Results - Estoril.
Sunday, 16th September 2007
Rossi wins as racing returns.
Sunday, 16th September 2007
Valentino Rossi has won his first race since June after edging out a determined Dani Pedrosa at Estoril, as MotoGP's run of predictable races ended in style.
Heading into the Portuguese Grand Prix, the previous four races had seen relatively dull start-to-finish processions by Pedrosa, in Germany, then world championship leader Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca, Brno and Misano.
But, while Stoner once again took the lead into turn one, the Portuguese GP provided action right to the chequered flag, with Rossi working his way up from fifth at turn one to slot into third - behind Stoner and Pedrosa - by lap 3 of 28.
Pedrosa, whose Hondalooked all but equal to Stoner's powerful Ducatialong the main straight, slipstreamed past Casey to take the lead for the first time on lap seven - and the young Australian lost a further position when Rossi outbraked the 21-year-old into the first turn on lap nine.
The former seven-times world champion, who conceded his 2007 title chances following an engine failure last time out at Misano, then overtook Pedrosa at the same place a lap later to finally return to the head of a championship he once dominated.
Pedrosa and Stoner rose to the challenge and were both within half a second of Rossi at the halfway point, but thereafter Stoner - the only Bridgestonerider in the top four at the finish - slipped back slightly. By contrast, Pedrosa re-passed fellow Michelin rider Rossi for the lead on lap 16 and kept the position until four laps from the end, when the young Spaniard ran wide at turn one while under pressure from the Italian. Dani soon regrouped and just half a lap later Rossi made a similar error, putting the Repsol rider back in front.
Pedrosa was still narrowly ahead as the penultimate lap began at which point Rossi, slower on the straight but better on the brakes, plunged down the inside of the #26 into turn one... it didn't work. Rossi ran wide, but he maintained enough momentum for a second attempt several turns later and this time held his line.
The last lap began with Rossi 0.17secs ahead of Pedrosa, and ended with Rossi 0.175secs ahead for his fourth victory of a difficult season - while Stoner, who later revealed he had been suffering clutch problems, settled for a safe third 1.3secs behind a disappointed Pedrosa.
Rossi took the chequered flag almost without expression as he came to terms with the end of his worst run since 2000, then - willed on by a chanting crowd - stood with his hands on his hips before demonstrating his full repertoire of wheelies and burn outs. Rossi dedicated his victory to rally legend Colin McRae, who was killed in a helicopter accident on Saturday.
Stoner now leads the standings by a reduced 76 points and needs to leave next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix with a lead of at least 75 points over Rossi to be crowned the 2007 MotoGP world champion at Motegi.
Meanwhile, pole sitter Nicky Hayden fought back from an early race slump to take fourth position, while Honda Gresini's Marco Melandri won a battle with Suzuki's John Hopkins for fifth.
Carlos Checa was a lonely seventh, while 2006 race winner Toni Elias produced some exciting slides on his way to a hard fought eighth as he continues to recover from his broken femur.
Stoner's factory Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi collected ninth, while Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards was tenth.
Portuguese Grand Prix:
1 Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha Team (M) 45min 49.911 secs
2 Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team (M) 45min 50.086 secs
3 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team (B) 45min 51.388 secs
4 Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda Team (M) 46min 2.862 secs
5 Marco Melandri ITA Honda Gresini (B) 46min 7.254 secs
6 John Hopkins USA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP (B) 46min 8.768 secs
7 Carlos Checa SPA Honda LCR (M) 46min 21.435 secs
8 Toni Elias SPA Honda Gresini (B) 46min 30.446 secs
9 Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team (B) 46min 33.018 secs
10 Colin Edwards USA Fiat Yamaha Team (M) 46min 34.585 secs
11 Shinya Nakano JPN Konica Minolta Honda (M) 46min 35.314 secs
12 Anthony West AUS Kawasaki Racing Team (B) 46min 44.473 secs
13 Chris Vermeulen AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP (B) 46min 49.913 secs
14 Sylvain Guintoli FRA Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha (D) 46min 57.523 secs
Kurtis Roberts USA Team Roberts (M) 3min 47.574 secs
Alex Hofmann GER Pramac d'Antin MotoGP (B) 18min 41.437 secs
Randy de Puniet FRA Kawasaki Racing Team (B) 31min 36.089 secs
Alex Barros BRA Pramac d'Antin MotoGP (B) 36min 37.792 secs
Makoto Tamada JPN Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha (D) 38min 4.958 secs