MotoGP: Round 13 – Brno, Czech Republic – August 17

Despite feeling ill, Casey Stoner had dominated the run-up to the Czech MotoGP in rain or shine, so when he leapt away at the start and left the others standing, no one was particularly surprised.

Nor were that many people shocked when Valentino Rossi lost second place after a hard fought battle with John Hopkins into turn 1 – Rossi’s starts are not his strong point. But no matter, a couple of corners later and Rossi was back on it and cruised past Hopkins as if he wasn’t there. And sure enough, Hopkins then rode determinedly toward the back of the pack for the remainder of the race.

Byt the damage appeared to have been done, and Stoner had a 1s lead over Rossi, and the two of them pulled out a huge 5s lead over the rest of the field.

And then … Stoner crashed, pushing too hard despite still being in a commanding lead. He appeared to clip the camber of a long right hander on lap 6, and the bike laid down at high speed and driver and machine ended up in the gravel. Stoner remounted and attempted to get back into the race, but the electronics wee shut and the Ducati quickly shut down on him. His race was done.

Afterwards, Stoner told BBC Sport he was not quite sure what had happened. “You know as much as I do,” he said. “The bike was moving round quite a bit but that one just caught me out. No excuses, no nothing – it just caught me out.”

Rossi had a huge lead, and kep it that way for the rest of the race while the fortunes of the rest of the field ebbed and flowed with the effects of tyre wear.

At one point it looked like it was going to be a very good day for Suzuki, with Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi pulling no punches as they fought over 2nd and 3rd places. But Vermeulen’s pace abruptly started to fade mid-race and he fell away from his team mate, eventually ending up 6th.

The surprise of the day was Toni Elias, who managed to wrestle his Alice Ducati up through the pack from 13th on the grid to an impressive 2nd place finish.

But this is really all about the championship, and this race may well have decided the title for 2008 by extending Rossi’s 25pt lead coming in to a commanding 50pt lead now.

Stoner seemed to agree, hinting at having almost given up hope of defending his world title after failing to finish for the second race in a row. “It was a long shot for the season – we gave too many points away and we needed to win these races. We did the best we could, but it’s on to the next one.

“We’re going to keep fighting race by race. The championship is very difficult but five or six races ago we were way out of it, so we’ve just got to keep plugging away race by race.”

Pos  Rider             Bike           Time
 1.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha    (B)  43:28.841
 2.  Toni Elias        Ducati    (B)  +  15.004
 3.  Loris Capirossi   Suzuki    (B)  +  21.689
 4.  Shinya Nakano     Honda     (B)  +  25.859
 5.  Anthony West      Kawasaki  (B)  +  29.465
 6.  Chris Vermeulen   Suzuki    (B)  +  30.608
 7.  Marco Melandri    Ducati    (B)  +  36.453
 8.  Alex de Angelis   Honda     (B)  +  36.750
 9.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda     (M)  +  38.822
10.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha    (M)  +  39.573
11.  John Hopkins      Kawasaki  (B)  +  39.610
12.  Sylvain Guintoli  Ducati    (B)  +  40.892
13.  James Toseland    Yamaha    (M)  +1:11.490
14.  Colin Edwards     Yamaha    (M)  +1:21.133
15.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda     (M)  +1:37.038
16.  Randy de Puniet   Honda     (M)  +1:38.407

Retirements:

     Rider             Bike           Laps
     Casey Stoner      Ducati    (B)  6
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