14 May 2006
Pedrosa wins Shanghai showdown, Rossi 'retyres'.
Amazing MotoGP rookie Dani Pedrosa has won his first ever premier-class victory - at only his fourth attempt - after defeating team-mate Nicky Hayden in a dramatic Chinese Grand Prix.
Fresh from his first MotoGP pole position on Saturday, Pedrosa slipped to fifth through the long 'roundabout' first turn - but then fought his way past Shinya Nakano, Sete Gibernau and John Hopkins before taking the lead from Colin Edwards just before the halfway mark of the 22 lap encounter.
However, Repsol Honda team-mate Hayden - fifth on the grid but seventh after turn one - had moved through the pack with Pedrosa and was soon in second place; the factory RCV riders then breaking easily away from a 'chattering' Edwards as they fought flat-out for victory over the last ten laps.
Hayden closed to within 0.6secs of the reigning 250cc champion with four laps to go, but Pedrosa absorbed the constant pressure, responded by setting the fastest lap of the race - and pushed his lead back over the one-second mark in the closing stages for the first of what will surely be many MotoGP victories.
The usually stone-cold Spaniard allowed himself a rare celebration as he crossed the finish line - grabbing his helmet in disbelief, before punching the air with delight and waving to the 32,402 fans for the rest of his slow down lap. By contrast, Hayden shot past his team-mate without acknowledgment while he came to terms with the painful loss... which was at least soothed by a much-improved 13-point world championship lead.
But Pedrosa must now also be considered a solid championship contender, having now climbed to third in the standings, just 2-points from Capirossi, and - with both Pedrosa and Hayden now on one MotoGP win apiece - the battle for team supremacy is sure to reach new heights.
Meanwhile, the fight for the final podium position between Edwards and Hopkins looked likely to be decided at the final corner, but Hopkins - yet to take a MotoGP podium - just lost touch with his fellow American in the final stages after a race long battle. Nevertheless, it marked by far Suzuki's best ever dry MotoGP (four-stroke) performance, while Edwards crossed the line 13-seconds behind Hayden for his much needed first podium in Camel colours.
But on the other side of the factory Yamaha garage, team-mate Valentino Rossi had another afternoon to forget; the reigning five-times MotoGP World Champion initially struggling to make progress from his lowly 13th on the grid, before finding speed and climbing to fifth at the halfway point.
As at other events this season, the handling of Rossi's M1 continued to improve as the race wore on - and by lap 15 he was nose-to-tail with Edwards and Hopkins in the fight for third. But disaster struck on the following lap when the Italian suddenly backed off and, soon after, pulled into the pits - without his front fender.
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