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GP Week : Issue 119
T he words of Casey stoner’s Australian repsol honda predecessor Mick doohan came to mind at Catalunya. Taxed that his runaway wins made racing boring, he snapped back: “what do you want me to do about it ... slow down?” Stoner’s rivals would be pleased if he would. But with second-placed Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) still leading the championship, it’s not quite time for that yet. The crowd of 81,838 rain-dampened fans would also have been glad. In the absence of Dani Pedrosa, and with the race threatened with light showers halfway through, Stoner took the lead from fast- away Lorenzo on the second of 25 laps of the 4.727-km Montmelo circuit outside Barcelona, and won at will. He was at the head of a soporific procession. Apart from another big battle at the back, it was almost the only overtake of the whole race. Expectations had been higher. With official Bad Boy Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda) on pole for the first time, everyone had hoped for fireworks. Alas, the lion-maned Italian was swamped at the start, and though he did pass Nicky Hayden’s Marlboro Ducati for sixth on lap four, he would get no further. Stoner’s race was tense if uneventful. There had been rain overnight and in the morning, and shortly before half distance, on lap 11, white flags were shown to signify a wet race. Spare bikes on rain tyres were being warmed up in pit lane, but the light intermittent drizzle on a couple of parts of the track never amounted to anything more than a worry. Stoner told afterwards about how he had managed to build up a gap of better than two seconds by then. “I felt comfortable with that. Then the rain came, more in some parts than others, and you didn’t know where. I got a bit nervous, didn’t know what pace to run. But I matched myself to the people behind ... and it worked.” Lorenzo had closed up a bit after the white flag, but Stoner had it under control. At the end he was 2.4 seconds ahead. Lorenzo’s best moment had been his flying start, “but I knew Casey could pass me in a few laps. When he did I tried to stay with him as long as possible.” It was a strong effort, but he was a second adrift after only six laps. Team-mate Ben Spies was third, his first rostrum with the factory team. “ The weekend was good – not great, but nothing went wrong.” He’d had to work for it: Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) was in his wheel- tracks until the closing laps, though not able to do any more. But Dovi in turn had his hands full with Rossi. In fact they did swap places over the first couple of laps, and Rossi said later: “I was pleased because I could pass him on the straight. He passed me back, but it shows were are improving. The gap to the leader is smaller ... I could still see him at the end.” Both he and Marlboro Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden had used the new heavier- crank engine. Rossi might have done better but for an error in setting, in search of better rear grip. Morning warm-up was wet, denying him the chance to test it. “I raced it, and it was a mistake ... but we are still learning.” He in turn came under threat from Simoncelli mid-race, but then Marco backed off. “I got to within three tenths, but after a few laps I was taking too many chances where it was a little damp, and I decided to pull my oars in and bring the bike home,” Simoncelli said. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) was seventh, his best so far, after also passing an off-form Hayden, troubled with wheelspin in the long corners. The real action came at the back. As at Le Mans, four riders were to and fro almost to the finish. At the end, Loris Capirossi (Pramac Ducati) narrowly held off Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati) by two hundredths. Hector Barbera (Mapfre Ducati) was two tenths behind, while Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) was less than a second away. Toni Elias (LCR Ducati) was a distant last; Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was knocked off by a crashing Hiro Aoyama (San Carlo Honda). Lorenzo still leads on points, but Stoner is creeping ever closer, 91 points to 98. Dovizioso (63), Pedrosa (61), Rossi (58) and Hayden (47) complete the top six. 24