Series tightens up


Nicky Hayden leads Edwards and Dovizioso

After a runaway victory in the Moto GP race held at Indianapolis August 30, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo said, "If you want to win, you have to always be at the limit, and in the last two races I was at the limit to try to win and I crash, so I was a bit disappointed. Today the situation changed completely."

It did indeed, as the only other guys fast enough to race with Lorenzo both crashed. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa cake-walked every practice and qualifying session, led from the start, and then prat-falled himself into the ground on lap four. He recovered to finish 10th and collect a few points.

Lorenzo’s team-mate Valentino Rossi led after Pedrosa fell, but then crashed himself chasing Lorenzo after the Majorcan drafted past him. Rossi was a bit wider than usual where he fell, and says the track was dirty, it was his fault. He rode the bike back to the pits, but it wasn’t in race condition and he was done.

Lorenzo’s 25 points and Rossi’s zero halved the Italian’s lead in the world championship to 25 points, or just one win with five races left in the 17-round series.

The rest of the podium was equally surprising, with Alex de Angelis on the Gresini Honda taking a strong second, and a resurgent Nicky Hayden third on the factory Marlboro Ducati, fighting off the other factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso for the last third of the race.

Hayden said, "[it was] hard, very … I was really on my limit, you know. … That was all I had." His best finishes prior to this weekend were a fifth and a sixth.

The rest of the top 10 were Dovizioso, Tech 3 team-mates Colin Edwards and James Toseland, Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi, Mika Kallio on the second factory Ducati (filling in for the ill Casey Stoner), Tony Elias on the other Gresini Honda, and Pedrosa.

Capirossi, his team-mate Chris Vermeulen, and Elias had their race spoiled on the first lap when they were all inadvertently forced off when Elias and Aleix Espargaro (taking Kallio’s place on the Pramac Ducati) collided.

The biggest key to next year’s rider line-up was Lorenzo’s announcement last week that he was staying with Yamaha for 2010. Suzuki also announced that they’ve re-upped with Loris Capirossi but are bidding farewell to Chris Vermeulen; Capirossi will be joined by Spanish 250 ace Alvaro Bautista next season.

Things are still up in the air for the rest of the teams, although Marco Melandri does have a deal with Gresini. And of course, there’s the lingering question of Casey Stoner’s illness – will he really be back for the next race? That one is at Misano in Italy next weekend, Rossi’s "home" track and the same for Ducati.

Standings after 12 of 17 races:

1. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 212 points; 2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 187; 3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 150; 4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 141; 5. Colin Edwards, U.S.A., Tech 3 Yamaha, 123; 6. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 120; 7. Alex de Angelis, Italy, Gresini Honda, 88; 8. Loris Capirossi, Italy, Rizla Suzuki, 86; 9. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 84; 10. Marco Melandri, Italy, Hayate Kawasaki, 79.

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