Pe­drosa pins it to si­lence the Rossi eu­pho­ria

For the first time in his­tory, Mo­toGP has its eighth unique win­ner in as many races. The top class of rac­ing has never known va­ri­ety like it. And while at­ten­tion has been drawn to the four first-time win­ners, at Misano it fell to Dani Pe­drosa, Mo­toGP’s fo

Bike India - - Sport - RE­PORT: NEIL MOR­RI­SON PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DPPI

Mo­toGP

THE RACE COULD – and quite pos­si­bly should – have been the home­com­ing fairy­tale for Rossi, which would not only have sat­is­fied the 1,00,000-strong crowd that turned ev­ery grand­stand into a shade of vi­brant yel­low, but also po­ten­tially reignited a late ti­tle push that he had re­cently been keen to play down.

Look­ing to adopt the ap­proach that had worked so well at Jerez in late April, Rossi’s in­ten­tion was to dic­tate the pace from the front, but Lorenzo had other ideas. Yet the fast-start­ing Spa­niard’s at­tempts to break free were quickly thwarted, Rossi reel­ing him in within a lap. By the end of lap two Rossi was close enough to pounce. He did just that, his trade­mark ruth­less edge to­tally in check, at turn 14, forc­ing Lorenzo to sit up. Tough but ul­ti­mately clean, the Ital­ian was where he wanted to be. Now he only had to stave off his team-mate, who surely was his main ob­sta­cle to vic­tory.

At first Lorenzo strug­gled to keep up, the Ma­jor­can fall­ing into no man’s land with a fiery Mar­quez a sec­ond be­hind. Both Viñales in fourth and Dovizioso fifth had started promis­ingly. But six laps in, it was clear – bar­ring dis­as­ter - they would not be trou­bling the podium places. The top three were de­cided. Or so it ap­peared.

Climb­ing two places on lap one, Pe­drosa – one of only two men to choose Miche­lin’s soft front op­tion - soon made short work of first Dovizioso, then Viñales to sit fourth a quar­ter of the way into the race. Yet three sec­onds and two bikes still stood be­tween him and the lead. A tall or­der for any man, let alone one who has only stood atop the podium just twice in twelve races.

But by lap eight Pe­drosa was re­ally mo­tor­ing, show­ing ex­actly why each of the top three qual­i­fiers had ear­marked him as a podium threat on Satur­day. Un­luck­ily for those cir­cu­lat­ing ahead - and most in at­ten­dance - he was just get­ting started.

First he passed Mar­quez with a hard move at turn 14. On lap 16 he smashed the of­fi­cial lap record – the first man to lap in less than 1m 33s in rac­ing con­di­tions – and was sec­ond a lap later, pounc­ing on a pow­er­less Lorenzo, ex­actly where he had done the same to Mar­quez.

Years of watching Rossi had taught the crowd how to recog­nise an up­set when they saw one. But now it was their man scam­per­ing to defend even as Pe­drosa honed in. On lap 20, the Spa­niard was over half a sec­ond faster than the leader. An attack was in­evitable. “Lit­tle by lit­tle I saw that I was gain­ing dis­tance,” said Pe­drosa. “Maybe 11 laps to go I saw that if I kept the same pace then I would have a chance for vic­tory.” Once a wall of noise and yel­low, the stands grew qui­eter by the lap.

Given how strong he was around the cir­cuit’s first sec­tor, it was fit­ting that Pe­drosa chose the tight turn-four hair­pin to make the race’s de­ci­sive move. With just over six laps to re­spond, Rossi’s hopes of a fa­mous win were dashed. Not that his ef­fort was found want­ing. The Yamaha M1’s sweet han­dling and turn­ing abil­ity aided the nine-time world cham­pion through the cir­cuit’s fi­nal triple right/dou­ble left com­bi­na­tion. But Rossi was rid­ing be­yond him­self. A mis­take three laps from home de­cided it. There would be no home win.

An eighth dif­fer­ent win­ner from eight races and a ride of un­de­ni­able qual­ity that ranked amongst Pe­drosa’s very best. “I knew the key was to not make any

mis­takes and try not to fight much,” he said. “I didn’t think about the vic­tory un­til the last ten laps. I knew I could catch Valentino so I tried to keep my fo­cus.” said Pe­drosa, who was still able to post a 1m 33.0s lap the penul­ti­mate time around.

Un­able to hide his dis­plea­sure at fin­ish­ing sec­ond, Rossi ac­knowl­edged Pe­drosa was sim­ply the bet­ter man on the day. “I was do­ing a very good pace alone but then Pe­drosa ar­rived. I tried to re­sist, I lost a bit of time when he over­took me. I tried to do an­other lap be­hind him at the max­i­mum pace, but he was too strong. If I am not in Misano, I am very happy, but to­day was more im­por­tant to ar­rive first. I wasn’t able, but it was a great race and a very good week­end.”

Sur­pris­ingly, third was Lorenzo’s best. “There were some cor­ners where I couldn’t stop the bike as well but fi­nally it was all work­ing well. Rossi’s pace was very con­sis­tent and he didn’t make mis­takes. In some laps I just needed one-tenth of a sec­ond,” he openly ad­mit­ted. This is the first time he had fin­ished lower than sec­ond here.

Mar­quez proved his newly found ma­tu­rity yet again, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the per­ils of rid­ing at the limit in morn­ing warm-up. The ti­tle leader had fallen at turn one mo­ments af­ter post­ing the fastest time. Un­able to find the op­ti­mum feel with Miche­lin’s front in the race, Mar­quez once again kept points in mind.

“I pushed but then started to feel that if I con­tinue with this rid­ing style, there was more pos­si­bil­ity to crash,” he said.

Viñales had hoped for more. But feel­ing Miche­lin’s medium rear tyre did not of­fer the grip he had hoped for. “A shit tyre,” he was heard shout­ing to a team mem­ber af­ter the race. “Re­al­is­ti­cally this was the best we could have achieved.” Turn­ing is­sues held Dovizioso back from fin­ish­ing higher than sixth, in what was a dif­fi­cult home round for Ducati.

Fin­ish­ing a highly cred­i­ble sev­enth, Pirro felt he could have fin­ished even closer to his tem­po­rary team-mate had it not been for a poor start. Crutchlow was fu­ri­ous to re­ceive an ini­tial time penalty for re­peat­edly run­ning off track at turn one, which, he felt, cost him eighth place. Af­ter race di­rec­tion saw that he had gained no ad­van­tage, they over­turned the penalty. Think­ing he fin­ished as top Satel­lite in the end, the younger Es­par­garo was not im­pressed when Crutchlow’s penalty was over­turned, leav­ing him ninth, a place be­hind the English­man. Bautista com­pleted “my best week­end with Aprilia” to fin­ish a com­mend­able tenth.

Moto2

AT THE CLOSE OF THIS shootout it was the turn of Jo­hann Zarco (Ajo Kalex) to look be­wil­dered. The pole­sit­ter had just fin­ished a frus­trat­ing fourth af­ter voic­ing his plans to break clear of the field on Satur­day evening.

The French­man had no an­swer for run­away lead­ers Alex Rins (Pons Kalex), still rid­ing with a heal­ing but painful left col­lar­bone, and Lorenzo Bal­das­sarri (For­ward Kalex), who en­sured the 26-lap en­counter went down to the wire.

First, Rins broke clear of a fran­tic scrap to build up a lead of 1.7 sec­onds. But soon Bal­das­sarri was on the chase, clos­ing in for a fa­mous win. The Ital­ian passed by at Quer­cia, two laps from home and re­sisted a brave Rins’s last lap attack to claim a fa­mous home win, his first in grand prix rac­ing. Takaaki Nak­agami (Honda Asia Kalex) fin­ished third.

“I only re­al­ized I had beaten Alex when I crossed the line. I still can’t be­lieve it,” gasped an ex­ul­tant Bal­das­sarri. Rins had the con­so­la­tion of re­duc­ing Zarco’s cham­pi­onship ad­van­tage to three points.

Moto3

GO­ING BY THE INI­TIAL LAP times, Enea Bas­tian­ini (Gresini Honda) seemed like he was en­joy­ing his best ride of an un­der­whelm­ing year, tak­ing the fight to run­away ti­tle leader Brad Bin­der. But in re­al­ity pole-sit­ter Bin­der (Ajo KTM) was toy­ing with his younger ri­val, re­main­ing in Bas­tian­ini’s shadow un­til lap 18.

Al­low­ing the Ital­ian by at first and see­ing Bas­tian­ini could not match his own pace, Bin­der knew where he would attack: the fright­en­ing Cur­vone, taken flat in sixth gear. With flaw­less pre­ci­sion, it was there on the fi­nal lap that the South African made his win­ning move. An­other crash for Jorge Navarro (Estrella Gali­cia Honda) en­sured Bin­der’s ti­tle lead would grow to a near in­sur­mount­able 106 points.

Aus­tria win­ner Joan Mir (Leop­ard KTM) showed guile to beat an­other home hero, Ni­colo Bulega (Sky VR46 KTM) to the fi­nal podium spot af­ter qual­i­fy­ing a lowly 16th.

“I tried to man­age the gap to fight for third be­fore get­ting into sec­ond to see what Bas­tian­ini could do,” ex­plained Bin­der, who needs to fin­ish sec­ond in Aragon to clinch the world Moto3 crown. “On the last lap I made my move. Ev­ery­thing worked per­fectly,”he said.

Yel­low-coun­try folk cheer­ing for their king

Nail-bit­ing ac­tion thanks to Marc, Dovi and Dani

Dani was in a league of his own, over­tak­ing Mo­toGP icons one af­ter the other with im­pec­ca­ble style

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