Pedrosa wins home GP - rivals crash out
15 June 2003
Dani Pedrosa absorbed the huge pressure on his shoulders to finally win his home 125cc Catalan Grand Prix.
The Telefonica sponsored teenager sliced past a young Swiss – yes Swiss! – star on the last lap, after established front runners Cecchinello, Dovizioso, Stoner, Nieto, Barbera and Ui had all crashed out.
Qualifying saw Pablo Nieto snatch his third career pole, maintaining his impressive qualifying record on native soil. Nieto's two other poles have come at Jerez, and the Spanish rider demonstrated that he is not prepared to let all the home glory go to Dani Pedrosa, who jointly leads the championship with Lucio Cecchinello.
Pedrosa dropped from the front row after failing to improve his times from Friday, whilst provisional pole holder Cecchinello did improve but was relegated to third as first Nieto and then Andrea Dovizioso went faster still.
Nieto's 16-year-old team-mate Hector Barbera also posted a late effort to move up to fourth place and seal his first front row start.
Into race day, and as the field screamed down the long home straight into turn one, it was Barbera who grabbed the early advantage, from Dovizioso, Cecchinello, Ui, Pedrosa, Jenkner, Nieto and Stoner.
By the end of the first lap Dovizioso had taken the lead, but Cecchinello – joint points leader with Pedrosa – was on an early charge and would deprive the Team Scot rider before lap two.
Over the following few laps, the top eight - Cecchinello, Dovizioso, Jenkner, Pedrosa, de Angelis, Stoner, Barbera and Nieto - broke away from the field, with a 1secs gap over ninth placed Perugini by the completion of lap 4.
With the half way mark approaching Stoner, who was pushed off on the last lap in Mugello, speared off the circuit and into retirement, while series veteran Ui also crashed out.
Meanwhile, Pedrosa had picked his moment to hit the front, out braking Cecchinello shortly before the shaken Italian ran hopelessly wide on a quick right hander, dropping him to the tail end of the now eight rider pack.
His emotions, or perhaps some form of mechanical problem, then got the better of him and while he could have fought back from his new position in the time available, his hopes of victory came to an end after another 'off' – following which he would pull into the pits.
But back at the front the lead was still changing almost every lap – and the leader with 8 to go was one Thomas Luthi! The relatively unknown Swiss having quickly caught the lead group and wasted no time in cutting a path through them.
A frightening accident would take out two more of the race contenders soon after when Dovizioso and Barbera clipped at high speed on the approach to a right hander, sending them both carthwheeling through the gravel. Despite their bikes returning to kit form, both were relatively unhurt with Barbera walking away, while Dovizioso was left nursing an injured hand.
That left a leading group reduced to just five riders – de Angelis, Luthi, Pedrosa, Nieto and Jenkner – with Pedrosa the only rider to have won a GP before! Last lap fireworks were predicted, with Pedrosa well aware that his two nearest championship contenders (Cecchinello and Dovizioso) were now out, but could he face second in front of his home fans...?
The answer seemed to come with three to go when Pedrosa made an early break out front, trying and save himself from any last lap antics courtesy of the fairing bashing rookies behind.
Onto the penultimate lap and the lead group were reduced to four when Nieto fell out under braking, while 'Dani' had been reeled back in, leaving the order at the start of the final lap: Pedrosa, Luthi, De Angelis and Jenkner – with nothing between them.
Luthi slipstreamed past Pedrosa into turn one, before the Spaniard returned the move along the back straight, edging ahead of the Swiss and holding firm through the final fast set of right handers to win his home Grand Prix for the first time, while a delirious Luthi held on to a career best second, ahead of de Angelis.
Pedrosa's victory sent the locals wild and - unusually for the shy teenager - he stopped on the slow down lap to celebrate with the 'Dani - Dani' chanting crowd and thank them for their support, picking up a fan-supplied victory T-Shirt in the process.
Full results to follow...
3. de Angelis