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GP Week : Issue 69
HIRO Aoyama put two hands on the final 250 crown at Sepang, while his final challenger Marco Simoncelli fell on the wrong side of a photo-finish to place third. The Japanese Scot Honda rider (below) had battled with early leader Jules Cluzel (Matteoni Aprilia) as well as Simoncelli and Hector Barbera (Pepe World Aprilia) for the first half of the race. Then, as privateer Cluzel finally succumbed to gravity, Aoyama showed pole-setter's pace. Two new lap records in succession were enough to take him clear, and he won by almost seven seconds. Simoncelli led laps four to 12, only ceding to Aoyama after a fierce battle. But he and his tyres were shot in the heat, and his hands full fending off Barbera. At the final hairpin Barbera slipped inside, but Simoncelli refused to give way. They dragged to the line, on extreme opposite sides of the wide track. A photo-finish could not separate them. It was a second such finish in three races for Barbera, who lost second in Portugal thus. This time he had done the faster race lap of the pair, and was second. Aoyama was jubilant, having stretched his points lead from 12 to 21 with one race left; sportsman Simoncelli hugged him in parc ferme, and said: "With just one race, the championship is impossible, but I will try anyway in Valencia." Thomas Luthi (Emmi Caffe Latte Aprilia) rode to a storming fourth, pulling through from the back after being forced wide on the second corner. He left SAG Honda team-mates Hector Faubel and Ratthapark Wilairot battling behind, the pair passing Alex Debon (Aeropuerto Castello Aprilia) on the last lap when he ran wide. Lucas Pesek (Auto Kelly Aprilia), Alex Baldolini (San Marino Aprilia) and replacement Shuhei Aoyama (Racing Team Germany Honda) trailed in to complete the top ten, in a race with just 16 finishers from 24 starters. Bautista lost third overall when he crashed out of fourth on lap five; team-mate Di Meglio also crashed out of the front group early on. Pasini and Locatelli also fell. The points are lining up for the finale: Aoyama on 252, Simoncelli 231. Barbera gains a place on 214, with Bautista and Pasini 214 and 198. 250: Hiro makes his rivals sweat 40