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GP Week : Issue 53
>>Moto GPUSA J ULY 5 was officially declared Valentino Rossi Day in Monterey County. Dani Pedrosa had other ideas. As points leader Rossi was kept busy by Casey Stoner, and his own challenging team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, the Spanish Repsol Honda rider scurried away for a typical start-to-finish win. It was his and Honda’s first for over a year. The tight and busy circuit in the hills outside Monterey, at 3.61 km the shortest of the year, is a place for surprises. This year was no exception, in a weekend of many crashes and heroic comebacks. For instance, Rossi came within 0.344s of snatching victory after Pedrosa “relaxed too much”on the last lap. Then there was Lorenzo being a doubtful starter after a slamming high-side in qualifying … but was still fighting Rossi for second almost to the finish. Stoner himself once again battled a mystery ailment, dropping to a hard- earned fourth, while his Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden turned his fortunes upside down with fifth, by far his best result of the year. More than 46,000 fans packed the compact venue in perfect weather, and saw Pedrosa make a jack-rabbit start from row two to seize the lead as they streamed over the hill into the first tight hairpin. Rossi grabbed second from Stoner into the Corkscrew, only to lose the position again on lap three. By now the lead pack also included Andrea Dovizioso and pole starter Lorenzo, seemingly unfazed by pain he later admitted was “terrible”. Dovizioso slid out on lap seven, much to his surprise; Lorenzo kept a watching brief in fourth. Then just before half distance Pedrosa started to inch away, remarkably lapping faster than his qualifying time … By the time Rossi regained second on lap 14 Pedrosa was almost three seconds clear. On lap 20, Stoner suddenly slowed; arm-pump and fatigue problems turning another potentially strong race into a feat of endurance. By contrast, Lorenzo was gaining speed, not only ahead of the Ducati but closing on Rossi. It culminated in a determined but flawed attack into the last tight corner at the end of lap 27. Lorenzo locked the front wheel under braking and saved the crash by the narrowest of margins, letting Rossi slip safely through inside. Rossi started the last lap 1.57s adrift of the Honda, but Pedrosa almost succumbed to over-confidence as he slackened his pace. Rossi was all but close enough to attack into the last corner. “I came down the hill like a crazy man,”Rossi laughed, “but I was not close enough and it was too risky. Better to take 20 points.” Pedrosa, meanwhile, was wreathed in unfamiliar smiles. “My bike had a very good pace – I was impressed too,”he said, before thanking his team for “never giving up”, and “the many doctors I have passed through in the last year”. Stoner was obviously distressed at the end – his fatigue problem back in full strength; team-mate Hayden was whooping with delight at his first good race of the year. He had outpaced Toni Elias after a long battle, and also finished top American … Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards was a steady seventh, comfortably clear of Chris Vermeulen’s Rizla Suzuki. With Sete Gibernau (GFH Ducati), Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) and Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) joining Dovizioso on the crash list, and James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) excluded after missing a ride- through penalty following a jump start, there were only 12 finishers. Pedrosa’s win took the sting out of the championship loss for Rossi’s rivals. Rossi now heads Lorenzo 151 points to 142, with Stoner salvaging fourth to score 135. Pedrosa is on 92. 25