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GP Week : Issue 53
Halfway house, and no sure thing THE US GP was the eighth race of 17 this season, making a short halfway point – with the championship still very much alive. But it is looking increasingly precarious for Rossi’s rivals, after a run of growing strength by the defender. His turning point came when he outsmarted and outrode Lorenzo at the Catalunya GP, three races back. At first there were four contenders, until misfortune meant Pedrosa was lagging. There are still three, with a spread of only 16 points from Rossi to Stoner in third. But Stoner is stricken with a mysterious condition that has spoiled his last three race finishes. He will be lucky if it has cleared up by the next race in two weeks. And Lorenzo is carrying injuries once more, as well as the Laguna reminder that these bikes can still bite you hard. Rossi by contrast is riding the crest of a wave. If anyone is to stop him, it will have to start happening soon. Was Laguna Seca Honda’s return? SMILING HRC faces in the Repsol pit were an unfamiliar sight. After all, it’s been over a year since a Honda victory. But does Pedrosa’s win at Laguna Seca mean a full-scale return to strength? The factory has never fully recovered from the loss of Rossi, plus pit crew, at the end of 2003; most surprisingly Honda’s entry into an 800cc class seemingly made to order was met with defeat at the hands of Ducati and Yamaha. Optimists see the current position as the strongest since that time. New management and a strong rider combination are all in place. All that’s needed is a better motorbike. What Pedrosa’s US win did prove was just how small the margins are. The bike that failed badly at Assen was unbeatable a week later. Some small adjustments, a different track, and the fortunes were reversed. Significantly, perhaps, not for all riders. Pedrosa won and Elias (also on a factory machine) posted his best finish of the year in sixth. But Dovizioso, usually the most reliable of riders, was caught out for a second race by a treacherous lack of front- wheel grip. Good signs, but we need to see a bit more consistency before we can say the big H is back.