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Dovizioso takes debut victory at Donington
26 July 2009
Andrea Dovizioso has taken his first MotoGP victory in the last British round to be held at Donington Park, before a 2010 switch to Silverstone, after a dramatic race in unpredictable weather that saw title leaders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo both crash from the lead and two satellite riders on the podium.
After a wet warm-up and 125cc race, then dry 250cc race, light rain began falling intermittently as the MotoGP grid assembled, raising huge questions over tyre choice.
Ultimately, all but Casey Stoner (4th) and Nicky Hayden (15th) went for slicks, with the factory Ducati riders gambling on wets, a huge risk for third in the championship Stoner.
When the red lights went out Rossi held his pole position into turn one, but Lorenzo barged past as they dived down Craner Curves for the first time. Toni Elias, who began eighth on grid, demoted Rossi a further position soon after, then launched an instant attack on fellow Spaniard Lorenzo.
Elias kept his Gresini Honda at the front of the field until lap 3 of 30, when Dovizioso - who had been fourth, just behind Rossi, at the end of lap one - took the lead under braking for the Fogarty Esses.
Dovi held the lead for less than a lap before Lorenzo put his Fiat Yamaha back ahead, by which time a five-strong lead group - of Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Elias - were putting asphalt between themselves and the battle for sixth between James Toseland, Randy de Puniet, Marco Melandri, Alex de Angelis, Loris Capirossi and Mika Kallio.
Meanwhile, the Ducati Marlboro gamble hadn't paid off, with Stoner and Hayden already at the tail of the field, and Colin Edwards only just in front of them...
The lead group was reduced to four when Elias was pitched off his RC212V at high-speed through the Schwantz curve on lap 8, moments after overtaking Pedrosa for fourth.
The accident happened when Elias clipped a wet white line and the same mistake produced the same outcome for race leader Lorenzo, just one lap later, when the double 2009 race winner's M1 suddenly collapsed under him as he hit the brakes into the final turn.
That left just Rossi and Dovizioso up front, with Pedrosa six seconds back - and being rapidly reeled-in by de Puniet.
As the rain increased, so did Rossi and Dovizioso's lead, which topped 13 seconds over de Puniet by the halfway mark - but disaster struck for Rossi when the rear of his M1 span-out through the Fogarty Esses on lap 20, almost taking Dovizioso with him.
Rossi rejoined in eleventh, while Dovizioso found himself almost ten seconds clear of de Puniet and firmly on target for his first MotoGP victory. But it was far from an easy task; the rain was still increasing and the young Italian was now without Rossi to use as a guide for the available grip.
As the conditions got worse, Edwards got stronger and had climbed all the way up to third on lap 23, then took second from de Puniet with three laps to go. But the big news was that the pair had ripped Dovizioso's lead apart - with Edwards now less than one second behind the Repsol Honda rider!
But de Puniet wasn't settling for third and attacked Edwards straight back, and as the Tech 3 Yamaha and LCR Honda went back and forth Dovizioso was able to edge his advantage back up again.
The last lap began with Dovizioso 1.4sec ahead of de Puniet and Edwards, and Dovizioso remained wheel perfect to the flag for his first ever MotoGP victory, second podium and first race finish in four starts!
Meanwhile Edwards snatched second from de Puniet at the very final turn, as all three riders climbed the podium for the very first time this season.
Gresini Honda's Alex de Angelis crept almost unseen up to fourth place, while Rossi snatched fifth place from home hero Toseland at the final turn, an initial attempt to pass the Englishman's Tech 3 Yamaha into the Fogarty Esses having been rebuffed. Toseland equalled his best MotoGP finish of the year, and his career so far.
The worsening weather had prompted several riders to swap bikes late in the race, with Hayate's Marco Melandri the highest placed rider to do so in seventh. Rookie Niccolo Canepa claimed a commendable eighth for Pramac Racing, as the top Ducati, while Pedrosa's apparent loss of confidence saw him slip back to ninth.
Tenth and eleventh went to Mika Kallio (Pramac Ducati) and Loris Capirossi (Suzuki), who also swapped bikes, while Gabor Talmacsi stuck it out on slicks for a MotoGP best of twelfth on his Scot Honda.
Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) also changed to wets on his way to 13th in conditions that would normally have suited him, while Hayden and Stoner never recovered and remained a lap down. Their wet tyres finally lapped quicker than the slicks on lap 24, but it was way too late.
Dovizioso is the fifth different rider to win a race this year, while Rossi now leads the world championship by 25 points (one race win) over Lorenzo.
Donington Park has hosted the British round since 1987.
Round eleven of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship takes place after the summer break, at Brno in the Czech Republic, on August 16.British Grand Prix:
3. de Puniet
4. de Angelis