Kel Edge, Andy Rixon
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Ducati's Jerez Report
Down in ninth place at mid-distance after a fraught first few laps, Stoner and his Desmosedici GP7 were the fastest combination on the track during the last part of the race as they hunted down and passed Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa and World Champion Nicky Hayden. Stoner ended the race six tenths off fourth place and just 2.3 seconds off the podium. Capirossi had a challenging two days of practice and attempts to modify his bike's set up for this afternoon's race didn't work as well as he had expected.
Casey Stoner, race result 5th , World Championship 2nd, 36 points
Loris Capirossi, race result 12th , World Championship 14th , 4 points
Hopkins had been involved in a 13-lap battle with World Champion Nicky Hayden, and had just managed to get past him and begin to chase down the front three when disaster struck on lap 17. Suzuki’s Anglo-American star lost grip at the front end of the bike as a gust of wind caused him to run wide on a fast right-hand corner. He was unhurt in the crash, and although he re-mounted his battered GSV-R, was unable to collect any championship points as he brought his bike home in 19th place.
Chris Vermeulen had another eventful race – similar to the last outing in Qatar. He started from 14th on the grid and was relegated a couple more places during the first lap, but the determined Australian fought back to claim ninth place, passing some very experienced riders in the process. The third member of the this week’s Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team, Kousuke Akiyoshi, just missed out on the points during his first-ever European GP. He rode hard all race and finished in a respectable 17th place despite this being only his second ever Grand Prix start.
Today’s race was held in warm and sunny conditions and was watched by a record breaking crowd of 138,168 fans at trackside – the biggest ever at a MotoGP. Valentino Rossi won the race to give him his fifth premier class victory at Jerez, and make him MotoGP’s most successful rider ever at this track.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will stay at Jerez for a full day’s testing tomorrow to help prepare for the next race of the season at Istanbul in Turkey on Sunday 22nd April.
John Hopkins: “I am disappointed to say the least - the worst thing is that we have lost valuable championship points. My race pace and the tyres felt good and I was able to put in a few passes in the beginning. I was in a group that was making a bit of a gap, but then I got held up by Nicky. I wanted to get past him, but I was having a hard time doing it. It looked like I was following him, but that wasn’t what I wanted. When I got past him I started to chase down the front three, but the wind then picked up and I got blown sideways by a big gust and the pace I was going, and the lean angle I had, I just lost the front! As I say I’m disappointed, but this is a long season and we won’t let this faze us. We’ll take the positives from here and come back even stronger in Turkey!”
Chris Vermeulen: “I knew it was going to be a tough race having to start from 14th and it’s difficult to pass around here. At the beginning there were so many guys going so fast and I got involved in a few tussles with people like Capirossi, Barros and Kenny Jr, and they know a thing or two about racing! I found it quite hard to come through the field but I managed to get past quite a few and on the last lap I had a bit of a battle with Barros to keep ninth. It’s an improvement on where we started, to finish in the top 10, but we still have a long way to go. The main thing is that we need to qualify and start better to make sure we finish better!”
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Valentino lets the rest of the field get acclimated before the start.
Pedrosa and Edwards share the rostrum
‘The Doctor’ has won at Jerez on four previous occasions, and marked victory number five with a special celebration alongside his fan club. Decked out in skittle costumes, the group fell at the Italian’s feet as he gave them an underarm bowl on his parade lap. His triumph makes him the first rider to win races on 500cc, 990cc and 800cc machines at the highest level.
The Tornado and the Doctor.
Unable to do anything to catch Stoner on the straights, Valentino Rossi took second at the Qatari race. The five-time MotoGP World Champion is currently on a run of five races without a win, his worst drought since his debut victory at Donington in 2000, and will be eager to break the streak as he begins his revenge mission for the world title in earnest. The Italian has been in blistering qualifying form as of late, including a magnificent run at the Jerez Circuit during last month’s MotoGP Official Test.
On the podium once more at Losail, Dani Pedrosa broke Rossi’s record to become the youngest ever rider to take 50 Grand Prix podiums. He was also fast at his home track during testing, with an extremely impressive race simulation on the final day of the 2007 preseason, and will remember with fondness a thrilling debut MotoGP ride into second place in last year’s event.
One rider with slightly less recent experience of the circuit is Suzuki’s John Hopkins. The Anglo-American is still on the mend from a hand injury which forced him to miss his final chance to test the GSV-R800 at Jerez, and was in obvious pain after an impressive race in Qatar where he equalled his best ever result of fourth.
Marco Melandri put in some fast runs at Jerez during preseason and subsequently at the opening race of 2007, but will hope his calls for more power are answered in Spain. He is joined in the overall top eight by Colin Edwards, Chris Vermeulen and Nicky Hayden, with the latter having had a start to his title defence with a result far from that which he would have liked. The World Champion will need to pick up the pace early on this year if he is to keep up with the top riders who are out for his crown.
Although unable to make his return to race action in Qatar due to a crash during qualifying, Jeremy McWilliams is expected to finally make his Grand Prix comeback at Jerez. The Northern Irish rider suffered a haematoma in his still-tender leg which ruled him out of an historic MotoGP start, but should be fit enough to get onboard the Ilmor GP bike once more at the Spanish Circuit where he inflicted the original injury on himself.
Suzuki will be running a wildcard rider at the Gran Premio bwin.com de España, their regular tester Kousuke Akiyoshi. The Japanese rider stepped in for Hopkins to complete testing work last month, and has been rewarded with a race outing for Paul Denning’s MotoGP outfit.
Carlos Checa on the LCR Honda topped Friday practive over his countrymen Dani Pedrosa and Toni Elias.
After Valentino Rossi’s triumph at the ‘qualifying’ session of last month’s Official MotoGP Test, and the awesome top speeds reached by Ducati at the opening race in Qatar, Honda will be pleased to have their trio at the head of the timesheets today. Casey Stoner, who so impressed with his performance at Losail less than two weeks ago, was fourth fastest ahead of Kenny Roberts Jr., the morning’s quickest rider.
Five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi was the final rider in the top six, although by no means off the pace in a tightly packed hour long final session. John Hopkins, who missed the final preseason test at Jerez due to a hand injury, was still obviously suffering from the after-effects during the session, clearly in pain as he sat in his pit in the early stages of the session. He was ahead of team-mate Chris Vermeulen, Colin Edwards and Alex Barros, whilst World Champion Nicky Hayden once again couldn’t quite find his rhythm at the Spanish circuit down in 13th. The American was a mere seven-tenths of a second off Checa's best time, but must use tomorrow's final day of practice to get into the groove before he kickstarts his title defence in earnest in Sunday's race.
Final qualifying Spanish GP
With the 4.423km track notoriously sensitive to temperature changes, grip was not at the level provided during tests here earlier in the month when times were well up on last year’s. Dani’s pole time is 0.388 seconds slower than Loris Capirossi’s 2006 pole mark of 1m 39.064 seconds. The track surface was at 24 degrees, ambient temperature at 40 degrees as the 800cc machines began the hour. Casey Stoner (Ducati) got things moving with a swift early lap of 1m 40.903 to head the timesheet until the halfway point. Rossi and yesterday’s quick-man Checa lay second and third fastest.
Dani, who had been parked in 13th spot opened the real attempts at pole with a 1m 40.899s time to grab the number one slot with 26 minutes gone. Rossi then responded by firing his machine to the second fastest time before the Kawasaki team launched Randy de Puniet out of pit lane with a qualifying tyre on for the Frenchman to put in a 1m 40.523s lap to take pole from Dani.
His team-mate Olivier Jacque slotted into a provisional second place before the bulk of the field began to pit for qualifiers with 15 minutes of the hour remaining. With 12 minutes left Stoner sped to a 1m 39.940s lap – good enough for pole – but only for now. John Hopkins (Suzuki) snatched second spot with Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) now temporarily third fastest.
With ten minutes left on the clock things got serious with Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda RC212V) rocketing to second and then Rossi grabbing pole with a 1m 39.765s time. Then Colin Edwards (Yamaha) put in a 1m 39.765s lap to head the proceedings and it seemed many men had the speed to figure at the front of the rankings.
With five minutes left on the clock, the order was Edwards, Rossi, Melandri, Stoner, Pedrosa and Hayden. But Qatar winner Stoner had some more speed left to dial in a 1m 39.524s lap and go pole again. Then Rossi intervened with a 1m 39.453s time and as Hayden shot to fourth and Hopkins to third, Dani was on a hot lap…
The clock stopped at 1m 39.402 seconds and try as the rest of the grid might, no one had the legs on the homeboy. It’s a significant pole for Dani – and with Rossi second fastest and Checa completing the front row – the race promises to be a firecracker of a contest. Just 1.003 seconds covers the first 16 riders! It is also the closest the top ten riders have been on a grid in the entire history of the premier class.
Dani said, “The race set-up we have for the bike is quite good and the tyre choice looks OK as well so we’ll have to see how their performance continues over the race distance. The times are very close so a good start will be very important tomorrow. The crowd was amazing today. On the last lap coming into the pits I was more relaxed and I could actually notice how many people there were. It’s great for the Spanish riders and the others to have so much support and I think the atmosphere tomorrow will be very special.”
Valentino Rossi Position: 2nd Time: 1'39.453 Laps: 26 - "It's been an up and down weekend for us so it's good that we've achieved our number one goal of getting onto the front row. It's going to be very important for tomorrow's race I think. It was a good qualifying session and my lap was quite good, but we know it's possible to be a lot quicker because last month at the test I was more than one second faster! We knew it would be difficult to match the 1'38.394 I did then however, because then we had four qualifying tyres and with the new tyre restrictions now we only have two. With the race tyre we were struggling quite a bit yesterday and this morning it was even worse, so we were a bit worried, but we looked at the situation together with Michelin and found a good solution and this afternoon we were in much better shape. I think tyres are going to be the biggest issue tomorrow and the last ten laps especially are going to be very hard and difficult for everyone. I think it's going to be an exciting race for the fans!"
Checa said, “This front row is a very good feeling, especially for my home race. Predictions are difficult but if the weather and track are the same for the race as in practice, then we have a very good set-up, and a chance to fight for the podium. The LCR team has done a great job, especially to give me more confidence with the front-end. And until today I have struggled with a lot of chatter on the soft rear qualifying tyre but, with the support of Michelin, we have made a lot of progress in this area.”
Valentino Rossi (46) jumps into the lead of the opening lap ahead of last week's winner Casey Stoner (27 and Nicky Hayden who dropped back to 7th at the finish.
Both Yamahas got a good start off the line, Edwards riding around the outside of Carlos Checa to take third at turn two and Rossi passing pole-sitter Pedrosa to take the lead shortly after. By the fourth lap the leading trio had begun to pull away from Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins and Rossi had started to stretch his lead on Pedrosa, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap five. Despite a strong showing from the Spaniard in front of his home crowd, Rossi's lead never looked in jeopardy and he eventually crossed the line 1.246 seconds in front. Edwards meanwhile never stopped pushing in third place, spurred on by the looming Honda of Toni Elias in the latter stages. Tyre worries for the pair proved unfounded as their Michelins worked well to the flag and Rossi and Edwards now take first and fourth in the Championship after two rounds of the eighteen-race season.
The Doctor will see you now.
Hyped up as a battle between Rossi and Pedrosa for dominance of the Spanish circuit, the race never really became a duel between the two riders. As the Fiat Yamaha rider continually upped his race pace, Pedrosa was left with little to do but follow his rival into second. Whilst clearly unable to keep up with Rossi, he was likewise unfazed by the presence of third placed Colin Edwards nearly three seconds behind him. For the ‘Texan Tornado’ the Gran Premio bwin.com de España marked a welcome return to the podium after an assured ride.
Aiming to give the Spanish fans another reason to be happy, Toni Elias was right up there with Rossi’s fastest speeds although starting from further down the grid. The exciting rider finished in fourth after some excellent overtaking, just edging out Casey Stoner who couldn’t repeat his dominance from two weeks ago. The Australian Ducati rider was once again mature in his overtaking choices, and was rewarded with some valuable points for the World Championship.
Carlos Checa, starting from the front row for the first time since 2005, rounded off the top six, ahead of reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden. ‘The Kentucky Kid’ made a fantastic start, but was unable to get near the leaders and dropped off towards the end of the race. Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen and Shinya Nakano completed the top ten.
John Hopins was turning the fastest laps of the race and closing on the leaders, had just passed Haydeon for 4th, then low sided his Sukuki in a corner.
John Hopkins suffered a crash on lap 16, having just overtaken Hayden for fourth, but picked the Suzuki GSV-R800 up to finish the race, albeit in 19th. The brave Anglo-American was once again racing despite pain in his right hand.
Valentino Rossi, 1st Time: 45'53.340: "After the situation at this race last year, this is much, much better! Our first priority today was to get points and I knew that to win I would have to ride at the maximum, but today my Yamaha really flew and I was able to do a great race. It feels like a long time since I last won and this is a great emotion and a very special victory for me, especially in Jerez in front of this great crowd. Qatar was good but to taste victory again is a wonderful feeling. We had some problems on Friday and again yesterday and then after this morning's warm-up we made some more small modifications; I have to thank my team, from Jeremy Burgess to all my mechanics and engineers. They did a fantastic job for me this weekend and they all deserve this win. My tyre worked very well today and Michelin have done a good job too in difficult conditions, so thank you to them. I got a great start, didn't make any mistakes and had a good battle with Pedrosa, who we knew would be the danger today. I'm really happy for Colin too and to have both Yamahas on the podium shows that we're in good shape for what's going to be a long season. Now we have two race tracks which might be difficult for us so it's very important to leave here leading the championship."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 2nd: “I am very happy to be on the podium for the second race in a row and we’ve had a good weekend here at Jerez since first practice on Friday. At the beginning of the race the pace became very fast and I was trying really hard not to lose too much ground to Valentino in the early laps. From the middle of the race to the end I was a little bit slower than him so I just tried to keep focussed and not make any mistakes. The bike felt good today and the Michelin tyres too, and I enjoyed the battle, even though I wasn’t able to fight for the win. I feel a little bit sorry for the fans here because I really wanted to win for them because they are very passionate. I think they enjoyed the racing today and this crowd supports everybody, not just the Spanish riders. The result is very good for the team because they have been working hard for me, so a big thanks to them.”
Colin Edwards, 3rd Time: "On Friday morning you wouldn't have thought we would end up on the podium, but here we are and it was a good race for me. I've got to say an enormous thank you to all my guys because they worked non-stop all weekend and came up with some pretty good solutions to the problems we had. Michelin also had something up their sleeve for us and seemed to know what would work and they were proved right - they've done a good job for us this weekend. I got a good start and my best move was getting past Checa so quickly; I knew I had to find some clear air and try to hang onto the back of Valentino and Pedrosa. I made a couple of small mistakes and they were able to pull away from me a bit which was a pity, but my bike was working well so I was able to keep a pretty good pace throughout. Towards the end I could see Elias had appeared behind me and I didn't like the idea of him getting spurred on by his home fans and trying to snatch a podium, so I really had to keep hammering away! The last few laps were a little hairy at times as I started to slide but anyway we managed to make it and it feels great to be up here on the podium again."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 7th: “I got a good start and the first few laps were decent – I was pushing really hard, though I didn’t really have the set-up to run at that pace. It felt good to be up front and see what those boys were doing but I was taking a few chances and I probably used up my tyres too much in the first few laps trying to work my way forward. It’s a little frustrating because at the last race in Qatar we got faster as the race went on yet here it was the opposite. Hopefully we can get two good days of testing and really try to make a big step before the short break. The issue is still getting the front end to turn, especially when the front tyre gets a little worn. Thanks to my team and to Michelin because those guys have been working hard and did some stuff to help me – and even though the result isn’t a lot better I do feel like we made some progress this weekend and we’re going to keep fighting to get up front.”
MotoGP Results: (27 laps = 119.421 km)
Pole Position: Dani PEDROSA 1'39.402 160.185 Km/h
World Championship Positions:
250cc Race Results: (26 laps = 114.998 km)
Pole Position: Jorge LORENZO 1'43.099 154.441 Km/h
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