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GP Week : Issue 114
G lum Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was smiling at last at Estoril. Even during the race, the Repsol Honda rider admitted later, as the laps clicked down and he was finally satisfied that his medical problems are over. The result was his first victory of the year, powering past pole starter and long-time leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) with four laps to go, and pulling away to win by better than three seconds. Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) was a lonely and ultimately distant third, unable to regain ground lost in some rough shuffling on the first lap. Well behind him, Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati) was robbed of his race - long fourth place over the line by Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda). Dovi had followed him all the way, then used his Honda’s superior corner exit and speed to take the position by just two hundredths of a second. “I tried to go faster on the last corner, but I had a slide and had to get off the throttle,” said Rossi, who was still pleased with his best performance of the year. It was a tense but processional race, robbed of potential drama when Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda) crashed on the fourth corner. He’d qualified second and brushed off accusations of dangerous riding on race eve. But first he tangled with Stoner in the first corner, then high-sided on the fourth, the first left-hander on a track washed clean of rubber and grip by heavy overnight rain. Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar Ducati) also crashed, a little way further round the same corner; with rookie Karel Abraham (AB Cardion Ducati) following suit next time round, leaving just 14 riders, and points for all. Lorenzo had got away first, and led for lap after lap. But there was no comfort zone, with Pedrosa dogging his every move, and clearly faster down the long downhill Estoril straight. Several times he seemed to line him up, hanging back into the last long left- hander for a faster exit, only to think better of it. Pedrosa’s move came with four laps to go, powering past before they reached the braking zone and then pulling away firmly. “I tried my best, but in the end he was faster than me,” said a nonplussed Lorenzo. For Pedrosa, the triumph was two-fold, after struggling with arm numbness in the first two rounds, although he was on the rostrum for each of them. With the problem cleared, “it was still a hard race, because Jorge was riding very well,” he said. Honda power finally made the difference. Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) was a lone sixth, untroubled all race long. Behind him, team-mate Cal Crutchlow made another good impression, battling almost throughout with ex-250 champion Hiro Aoyama (San Carlo Honda). The rookie had got back in front of the seasoned Japanese rider on the 24th lap, but a slide before starting the last one meant that Aoyama 24