MotoGP - round 4

The 5.2km Shanghai International Circuit echoed to the roar of MotoGP motorcycles at the Grand Prix of China today and it was Casey Stoner who won the 22-lap race for Ducati - the Australian riders third win of the season - with Valentino Rossi on a Yamaha in second and John Hopkins in third for Suzuki. For sure, the Ducati had more power down the straights, though it was Stoners skill and ability to outmaneuver Rossi that won him the race.

Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi fought a race-long battle with Casey Stoner and the pair provided a thrilling spectacle until the 16th lap when Rossi was forced to concede victory to the Australian after a small mistake. Despite starting from the front row alongside pole-sitter Rossi, Colin Edwards had a less successful day as he suffered tyre problems from the start and dropped steadily down the order, eventually finishing a disappointing 11th.

John Hopkins took the lead into turn one but Rossi passed him on the first lap to cross the line in front. Edwards however had already slipped down to sixth and was unable to make up anymore ground from then on. By lap three Rossi had dropped behind both Stoner and Marco Melandri but before long Rossi had despatched his fellow countryman and set off after Stoner, eliciting a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse which kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Rossi's M1 worked perfectly throughout and the Italian was never more than a few tenths down on Stoner, exploiting the agility and corner speed of his Yamaha in the earlier sections to close the gap and often pass Stoner, but relinquishing ground down the long back straight where the Ducati had the advantage.

The pair kept up a blistering pace and only Hopkins could stay with them, closing the gap to half a second at one point in pursuit of his first podium. With seven laps to go and Rossi doing everything in his powers to find a way to make a pass stick on Stoner, the Yamaha rider made a mistake braking into the hairpin at the end of the back straight and ran off the track, letting Hopkins through. Rossi kept fighting and was able to pass the American back again to consolidate second place, but Stoner was too far ahead and took the flag three seconds in front.

John Hopkins secured his first MotoGP podium in third place - after starting from the front row of the grid with a great start. He then traded places with Marco Melandri and Dani Pedrosa early on, before getting away from them and chasing down Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi. The hard-charging Anglo-American caught up with the leaders and the three of them produced incredibly fast lap-times as they pulled away from the chasing pack. Hopkins tried to make a bid for a higher position, but decided that bringing his GSV-R home for his first top-three finish was more important than any last lap heroics. Hopkins was visibly overcome as he crossed the line in front of his cheering team, he will now go onto the next round in France with high confidence as he looks to build on this success.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa took his RC212V to fourth place, a result which maintains his third position in the World Championship. The Spaniard made a solid start from fifth on the grid and kept pace with the leaders in the opening phase of the race. After battling past Marco Melandri on the Gresini Honda, Pedrosa found himself two seconds down on the front three riders and it proved to be a gap he could not bridge. The 21-year-old former 125 and 250cc World Champion, who won last year’s race in China, held off Melandri to take a valuable 13 championship points.

Fortune once again played a part in the outcome of the race for the Repsol Honda Team and this time it was Nicky Hayden who was the innocent victim of a first corner incident. The World Champion made a good start from ninth on the grid and was holding a tight line into the first corner when he was hit from behind by Toni Elias, forcing Hayden to ride across the grass and return to the track in 16th place. The gutsy American’s RC212V sustained some damage to the swing-arm and bodywork in the incident but despite this Hayden maintained a fast pace for the entire race, setting his fastest time on lap 18, and made up four places to finish in 12th place.

How the race unfolded Hopkins hit the front from the start and on lap one the luckless Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) had to take severe avoiding action when Toni Elias (Gresini Honda RC212V) crashed. The American World Champion dropped down to 16th place as he rejoined the track and fought his way back up the field.

By lap two Stoner was in front, the speed of the Ducati giving the Australian a big advantage on the two long straights at this 5.281km track. Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda RC212V) lay third and would then overhaul Rossi to grab second by the end of lap three.

Stoner reeled off two early fastest laps as he led a five-rider group consisting of Melandri, Rossi, Hopkins and Dani, with Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) losing touch in sixth. Rossi then inched past Melandri for second place on lap four as Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda RC212V) and Makoto Tamada (Yamaha) tangled and fell at the hairpin.

Rossi took the lead on lap eight of this 22-lap race, but he didn’t hold onto it long, Stoner grabbing it back as the Italian ran wide into the hairpin. A lead trio of Stoner, Rossi and Hopkins had by now begun to drop Melandri and Dani - a gap of five seconds opening up by mid race.

These three riders would take the race to the flag but not without incident. On lap 16 Rossi ran wide into the hairpin under braking handing an advantage to Stoner and Hopkins. But it was only Stoner who had the speed to make Rossi pay for his mistake. The Aussie put 2.7 seconds between himself his pursuers and held it to take the flag just over three seconds ahead of Rossi who managed to get past Hopkins on lap 18.

The next event on the MotoGP calendar is the Grand Prix of France which takes place at the Le Mans circuit in two weeks time on May 20.

Casey Stoner : "If last year someone had told me that at this point of the season I would have won three races I would have laughed! Anyway, today was another perfect day. I really want to say thank you to Ducati, to Vittoriano Guareschi of the test team, and to Bridgestone and to all the sponsors who have given me this opportunity. The pace of the race was incredibly fast and we were really quick on the straights. Again we were able to take this advantage and I could just stay at the front with the lap times we were doing. The only difficult part of the track for me this weekend was the turn before the back straight where I couldn't turn so well but we worked a lot on this until we found better exit speed. During the race I concentrated on the lap times which weren't that easy but I could do them okay. During the closing stages, when I had less fuel load, the tyres started working even better. I'm really happy with Bridgestone - we expected higher temperatures for the race and that's what happened, which is why we ran a harder rear and we were really safe with it. I knew Valentino was behind so I just concentrated and didn't make many mistakes. I was expecting a big fight during the last two laps but after he made his mistake I was able to control the race. It was another fantastic race, like Qatar and Turkey, but we aren't changing our way of thinking. We are working hard, taking it race by race and doing our best every time"

Valentino Rossi : "I enjoyed today a lot, it was a great race, a really exciting battle and my Yamaha was fantastic to the end. We knew that this track would be difficult for us so to be able to fight with Stoner at 100% for the entire race was a great feeling. Of course it's not a win, but I think second place is a very good result for us here. I didn't want to give up and just ride for second, I wanted to try to pass him and I made some good overtaking manoeuvres but wasn't able to stay in front down the straight. Then I made a mistake when I hit a bump when braking, had to release the brake and ran off track. It was a pity, but when you're riding on the limit lap after lap then things like this can happen; that's racing! Anyway I knew I couldn't give up, I had a nice battle with John and then was able to take second. I think these twenty points are really important and we're still second in the championship. I'm really more sad for what happened in Turkey because if we hadn't had the problem there then I might have been level with Stoner in the championship now. But the season is long and now we have several races in Europe at some of my favourite tracks and I think we're in good shape for them!"

John Hopkins : "I am so happy with the way the race went and I want to dedicate my first podium to my Dad! Without doubt he was watching me and he certainly helped get me through to the finish - there will be more of these to come! I want to also give a big thanks to everyone who has supported me and especially my family. I also owe a huge thank-you to my crew who have been right behind me all the time. I really want to congratulate Bridgestone for the great tyres and Suzuki for the huge steps forward with the bike that is enabling me to run at the front now. As far as the race went, I got a good start and then got passed by Marco and Dani; I started to get a bit frustrated because Casey and Valentino were pulling away. I made a couple of aggressive manoeuvres on both Dani and Marco to get round them and started to chase down the front two. From there on it was all about trying to hang on to them, they were running a tremendous pace and I just couldn’t get past. In the end I made sure I brought the bike home in third. I was praying nothing would go wrong in the last two laps – and it didn’t so I guess my Dad was looking down on me! Now I can’t wait for Le Mans – I’m looking into backing this up with another podium!"

Dani Pedrosa : "Well we’ll take the points for fourth place because these are useful for the Championship, even though it would have been nice to be on the podium today. My start was quite good and I could ride with the leaders for the first few laps. However the riders in front were very fast today and in the end the pace was just too quick for us. For the middle part of the race I had a battle with Melandri and when I was able to get past him they had made a gap. Still, I don’t think I could have stayed with them today. They were going even faster than the pace in the practice sessions which we were not really expecting. I tried very hard to the end of the race and the Michelin tyres worked quite well today but I just didn’t have the speed to stick with them so I settled for fourth place. I’m sure the team will be putting in a lot of effort so we can have a good result in Le Mans."

Nicky Hayden : "This morning I was fifth fastest in the warm-up and I was definitely looking to get my best result of the year, so it’s a pity about that first corner incident. I got a decent start and going round the inside I felt pretty good and was in a decent position. Then somebody just drilled me from behind and I was lucky to stay on the bike. I was out of the saddle, then my feet were dragging on the ground and I was pretty much cowboying it through the dirt and trying to not come back on the track in the middle of the bunch. By the time I was pointing the right way everybody was gone. I wasn’t sure how much damage there was on the back of the bike and there was some vibration after the hit. Right now a lot of guys are evenly paced and these things can happen in turn one, but it’s frustrating for sure. I recovered as best I could, caught some guys and made a few passes but it was a pretty lonely race after that. We’ve just got to stay focused and look forward to getting back to Europe and the next race at Le Mans. Hopefully we’ll get a result that the team deserves because those guys are all working hard."

Colin Edwards : "I don't have much positive stuff to say about today's race! I had hoped that I would be able to try for a podium but right from the start I didn't have any rear grip and it was all I could do to keep it upright throughout the race. I genuinely believe that our bike is the best on the grid and I've never felt happier with it, but unfortunately the package as a whole isn't working for me at the moment and we need to understand why. I had a slightly different tyre to Valentino but he really showed his class again today. I just want to forget about this race and look forward to Le Mans, where I've always gone well."

Circuit Length - 5.281km (3.28 miles)
Temp - 23 and dry

2007 MotoGP China - Shanghai 06/05/2007
Race - 22 Laps
1. Casey Stoner Ducati AUS 44'12.891
2. Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 0'3.036
3. John Hopkins Suzuki USA 0'6.663
4. Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 0'14.090
5. Marco Melandri Honda ITA 0'17.276
6. Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 0'26.256
7. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki AUS 0'26.591
8. Randy De Puniet Kawasaki FRA 0'27.025
9. Alex Hofmann Ducati GER 0'28.108
10. Carlos Checa Honda ESP 0'32.957
11. Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 0'35.053
12. Nicky Hayden Honda USA 0'37.327
13. Sylvain Guintoli Yamaha FRA 0'50.705
14. Alex Barros Ducati BRA 0'55.264
15. Kenny Roberts KR212V USA 0'57.736

Best Lap - Casey Stoner 1'59.857

MotoGP Rider Standings 06/05/2007
1. Casey Stoner Ducati AUS 86
2. Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 71
3. Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 49
4. Marco Melandri Honda ITA 41
5. John Hopkins Suzuki USA 39
6. Toni Elias Honda ESP 35
7. Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 31
8. Nicky Hayden Honda USA 30
9. Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 30
10. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki AUS 30
11. Alex Barros Ducati BRA 27
12. Carlos Checa Honda ESP 20
13. Randy De Puniet Kawasaki FRA 19
14. Alex Hofmann Ducati GER 19
15. Shinya Nakano Honda JPN 15
16. Sylvain Guintoli Yamaha FRA 6
17. Makoto Tamada Yamaha JPN 4

MotoGP Team Standings 06/05/2007
1. Ducati Marlboro Team 116
2. FIAT Yamaha Team 102
3. Repsol Honda Team 79
4. Honda Gresini 76
5. Rizla Suzuki 69
6. Pramac D'Antin 46
7. Kawasaki Racing Team 23
8. Honda LCR 20
9. Konica Minolta Honda 15
10. Tech3 Yamaha 10
11. Team Roberts 4

Manufacturer Standings 06/05/2007
1. Ducati 86
2. Yamaha 71
3. Honda 69
4. Suzuki 46
5. Kawasaki 23
6. KR212V 4

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