Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi took a giant step toward regaining the MotoGP World Championship by taking advantage of Casey Stoner’s second crash in two races to win the Czech Grand Prix in front of a crowd of 146,000 in Brno, the Czech Republic.
Stoner had just over a second in hand when he crashed in a right hander on lap seven of 22, handing the lead to Rossi. The Italian ran with it, stretching out to a lead that settled at the top end of 16 seconds before he backed off to win by 15.004 secs.
The win was Rossi’s fifth of the season and second in a row and stretched his championship lead over Stoner to 50 points, 237 to 187, with six races to run. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, one of the many struggling Michelin riders who finished 15th, is third with 172.
Twelve years ago, Brno was the site of Rossi’s first GP win. Now he has 93 GP wins, including 67 in the premier class.
Stoner had crashed in the previous Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, but remounted to finish second.
With Stoner out and Pedrosa slowed, the podium spots were up for grabs and they went to unexpected candidates, with a number of riders scoring their season bests. Alice Team’s Toni Elias (Duc) carded by far his best result of the season by taking a secure second. His previous best was seventh at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Rizla Suzuki teams scored its third podium in a row. But instead of Chris Vermeulen, who was third in Germany and the U.S., it was his veteran teammate Loris Capirossi, the Italian finishing two spots better than his previous season best. Capirossi was 6.6 secs. down on Elias.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Shinya Nakano validated Honda’s decision to give him a factory RC212V by finishing a season best fourth; his previous best had been eighth in Holland.
Then came the beleaguered Anthony West (Kaw), the Australian who is trying to salvage his MotoGP career. Westie was a hard fought fifth, six spots better than teammate John Hopkins. Hopkins, in his first ride since breaking his left leg and knee in Holland, battled for the podium before fading to 11th late in the race.
Behind West came the second Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici of Marco Melandri, a distant seventh and just in front of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis.
The top eight finishers were on Bridgestone tires. JiR Team Scot MotoGP’s Andrea Dovizioso was the first Michelin rider down in ninth, 38.8 secs. behind Rossi. The next Michelin rider followed, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Alice Team’s Sylvain Guintoli (Duc) was twelfth with 31 secs. on Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland, the Englishman who had a ten second cushion on teammate Colin Edwards. Then came Pedrosa to earn the final point.
LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet, crashed, remounted, and finished last. The final four riders were Michelin-mounted.
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Toni Elias (Ducati)
3. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
4. Shinya Nakano (Honda)
5. Anthony West (Kawasaki)
6. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
7. Marco Melandri (Ducati)
8. Alex de Angelis (Honda)
9. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
10. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
11. John Hopkins (Kawasaki)
12. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
13. James Toseland (Yamaha)
14. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
15. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
16. Randy de Puniet (Honda)