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GP Week : Issue 13
V ALENTINO Rossi rules in Italy. Most of the 96,252 fans at the Mugello trackside knew that already – but he showed them all once again. His seventh win in a row at his magnificent and scenic home circuit, in the shadow of the Apennine mountains, was convincing and assured. In a chilling note to his rivals, it confirms that his adaptation of self and Fiat Yamaha to Bridgestone tyres is now complete. He started from his first pole in almost a year, took four laps to deal with fast starter Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and second-lap leader Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati). From there to the end, there was never any doubt, and he won by more than two seconds. It was his third win in succession, and his seventh in succession at his home GP. It hadn’t been easy, he said, after escaping the annual post- race crowd invasion.: “My bike and my settings were very good, and early in the race I had some advantage, so I was able to go away,” he said. “But at the end Casey came back very strong, so I had to push again. I wanted to slow down a bit: the physical effort here is very high. But Casey had another idea.” Casey in second could celebrate a return to strength. “We’ve worked hard on the bike, and we knew it would be strong at the end of the race,” he said. But a mistake on lap ten meant he ran wide and lost second to Pedrosa. It took him three laps to get it back. “That meant I lost the tow from Valentino.” It was fairly processional up front, but not easy, as Pedrosa explained: “When Valentino started to push, I couldn’t keep up. I thought to take third … but de Angelis was coming fast behind me and I had to push very hard. We need to improve our performance at the end of the race.” Rossi aside, fourth place for class rookie Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda) was the ride of the afternoon. The ex-250 rider from San Marino, best result so far 11th, was inspired, and several times in the early laps was fastest as he pushed through from tenth on the grid. He had to find his way through a big mid-field battle, and then moved away to close on the leaders. Victims had included Tech 3 Yamaha riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland, Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi, Team Scot Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso and his own team- mate Shinya Nakano. They filled from fifth to ninth after battling all race long, still close at the end. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) was a distant tenth; Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda) had a frightful race, starting strongly then dropping back steadily to a lowly 13th, behind both satellite-team Ducatis. He was plagued throughout by a vibration problem, a tyre being the suspected cause. Tadayuki Okada was 14th in his wild card ride on the new pneumatic-valve engine Honda, dicing throughout with Anthony West (Kawasaki), and beating him by two seconds at the end. “With more time for set-up, I could have gone much better,” he said. It was the five-time winner’s first GP since 2000. Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) crashed out on lap seven while pushing hard in sixth. John Hopkins (Kawasaki) also crashed on the same lap while lying 13th; the lap before Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) had fallen, taking Marco Melandri (Marlboro Ducati) with him. Rossi’s third straight win stretches his points lead over Pedrosa to 12, with Lorenzo still third, another 16 points adrift and 18 ahead of Stoner. M oto GP ITALY >> 33