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Pedrosa destroys 125 opposition at Le Mans

25 May 2003

Dani Pedrosa broke any opposition with a stunning early pace at Le Mans today, quickly build a 6secs lead before backing off for an unusually 'safe' victory, while behind him the four-way fight for second would end with one rider high siding out of contention at the penultimate turn.

Andrea Dovizioso would start today's race from pole for the first time in his fledging career, being joined on the front row by Youichi Ui, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner.

Lorenzo had proven the most consistent rider in the class over the past two days, lapping third quickest in the dry and fourth in the wet. Stoner was also impressive in the wet, although his afternoon qualifier was spoilt by two crashes as track conditions deteriorated.

But it was left to Finn Mika Kallio to set the pace in the wet final session, just ahead of team-mate Masao Azuma, although they would both start from the fourth row of the grid.

As well as the Ajo Motorsports duo, Alvaro Bautista was looking like one to watch from the sixth row after setting the fastest lap in the wet yesterday morning and running in the afternoon.

Today saw the rain clouds disappear and instead the grid assembled under overcast, but dry, skies in preparation for the 24 lap event. And when the red lights went out it was Dovizioso who made the most of his first pole to lead Ui, Pedrosa, de Angelis, Stoner and Cecchinello into the first chicane.

Further back, the local fans were to lose their favourite, Arnaud Vincent, when the reigning World Champion tangled with Lorenzo around a long right hander, leaving them both in the gravel.

But making his presence immediately felt was Pedrosa, who'd been so disappointed to lose out on even a podium in front of his home fans two weeks ago at Jerez. The Spaniard soon worked his way past Ui and Dovizioso to grab the early advantage.

The top seven (Pedrosa, Ui, Dovizioso, Stoner, Cecchinello, Perugini and de Angelis) were soon dropping the rest of the field, holding a 3secs lead over eighth placed Azuma by the end of the second circulation.

The lead pack then began to divide, as Pedrosa stretched his legs to build an ever increasingly advantage over Dovizioso, Cecchinello and Ui. Meanwhile Perugini, Stoner and de Angelis were a further second behind.

Approaching the halfway stage and Pedrosa was clearly intent on breaking the opposition as soon as possible, no last lap tactics here, as he held a 5.6secs lead by lap 13. But behind the battle for second was as close as ever with Dovizioso, Cecchinello, de Angelis, and Ui now nose-to-tail.

Stoner and Perugini had now been caught and overtaken by Nieto, with championship leader Jenkner up to ninth and giving his all to close the 4secs gap to eighth.

Into the closing stages and Pedrosa's plan had clearly worked, the Telefonica Honda rider holding a steady 6secs advantage with two laps to go, while second place was now a three-way fight between Cecchinello, Dovizioso, and de Angelis – Ui having faded to a safe fifth, while Stoner, Nieto and Perugini scrapped over sixth.

Jenkner was still ninth, but had next to no chance of closing the 9secs gap to Perugini, and with Pedrosa cruising up front, the German's points lead wasn't to last long.

Onto the last lap and Pedrosa had backed off to hold a still certain 4.5secs advantage, while behind him Cecchinello began the lap ahead of Dovizioso and de Angelis in the fight for second.

Even a rabbit running across in front of Cecchinello couldn't distract him and the wily veteran held on for second from Dovizioso, while the unfortunate de Angelis high sided spectacularly out of fourth at the penultimate corner.

Stoner finished the race on a high by beating Nieto and Ui (who seemed to suffer late race bike problems) for fourth, with Perugini a distant seventh ahead of Jenkner.

Pedrosa now holds a 5-point championship lead over Cecchinello, with Jenkner demoted to third.

Full results to follow...

1. Pedrosa
2. Cecchinello
3. Dovizioso
4. Stoner
5. Nieto
6. Ui
7. Perugini
8. Jenkner


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