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GP Week : Issue 20
DANI Pedrosa went home early from the US GP, in a massive pre-holiday blow to his championship chances, as his impetuous crash while seven seconds clear in the German GP last weekend exacts a heavy penalty. The 22-year-old Spaniard injured his right ankle and sustained fractures in his left wrist and a finger when he piled into the air fence at the end of the front straight. The Repsol Honda rider flew to Barcelona for surgery before arriving in the US on Wednesday. Asked about his race prospects, he said: “My target is the first free practice. After that, the target may change.” In fact he survived through the second free practice, running a total of 49 laps of the physically intense Californian track. But he was down in 15th place, and ended day one far from sure that he could continue. The next morning he decided against it. “This has been a very difficult decision … but there really is no alternative,” read his statement, after he had already left for the airport. Friday had been a struggle. “The pain was incredible,” he said. “I did a nine-lap run and it felt like 40 laps. “When I woke this morning, I had a lot of pain and the fingers were very swollen. I knew I couldn’t finish the race in these conditions,” he said. “At least I tried – if I had stayed at home I would never have known if I could have ridden,” he concluded. The main problem was his wrist, seemingly from a projecting screw. Pedrosa had regained the title lead with second at Assen, and was in complete control of the next race in Germany when he crashed. Title blow as Pedrosa misses Laguna n Nicky Hayden risked the wrath of the Olympic copyright hounds by adopting the linked-rings logo on a special US GP helmet and leathers. Along with the depiction of a gold medal, it was in support of the US athletes taking part in the Beijing Olympics next month. n After Stoner had blitzed everyone rotten in practice – fastest in every session and continually breaking his own circuit record – Rossi was confident when questioned that he had the key to beating him in the race. “Start 30 seconds earlier,” he quipped to a TV interviewer … n Wild card Ben Spies struggled to turn track knowledge into grid positions in his second race on the Rizla Suzuki. He qualified 15th, although barely two-tenths slower than top Suzuki qualifier Chris Vermeulen, something of a Laguna specialist. n If Spies had any lingering hopes of a ride on a third Suzuki next year, they were finally dashed when team management confirmed there would definitely only be bikes for two riders again next year, though possibly another in 2010. Of course, Spies might get a gig, if either Capirossi or Vermeulen move on. n Nicky Hayden’s racing future should become clear after the summer break. The 2006 World Champion and career-long Honda rider’s name continues to be linked with Ducati. n John Hopkins was riding crutches in the pits and a golf cart round the track, ordered by his doctor to rest his post-operative left knee as he recuperates from his heavy Assen crash. HIGH SIDES 12