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GP Week : Issue 48
>>Moto GPITALY C ASEY Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) took his second win of the season and the World Championship lead at the Italian GP at Mugello, after changeable mountain weather dictated a start on wet tyres with a switch to slicks as the track dried for a second race in succession. Drama began before it began, when pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo almost didn’t make the start, after crashing on the sighting lap. He managed to get his damaged Fiat Yamaha back to the pits and switch to his spare with seconds to spare. Wet specialist Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) took off in the lead, but Stoner took over on lap two, only for Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) to take over on lap four. One lap later came the first pit stop – James Toseland (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) opted for slicks early. By lap eight he set fastest lap, though some way behind; and then everyone started to call in. De Puniet (LCR Honda) and Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) stopped after lap seven; Dovizioso, Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) and de Angelis (San Carlo Honda) two laps later; almost all the rest – including Melandri (Hayate Kawasaki), Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner – after the tenth. The lead had shuffled somewhat, Rossi taking over briefly only for Melandri to slam past, to a roar from the crowd of 81,657. Now everyone was on slicks, it became clearer: Dovizioso ahead by three seconds, from Stoner and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), with Lorenzo a second behind, then Rossi, a fading Melandri, and slick pioneer Toseland. Stoner explained how he had tried not to lose too much time, as at Le Mans, as his wet tyres started to shred: “I pushed harder than I like to, but it worked.”On slicks he felt comfortable, and caught and passed Dovi at the start of lap 14, with Capirossi following him one lap later. But the Australian had a problem – his clutch started to play up. “It was slipping and burning, revving out on the main straight without going anywhere. I thought my race was over.”He fiddled frantically with the lever adjustment, which gave Capirossi the chance to take the lead as they started lap 16. By the end of it, however, Stoner was back in front. “I managed to get the clutch to grip, but I was having trouble going into the corners because if it,”he said. “I just tried to be smooth and fast as possible from then on.” He gradually cleared away from Capirossi, who was about to come under pressure from the two Yamahas and Dovizioso. Lorenzo was the first past, and then Rossi, both on the penultimate lap, then (on the last) Dovizioso as well. Lorenzo said that second was “better than winning” after his sighting- lap misadventure, while Rossi put a brave face on third: “I never have good luck in this type of race, and the rostrum is better than what happened at Le Mans,”he said (he was last). “In the wet I was fast, but I chose a hard front slick and it was a mistake. It meant I couldn’t push for the win,”he said. Dovizioso was right on his tail, Capirossi fifth – then a long gap to another last-lap battle, where Colin Edwards passed team-mate Toseland on the last lap, with De Puniet on the Englishman’s tail. Niccolò Canepa (Pramac Ducati) was a career-best ninth, Vermeulen dropping back by the finish to complete the top ten, and Melandri 11th. Hayden’s hope of rescuing some pride was foiled by rear brake problems, and he was a distant 12th. Biggest casualty of the afternoon was the already-injured Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda). Struggling through the pain, he crashed heavily again on lap 13, and was stretchered off in further agony, his championship chances now looking dire. For the other three, it is as close as paint. Stoner regained the lead on 90 points, Lorenzo has 86 and Rossi 81. Pedrosa is fourth on 57, with team-mate Dovizioso on 56. 29