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GP Week : Issue 19
T HE more things change … the more Casey’s boat steams on. This time, Valentino Rossi made no mistakes to surf along in his wake at a drenched German GP, to regain the title lead. All this was made possible when Pedrosa’s own speedboat Honda went flying into the gravel pit, after gaining a lead of better than seven seconds in just five laps of the short’n’twisty Sachsenring circuit outside Chemnitz. Sunday’s race may be a turning point for the ultra-close 2008 title battle, Erstwhile points leader Pedrosa left in second, under severe threat from Stoner, after the Australian’s third win in a row. Stoner and the Marlboro Ducati were dominant all weekend, heading practice and qualifying for a fourth successive pole. He was past fast-starting Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda) into second on lap two, but Pedrosa was already three seconds clear, and charging. The gap was 7.4 seconds at the end of lap five, but he never made the first tight corner. “It was a little strange,” he explained, nursing a fractured left- hand index finger and a suspected right ankle fracture. “I just touched the brake and crashed. I had a good feeling … the front felt perfect, the rear was sliding just a little. It is a real pity.” Indeed so, for him – but a boost for the championship and for Stoner, who didn’t put a wheel wrong. He’d been slowed in the early laps because, like all Bridgestone runners, he’d been advised to use a harder compound on the left than the conditions suggested, because of the track’s punishing series of left-hand corners. It paid off in the end: Bridgestone took six of the top seven places, including the top four. Rossi finished lap one seventh, but was already fifth and ahead of Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo on lap three when the Spaniard was the first to crash out. Then Pedrosa fell at the start of the fifth. Rossi dealt with Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Dovizioso to take second on lap nine, but couldn’t do much about a gap of three seconds that eventually stretched to better than six before Stoner backed off with four laps left. The Australian spoke of fraught early laps waiting for his tyre to gain temperature in the standing water, and was sympathetic towards Pedrosa: “It could have caught anybody out. It was very touch and go. I was just thankful to stay on the bike today. To win is a big bonus.” Third was the reward for a stirring ride from wet-weather specialist Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki). Qualified 14th, he was in the top 10 by lap two and moving forward rapidly, heading the midfield group in sixth by lap four, with rookie Alex de Angelis (San Carlos Honda) on his back wheel. They stayed that way to the finish, both disposing of Edwards and Dovizioso and even closing on Rossi. Cool-headed De Angelis, defying his reputation for headstrong crashing, was just over a tenth adrift over the line. Dovizioso was a lonely fifth after Edwards crashed out on lap 21; Sylvain Guintoli (Alice Ducati), another good rain man, a strong sixth. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) just got back ahead of Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) over the line, with Shinya Nakano (San Carlos Honda) a solitary ninth. Anthony West (Kawasaki), another star in the wet, also crashed, after following Vermeulen through from the back. He remounted and charged on past a fast-fading James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) to finish tenth, ironically equalling his best of the year. The other crasher was Marco Melandri, after the rain seemed to transform the Sad Sack of the grid. He was fastest on the track and had taken seventh from Capirossi when the glimmer of hope was extinguished on lap ten. There were only 13 finishers.. Nicky Hayden was the last of them, after a disastrous race. From the first corner his Repsol Honda was, he said, “unrideable – and an absolute disaster.” He blamed a bad tyre choice, and after pitting for a rear change concentrated on staying out of the way, one lap down. 25 www. GPWEEK. com M oto GP germany >>