25 March 2007
Rossi stamps authority with Spanish GP victory.
Valentino Rossi's longest losing streak since 2000 has been broken by an uncompromising victory over home hero Dani Pedrosa in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, in front of 138,000 fans.
Former five-times world champion Rossi had gone five races without a victory, including a surprise loss to Casey Stoner in the Qatar season-opener, marking his longest run without a win since his first ever premier-class victory at Donington in 2000.
Many of the Fiat Yamaha rider's subsequent 57 MotoGP triumphs have come courtesy of a tactical late race burst to shake-off any remaining opposition, but Jerez was different; Rossi rode flat out from the very first turn to try and break pole sitter Pedrosa. It took the Italian 14 relentless laps, out of 27, to drop the Repsol Honda rider by more than one-second, but from then on Rossi's first 800cc victory was in the bag.
A jubilant Rossi celebrated his return to the top of the podium - and world championship standings - by bowling an imaginary ball at nine friends dressed as skittles on the side of the track, all of whom suitably collapsed at the required moment! Rossi's factory Yamaha team were almost as animated back in pit lane, due to a combination of elation and relief.
Pedrosa had slipped steadily back from The Doctor in the closing stages, while Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards spent almost the entire race in third position - a position the Texan eventually confirmed by 2.7secs over Toni Elias.
World champion Nicky Hayden got a much needed strong start to jump from eleventh to fourth by the end of lap one, but the Repsol rider was never able to trouble Edwards and spent much of the race with Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins breathing down his neck.
Hopper eventually burst past his fellow American with 11 laps to go, only to lose the front end of his GSV-R just a few corners later - sending the #21 spiralling into the gravel. Typically, the Anglo-American hauled his machine back onto its wheels and rode on to the finish, albeit in last position.
Elias had passed Hayden soon after Hopkins, but Edwards remained out of his reach and he was instead left to defend fourth from fellow Bridgestone rider Stoner, whose Ducati crossed the line just half a second behind the Gresini Honda.
Carlos Checa wasn't able to reproduce his practice and qualifying heroics in the race, the Honda LCR rider sliding from third on the grid to sixth, while Hayden's early promise deteriorated rapidly in the second half of the grand prix and the #1 was left in seventh position - just one place above his Qatar classification.
Elias' team-mate Marco Melandri, Hopkins' team-mate Chris Vermeulen and Konica Minolta Honda's Shinya Nakano completed the top ten while Loris Capirossi finished his 250th grand prix a forgettable 12th. Only Pramac d'Antin's Alex Hofmann failed to reach the chequered flag.
Rossi will now take a nine-point lead over Pedrosa and Stoner into round three, the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul, on April 22.
Spanish Grand Prix:
13. de Puniet
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