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GP Week : Issue 66
Stoner had come through to second on lap three, but he was already 1.3 seconds adrift, and while he maintained that gap for almost another seven laps, he could get no closer. Pedrosa likewise followed along behind, the gap to Stoner gradually extending until it was more than three seconds at the flag. And Rossi? He was in trouble from the start. He finished lap one third only for Stoner to blast straight past; and from then on he gradually dropped out of contention. He blamed himself and his team's failings in set-up: "We all had the same tyres, but I had no rear grip-- so it was our set-up that was wrong," he said, adding when asked about the championship: "For sure I am worried, but more than the points we need to think about how we work in practice, to set the bike right ... because now it is not just me and Jorge. There are four of us, and the level is so high." Lorenzo was obviously delighted: "A better weekend," he said. "We dominated every practice, andIdidagoodstart,soIwas very confident. Casey was very fast so the difference was not so much, but after a few laps he slowed down a little bit and I could remain at my pace. "Now the championship is less impossible, but it continues to be very difficult." The gap to Rossi shrank from 30 points to a much more threatening 18. Stoner's performance was remarkable; so too his condition after the race ... he was absolutely fine. The fatigue that had forced his three-race pull-out nothing but a bad memory. Behind Rossi, Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) held a lone fourth throughout, replicating his qualifying position. The battling was all in the next group. In the early stages, Mika Kallio (Pramac Ducati) moved past Nicky Hayden on the factory bike to head the gang, only to fall on lap six ... the only crash of the race. Hayden was still engaged with Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) and James Toseland (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha). Dovizioso moved ahead, Capirossi retired with an electronic failure, and Toseland lost touch. But former Estoril winner Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda) was also in the group, and by half distance was firmly at the front of it. In one inspired lap he closed up almost 1.5 seconds on Dovizioso, and got ahead with five laps to go, hanging on grimly to take sixth by less than two hundredths of a second. Hayden was eighth, Toseland ninth, then another ten seconds back Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) prevailed after a long battle with unlucky Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda). The Frenchman had qualified on the second row, but on the first lap his boot caught in the fairing, and the zip was pulled down. He dropped to last doing it up again. Marco Melandri (Hayate Kawasaki) was a distant 12th and only narrowly ahead of Niccolò Canepa (Pramac Ducati) after battling the whole way. Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) was a long way behind in 14th. Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda) was an early retirement, with an electrical problem. With three races left, Rossi has 250 points to Lorenzo's 232. Pedrosa has 173, with Stoner closing again on 170. Dovizioso (142) and Edwards (134) complete the top six. Moto GP PORTUGAL >> 37