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GP Week : Issue 106
Jorge Lorenzo had his chance to take the fight back to Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi at Estoril, as he promised after their clash at Motegi. Sadly for the crowd, Rossi wasn’t up to it. And Jorge, who had hunted him down from almost two seconds behind, sailed away for an eighth win of the year, the first not only since he won the championship in Malaysia, but for six races. Rossi’s problem “I didn’t have the pace,” he explained. The short sentence spoke volumes about a difficult weekend for everybody, with the race the first time all weekend they had been able to go out on slick tyres. Getting the set-up right was a matter of luck ... or of inspired guesswork, and .Lorenzo’s crew had done it better once again. As with all classes, qualifying had been cancelled and grid positions taken from (wet) free practice times. Lorenzo was on pole from Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) and Rossi, with Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) leading row two from Ben Spies (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) and Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda). But Spies’s grid slot was vacant. He had fallen on the sighting lap, and dislocated his ankle. Lorenzo leapt away from the start, “but there were still some wet patches and I was quite nervous,” he explained. Hayden took over for a lap, but by the fourth Rossi had got himself together and taken to the front. “It was risky but I felt good, and I had good grip from the first lap,” he said. “I tried to take some advantage, and it was all going well.” Lorenzo also thought he was gone, but “I was patient, and I improved my pace every lap, and in the end I caught up with him.” That was on lap 14, after having been 1.8 seconds adrift on lap nine. Two laps later he outbraked Rossi at the end of the main straight, and the wind-blown crowd of 40,143 was ready to see a battle. It didn’t happen. Within two laps Lorenzo was a full second clear, and he stretched it to 8.6 seconds at the finish. Stoner was long gone. He was in a challenging third at the end of lap five, only to crash going into the final fast corner. The battle for third made up for what was missing up front. Hayden held the position until the half- way point, but by then a gang of four Hondas was closing fast, led by satellite- team rider Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda) from the Repsol-Honda factory riders, with Dani Pedrosa at that stage heading Andrea Dovizioso, with Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) between them, and Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) hanging on close behind. Simoncelli was in full aggressive mode, and the first past Hayden, Dovi following one lap later. Hayden would lose one more spot to Pedrosa on lap 20, but the Spaniard was running out of strength steam in his still-weakened condition, and started dropping back immediately. Simoncelli, Dovizioso and Hayden were together to the end, but the Hondas had it, and were at it tooth and nail. Dovi was in front as they started the last lap but Simoncelli mugged him at the chicane. The issue was settled on the run to the line, in Dovi’s favour. It looked as though it had been a question of factory horsepower, but Simoncelli admitted “I made a little mistake in the last corner and 30