Stoner Wins, Pedrosa Crashes, Rossi Leads Series

Henny Ray Abrams | July 13, 2008

HOHENSTEIN, ERNSTTHAL, GERMANY, JULY 13: Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner won a battle of the elements to take his third win in a row before over 98,000 fans in the rain-sodden Alice German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa lost the battle and crashed out of the lead in the first turn of the sixth of 30 laps with over seven seconds in hand to give up the championship lead. That now goes to Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who futilely chased Stoner to the end, finishing second at 3.708 seconds. Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen narrowly held off San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis to take third. De Angelis’s fourth tied the best finish of his maiden MotoGP season and it gave Bridgestone a sweep of the top four spots in the first full wet race of the year. Pedrosa jumped to the front from his second place starting position and quickly cleared out. The Spaniard was gapping the field comfortably for the first six laps before disaster struck. On the brakes into turn one, Pedrosa crashed hard, sliding into the air fence as his Honda RC212V shed parts while tumbling through the gravel. The Spaniard fractured the top bone of his left index finger and has a suspected fracture of his left ankle plus multiple bruising, especially of his left shoulder and left elbow. He is due to fly to Barcelona to see his surgeon Xavier Mir in advance of next weekend’s Red Bull U.S.GP. “It was a little strange,” he said. “I had only just touched the brake and I crashed. It was a real pity because I’d got a great start and was going well. I had a good feeling. The front felt perfect, the rear was sliding just a little, but the general feeling was good considering the track conditions. It is a real pity.” Pedrosa’s crash gave the point to Stoner, who had a lead of 1.5 seconds at the first split while holding the lead. When the lap ended he had 1.611 seconds, which he’d continue to stretch. At its peak it was 6.775 secs. before he slowed at the end. The win was Stoner’s and Bridgestone’s first at the German circuit and Stoner’s four of the season. That, along with Pedrosa’s crash, breathes more life into Stoner’s championship hopes. With 10 of 18 races complete, Rossi leads with 187 points to 171 for Pedrosa and 167 for Stoner. “Yeah, I mean I saw Dani (Pedrosa) riding off into the distance and I thought, fair play, there was no way I was going to go that fast in the conditions at that time,” he said. “We definitely needed a few more laps for the tires to warm up and come up to temperature. But Dani just kept riding away from us and there was no way I was going to keep up. And then as I was going down the main straight I saw his bike start tumbling and bouncing and I saw him in the gravel. So, obviously he just went that little bit too much. But considering Dani’s past record in the wet, I thought he was riding very, very well and very impressive. “From then on it was just a matter of making sure we were gaining a small advantage each lap and not make any mistakes, because today we had to run a harder compound rear tire on the left side and we kept having a lot of loses. Just small ones here and there. So I was a little bit nervous going around for most of the race, but I just managed to keep it up, which is the most important thing. “So, a big thanks to the team again for everything they’ve done for me this weekend. And you know it’s nice to close the championship down a little bit more.” Rossi took Dovizioso for second on the ninth lap, but couldn’t make any inroads. Still, considering how dispirited Rossi was with his dry set-up, he couldn’t be unhappy. “Yes, this result is positive for me, especially because I come back at the top of the ranking,” he said. “And also the second place is not so bad considering that it is this track and the bad condition. But I have a good feeling with my bike and my tires. I have also fun to ride in these bad conditions. “Unfortunately, starting from the third row I lose time at the beginning. And I see Dani (Pedrosa) incredibly fast, go away. But after I take my rhythm and unfortunately I see Dani in the gravel trap. I try to come back on Casey (Stoner), but is very fast, so for me is not possible. But I’m happy, because I’m fast to the end. And we have to work, but we are in a good way also in the wet.” The race was clearly a victory for Bridgestone. The Bridgestone riders were forced to use a harder compound rear on the left side of the predominantly left-hand 2.28-mile Sachsenring. Once they got heat in their tires, and especially when the rain slowed mid-race, the Bridgestone riders came to the fore. By the time the rain began to fall heavily again late in the race, the order was set, though de Angelis never gave up. The young Italian chased the rain specialist Chris Vermeulen to the very end. De Angelis never got a wheel in front of Vermeulen, whose disastrous dry qualifying left him on the fifth row. And his final chance was killed in the last corner when the pair came up on lapped rider Toni Elias (Alice Team). Neither was cleanly past, but Vermeulen got through first and onto the podium for the first time this season by a mere .122 secs. “We had a bad qualifying session yesterday and starting from the fifth row made it quite difficult,” Vermeulen said. “There was a lot of spray with a lot of bikes, but I stayed upright in the first few laps and, like Casey said, we also used a harder tire and it was difficult to get heat into it. But after we got that tire working, I got into my rhythm, I felt quite comfortable, but there was no way I was catching these two guys. They were too fast today and full credit to them.” The rest of 13 finishers were mostly much more widely spread out. JiR Team Scot MotoGP’s Andrea Dovizioso was the first Michelin rider, down in fifth and nearly 28 seconds back. Alice Team’s Sylvain Guintoli finished a career best sixth in front of the veteran Loris Capirossi on the second Rizla Suzuki. Guintoli’s electronics went out on the third lap. He said it was the most fun he had all year. Capirossi held off LCR Honda MotoGP’s by a tenth of a second for eighth. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Shinya Nakano was ninth, 12 seconds back with the same margin on Kawasaki’s Anthony West in 10th. West, the final finisher on the lead lap, made a brilliant run through the field after losing 22 seconds by crashing on the eighth lap and dropping from seventh to 13th. Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland finished 11th in his first wet MotoGP race. Toseland was sixth on lap one before a disastrous lap two saw him drop down to 11th. Elias was a lone 12th, with Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden two laps down in 13th. Hayden had a disastrous start, then pitted to change tires on the eighth lap. Hayden later said it was a combination of tire and electronic problems that ruined his race. “The tire choice wasn’t good and something also didn’t look right on the electronics, seems like it was a combination of problems,” Hayden said. “We came in and changed the rear tire to a slightly different compound. Things were a lot better when I went out but I was right in the middle of everybody and I didn’t want to get in the way of people racing.” His luck was bad, but not as bad as several others, including Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards, and Ducati Marlboro’s Marco Melandri. All crashed and none were hurt. Lorenzo was first out, on the third lap while in sixth place. Then Melandri on lap ten out of seventh. And finally Edwards. The Texan came into the race with a string of five races in a row in the top five. That ended when he crashed out of fifth on the 21st lap. MotoGP: 1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 3. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 4. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 6. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 7. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 8. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 9. Shinya Nakano (Honda) 10. Anthony West (Kawasaki) 11. James Toseland (Yamaha) 12. Toni Elias (Ducati) 13. Nicky Hayden (Honda)

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.