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GP Week : Issue 175
T he final honours of his best-ever season went to Dani Pedrosa at Valencia. His seventh win of the year, one more than champion Lorenzo, was by miles, after he showed himself master of extraordinary conditions in a race with many pit stops, tyre changes ... and spectacular crashes. None more spectacular than Lorenzo's. He was leading, and the closing Pedrosa had just lost five seconds odd with a slip. The Yamaha rider was coming up to lap CRT rider James Ellison when it happened. A little wobble rapidly became a big one, and Lorenzo was flicked looping through the air as his bike somersaulted to spectacular destruction. It left Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) to win at his leisure. The race was a shambles from the start. It wasn't raining but the new track surface held water to such an extent that most came to the line on wet tyres. Lorenzo was one exception; likewise erstwhile team-mate Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who would finish a classic second. Pedrosa was one who noted that conditions were drying and that Lorenzo had good speed on the warm-up lap. He made a snap decisions and dived into the pits to change bikes. So too did Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha), Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati). It meant a start from pit lane, ten seconds after the green light, and they all slithered out to join at the back. CRT rider Aleix Espargaro led the early laps, displaced on the third by Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha), also on wet tyres. Next lap Dovi dived into the pits for a bike change, followed by Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda), Karel Abraham (AB Cardion Ducati), Hiro Aoyama (Blusens FTR Kawasaki); and one lap later by Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati), and CRT riders Espargaro, Rolfo and Ellison. By then Hayden had slid off unhurt. It was a confusing race but one thing was clear: Pedrosa was fastest: "There was a narrow dry line, and I could see I was starting to catch Jorge." He closed up then found neutral and ran way wide, losing touch again. Lorenzo had his advantage back ... but then ran into lapped traffic, and fearful of losing it once more he pushed through as fast as he could. "I wasn't taking risks, but the only rider who got out of my way was Valentino," he said. The last one he hit was Ellison. "He looked back and saw me, but stayed on the line." He tried a pass anyway, hit a damp patch and got a bit wayward. That put him onto the real wet section. "I thought I was making it, then I hit a more wet patch." He was off. "I am very pleased I won the title in Australia. There was a good chance I would lose it today," he said. That was on lap 14. From there on it was Dani's race. Nakasugi and Crutchlow were behind, and the Englishman got ahead on that lap and pulled clear, matching Pedrosa's lap times. Then on lap 22 he was off: "I hit a wet patch under braking ... the data showed it was five inches long. It suddenly locked, then suddenly gripped." In an instant he was down, his rostrum hopes gone. A long way adrift Bautista had outdistanced impressive CRT rider Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda), and seemed safe. But Stoner was on the way. He'd gone out of character, he said, sticking with the safe starting option of wets. But it was his last race, and he was unusually cautious. He was uncomfortable on them, and likewise after changing to slicks. But gradually he adjusted, and now was moving through from ninth, and speeding up once he got clear of Danilo Petrucci (Came Suter BMW). He passed Pirro on lap 19, 12.5 seconds adrift of Bautista, who was now third. Back to his normal self, he slashed at the gap and scythed past with two laps to go, to close his career with a final rostrum. Bautista was fourth, then Pirro, Dovizioso and Abraham, the last rider on the same lap as the leader. Rossi was one of several lapped, finishing tenth behind Petrucci and Ellison (who denied he had seen Lorenzo coming). Espargaro was a distant 11th, ahead of Power Electronics team-mate de Puniet, who had run off and rejoined, securing top CRT title position as a result. Aoyama and Colin Edwards were the last finishers; Corti, Barbera, Rolfo and Silva joined Hayden and Crutchlow on the crash list - so too Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda), who started strongly o slicks and was up to third when he fell on lap nine. The top four positions were settled: Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner and Dovi. Bautista (178 points) won the battle for fifth from Rossi (163) and Crutchlow. The start was, literally, spread across the track and pit lane ... 26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> VALENCIA