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
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.
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.
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