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Stoner smashes Donington Park

22 June 2008

Casey Stoner's substantial practice and qualifying advantage at Donington Park transferred into a dominant lights-to-flag victory in Sunday's British Grand Prix at a dry but blustery Donington Park.

The Ducati Marlboro star - over half a second clear of the field in both wet and dry conditions heading into the race - was never troubled by the 17-strong opposition and the MotoGP world champion took his first victory since the season-opening Qatar night race - with a huge wheelie - by 5.789secs.

Stoner's demonstration ride was helped by a tense battle between world championship leaders Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, which saw the pair swap second position repeatedly during the middle stages.

Rossi initially looked to be struggling to hold back the Repsol Honda rider, who first overtook the Fiat Yamaha star with a neat move into turn one on lap 15 - only for Rossi to hit straight back at the Old Hairpin.

Pedrosa then repeated his successful turn-one move, and this time looked to have the position secured, but made a mistake at the Fogarty Esses - allowing Rossi back past.

That seemed to take the wind out of Pedrosa, who settled back behind Rossi before dropping away from the seven time world champion - riding in his 200th grand prix - during the closing stages.

Rossi crossed the line 2.5secs ahead of Pedrosa, building the Italian's world championship lead up to eleven points - with Stoner, despite his huge victory margin, only moving five points closer to the top. The young Australian is now 45 points from Rossi, but at least up to third in the standings, having overtaken Jorge Lorenzo.

Race-winning rookie Lorenzo, making his return to action this weekend after the latest in a series of heavy accidents ruled him out of the Catalan Grand Prix, had qualified just 17th on the grid - and was openly questioning his confidence - but delivered just the sort of ride he and his team had hoped for by charging all the way up to sixth position.

Lorenzo finished less than one second behind fellow rookie Andrea Dovizioso, who rode a superb opening lap - overtaking both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi to briefly hold second - before spending much of the race fighting for fourth.

That position eventually went to Tech 3's Colin Edwards, who finished four seconds from Pedrosa and two seconds in front of Dovizioso, despite having been just seventh at the end of lap one.

Hayden, who had been rejuvenated by the chance to finally ride Honda's pneumatic-valve engine at a race weekend, briefly rose to third on the opening lap - and was still fourth by the halfway stage - but his concerns over how the new engine would react over a full distance seemed justified as he dropped back to seventh at the chequered flag.

After qualifying on the front row for the first time this year, Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen hung on to sixth for much of the race, but lost out to Lorenzo and Hayden in the closing stages.

Reigning double AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies, who qualified an excellent eighth in the rain - the best premier-class debut by an American since John Kocinski qualified 8th for the 1989 Belgian Grand Prix - brought the second GSV-R home in 14th position to score his first world championship points at his first attempt.

Having qualified a disastrous 16th on the grid, following two falls at the end of qualifying, things quickly went from bad to worse for home hero James Toseland - who highsided from his Tech 3 Yamaha at the first turn of his first British Grand Prix.

Few would have blamed the reigning double World Superbike champion, who seemed to suffer a hand injury in the spill, if he had called it a day there and then, but the #52 got back on his damaged bike and took it to the chequered flag one lap down in 17th position.

Anglo-American John Hopkins was held up by Toseland's fall, but fought his way aggressively back up to tenth - only for his Kawasaki to suffer a terminal technical fault for the third time this season.

Team-mate Anthony West enjoyed his best race of the season to eventually take tenth position, at a track he made his ZX-RR debut at one year ago, but Stoner's team-mate Marco Melandri saw no such light at the end of the tunnel.

The Italian finished 16th, one place behind rookie Alex de Angelis - even though the Honda Gresini rider fell at the Melbourne Hairpin on lap two and rejoined behind all but Toseland.

Round nine of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship, the Dutch TT at Assen, takes place next Saturday.


British Grand Prix:

1. Stoner
2. Rossi
3. Pedrosa
4. Edwards
5. Dovizioso
6. Lorenzo
7. Hayden
8. Vermeulen
9. Nakano
10. West
11. Elias
12. de Puniet
13. Guintoli
14. Spies
15. de Angelis
16. Melandri
17. Toseland


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