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Stoner thwarts Rossi for Shanghai victory
6 May 2007
Valentino Rossi threw everything he had at Casey Stoner to try and break the Australian in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix - but it was the Italian who eventually cracked, leaving the 21-year-old to take his third win from four starts.
In the face of a 10km/h plus top speed disadvantage against the powerful Ducati, which also had the edge on acceleration, pole sitter Rossi piled the pressure on Stoner through the twisty sections of the Shanghai circuit - making several successful passes for the lead... but every time Stoner blasted effortlessly back past the Fiat Yamaha along the 1200m straight, the longest on the MotoGP calendar.
But, as Stoner and Ducati have stressed all weekend, it isn't all top speed and Stoner visibly suffered through the tighter sections compared with Rossi's M1 and the Rizla Suzuki of John Hopkins, who caught the battling leaders just before the halfway mark.
Nevertheless, the young Australian refused to be rattled and instead it was Rossi who stumbled; the Italian missing his braking point for the hairpin with six laps to go - forcing the former five-times MotoGP champion to spear straight on. That mistake ended any challenge to Stoner and left Rossi with a 1.5secs gap to Hopkins.
The Doctor retook the runner-up spot within two laps, but Stoner was gone - the #27 never missing an apex or braking point as he rode supremely to his third victory of the season and increased his world championship lead over Rossi to 15 points.
Meanwhile, Hopkins completed an impressive weekend with his long overdue first MotoGP podium. The 23-year-old Anglo-American, a MotoGP rider since 2002, concentrated on confirming his debut rostrum in the closing stages, taking the chequered flag 3.6secs from Rossi and 7.6secs ahead of 2006 event winner Dani Pedrosa.
The Spaniard was never a factor in today's race, but fellow RC212V rider Marco Melandri peaked as high as second in the early stages before fading to fifth at the flag. Melandri's Gresini Honda team-mate Toni Elias, second last time out in Istanbul, faired far worse - the Spaniard missing his braking point for turn one and hitting the back wheel of world champion Nicky Hayden at the start.
Elias fell and was out on the spot, his stricken bike forcing d'Antin Ducati's Alex Barros to all but stop, while Hayden rejoined after being pushed off track. The American recovered to 12th, while Barros was 14th at the flag.
Having been left just 14th and 15th on the grid after colliding in qualifying, Stoner's team-mate Loris Capirossi and Hopkins' team-mate Chris Vermeulen battled up to sixth and seventh - the pair heading an exciting fight that also included the lone Kawasaki of Randy de Puniet, the d'Antin Ducati of Alex Hofmann and Honda LCR's Carlos Checa.
After qualifying on the front row, Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards finished a demoralising eleventh with fellow American Kenny Roberts 15th and last for Team Roberts.
Rookie Sylvain Guintoli took a credible 13th while Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Makoto Tamada failed to finish after missing his braking point for the hairpin early in the race and colliding with countryman - and 2007 replacement at the Konica Minolta Honda team - Shinya Nakano. Both Japanese were eliminated.
Round five of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship will take place at Le Mans, France, on May 20. The twisty stop-go circuit should suit the characteristics of Rossi's Yamaha much more - but Stoner, Ducati and Bridgestone can't be ruled out anywhere.
Chinese Grand Prix:
8. de Puniet
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