Casey Stoner continued his recent re-mastery of the MotoGP class, as the young Aussie took the Sachsenring checkers during a wet, incident-plagued German GP. Joining the Ducati ace on the podium, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi regained his position atop the title points and Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen earned the first podium of his ’08 campaign. The big news at Sachsenring, however, was the high-speed crash of Dani Pedrosa, who suffered a DNF and surrendered his championship points lead.
Things were going well for Pedrosa when the green light shined through the persistent rain at the start. With standing water on the track the Repsol Honda pilot jumped past the pole-position starter, Stoner, to snag the holeshot. Following Dani P were Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards, with Stoner in fourth and Rossi in seventh.
Pedrosa opened up a significant gap by the end of the first lap, with Stoner maneuvering into second. The Spaniard continued to extend his advantage as the opening laps turned but the attrition with the wet conditions began to kick in.
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo was the first rider to lose traction and crash out and with a 7.5-second lead Pedrosa got bit by the wet weather gods as well. Pedrosa’s Lap 6 crash saw the diminutive rider tumble through the gravel and slam hard into the air fence on Turn 1, his Repsol RC212V cartwheeling beside.
“It was a little strange. I had only just touched the brake and I crashed,” said Pedrosa. “It was a real pity because I’d got a great start and was going well. I had a good feeling. The front felt perfect, the rear was sliding just a little, but the general feeling was good considering the track conditions. It is a real pity.”
The pivotal crash gave Stoner the lead and the Ducati ace was running up front in dominating fashion for the remainder. Meanwhile, Rossi had worked forward from seventh to a battle for second place. Although Dovizioso and Edwards were running strong, it wasn’t long before The Doctor overtook his former teammate and the impressive Honda rookie.
It was not in the cards, however, for Rossi to track down the reigning champ as Stoner continued to rip off fast laps throughout. The Ducati rider has clearly found whatever was missing in during his earlier slump.
“I saw Dani ride off into the distance and I thought ‘fair play’ – there was no way I could keep that pace in those conditions at that time. We definitely needed a bit more time to get the tires up to temperature and Dani just kept edging away, but then after a few laps I was coming down the main straight and I could see his bike bouncing around in the gravel at Turn 1. It’s a shame for him but even though he crashed he was still very impressive today,” said Stoner of his rival’s misfortune. “I kept pushing where I could and managed to keep opening out the advantage with every lap, then kept it upright to the end. It’s nice to close the championship down a little bit more and once again I owe a huge ‘thank you’ to the team, who have adapted the bike to virtually any condition here. This win is dedicated to them.”
With the amount of standing water on the course, GP riders confident in the wet, like Chris Vermulen (7) took advantage.
As for the wet weather experts, Sunday was a prime opportunity and Chris Vermeulen took advantage. The Rizla Suzuki ace picked his way forward from 14th all the way up to third. The Aussie was unable to track down Rossi, but he did fend off a spirited charge from another Honda rookie, Gresini’s Alex de Angelis, for the 16-point third-place rostrum appearance. It was the perfect time for the MotorcycleUSA monthly columnist to register his first podium of the season, as the first step of his ambitious goal for a USGP double is next week at Laguna Seca.
“I am very happy to be on the podium here in Germany,” said Vermeulen. “It was a really difficult race, as there was a lot more water than we had practiced in on this circuit. I have got to give full credit to Bridgestone as they pushed me to go for a much harder compound than I wanted and it definitely worked. I really want to thank my crew as well, and the Japanese Suzuki staff, as we didn’t really have a lot of set-up in the rain but the bike worked really well. It wasn’t perfect but it was more than capable of getting me home, so I am really pleased to have put it on the podium for them as well. Let’s hope this is the start of a good run and now we are off to a track I enjoy a lot so hopefully we can move up to the top step there!”
Colin Edwards, who looked like a lock for a top-five finish, was another rider to DNF. Instead, the top-five was completed by Andrea Dovizioso, who in the first half of the race looked capable of scoring a podium.
As for the second half of the top 10, an unfamiliar name led the way as Sylvain Guintoli recorded his best result of the year for the Alice Ducati team. The French rider was followed by Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi and LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet, as the duo had a close fight over seventh. The consistent Shinya Nakano logged a ninth-place result on his Gresini Honda, with a bruised and battered Anthony West scoring a top-10 result for Kawasaki.
A lap down were James Toseland and Toni Elias, but the respective Yamaha and Ducati satellite riders were still in the points at 11th and 12th. Finishing 13th was Nicky Hayden, but the Kentucky Kid’s lackluster result came after pulling into the pits earlier for a tire change.
It was not a good day for the Repsol Honda team, with Nicky Hayden (above) finishing last and Dani Pedrosa crashing out of the lead.
The dreaded DNF crowd of Edwards, Lorenzo and Pedrosa also included Ducati’s Marco Melandri, as the underperforming Italian crashed out while riding a respectable seventh. The rumor spreading through the GP paddock indicates Melandri’s ill-fated union with Ducati is soon to end, with Supermarco said to be replaced after Laguna Seca by the un-retired former Ducati factory rider, Sete Gibernau.
The championship hunt now is as wide open as ever, with Pedrosa’s crash giving Rossi a 16-point advantage. The Honda rider almost finds himself overtaken by Stoner too, as the ’07 champion is just four points behind.
“I’m really happy with this result, even if racing in the rain today wasn’t quite as much fun as I’ve had in some of my past races here!,” said Rossi after inheriting the points lead. “For the championship this is very, very important; I made a mistake last week in Assen and today Dani did the same. It’s unlucky but this is racing and now we are back in front and this is a very good feeling.”
Now the MotoGP paddock packs up and heads off to what it hopes will be sunny California skies at the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway for the first USGP of the season.
MotoGP Sachsenring Results:
1 Stoner Ducati Marlboro Team 47’30.057
2 Rossi Fiat Yamaha Team + 3.708
3 Vermeulen Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 14.002
4 De Angelis San Carlo Honda Gresini + 14.124
5 Dovizioso JiR Team Scot MotoGP + 42.022
6 Guintoli Alice Team + 46.648
7 Capirossi Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1’04.483
8 De Puniet LCR Honda MotoGP + 1’04.588
9 Nakano San Carlo Honda Gresini + 1’16.773
10 West Kawasaki Racing Team + 1’29.275
11 Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha 1 Lap
12 Elias Alice Team 1 Lap
13 Hayden Repsol Honda Team 2 Lap
DNF C. EDWARDS Tech 3 Yamaha 10 Lap
DNF M. MELANDRI Ducati Marlboro Team 21 Lap
DNF D. PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team 25 Lap
DNF J. LORENZO Fiat Yamaha Team 28 Lap