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GP Week : Issue 151
A fter two days of rain and damp patches, and two junior races with much the same, it was a nervy start to MotoGP. The track had mainly dried over lunchtime, but few expected it to stay that way. It did. The resultant race was a doozie, with bumping and barging in the early laps, less than a second between the first two at the end. And a fine win, somewhat against the odds, for the defending World Champion’s Repsol Honda. Casey Stoner had qualified only fifth, and was a bit swamped off the line, to finish the first lap in the same position as jack-rabbit team-mate Dani Pedrosa led a bullish Andrea Dovizioso and pole qualifier Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) over the line. Next time round he was up to second, and in the lead by the end of the third, Lorenzo chasing hard and “too cautious” Pedrosa now fourth behind front-row qualifier Nicky Hayden’s Marlboro Ducati. Pedrosa would lose another place to Dovizioso over the next laps, but was back up to third on lap seven, as Hayden started to drop back. “I enjoyed those early laps,” said the American. “Our bike seems to get heat into the tyres quicker than the others, but when they do it then our pace isn’t as good.” By now, the two leaders had a gap of better than two seconds. It was a two-bike race, and the gap see-sawed as the race wore on, but was never more than a second. Was Lorenzo biding his time? He said not: just riding at the limit. Like the others he’d chosen the softer tyres, anticipating colder conditions and possible rain. “The Yamaha is better on the harder tyre,” he said. “W ith that, I think I could have won.” Stoner looked smooth, but later admitted he was again struggling with arm-pump, although not as severe as at the last round at Qatar. It spoiled his throttle control, and now and then he’d run wide. He had missed morning warm-up, preferring to preser ve his last set of new rain tyres in case he needed them. That meant an overnight set-up change was untested: “It was a lucky dip,” he said. “It’s happened before that we’ve gone into a race with something we haven’t tried. It wasn’t a massive step.” In the last two laps Lorenzo challenged more strongly, but Stoner had enough to keep him at bay and even stretch a gap of a few tenths to almost a second at the flag. “In the end I decided second was okay. The important thing is not to pass your limit and crash,” he said. Pedrosa was four seconds adrift at half distance, and had close company – satellite Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow, massively impressive for a second race in a row. At Qatar he’d nailed team-mate Dovizioso at the end; this time Pedrosa proved a harder nut to crack, try as he might: “I was faster in the last two fast rights and I tried there on the last lap,” said the Englishman. “Dani went defensive, and I thought he might be wide on the exit . .. but he doesn’t make mistakes.” He’d learned a lot, he said, less than half a second behind over the line. Crutchlow also set fastest lap while chasing the Spaniard. By the end Pedrosa had closed right up again, just over a second behind Lorenzo: “I was too cautious at the start,” he said. “I saw many crashes in Moto3 and Moto2, and they made too big a gap when I lost time behind Dovizioso and Hayden.” Dovizioso was fifth for a second race, this time 15 seconds behind Crutchlow; Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda) a lonely sixth after escaping from Hayden at half distance. Hayden dropped to eighth, finally the loser of a long battle with increasingly impressive class rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda). But team-mate Valentino Rossi won his scrap with satellite Ducati rider Hector Barbera, pronouncing himself “satisfied” with ninth, after qualifying a dismal 13th. Ben Spies (Yamaha) blamed himself for missing the set-up he needed and finishing 11th, last factory bike bar last- placed Karel Abraham (Ducati), who fell and remounted. Randy de Puniet (Aspar Aprilia) had been top CRT bike until he retired with a failed fuel pump, leaving a distant 12th to team-mate Aleix Espargaro. with Danilo Petrucci (Ioda Aprilia) still close in 13th. Lorenzo retained his title lead, 45 points to Stoner’s 41. with Pedrosa on 36. Crutchlow is fourth on 26; Dovizioso has 22. “I WAS TOO CAUTIOUS AT THE START, I SAW MANY CRASHES IN MOTO3 AND MOTO2, AND THEY MADE TOO BIG A GAP WHEN I LOST TIME BEHIND DOVIZIOSO AND HAYDEN.” DANI PEDROSA: 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> JEREZ