Pedrosa all the way as Championship's blown apart
6 October 2002
A broken exhaust three laps from the end for championship leader Arnaud Vincent – coupled with a dominating victory for Dani Pedrosa, with Manuel Poggiali second, means that the 125cc championship is now on a knife edge after today's Pacific Grand Prix.
What had looked like being a Pedrosa dominated final qualifying session yesterday suddenly came alive in the dying minutes, as he and Poggiali duelled for pole. Pedrosa emerged victorious in that battle, but it all really mattered today and the young Spaniard was eager to make amends for his premature exit last time out in the Rio rain, while Poggiali and Vincent had a championship to fight for.
Behind the two, third fastest Steve Jenkner, fifth Andrea Dovizioso and eighth on the grid Hector Barbera had all either equaled - or set an outright best ever - Grand Prix start position and looking for better in the race itself.
When the lights disappeared and the 37-rider field sped into the tight turn one it was Pedrosa who held the advantage – initially – before Vincent out braked him into turn two, with Dovizioso third in front of Poggiali, Barbera, Nieto and Jenkner.
Not completing the first lap was top wild card qualifier Ogata, in tenth, whose race ended in the Motegi gravel and the Japanese, although stretchered away, appeared to be suffering from a hard hit of disappointment to rival any bruises.
Meanwhile, Pedrosa took the lead back into turn one on lap two, while later in the lap Grand Prix rookie Dovizioso's impressive weekend came to an unfortunate finish when he spectacularly high sided out of third while exiting a medium radius right hander. The young Italian was thrown high into the air before crashing to the ground on his back. Although winded the Scot Racing Team rider was able to walk away.
Top two Pedrosa and Vincent looked like they were capable of dropping the Poggiali, Jenkner and the rest of the pack, but the next few laps would see Poggiali and Jenkner also break away, as the field took a two-by-two-by-two formation.
Lap 5 of 21 and Pedrosa was now visibly checking out up front, and within three laps had a lead of almost two seconds – while Poggiali and Jenkner were now just 1.5secs from the second placed Frenchman's rear Dunlop.
Pedrosa's domination looked like it may be coming to an end on lap 9, when Vincent took 0.5secs out of the Telefonica riders lead on one lap, 'Dani' responded to hold his 1.3secs advantage firm over the World Championship leader, with the Poggiali/Jenkner fight still raging for the final podium position, 3.5secs behind the leader.
Lap 10 and de Angelis fell at the final corner, from ninth, and despite hitting his head hard enough to knock off his visor, the San Marinese rider appeared relatively unharmed.
Into the final third of an unusually quiet 125cc GP and Pedrosa was back on the ball and now enjoying a 3.5second lead over Vincent, with Poggiali and Jenkner still running in tandem a further 3secs behind in a fight for the podium that looked destined to be decided only on the last lap – or would it, as Jenkner overtook the reigning World Champion on lap 15.
See his dreams of retaining his title slipping away further, Poggiali forced his way back by the hard riding German – only for Jenkner to retaliate – before the San Marinese finally made it stick by the start of lap 17.
Three to go and drama as Vincent had a heartbreaking mechanical failure and despite his desperate efforts to fix the hidden problem – that was slowing, but not stopping the Aprilia, Poggiali and Jenkner blasted past the stricken #21 machine, with Poggiali now seeing his championship hopes revived.
When Vincent passed the pits next time around the off tone sound from his Aprilia indicated an exhaust problem (which was alter confirmed). The loss of power meant that by the penultimate lap Vincent was down to twelfth – throwing runaway race leader Pedrosa back into the championship hunt as well as Poggiali – whose second place was now even more vital.
Pedrosa went on to take victory by a massive 10seconds from Poggiali and Jenkner, with Vincent dropping 30secs a lap by that point, but he bravely hung on to take 15th place a one World Championship point.
In start contrast to Pedrosa's jubilant celebrations, Vincent returned to his Imola team pit box slumped over the petrol tank and totally inconsolable – but when he gets over the disappointment he'll realise that with three races (staring in Sepang next weekend) left it's not over by any means.
Vincent now leads the 125cc World Championship by just 8 points from Poggiali, with Pedrosa a further 16 back and in with a chance.
Of note was the fact that fellow Aprilia rider Lucio Cecchinello also suffered a broken exhaust, making a post mortem vital for the Italian marque if they are to avoid such problems in the future.
“I'm lucky today, but I havne't been before,” stated 'The Pog' in the press conference. “It was a good race today and the second position was very, very good for the championship.”
Full results to follow…