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GP Week : Issue 134
caSEYStonerre-establishedhis superiority and stretched his points lead with a dominant victory at aragon – the track where a year ago he claimed his first win of the season on the Ducati. This time he was on the Repsol Honda, heading the time sheets in every practice session. And his only rival was team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who claimed second eight seconds behind. Title rival Jorge Lorenzo was a distant third. The race was rather processional entertainment for a crowd claimed at 63,267, after some excitement in the early laps, with any tension to be found only further back, after Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati) became the first rider to start from pit lane. He pleased his fans for a while, pulling through to ninth after seven laps. But by the end he was losing ground again, beaten back to tenth by rookie Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha), and only just getting back ahead of Hiro Aoyama (San Carlo Honda). The first corner was exciting, however, as Pedrosa got his usual start with pole qualifier Stoner in close pursuit. But braking for the first corner, “I locked up a bit and nearly hit Dani,” said Stoner. It forced Dani off line, and third front-row starter Ben Spies swept his blue Yamaha round the outside of the Repsol Hondas (both wearing a specially lurid orange livery) to take a lead he later admitted he didn’t expect to hold for long. Quite so. Stoner took Dani before half a lap was done and then stormed past Spies on the straight. Dani followed him through, and the team-mates continued from there to the end, stretching away and apart. “It was a lot cooler than we expected, and windy,” said Stoner. “It meant the tyre temperatures were dropping between corners. But the cooler conditions helped a bit with tyre wear.” Not for all the riders. Spies was one who reported a dramatic drop-off earlier in the race than usual, and Rossi also complained that his rear was destroyed. Lorenzo was behind Spies at the end of lap one, then Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda). Simoncelli passed Hayden at the start of lap two, and Lorenzo next time round. By the ninth lap he was past Spies as well, but it didn’t last. At the top of the hill he ran wide and both Yamahas swept past as he detoured on the paved run-off. Spies was now battling with a lack of rear grip, and Lorenzo passed him on lap 13. Soon afterwards “I had a moment” and lost a second, falling back into Simoncelli’s clutches, and succumbing on lap 17. Thus the top five. Hayden in turn was caught by Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), who had prevailed over Hector Barbera (Mapfre Ducati). The trio went back and forth, with Barbera in front with two laps to go, but at the back at the finish. Bautista stayed ahead of Hayden. Rossi? Starting from pit lane, he had made good progress in the early laps, picking his way through a group which at first included Crutchlow, Toni Elias (LCR Honda), Aoyama and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha). Rossi led them all on lap seven, but not only made no further progress, but actually fell back again. Crutchlow was the first past, with five laps left, then also Aoyama, though Rossi reversed the position on the last lap. “ We expected better. I lost a lot in the last eight laps,” said Rossi. “ The rear tyre was completely destroyed – no grip and a lot of vibration.” Karel Abraham (AB Cardion Ducati) crashed out on the second corner, putting Randy de Puniet (Pramac Ducati) off track in the process. The Frenchman spent the afternoon catching up, ending up 12th; Edwards fell away behind him for 13th. Elias and Loris Capirossi (Pramac Ducati) crashed out together when Capirossi ran into the back of the Spaniard – the Italian dislocated his shoulder. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) crashed out on the first lap. It’s not over yet, but Stoner’s comfort zone stretched: 284 to 240. No-score Dovizioso’s third is under threat from Pedrosa, 185 to 170. Spies has 146, Rossi 139. MOTOGP SPAIN >> 29