Pedrosa’s U.S. Grand Prix Surprise!

Paul Carruthers | July 5, 2009

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa led flag to flag to win today’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, though defending World Champion Valentino Rossi made him earn it as he closed to the back of the Spaniard in the final corner as he came back from as much as almost four seconds down to end up just .344 of a second behind at the finish.Pedrosa’s win ended a winless drought of over a year for both himself and Honda as the pairing last won on June 8 of last year in the Catalunyan Grand Prix.”Well, it’s been as you say a long year and tough for me since last year in January when I crashed everything bad came to me and it was one after another, no?” Pedrosa said. “So finally back on win, it’s unbelievable feeling. I’m very happy, but especially for my team because they never give up and always push very hard even when the situation was really, really difficult. So thanks to them. Also to all the doctors that I passed through this year and yeah I want to say thanks to all that people that helped me to be fit again and can race at this level.”The win took a number of people by surprise, not the least of which was Rossi.”Sincerely I don’t expect [Pedrosa to be out front], because Dani arrive from one difficult time, but after the first laps I see Dani in front and have a great pace, so I think for sure have to battle also with him for try to win,” Rossi said. “Unfortunately, I was not strong enough, especially in the first half of the race, because I don’t feel very confident with my setting. After with less fuel lap by lap coming a bit better, but anyway I was not strong enough for try to win. But was an incredible race, very difficult because all the 32 lap at the maximum to the end, because I had Jorge behind pushing a lot and coming to me very fast. So was great. At the end Dani slowed down, so I was very close in the last hairpin, but was I think too risky to try. Anyway 20 points for the championship are important and we try to make better next race.”Although Pedrosa won the race from the second row, the man of the day might just be Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard rode hard to finish third despite suffering broken bones in his right foot and a partial separation of his right shoulder in a highside crash in turn 10 yesterday during qualifying.And Lorenzo wanted more than third. With just a handful of laps to go, the determined Lorenzo – after getting around Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner – moved to the back of Rossi and tried to make a pass up the inside in turn 11, but it almost ended in tears. The Spaniard briefly lost control with the front tucking, but he managed to save it and get it slowed down before running off the track. His brave race was impressive, though, and it may have saved his season as he went from the medical center yesterday afternoon to third today. For his efforts, he didn’t lose many points to Rossi in the title chase and he now trails by nine points, 151-142.”I tried to pass Valentino maybe in wrong point, but I made my decision and I couldn’t do more than that position.”Casey Stoner was with the lead pack and ran second early on, but the health problem that have robbed him of his stamina of late came back and he was forced to slow as he tired after the halfway mark. Still, he held on for fourth and the Australian now trails Rossi by 16 points.Marlboro Ducati’s Nicky Hayden rode to fifth place – by far his best result since joining the Ducati team. Hayden, clad in leathers that featured an American flag motif, rode hard and bettered his season best by three places. He was also just 21.6 seconds behind the race winner – by and far his best effort of the year and he was smiling about it.”Ive won here twice so its hard to get too excited about fifth, but to come home and get a solid result and be competitive is good,” Hayden said. “I really think we’re on our way now. I managed to man up and get us a good result. We’ll take it and hopefully the best is yet to come.”San Carlo Gresini Honda’s Toni Elias finished sixth, keeping the pressure on Hayden throughout the race after Hayden had passed the Spaniard early on. At the finish, Elias was just .378 of a second behind Hayden.Then came Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards, the Texan riding mostly alone as he finished some eight seconds behind Elias and almost three seconds ahead of Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen.Randy de Puniet and Marco Melandri rounded out the top 10 finishers with only 12 riders making it to the finish in a race filled with attrition.Among the crashers were Andrea Dovizisio, Sete Gibernau, Loris Capirossi and Gabor Talmacsi. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland was black flagged from the race after failing to pit for a jump-star penalty.

U.S. Grand Prix

1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)

2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)

3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)

4. Casey Stoner (Ducati)

5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)

6. Toni Elias (Honda)

7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)

8. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)

9. Randy de Puniet (Honda)

10. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki)

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.