, chased by the lone remaining factory Yamaha in the hands of Ben Spies and while the American tried to go with them he simply didn't have the pace. He had enough to worry about keeping ahead of Red Bull athlete Stefan Bradl who had qualified a superb fourth on his private Honda, the Moto2 champion's best placing so far in his first MotoGP season.
Unfortunately Bradl slid out early but he was unhurt and heads to his home Grand Prix next weekend at the Sachsenring with the chance to make amends.
There remained no challenge to Pedrosa and Stoner other than to sort out the win between them. They set fastest lap after fastest lap and Stoner shadowed the Spaniard all the way.
A long way behind, Andrea Dovizioso on the Tech 3 Yamaha got ahead of Spies and the pair were well clear of an all-Ducati battle between Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden and Hector Barbera that was joined by Cal Crutchlow on his Yamaha. As the field spread out this became the most interesting contest of the race.
With 11 laps to go Rossi had dropped away from that group and Crutchlow had fought his way to the front of it. At 10 to go Rossi pulled into the pits. The team changed the rear wheel and he went out again.
Up front Stoner had refused to be drawn into trading places with Pedrosa, content to leave that until the closing stages but with 10 laps to go he eased past Pedrosa who was sliding quite a lot, the rear stepping out as he tucked in behind. Spies had recovered third from Dovizioso.
At seven to go it was clear that Pedrosa was struggling and Stoner was steadily opening up an advantage. With 3 laps remaining he had a two-second advantage and the result was beyond doubt.
The tension lay in the battle for the final rostrum places as Spies fought to hold Dovizioso at bay. On the last lap the Italian passed Spies and romped away as the American struggled with what was left of his tyres.
Stoner crossed the line way ahead of Pedrosa who also had no tyre performance left to fight with.