At the Moto GP event in China this past weekend, Italy’s favourite son Valentino Rossi returned to the top of the podium with a win on his factory Fiat Yamaha shod with Bridgestone tires. That was his first win since swapping from Michelin, and his first win in seven races — surely the longest dry spell The Doctor has ever had in Moto GP.
Rossi said, "After seven races it is a great feeling to win again; I am very happy! This is a very important result for us because above all I was able to ride exactly how I wanted from start to finish and this was great fun for me. I had a great battle with Pedrosa and he pushed me hard.”
Dani Pedrosa, with a second on his Repsol Honda, solidified his lead in the world championship, but he’s certainly not got a huge lead, just seven points ahead of fellow Spaniard “rookie” Jorge Lorenzo on the other Fiat Yamaha (albeit on Michelins rather than the Bridgestones Rossi wanted for this year).
Lorenzo’s fourth place was bloody impressive considering that he was racing with several cracked bones in his feet from a huge high-side in practice.
Casey Stoner took his Ducati into third, but wasn’t very happy. The weather conditions were changeable, to be charitable, and Stoner just said, “The bike has worked really well in practice and we thought we had the ideal set-up for today but we changed a couple of things and for one reason or another the package just wasn’t as good as before. I made a good start and I was happy with that but even in the first corner I couldn’t get the bike turned, Colin Edwards came past me, and that was the story of the race.”
More encouraging for Ducati was the result of new signing Marco Melandri, who finished fifth, by far his best effort ever on his new ride.
So far, nobody except Stoner seems to have had a clue about how to ride the thing, but Melandri was very upbeat after this weekend: "This was an important day — I think I did the best race possible and in general fifth place isn’t bad. The team have done a great job, we’ve found a much better balance with the bike and the changes Ducati have made to the traction control allow me to have a much better feel for the engine. Things had started to look up yesterday and today we confirmed it. I got a good start, put my rhythm together and was able to get into some decent times. It was good fun and now I finally feel like I can ride my Ducati.”
Kawasaki and Suzuki both had weekends to forget, pole sitter Colin Edwards ran off early and was nowhere after that, and Nicky Hayden struggled after a bad qualifying session. It was actually a pretty crappy weekend for everyone except Rossi, and you can bet his team is looking forward to getting back into things at Le Mans in France May 18.