Rule Number One of Motorcycle Road Racing: Never Bet Against Valentino Rossi.
Spain was no match for Rossi, the Italian taking his 99th career GP victory in Barcelona.
Under sunny skies in Barcelona, Spain, The Doctor once again proved why he is The King, taking his 99th career Grand Prix victory in a race-long battle with young Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo – one which went right down to the very last corner.
At the start it was a three-rider trio that jumped out front, with Lorenzo leading Rossi and Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner in tow. Though the two Yamaha boys wasted little time gapping Stoner in third and turned the race into a two-man show under the Spanish sun.
Stoner had to fight equally hard, as Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso pushed through the pack to the catch the Ducati rider and push him all the way to the finish for the final podium spot. Once again it wasn’t quite enough for Dovizioso, as Stoner would hold him to fourth by a mere 0.052 seconds. Dovizioso has finished just off the podium in fourth position in the previous two races as well, making it three in a row for the young Italian.
“After morning warm-up after just a few laps it felt like it did two times race distance," said a sick Stoner after the race. "For the race we did everything we could to stop the cramping and the stomach, anything to help me through the race. But before the start I already didn't feel well. I tried in the beginning to stay there (with Rossi and Lorenzo) as long as possible then at the end to finish the race as well. And things went better than we excepted because all weekend we have struggled some.”
Behind them, Dovizioso’s Reposl Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa put on a heroic ride, battling with Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi for the fifth spot despite riding injured. While Capirossi would get the position in the end, no doubt local Spanish star Pedrosa rode hard given his current condition, which includes a badly injured leg - the result of a near-highside in practice at the previous round in Italy. Fellow local Spanish star Toni Elias had a strong start going after qualifying on the second row but would lose the front and crash out with 16 laps to go, ending his day at home in the gravel trap.
- "Today Valentino (Rossi) has been more brave than me. I even expected he overtake me on the last lap in the last corner and I didn’t close the line. But anyway, Valentino is a very, very great rider with more experience than me and the important thing is that we are regular and we enjoy the people (home crowd).”
The two-way-battle theme continued further down the order. Top-finishing American, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards, beat LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet for seventh spot, while MotoGP rookie Mika Kallio on a privateer Ducati bested Nicky Hayden on the factory Ducati for ninth position. Though the 10th-place was American Hayden’s best finish of the season thus far and first top-10.
But back up front the real battle, the one that had everyone on the edge of their seats, was between The Doctor and the Spanish youngster. The teammates would trade positions the entire race, including several times on the final lap. With only two corners to go Lorenzo got by Rossi in what looked to be the last nail in the coffin. But the cagey veteran held a tight line and dove up the inside of Lorenzo into the final turn, setting him up to take victory by a scant 0.095 seconds - the closest and most exciting of the MotoGP season thus far!
- “In Italian, for this race we say ‘Mamma Mia!’ because it was a fantastic battle, the two Yamahas were like flying. After some laps I know if have to fight with Jorge and it was a great fight to the end. More or less we have the same pace so I’m not sure of the result to the end. The two greatest battles of the last two years was with Casey (Stoner) at Laguna and Jorge (Lorenzo) here, but two different battles because Casey doesn’t make it to the end at Laguna so the last five laps I can relax and here I fight t the end, to the last breath, to the last corner, to the last overtaking – it was fantastic. I want to give this victory to Jerry Burgess (Fiat Yamaha Crew Chief) because yesterday his mom passed away. A big kiss to you because without I do not arrive at 99 victories!”
This daring last-lap-last-corner pass also brought the championship to a new level of tightness, with Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner all tied at 106 points for the series lead.
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
3. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
5. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
8. Randy De Puniet (Honda)
9. Mika Kallio (Ducati)
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
11. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
12. Alex de Angelis (Honda)
13. James Toseland (Yamaha)
14. Marco Melandri (Hayate)
15. Sete Gibernau (Ducati)
16. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)
17. Gabor Talmacsi (Honda)
MotoGP Catalunya Post-Race Rider Quotes
Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 1st
“As we say in Italy, “Mamma Mia!” I think I can honestly say that this was one of the best and hardest wins of my career. Maybe Laguna last year was more important but this was a great, great victory because it went to the very last corner and it’s a long time since that has happened. I have dreamed about that move for the last two weeks and today it worked and I am so happy to have this 99th win. We did a perfect job all weekend and my M1 and Bridgestone tires were brilliant, but we knew that Lorenzo was in the same situation and for sure he was very strong today. I had to be very brave and take it right to the limit in order to beat him. This victory today is more important than the 25 points and anyway now we all have the same, what a championship this is! As well as thanking my team, I especially want to dedicate this win to my Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess because his mother sadly died yesterday. I have to say thank you to her and to him because without him, for sure, I would never have arrived at 99 wins. Now I am going to go to sleep for quite a long time because I need to recover from this excitement!”
Jorge Lorenzo – Fiat Yamaha – 2nd
“This was an incredible battle today and a brilliant show for everyone, I am happy to have been a part of it. Of course I am sad to have lost because I put my heart on my bike and in my career I am more used to winning these last-lap fights, but today Valentino was maybe a little bit cleverer or a little bit braver than me at the very end and he was able to beat me. In fact during that last lap, after I passed him, I expected him to pass me back on the brakes much earlier but he didn’t come, and then I just didn’t close the line enough on the final corner and that was it. I am proud however because I am young and I still have a lot to learn in this class. My team have worked so well all weekend so thanks to them, if we can continue as strongly as this all season then who knows what can happen?”
Casey Stoner - Ducati Marlboro Team - 3rd
“I haven’t felt in great shape all weekend – I wasn’t ill but I wasn’t quite myself. Then last night I couldn’t sleep, I probably got a couple of hours at the most, and after just a couple of laps this morning I was destroyed. I decided to race myself, basically, and bring home as many points as I could manage but my bike was fantastic and that is why I was able to ride it to a really valuable podium. The team did a perfect job after the warm-up and if I wasn’t so ill, I think I could have stayed with Valentino and Jorge until the end, although I’m not saying I could have beaten them. I started to suffer from really strong cramps and I could barely ride – I was falling over the front of the bike in the hard-braking areas and I was struggling to keep my concentration. I thought about stopping but decided to just back off for a while and try to hang on for a top ten. The bike was so good that I was able to keep up a decent pace and hold off Dovizioso. Tonight I’ll try to get plenty of rest and recover my strength for the test tomorrow because this is an important period in the championship and we need to test. After that it’s Assen and I’m already looking forward to it.”
Andrea Dovizioso - Repsol Honda – 4th
“We had a great race today and we finished only nine seconds behind the winner - this is a very important point and we are getting closer every time. We only missed the podium by 52 thousandths of a second, which is a pity because I really like this racetrack and we were fast for the whole weekend, so the podium was the target and it was within the reach. I didn’t have a good start and it took me some time to overtake Randy and then Dani which meant I had a gap to close before I could reach Stoner. Maybe I should have tried to attack Casey with six laps to go, when he slowed down, because later I didn’t have any other chance. The race conditions were really demanding because it was really hot today, but the result was promising and we can move on from here.”
Loris Capirossi – Rizla Suzuki – 5th
"This was the same position as Mugello, but this is a different one because we have worked so hard to get this and it is a great result. All the team - especially Stuart - have worked so hard to get us where we are today. After qualifying I didn't feel that the bike was quite right and Stuart worked with the guys until late to find a solution. He told me that he was going to make big changes for the race and we tried it during this morning's warm-up and the bike felt really good. During the race I kept my rhythm after a good start and when I got close to Pedrosa I lost some time off the front guys because his bike was so fast in some places I couldn't get past, and he held me up a bit. If I hadn't got stuck for a few laps I think I could have stayed with the next group and got a better result. I want to say a big thank-you to Suzuki because they have brought a new engine here and it was an improvement on the old one - I think if I'd had that engine in Mugello I'd have been on the podium! Most of all I want to thank all my guys individually Stuart, Ian, Gary, Jeff, George, Tex and Jez all did a great job and without them I wouldn't have got that result today!"
Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda – 6th
“It’s been a very hard weekend and I finished the race exhausted and in a lot of pain, but I don’t regret being here this weekend trying to do my best. I didn’t want to miss my home race and even though sixth position is not the best result in front of my fans, I’m happy with it. I could feel their enormous support during the whole weekend and it helped me a lot to race. It also wouldn’t have been possible without the doctors’ help: They kept me in the best possible condition to bear the pain. The injections I’ve had on each day worked, but obviously to do 25 laps it’s been very hard. The doctors told me that this fracture needs time to heal so I’m going to rest as much as possible and see what the progress is for Assen. The team asked me not test tomorrow to give me the best chance to recover and it’s a sensible decision. I didn’t have a great start today, but I could manage to stay in the second group in the race. I tried to stay with Capirossi, but I couldn’t, so I choose to maintain the sixth position. I’m really tired now, but it was a worthwhile race.”
Colin Edwards – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 - 7th
“It was a hard race physically because it was so hot out there but I felt I couldn't ride how I want because of the front-end issue again. But I lost a few places off the line and I'm struggling to get this year's bike to start. I'm good on the clutch but with the wheelbase shorter on the Yamaha this year I struggle to keep the front-end down as I'm accelerating. I felt good this morning in the warm-up when I was third. It was a bit cooler and I could get the bike to turn, but as soon as it gets hot and slippy I can't get the bike to turn at all. If I tried to push it would just push the front wide and lose time. I want to push and I could see (Loris) Capirossi and (Dani) Pedrosa in front of me, but the more I push the more mistakes I'd make. As many problems as I've had this weekend with the crash yesterday and the lack of feel with the front, I can't really be upset with seventh. I'm not happy with it, but it was a bit of damage limitation this weekend. My guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 have worked really hard and we're going to sort this out and be back fighting closer to the front in Assen, which is a circuit I love."
Randy de Puniet - LCR Honda – 8th
“I am very happy because I think we had a great weekend. It has been a hard race for everybody but I took a perfect start from the third row ending the first lap in fourth place. After that I set my rhythm but some guys (Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Capirossi) overtook me on the straight in the following laps. I am not surprised about that and we have to accept it. Edwards was a bit faster than me but I push to keep his slipstream for the last 10 laps. I could not do better than this and we deserve this 8th place behind the factory bikes. We are ninth in the provisional world standing and we need to continue in this way for the future races.”
Mika Kallio - Pramac Racing - 9th
"It was so hot today, I am really not used to it ! The race went well, I have done a good start but I made a small mistake after a few turns and in the first lap I was eleventh. At the beginning if you make a small error you lose many positions. With the full fuel tank I had some difficulties to control the bike, but after a few laps when the bike was lighter I was able to push always more overtaking Elias and Melandri. I have tried to reach Edwards but by pushing so hard I was afraid that the tires would have kept the same grip until the end. We are happy and we hope to be able to improve in the next races."
Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro - 10th
“I was hoping for a little more than this but realistically at the moment it was the best I could manage. I started from near the back but kept passing people and made progress throughout the race. I got close to Kallio and tried my best to pass him but made a couple of mistakes and he beat me. All in all it’s not a spectacular result but it is definitely a step forward. I’ve been close to the front guys all weekend, we’ve worked well and we’ve learnt a lot about the bike. I’m already looking forward to getting back on the bike for the test tomorrow and continuing to work down this path, which we think is the right one.”
Chris Vermeulen – Rizla Suzuki – 11th
"It was a difficult race and although I got a good start I got a bit boxed in and found myself at the wrong end of the field. We made a change to the front-end of the bike for the race and that was a bit better and it gave me the confidence to push a bit harder. We did score some points today, but it is not where we want to be. We now to some tracks that have been good for us in recent seasons so I hope we get a bit of luck there and put together some good results."
Alex De Angelis - San Carlo Honda Gresini - 12th
“The position is clearly not what we want and I don’t think it’s a true reflection of my potential, which I showed last season is in the top six. This year we’re having a few more problems and we haven’t managed to resolve them as quickly as we would have liked. The only positive thing is that in the opening race in Qatar I was fifty seconds behind the winner and now we have reduced that gap to thirty seconds so we’re obviously doing something right. What we need now is to find more grip at full lean because when the bike is at a higher angle the traction is good and we get a glimpse of the potential of the bike. When I can improve my corner speed, which is one of my strengths as a rider, we can make bigger steps forward and this is the target for the test tomorrow and the next race at Assen.”
James Toseland – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 - 13th
“I'm really disappointed because I went into the race with high expectations after my best qualifying of the year. But I made a bad mistake off the line and gave myself a mountain to climb. The engine just bogged and I lost a load of time and had no chance of getting it back because everybody is doing similar times ahead of me. I also had a few set-up issues in the race and I'm not happy with that. I didn't have a lot of rear grip and we've got to work on the setting to find some rear grip when the tire is starting to wear. After about eight or ten laps I was having a few issues with rear grip, but the bad start was what really cost me and that was my fault. It's frustrating because we've been going in the right direction and it had looked like we might have had a decent weekend. But I'll pick myself up and be ready to give it my all again for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team in Assen.”
Niccolò Canepa - Pramac Racing - 16th
"With this temperatures it was really difficult for me. Not for my physical conditions, that are good, but because during all racing weekend I couldn't feel the right grip with the rear tire. Only Saturday morning, when the temperatures were lower I could manage to maintain a good rhythm. We will try to do better in Assen in two weeks time."
Gabor Talmacsi - Scot Honda - 17th
“Not bad. Less tired than after some 125 races. After four laps, in which I tried to keep the pace of the others, I understood that that was not my rhythm, so I decided not to risk. This is learning time for me. I had a lot of fun and I understood a few things, for example, that I want a wider handlebars. The fever? Gone. I feel really well.”
Yuki Takahashi - Scot Honda – DNF
“I had a good start. I overtook De Angelis and Vermeulen was in front of me. My bike was good, and the feeling was excellent. So I said to myself, ‘Let's go.’ He braked sooner than expected and to avoid him, I went wide. I broke my little finger against his bike.”
Toni Elias - San Carlo Honda Gresini - DNF
“I was riding on the limit today to try and finish tenth and that tells you everything about our situation. I didn’t make any mistakes when I crashed – I wasn’t going any faster and I didn’t brake any harder than I had done on the previous laps, the bike just let go and that was it. It’s disappointing but racing can be like this sometimes. We have to keep thinking positive and look ahead to the test tomorrow, when hopefully we can make some progress. We’ve shown we can do a fast lap but we need to improve our race pace so that is the objective for the test, even though we have no new parts to try. Tomorrow is another day!”