MOTOGP: Round 3 – Jerez, Spain – 3 May

Valentino Rossi had to battle hard, but ultimately pulled off a famous win at Jerez to see off the competition from the local heroes and give his championship prospects a huge boost at this early stage of the season.

Rossi got a reasonable start for once (meaning that he didn’t lose multiple positions and get swallowed up by the pack, as seems to happen to him quite often). He started in 4th and held position, while ahead of him his team mate Jorge Lorenzo starting from pole had a disappointing getaway, allowing Dani Pedrosa to get one of his trademark fliers and Casey Stoner to follow him through into second into the first turn.

In fact, Lorenzo – so peerless in qualifying yesterday – was simply lacking for much of the race itself. As Pedrosa and Stoner started to stretch out a big gap, Lorenzo was simply holding up Rossi from going after tham – and on lap 2, Rossi put that to rights and dispatched the Spaniard once and for all. Once past, Rossi rapidly pulled away from Lorenzo who seemed to be strangely off the pace.

Rossi still had a formidable job ahead of him, as Pedrosa and Stoner had pulled out a long gap already. It took Rossi another five laps to catch the Aussie, and he finally got past him for second place on lap 7 after which Stoner quickly dropped off the world champion’s pace.

Rossi now hunted down Pedrosa, shaving off a tenth here, two tenths there to gradually work his way right up tot he back of the Honda. Getting past was another matter, and it took Rossi a couple of goes before he finally made the pass stick at the back hairpin on lap 16. But once it was done, Pedrosa had nothing to come back with – and Rossi was off and stretching out his lead with an impressive stamp of authority.

Behind the top two, Stoner was now being hunted down by Lorenzo. It looked a faint possibility but not exactly likely, but the chance fired up Lorenzo – who promptly overreached, pushing the bike too far and ending in a low-side crash off into the gravel on lap 23. With the rest of the field quite far back, Lorenzo was quickly up and running to the bike to get going again – only to find the bodywork damage was too much (the right foot rest was completely sheared off and all he could do was idle around to the pits to retire.

The only other retirement of the day was Mika Kallio who brought his ailing Ducati to the pits on lap 12 after having made up several positions in the early part of the race only for it to come to nothing. Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso also had an early off-road experience while battling Randy de Puniet and ended up fighting his way back to an impressive but still disappointing 8th. De Puniet, meanwhile, inherited a strong 4th place once Lorenzo crashed out.

Marco Melandri confirmed his return to form after an abysmal year at the works Ducacti team in 2008 with 5th place, coming out on top of a close three-way battle with Colin Edwards and Loris Capirossi which saw the three of them jockeying positions throughout the afternoon. Nicky Hayden will know how Melandri felt last year, managing only 15th on the same Ducati that Stoner was guiding to 3rd.

But at the end of the day, this was a race that belonged to Valentino Rossi – the only driver that the home fans would even tolerate winning ahead of a Spaniard!

Race results

Pos  Rider             Bike             Time
 1.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha           45m18.557s
 2.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda            +   2.700s
 3.  Casey Stoner      Ducati           +  10.507s
 4.  Randy de Puniet   LCR Honda        +  31.893s
 5.  Marco Melandri    Hayate Kawasaki  +  33.128s
 6.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha    +  34.128s
 7.  Loris Capirossi   Suzuki           +  34.421s
 8.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda            +  34.625s
 9.  Toni Elias        Gresini Honda    +  42.689s
10.  Chris Vermeulen   Suzuki           +  45.183s
11.  Sete Gibernau     Hernando Ducati  +  48.192s
12.  Yuki Takahashi    Scot Honda       +  51.875s
13.  James Toseland    Tech 3 Yamaha    +  53.683s
14.  Alex de Angelis   Gresini Honda    +  53.941s
15.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati           +1m01.237s
16.  Niccolo Canepa    Pramac Ducati    +1m10.896s

Retirements:

     Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha           23 laps
     Mika Kallio       Pramac Ducati    12 laps

Championship standings

Jorge Lorenzo’s late fall means that after coming into this round leading the championship, he now finds himself equal third with Dani Pedrosa and a rather distant third at that after Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. It was a costly error for “gorgeous George” – even this early in the championship, losing so many points like that can make a huge difference to the prospects for the season.

Pos Driver  Points
1   Valentino Rossi     65
2   Casey Stoner        54
3   Jorge Lorenzo       41
4   Daniel Pedrosa      41
5   Andrea Dovizioso    30
6   Colin Edwards       26
7   Randy de Puniet     24
8   Marco Melandri      23
9   Chris Vermeulen     21
10  Loris Capirossi     19
11  Mika Kallio         16
12  Alex de Angelis     15
13  Toni Elías          15
14  James Toseland      10
15  Sete Gibernau        8
16  Yuki Takahashi       5
16  Nicky Hayden         5
18  Niccolò Canepa       2
        
Pos Constructor Points
1   Yamaha      70
2   Ducati      54
3   Honda       47
4   Suzuki      28
5   Kawasaki    23
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