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GP Week : Issue 71
Honda's Hiro takes nal 250 title HISTORY laid on a nail-biter for the last ever 250 race. With the championship in the balance, the advantage swung one way and then the other between protagonists Hiro Aoyama (Scot Honda) and Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera). Simoncelli needed to win, and Aoyama to nish 11th. Neither made it easy on himself. Pole qualifier Alex Debon missed the race, breaking ribs in a crash directly after setting fastest lap. Simoncelli took over the position, but it was Hector Barbera (Pepe World Aprilia) who took the lead into the first corner, and stayed there for the first eight laps. Things were hectic behind him, with Aoyama quickly up to second, joined by Simoncelli on lap five. They swapped places a couple of times before the Italian took the lead on lap nine. Then came the first drama. Aoyama could have cruised, but he was pushing hard. Too hard ... he missed his braking into the first corner and ran off into the gravel. Everyone held their breath as he motocrossed along, narrowly staying on board (he later credited this fact to the unseen help from previous Japanese champion, the late Daijiro Kato) and rejoining ... in 11th. Soon he was up to tenth and sitting pretty. Even if Simoncelli was to win. But he wasn't. He had several major moments before the big one, on lap 21. A slip on the second corner put him off line for the third, and he was down and out. This left Barbera in control, comfortably ahead of the next pair, Alvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar Aprilia) and Raffaele de Rosa (Scot Honda), themselves relieved of pressure when a hard-pressing Mike di Meglio (Mapfre Aspar Aprilia) crashed from the group two laps earlier. By the finish, Thomas Luthi (Emmi Caffe Latte Aprilia) had all but passed de Rosa. Some way behind Ratthapark Wilairot (SAG Honda) held off a challenge from Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Aprilia). Aoyama was now seventh, promoted also when fast-starting Jules Cluzel (Matteoni Aprilia) crashed out ahead of him. Alex Baldolini (San Marino Aprilia) fended off Roberto Locatelli (Metis Gilera) for eighth, with CIP-Honda rider Shoya Tomizawa 10th. Aoyama was unassailable on 261 points, but Simoncelli's crash cost him second overall, with Barbera on 239 to his 231. Bautista (218) and non-finisher Pasini fifth on 128. "I wanted to win this race," Aoyama said. "But I pushed too much, and almost crashed. Then I was so far away, but I saw Simoncelli crash, and I thought today isnotthebestdayasarace,butasa championship it's fantastic." THE season nale was a two- man battle between the top two in the championship -- Bancaja Aspar Aprilia team- mates Julian Simon and Bradley Smith. It was resolved in favour of the former, the new champion's seventh win of the year ... but only after a last lap in which they changed places four times. Smith had galloped away from the start, leading by almost 1.5 seconds on the first lap. But Simon was second and hunting him down. By lap five he was on him, and he followed inches behind until lap 20, when Smith gained a gap of half-a-second ... only to run wide next time round and lose the position. He'd closed again by the last lap, and twice got ahead. But every time Simon would pass him straight back again. "I have to congratulate Smith: he made it really hard," said Simon; while Smith was happy with his effort ... and finishing on the rostrum for the last six races of the year. Pol Espargaro (Derbi) got to the head of a huge gang disputing third and broke free, 10 seconds behind the leaders at the finish but comfortably clear of a hugely entertaining final battle. At one point it comprised 11 riders, including impressive German wild card Marcel Schrotter (Toni Mang Honda), but it was whittled down by circumstances and crashes: Rabat was knocked down by Redding; Bradl crashed alone, Folger ran off and Terol dropped out of contention. Marc Marquez (Red Bull KTM) led the gang, now seven- strong, onto the last lap, but halfway round, with everyone battling for every inch, he was knocked off. Over the line it was the experience Simone Corsi (Fontana Aprilia) narrowly ahead of Schrotter, then Joan Olive (Derbi), Efren Vazquez (Derbi), Sandro Cortese (Ajo Derbi) and Randy Krummenacher (De Graaf Aprilia), with 10th-placed Terol another 2.5 seconds back. Champion Simon and runner up Smith ended up on 289 points to 223.5. Terol stayed third, with Espargaro just five points down, 179.5 to 174.5; Sergio Gadea (16th today) was fifth on 141. 125: Simon crowns his title with win #7 28