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GP Week : Issue 77
with the bike, so it was quite risky," he said. Hayden, in by far his best-ever race on a Ducati, was determined to make the rostrum, and put yet another pass on Dovizioso on the final lap. But for once the Honda had a speed advantage and the Italian powered past again on the drag to the line to take third by inches. "If you'd told me I'd get fourth before the race I'd have been pleased, but to lose the rostrum like that really hurts," the American said. World Superbike champion Ben Spies had played down his chances before the race, but was also a factor. The Monster Yamaha rookie finished the first lap seventh after qualifying 11th, already ahead of fast qualifier Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda). Although he only passed one other rider, two crashes promoted him to fifth, and he had closed on the Lorenzo in the later laps, until the Spaniard did his own disappearing act. His victim was Dani Pedrosa, who had surged through to take the lead from a third-row start, lost it to Rossi on lap one, but was back in front when Stoner passed both of them on the third lap. But Pedrosa's predictions of handling problems came true, and by half distance he was down to seventh behind de Puniet. He stayed there to the end. Three seconds away, Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha) had passed Loris Capirossi's Rizla Suzuki at the mid-point, and he held off a rather desultory challenge to the finish. Hiro Aoyama (Interwetten Honda) was an impressive tenth, well clear of his fellow ex-250 rookies, who were scrapping at the back. By the finish Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda) overcame his testing problems to beat Hector Barbera (Paginas Aspar Ducati) by a second, while in a replay of their 250 days Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) crashed out on the last lap, having been between the pair. Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda) was a dismal last. Both Pramac Ducati riders crashed out early on, first Mika Kallio and then Aleix Espargaro, who remounted to tour to the pits. What a start to the year -- a close race with a popular winner. How different it might have been if Stoner had kept his wheels down. 24