Valentino Rossi made a costly mistake in Sunday's Spanish MotoGP at Jerez, which robbed the Italian of a potential first Ducati victory and knocked Casey Stoner out of the world championship lead.

Rossi, seventh on his Ducati debut in Qatar, was far more competitive in the wet Jerez conditions and quickly worked his way forwards from twelfth on the grid - after a crash in qualifying - to catch leaders Marco Simoncelli, Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo after 7 of the 27 laps.

The seven-time MotoGP champion wasted no time in overtaking former Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo, putting him directly behind new Repsol Honda rider Stoner, winner from pole in Qatar and on pole again at Jerez.

As the pair headed for turn one at the start of lap 8 Rossi suddenly pulled to the inside and made an unexpected move on Stoner from a long way back. Rossi later claimed he hadn't been trying to pass Stoner, but simply avoid him.

Either way, Rossi dived inside Stoner and was half-a-bikelength ahead when his front Bridgestone cried enough and dumped him on the asphalt at the apex of the corner. Rossi and his sliding Desmosedici then wiped out the unfortunate Stoner.

Rossi and his bike came to rest with Stoner's RCV on top of them, but it was Rossi who was able to rejoin and ultimately finish fifth in the crash-packed race, while Stoner was forced to retire.

The #46 apologised to Stoner straight after the race.

Later in the evening Rossi, who set the fastest lap of the race, explained the day's events from his point of view.

"Today in the wet we had a great chance for me to make my first podium with Ducati, or even to get my first win," Rossi admitted.

"I felt good, both with the bike and my shoulder, because I could brake where I wanted to rather than where I'm forced to in the dry, since I still don't have the necessary strength.

"The bike is very fast in the wet. I was advancing really well, and I'm sorry to have made that mistake and thrown away such an opportunity.

"While braking for the first corner, I entered a bit long, and although I tried to stay to the inside, I lost the front and couldn't stay up. I'm sorry, because I also took out Stoner, and I certainly didn't want to do that.

"I apologised to him, and I'm truly sorry; it was a mistake. It's a shame because we really could have gotten some satisfaction, but we'll keep trying. We're still not so fast in the dry, but we're working hard.

"Anyway today's fifth place gave us eleven points that are very important in the championship."

The last time Rossi crashed, and brought another rider down with him, was when he collided with Marco Melandri at the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix.

"It's a shame about the crash because he would have fought for the win, and obviously, we're also very sorry that Casey was involved," added team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.

Lorenzo went on to take victory on Sunday, after Simoncelli crashed out of the lead, and now leads the world championship by nine points over Dani Pedrosa.

Stoner, Ducati's 2007 world champion, is 20 points behind in third with Rossi a further five points adrift in fifth.

It wasn't all bad news for Ducati on Sunday - Rossi's Nicky Hayden took third place and with it the factory's first podium of the season.



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